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Solar Panels

Tom Rutkowski is shown with the solar photovoltaic panels on the south side of his garage. The 4.4-kilowatt system that was installed two years ago produces on average about 85 percent of his electricity for his house and Chevy Volt electric car. Rutkowski is part of the Greening Greater Racine energy committee that has started an effort called Solar Racine.

RACINE — The number of people locally interested in purchasing solar power is on the rise and DP Wigley is hosting an information session Thursday to educate those interested.

Solar Racine is an upcoming group purchase of photovoltaic installations for homeowners and businesses. The initiative, a program of the energy committee of Greening Greater Racine, is modeled on similar programs in Seattle, Portland and Milwaukee.

Solar Racine is working with Current Electric of Brookfield and SunVest of Milwaukee to simplify the acquisition of solar installations and reduce the cost to buyers. SunVest will do the site assessments to determine the suitability of solar panels on a property, and cost estimates. Current Electric will do the installations.

Solar Racine’s group buy will get a rate of $3.15 per watt, which will decline at certain thresholds as more people and businesses participate. Since a Journal Times story ran Sunday about Solar Racine, as of midday Thursday, 42 more people had signed up for a site assessment and estimate, in addition to the prior 16, lead organizer Tom Rutkowski said.

The $3.15-per-watt cost is before a 30 percent federal tax credit, Rutkowski continued. And homeowners can get a rebate of up to $2,400 from Focus on Energy this year, but they must sign up before the end of July for that price break.

In addition, Focus on Energy will make zero-interest, 20-year loans for half the project cost, Rutkowski continued. Educators Credit Union has agreed to finance the other half, with either five- or 15-year terms and interest rates yet to be decided, an ECU officer said.

Thursday’s session

John Daugherty of SunVest will be at DP Wigley, 234 Wisconsin Ave., at 6 p.m. Thursday to answer questions from anyone interested in participating in Solar Racine. For people who have already signed up for a free site assessment and estimate, help will be offered in accessing energy usage reports. People need to bring their We Energies account number to the information session.

“Find out how your home or business would benefit by producing clean, renewable energy and hear about several financial incentives available for participants in this program,” organizers said.

For more information about this session send questions to

To sign up for a site assessment and cost estimate as part of the Solar Racine group buy, go to

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Michael "Mick" Burke covers business and the Village of Sturtevant. He is the proud father of two daughters and owner of a fantastic, although rug-chewing, German shepherd dog.

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