A report released this week reveals the City of Ashland will need to invest $1.8-$2.9 million in solar to meet its goal of getting 25 percent of its total energy through renewable sources by 2025.
“The good news is that the initial upfront investment will pay for itself after 12 to 16 years, and depending on the solar panels, could result in substantial savings for the City well beyond the initial payback period,” said Brandon Hofstedt, director of the Northland College Center for Rural Communities (CRC), which completed the report.
The estimates vary based on conservation efforts and building efficiency improvements—and on whether the City buys solar subscriptions from Xcel Solar*Community Connect program or installs their own solar panels, according to the “25 by 25” report.
In addition, Hofstedt notes that a 10 percent reduction in energy consumption through efficiency measures could save the City $50,000 yearly.
The City of Ashland commissioned the CRC in 2018 to update a 2009 plan for energy independence. Funding for this report was provided by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin’s State Energy Program – Planning for and Implementing Clean Energy Investments in Wisconsin Communities.
“The plan will help the City to improve energy efficiency where most needed and help us reduce the costs of our solar infrastructure,” said Mayor Deb Lewis.
CRC researchers analyzed the City’s buildings and properties, energy usage, and vehicle fleet fuel usage, and provided recommendations for achieving 25 percent renewable energy by 2025.
“I was impressed by how much the City is already doing to reduce energy consumption,” said Scott Grinnell, CRC faculty research associate, co-author of the report, and director of sustainability initiatives at Northland College. “The challenges of making the best with old and imperfect buildings are very similar to the challenges we have here at Northland College.”
The report recommends further improving efficiencies of City buildings with increased insulation, better windows, high-efficiency HVAC systems, lower-energy lighting systems, energy efficient office equipment and appliances, and other energy saving measures and policies.
“In light of the UN’s new climate report stating that if we continue at this rate, the planet will warm to around 1.5°C in just 12 years, triggering a sequence of increasingly catastrophic impacts—it is imperative that Ashland continues to do what it can. Pursuing renewable energy is one of the essential and right things to do at this time,” Hofstedt said.
Lewis agrees. “It is important for the City to provide leadership and to do our part in the effort to combat the effects of climate change that impact all residents—this plan is an affirmation of the city’s commitment to renewable energy and will help us prioritize goals and track progress.”
Founded in January of 2015, the Center for Rural Communities applies research-based solutions to social and economic challenges, partners with community members to build on local knowledge and promotes the long-term health and vitality of rural communities in the north woods region.