by Kari Lydersen, Energy News Network

A conservative-led alliance of farming, construction, and clean energy groups is pushing new legislation in Wisconsin meant to create competition and accelerate the development of subscriber-backed community solar projects.

Backers of the bill (LRB 1902) say it would facilitate a significant increase in the state’s renewable generation, help customers access clean energy and save money on bills, create solar construction jobs, and provide a revenue stream for struggling farmers.

The bill is opposed by utilities, who argue that it violates the state’s regulated energy market and would force customers who aren’t solar subscribers to pick up more costs for electric grid upkeep. 

State Sen. Duey Stroebel and Rep. Timothy Ramthun, both Republicans, announced the bill on July 13, though it has not yet been formally introduced. The Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum is a leading proponent. Such conservative support is considered essential to passing bills in Wisconsin, where the legislature is Republican-dominated and powerful business interests tend to be conservative. 

“The development of a competitive market — that’s a strong argument and should be a persuasive argument for conservatives who emphasize the role of competition, of private development in achieving lower cost and better outcomes,” said Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum Executive Director Scott Coenen. “That shouldn’t be any different in solar, particularly community solar.”

Other supporters include the Land & Liberty Coalition — which includes farmers — and the growers cooperative Organic Valley, along with the Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin, Advocate Aurora Health, Renew Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin Grocers Association.

‘A bipartisan issue’

Under the bill, privately owned non-utility community solar facilities of up to 5 megawatts could be built through June 2031. The same owner could not build multiple facilities within a mile of each other. No one entity could buy up more than 40% of a project’s subscriptions, and

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