ALE ASYLUM SOLAR PANELS 4-12192014144819 (copy)

Marc Nienhaus, an electrician with Faith Technologies, wires solar panels on rooftop at Ale Asylum on Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014. Madison is planning to establish a solar loan program to assist residents with installing more solar. Mike DeVries -- The Capital Times

Madison is planning to establish a solar loan program to reduce the upfront financial commitment for residents hoping to install solar on their properties.

The city’s finance committee approved the resolution establishing the fund Monday evening. It will go before City Council next week and would authorize the Facilities and Sustainability manager to set aside $80,000 as a loan loss reserve account to leverage the loan program with a borrowing maximum of $1,600,000.

“This solar loan program was actually contemplated about a year or so ago, and we kind of had to put the brakes on it because of all of the uncertainty with the (Madison Gas and Electric) rate restructuring,” said Facilities and Sustainability manager Jeanne Hoffman at the city's Board of Estimates meeting Monday evening.

With those rates now settled for a time, the city can move forward with the loan program. Combined with Focus on Energy renewable energy incentives, federal tax credits, declining installation costs and rising demand, the city believes there will be a strong market for solar generation next year.

“Now is the best time in a long time for businesses and residents in the community to install solar, however there is still that barrier of that upfront cost,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman said the goal is to bridge the upfront financial gap for people, providing a loan package that’s not easy to get right now along with assurances to the partner financial institution.

Once the fund is established, Hoffman said the city will promote it and work with RENEW Wisconsin as a partner to get the word out. The resolution involves a contract with RENEW Wisconsin or members to assist with planning and design of a solar loan reserve fund.

City Council President Denise DeMarb said she would rather have MGE consider such a program and make this part of their portfolio, but she is excited about the program.

DeMarb's garage has solar panels on it, supplying about 85 percent of the electricity her household uses on average over a year.

“I’m pretty excited that other people will be able to take part in it. It’s been wonderful for us,” DeMarb said.

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