The Sunny Side

Stories about solar energy that illuminate and inspire.

Clean Energy Blueprint: Our road to renewable energy

sunrays on a forest road

To reach an important goal, you need a path, a roadmap. Alliant Energy’s Clean Energy Blueprint is our roadmap to accelerate our transition to renewable energy. As we move along the path, we improve the economic and environmental health of the communities we serve.

Solar energy is a smart investment, economic catalyst, and an environmental asset.

Solar is a becoming big part of our clean energy mix: it costs less to operate, creates job and business opportunities, and reduces our impact our natural resources. Combined with wind production, it offers customers reliable and sustainable energy for years to come.

Invest wisely in solar.

Incorporating solar technology now is more cost-effective than operating traditional coal sources. Over time, renewable energy sources like solar and wind reduce costs, create tax credits and subsidies for farms, schools, and other community organizations.

Currently the cost to install solar is at an all-time low due to a dramatic decline in the cost of panels and equipment. We pass those savings on to you. Competing head-on with fossil fuels, some of the newest solar farms have reached record-low prices due to better technologies, production at scale and more experienced renewable developers.

Promote job growth and economic development.

Providing more clean energy to Wisconsin communities adds local construction sites which creates more jobs. It also attracts new businesses that benefit from the lower cost of alternative energy and want a powerful return on investment for years to come.

When they lease their land to solar sites, landowners receive steady income and diversify their revenue stream. Clean energy also pays shared revenues to host communities that they can use to in a variety of ways, such as funding fire departments, investing in school programs, and upgrading park facilities, among other improvements.

Protect and enhance the environment.

Solar and wind energy are constant forces of nature that we can depend upon, unlike fossil fuels that emit carbon dioxide that harms the environment.

Solar sites also promote plant growth, improve soil conditions, attract pollinators and promote habitat diversity, which adds up to a healthier environment and, protects our farmlands and food supply.

At Alliant Energy, we have a Clean Energy Blueprint for Iowa, and another one for Wisconsin. Take a minute or two to peruse each state’s roadmap. We’ve been advancing toward renewable energy for more than a decade, balancing our customers’ need for energy that is both renewable and affordable.

We also have sustainability goals that include eliminating all coal from our generation fleet by 2040 and aspiring to achieve net-zero carbon dioxide emissions from the electricity we generate by 2050. Learn more about our Clean Energy Vision for the next 30 years – you’ll see why the energy Alliant Energy generates will always be affordable, safe and reliable.

The monarch butterfly: Our commitment to this powerful pollinator

monarch butterfly on a flower

With its distinct orange, black and white markings, the monarch butterfly plays a big role in our lives. As a pollinator, it supports healthy ecosystems and contributes to food supply around the world.

Today, about 100,000 kinds of pollinators play a critical role to ensure an abundant food supply. Healthy pollinator species contribute to healthy ecosystems such as vegetative communities that stabilize soil, support water filtration, and produce seeds for wildlife.

During the long migration from Canada to Mexico, many monarchs breed in the Midwest during summer. While they feed on nectar from flowering plants available in open fields and meadows, they transfer pollen among different plant species. Fruit trees require pollination from bees and butterflies to produce fruit. About one-third of food crops depend on the work of pollinators.

These beloved insects symbolize resilience, and in Mexico their presence has an even deeper meaning. In early November, millions arrive in Mexico on el Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, where the story goes each monarch is a returning spirit of a loved one who passed.

This mighty marathoner is on the decline, creating serious worldwide financial, health and cultural consequences.

The monarch faces threats to its survival, due to a shrinking habitat and a decline in milkweed, the only plant that can host its eggs and feed its caterpillars. Other bees and butterflies are at risk as well – many due to invasive species, pesticides, extreme weather events, and a reduction in habitat.

Alliant Energy’s environmental stewardship includes a long-standing support for ecosystems and habitats. This effort extends to the work we do for the monarch butterfly.

