local renewable energy markets
Building a Solar Market
A December report by Navigant Consulting found that for Milwaukee-area manufacturers, the solar hot water industry offers an opportunity to build on manufacturing expertise while tapping into a growing market. Shown here, the solar water system-testing facility of A.O. Smith, headquartered in Milwaukee.
Known for generations as “Beer Town,” Milwaukee was a brewing and manu- facturing powerhouse from the mid- 1800s, when large numbers of Germans
and other immigrants brought their innovation,
mechanical skills and dreams of a new homeland.
It was to these same qualities that we returned
when we were named a Solar America City three
years ago, knowing that they held the key to a
new dream: that of a robust solar market, creating good-paying, sustainable jobs with a clean,
future-looking energy industry.
The U.S. Department of Energy named the
city of Milwaukee a Solar America City in 2008.
Along with 25 other Solar America Communities, Milwaukee set out to increase interest
and investment in solar energy. The city’s solar
program, Milwaukee Shines, is led and administered by its Office of Environmental Sustainability. From the start, Mayor Tom Barrett supported the program and initiatives. His vision
for sustainability creates an atmosphere where
programs like this one can be created and thrive.
From the start, we approached the opportunity
not with the goal of investing in one large solar
project, but instead, to establish the infrastructure needed for a permanent solar economy.
Essential to this effort, we created a public-private partnership of public entities, utility and
state energy program representatives, nonprofits,
training and education organizations, installers
and private companies. This advisory committee helped us to think strategically about how
to expand solar in Milwaukee as efficiently and
effectively as possible.
Each Solar America City developed goals
that would best move the solar market. In Milwaukee, we identified major informational and
economic barriers. We tackled these issues in
a variety of ways, and since 2008, Milwaukee
Shines has witnessed some immediate successes
and created long-term strategies for a sustainable
solar market and industry. From 2008 to 2010,
solar installations in the city, though still modest,
more than tripled, with solar capacity increasing