MILWAUKEE — The largest solar array in Milwaukee is up and running with more than 7,000 solar panels now being used to help the city fight against climate change.
"Today we have that win. Today we have progress on the battle against climate change," said District 13 Alderman, Scott Spiker.
A 2.25-megawatt solar energy project originally proposed last year through a partnership between the City of Milwaukee and We Energies is now complete. And a solar farm, which now spans across nine acres of a former landfill owned by the city next to Mitchell International Airport, is expected to generate enough energy to power nearly 500 homes.
"It's helping the community meet its power demands and we're doing it in a cleaner, more environmentally friendly way," said Erick Shambarger, the environmental sustainability director for the City of Milwaukee.
During a press conference Tuesday morning, Mayor Tom Barrett described the latest addition as a win-win for both the planet and residents, after revealing that the solar farm wouldn't cost taxpayers a dime. Barrett added that We Energies would be providing an annual lease payment to the city of around $90,000, which he says will be used to fund additional avenues to fight climate change.
"It's important, urgent, that we reduce our use of fossil fuels and accelerate new clean energy projects," said Barrett.
As solar energy projects like this continue to expand across Wisconsin, companies say it could also help residents save some big bucks compared to the money families spend using gas or electric heating systems.
"We expect to save customers about $1 billion over a 20-year period," said Tom Metcalfe, President of Wisconsin Utilities.
While it's unclear how much each individual consumer could actually save, officials say they will see a drop in their energy bill. To put Wisconsin's energy use into perspective, nearly 10% of the state's electricity is generated through renewable resources. Of those resources: 40% is generated through hydroelectricity, 33% is generated through wind, 25% comes from biomass and only 2% is generated through solar energy.
"We've already reduced our emissions by 50% since 2005. We are on track to reduce them further to 70% by 2030," said Metcalfe.
City officials add that the recent installation of the solar energy system is pushing Milwaukee closer to its 25 by 25 goal of having 25% of its electricity needs produced by renewable energy sources by 2025.