We install pollinator habitats at our new solar energy facilities and protect pollinators by using spot herbicide treatments and periodic mowing during strategic times of the year.

Alliant Energy partners with reputable institutions and companies to conserve the monarch butterfly.

In April 2020, Alliant Energy, along with more than 45 energy companies and transportation agencies, joined the University of Illinois Chicago Energy Resource Center to develop the first nationwide Candidate Conversation Agreement with Assurances (or CCAA). This formal agreement creates a partnership between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and these companies to engage in important conservation efforts for the monarch butterfly. The agreement may benefit up to 26 million acres of land managed by these companies across the U.S.

Additionally, as a member of the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), Alliant Energy collaborates with the Power-in-Pollinator Initiative. It’s the largest effort of its kind in North America to promote pollinator conservation in the daily operation of electric power companies.

We also support organizations that research the monarch butterfly, including the Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium and the Wisconsin Monarch Collaborative.

As we pursue our Clean Energy Blueprint, our roadmap to cleaner, renewable energy in Iowa and Wisconsin, we support habitat preservation and research on the monarch butterfly and other pollinators to enhance the environmental health of the communities we serve, which is a key initiative of this roadmap.

Renewable energy is the key to a healthier environment

Seedling in the sun

We all want to live in a healthier environment, where future generations can thrive and exist in harmony with the Earth.

That’s why Alliant Energy continues to work with environmental and economic stakeholders across Wisconsin and Iowa to develop a rapid transition to clean, renewable energy with realistic timeframes. By 2023, Alliant Energy plans to add over 1,000 megawatts (MW) of solar generation in Wisconsin and approximately 40 MW of solar in Iowa.

Solar power clears the air by reducing pollutants.

Solar is a major way to transition our energy mix from coal to renewables. There are no direct air emissions from solar compared to traditional fossil fuel generated energy.

By improving air quality, renewable energy positively impacts the climate and the overall health of our communities. As we incorporate a cleaner energy mix, we’ll cut carbon emissions by 50% by 2030, up from our previous goal of 40%.

Renewables protect our lakes and rivers.

Solar doesn’t require water to generate electricity. Instead, solar panels capture sunlight and convert it into electricity that is transmitted to homes and businesses. By transitioning to more solar energy, Alliant Energy will reach our goal of reducing water supply needed for fossil fuel generation by 75%.

Besides reducing the amount of water used, solar also helps preserve ecosystems, and helps to protect the health of wildlife, vegetation, and improve water quality.

Solar creates new homes for bees and butterflies.

Pollinators are at risk of habitat destruction. Their loss threatens ecosystems, agriculture, and food supply. Without the pollination of bees, butterflies, plus birds and bats, major food crops would suffer.

Besides providing much-needed electrical energy, solar panels encourage low-lying plant growth where these pollinators find protection and thrive. This vegetated area provides a safe, natural haven to attract these vital insects, who support our agricultural health.

In addition to providing habitat, solar projects can help return soil to pre-industrial conditions and increase fauna biodiversity. This healthy byproduct of using renewable energy sources such as solar is part of Alliant Energy’s Clean Energy Blueprint, which leads our transformation to a cleaner and stronger Wisconsin and Iowa.

The Family Center receives donation from Alliant Energy and the Wood County Solar Project

People holding hands in the sun

With most of our customers in the southern counties of Wisconsin, we value the work being done by organizations there who help make people’s lives better.

One such organization is The Family Center in the Wisconsin Rapids and greater Wood County community. They offer shelter and support to those in need and believe that all people have the right to live in a safe and healthy environment. The Family Center’s mission aligns with Alliant Energy’s commitment to build stronger communities and create a clean energy future.

As we work on the Wood County Solar Project, to bring solar energy to the Wood County area, we also partnered with Savion Energy, the developer on the project, and together made a cash donation of $5000 to The Family Center in Wisconsin Rapids, WI.

Solar is part of our Clean Energy Blueprint – a roadmap to advance renewables and enhance the economic and environmental health of the communities we serve.

