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Wisconsin takes big leap in clean-energy pursuit

An industry group says solar and clean-energy projects have invested $2 billion into Wisconsin's economy.
Anatoliy Gleb
Adobe Stock
An industry group says solar and clean-energy projects have invested $2 billion into Wisconsin's economy.

MILWAUKEE - The clean-energy industry has welcomed its newest member to the "Gigawatt Club." Wisconsin's recognition for advancing such projects comes at a crucial time for the movement.

The Badger State recently reached 1,000 megawatts of operational clean-energy capacity. It now joins several other central U.S. states, part of a regional power grid organization known as the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) system, to achieve gigawatt status.

Beth Soholt, executive director of the group Clean Grid Alliance, said Wisconsin has been slower than other states to usher through solar and wind projects, but has come on strong lately.

"The Wisconsin Public Service Commission has approved quite a few new projects in the last six months," said Soholt. "And there's more in the pipeline."

According to the group, Wisconsin has more than 500 megawatts of clean-energy capacity under construction.

Soholt added that solar projects have been the biggest driver behind Wisconsin's growth. But she warned there are hurdles, including the need for more grid capacity.

The Natural Resources Defense Council has noted that hundreds of MISO-region projects had to be withdrawn in recent years because of grid congestion.

Soholt said the proposed Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission Line Project for states such as Wisconsin would certainly help to unlock grid space.

"We just simply need to be able to deliver the electrons to where the energy is needed," said Soholt.

The proposed 102-mile line, which would run along sections of southwestern Wisconsin, has been mired in legal challenges as project officials seek final approval.

Opponents include environmental groups, who say the overhead lines would harm the landscape. But supporters contend it's a vital link to boosting clean energy while reducing the need for fossil fuels.

Mike Moen is the Morning Edition producer and serves as a staff reporter for WNIJ. Every morning, he works with Dan Klefstad to bring listeners the latest Illinois news. He also works with the rest of the news staff on developing and producing in-depth stories. Mike is a Minnesota native who likes movies, history, and baseball. When most people hear his last name, they assume he is 100-percent Scandinavian. But, believe it or not, he is mostly German.
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