MILWAUKEE — The approach to installing and using solar power is different in rural areas than it is in urban areas. However, people in both settings say the intended outcome is the same.
Mighty Grand Dairy Farm, in rural Kenosha County's Brighton Township, just had a solar array installed.
"We just started it up January 1st of this year," said farmer Dave Daniels.
Solar energy is now responsible for about 85% of the electrical power.
"For several years, we’ve been trying to be very efficient on our electrical usage," he said. "We’re trying to take down our expenses so that the income for our milk will be more readily available for other things."
Daniels, who says this farm has been in his family since 1933, calls this long-term investment a way to cut down on the farm's carbon footprint. Luckily for him, space to add new solar panels was never an issue.
"As you can see it's only on one acre and we farm about 1,000 acres. So it's really a small percentage, and even though we can’t grow crops on it, it's being very beneficial to the operation because it's capturing solar energy and making electricity on it," said Daniels.
But demand for solar energy and its financial and environmental impacts are not unique to rural communities. However, urban areas are more crowded.
"In more confined areas, more populated areas, there can certainly be space constraints that you have to work around," said solar installer Angie Kochanski, residential sales manager at Arch Electric.
She said that's why you will often find solar panels on top of homes and businesses in bigger cities, instead of in vast fields. But some might argue the impact of solar energy could be even greater in these crowded spaces.
"I think there are tremendous opportunities in urban areas because of our density," said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
Right now, in the city of Milwaukee, leaders call the need for greener energy, like solar power, urgent.
"Cities like Milwaukee, which lies on Lake Michigan, other coastal cities as well, face threats from floods and other extreme weather that can damage property and harm our economy. That is why it's urgent that we reduce our use of fossil fuels and accelerate new clean energy projects," said Barrett.
This year, the Greater Milwaukee Solar Group Purchase Program is celebrating its best year yet with 64 homes and businesses installing solar arrays. Compare that to just 17 homes in 2013, when the program launched. To date, 282 Milwaukee homes and businesses have installed solar because of this program.
"Every single home becomes, in essence, its own laboratory of change because by installing solar in more and more homes, I think we truly are having an impact on climate change, and that's what our goal is," said Barrett.
A push to lessen the carbon footprint and cut energy costs in both urban and rural settings.
"We want to be sustainable on this dairy farm," said Dave Daniels.
To learn more about the Greater Milwaukee Solar Group Purchase Program, click here.