Solar is a smart investment, economic catalyst, and an environmental asset. It’s becoming a big part of our clean energy mix: it costs less to operate, creates job and business opportunities, and reduces the impact on our natural resources, thus improving the environment. Combined with wind production, it offers customers reliable and sustainable energy for years to come.

The agricultural community is Alliant Energy’s biggest partner in growing renewables

farm banner

Building community and large-scale solar projects is how Alliant Energy ensures everyone in our service territory benefits from a low-carbon future. Most of this development is not located in Wisconsin’s city centers, but out in our rural communities. That means we must work closely with our rural and agricultural communities to do the right thing.

This is especially important as we add over 1,000 megawatts (MW) of solar generation in Wisconsin and at least 400 megawatts (MW) of solar in Iowa by the end of 2023. We will retire our coal-fired facilities to achieve our 2040 goal, as part of our Clean Energy Vision. Solar is a smart investment – now and long into the future – which means we work together with agricultural and rural communities to invest in their future.

Members of our team are on the ground, ready to answer questions and work with landowners, local officials, community members and other stakeholders to assess the challenges and opportunities in these communities. We want to address questions and concerns upfront to ensure transparency and build positive, long-standing relationships. We will share updates on our process and make sure everyone’s voice is heard – especially by landowners where our projects are being developed.

To meet our goals, we have developed a partnership with the agriculture community to forge an understanding around land issues, future use, and reclamation. Building upon this work will also involve cooperation with environmental stakeholders and landowners to limit impacts on water, land and wildlife.

As we work to build solar in communities across the state, we invite elected officials and local community members to engage in meaningful dialogues with us to ensure the results benefit all the communities we serve in Wisconsin and Iowa.

Solar panels: Nature's safe, quiet energy partners

Solar panel in the sun

Sometimes they’re far off the main road, and you may never see them. Or, you may see a large solar panel installation from the highway, rows and rows of neatly positioned panels angled toward the sun right in the middle of a field.

In fact, there are more than two million utility-scale, commercial and residential solar installations located throughout the United States. Some span hundreds of acres. They connect into a transmission system through a local substation, to then deliver power to thousands of homes and businesses with clean electricity. These silent soldiers of the sun not only bring clean energy to communities, but also provide it safely and economically to humans and wildlife.

What makes up a solar panel?

Dozens of photovoltaic cells make up each solar panel; picture these silicon cells, which act like semiconductors. When sunlight hits the solar panels, photons (the sun’s energy particles) change to electrons. As these electrons pass through the solar cells, they’re converted into electricity.

Safe for humans and the neighboring countryside.

According to a NC State University report, “The overall impact of solar development on human health is overwhelmingly positive.” The report concludes that solar projects do not release any harmful pollutants or negatively impact people’s health. In fact, in addition to providing inexpensive and reliable electricity, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the financial benefits from air quality improvements exceed the price of the electricity for a utility-scale solar project.

The photovoltaic cells use extremely low electromagnetic waves when converted to energy – virtually the same as that emitted from household electrical appliances. And, best part of all, solar energy produces no emissions, uses no natural water resources, creates no waste, odor, or byproducts. Bottom line: solar projects are cost-effective and great for the environment.

Positive for wildlife and ground soil.

Solar projects are virtually noiseless, making them peaceful homes for birds and insects, particularly bees and butterflies. In fact, some solar installations are designed specifically for these pollinator habitats – think insects and small mammals – to help increase other local pollinator species. This process can also greatly benefit the agricultural land beneath the solar panel system since insects and animals help to sustain our ecosystem and increase plant production.

Plant production within the boundaries of the project can improve soil overall. How? Allowing the soil to rest and convert from agricultural use to pollinator-friendly vegetation, helps prevent soil erosion and more valuable agriculture crops in the future – a huge win for farmers, animals, and consumers alike.

By increasing the use of solar power throughout the state, Alliant Energy’s Clean Energy Blueprint leads us to transform into a cleaner and stronger Wisconsin.