Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: Does solar really work in Wisconsin?

Absolutely. In southern Wisconsin, a 60 – 70 sq. ft. area with no shade between 10am and 2pm is enough to provide most of the hot water needed by a typical family of 4. With photovoltaics, a home in Wisconsin that has 300 sq. ft. of unshaded southern exposure can generate about half of its annual electrical needs.

By comparison, Germany is further north than Wisconsin, and yet generates 3 times the solar energy as the entire United States! Here’s the data:

Latitude, °N
44.50 51.00 6.5 degrees further north
Average monthly solar radiation in kWh/m2/d 3.78 2.73 28% less sun
Number of kW of solar energy installed Entire USA
1,429,000 3 times as much solar energy as all of the USA

In recent years solar energy use has been rapidly increasing throughout Wisconsin.

Q: Why might I consider solar?

  1. Environmental responsibility

    Solar energy is clean energy from the moment it is installed. This eliminates the carbon dioxide and mercury given off by coal-burning power plants, or carbon dioxide generated by the use of natural gas. It also reduces the demand for nuclear power plants, which have their unique environmental risks.

  2. Long-term investment

    Over time, a solar energy system can reduce your energy bills and provide eventual financial payback. After it has paid for itself, you are getting free energy for the life of the system. Typical payback time is 15 to 30 years for either solar electric or solar hot water (without space heat). The payback period for solar radiant heating system varies greatly depending on how well the building is sealed and insulated.

  3. Energy Independence

    Solar energy systems reduce the need to import coal, uranium, and natural gas from other states or countries. Wisconsin has none of these resources.

  4. Reduces need for future infrastructure by producing power on-site

    With ever-increasing demand for electric power, utility companies must keep up by installing power lines, towers, and substations throughout the region. This consumes precious natural resources and your dollars. By owning your own power generating system, you are doing your part to reduce the need for transmission equipment in your area.

Q: What is the Energy Payback Time (or Energy Return on Investment) for a solar energy system?

Energy payback, or EROI, is an important concept to understand when considering a renewable energy system. It answers the question, “How much energy did it take to manufacture the system, and how long will it take for the system to produce that much clean energy?”

For solar electric systems being sold today, the energy payback is estimated at about 4 years. Solar electric technologies being developed but still not available for purchase are expected to reduce this time down to just 2 years.

For more information on this topic, visit the following sites:

U.S. Department of Energy

Energy Bulletin

Additional Resources and News

Focus On Energy

Focus On Energy is Wisconsin’s renewable energy and efficiency incentive and education program. Focus On Energy

The Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA)

The Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) is a non-profit organization formed in 1990 to promote renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable living through education and demonstration. MREA


Lists all available incentives for renewable energy by state. 
(Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency) DSIRE-USA.

Renewable Energy World

A great resource for current news and information on renewable energy. Latest News

Solar Buzz

Catch the buzz on news and information relating to solar energy. Market Resarch and Analysis

Solar Nation

National policy issues affecting the solar energy industry. Action Partners