Despite being smaller and somewhat south of its western neighbor, Minnesota, Wisconsin gets slightly less overall sunlight. The state gets between 4.0 kilowatt hours of sunlight per square meter and 4.5 kWh per square meter per day, according to NREL. The state’s proximity to the Great Lakes and the weather patterns that dominate the state, including persistent snow coverage in the winter and thunderstorms in the summer, are among the factors that reduce the amount of sunlight that hits the state.
While the state offers residents and businesses some incentives to convert to solar and renewable power, it offers more incentives to help people improve energy efficiency and increase insulation in their homes and businesses. Among the incentives offered in the state are a rebate program, various tax incentives, a loan-program, net metering, property-assessed clean energy financing and more. Some utilities offer customers a performance-based incentive, as of September 2010, most are full, but this may not be the case in the future. Some have filed to broaden their distributed-generation portfolios.
Wisconsin, in terms of its statistics, is overall pretty average. With 5.7 million residents, it’s the 20th most populous state and it is 23rd in terms of population density. The state’s also the 23rd largest state. According to the Energy Information Administration, the state’s energy usage is about average among states. And about 46 percent of its land mass is forested.
However, the state’s solar resources are below the national average. But, similar to northeastern states like New York, New Hampshire, and Maine, solar power is still a viable option. Most of the state isn’t windy enough to justify large wind installations, but NREL maps show that the regions with the most wind potential in Wisconsin are in its northern tip—where it borders Lake Superior, its southwestern corner, and its southeastern corner, which borders Lake Michigan.
To develop more locally-sourced power production, Wisconsin passed a renewable portfolio standard in 2006, requiring 10 percent of overall electric production in the state to be sourced from renewable resources. Under the law, utilities must purchase at least as much renewable energy as they bought in 2010, and must increase the amount purchased each year until 2015, when they reach 10 percent, and then they are not allowed to fall under that level of renewable power purchased.