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Sauk County program will allow participants to bulk buy solar

Solar installers place a solar photovoltaic module on a roof. Visit growsolar.org/solar-sauk-county to see a list of informational sessions for the Solar Sauk County program.

Joe and June Meudt plan to purchase an electric car someday.

When they do, the rural Dodgeville couple’s vehicle will be powered by the sun, not coal burned at a power plant.

That’s because last year, the Meudts pooled their money with other Iowa County residents to purchase solar arrays in bulk. For about $15,000, they purchased an 18-panel system for their home that often generates more power than they use, allowing them to sell some to the energy company.

The Solar Iowa County program helped participants install systems on 32 properties at discounted prices. The Meudts expect theirs to last up to 30 years, and to have paid for itself after 13 years through energy cost savings, rebates, and tax incentives.

“I think for us, it was more about the environment,” Joe Meudt said. “And the savings are a nice benefit to it.”

Program coming to Sauk County

In the coming months, Sauk County residents will have the same opportunity. County government and other local organizations are partnering with the Midwestern Renewable Energy Association to sponsor a group purchasing program for residential and commercial systems.

Between March 21 and June 6, the Solar Sauk County program will host 16 informational sessions – each lasting an hour – in five communities for anyone interested in participating. Those who attend will have an opportunity to get their questions answered, and to set up a free site assessment.

Home and business owners will then have until July 31 to decide if they want in on the group purchase.

“Basically, we’re using the volume purchasing powers represented by a group of individuals to create cost efficiencies and bring down the price,” said Peter Murphy, the solar program manager with Midwest Renewable Energy Association. “In other words, the more people who go solar through the program, the lower the price is for everyone.”

The nonprofit — which will administer the program at no cost to the county — was founded in 1990 and has a mission of promoting “renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable living through education and demonstration.”

The organization started organizing bulk purchases in 2013, going neighborhood by neighborhood in Milwaukee. It has since put together 14 group buys in Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois, Murphy said, generating enough solar power to offset the equivalent of almost 350,000 pounds of carbon dioxide.

Supporters of the local program include the county’s Conservation, Planning and Zoning Department, the University of Wisconsin-Extension office, Sauk Area Climate Awareness and Action, Spring Green Area Chamber of Commerce and The Social District.

“This is a great opportunity for residents and businesses to invest in solar,” said Jenny Erickson, a UW-Extension educator. “Sauk County has a strong connection to conservation and natural resource protection. This program only strengthens that history.”

Follow Tim Damos on Twitter @timdamos

Reporter for the Baraboo News Republic.