Midwest utility builds out center for solar research, education and collaboration

Alliant Energy solar project

Midwest utility Alliant Energy announced the opening of its Madison Solar Demonstration Project — an initiative that will study different types of technologies in a Midwest climate to provide the utility with valuable insights into the best-suited solar technologies for the region.

In collaboration with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the utility has integrated multiple solar and clean energy technologies—including 23 Spotlight Solar trees—to create a center for research, education and collaboration. Located at Alliant Energy’s Madison, Wis. headquarters, the unique project brings together a variety of different solar photovoltaic (PV) technologies, such as ground-mounted tracker systems, rooftop arrays, and parking canopies, and totals more than 1,300 solar panels and 290 kW of installed capacity. The demonstration site also includes a battery energy storage system and electric vehicle charging stations. Real-time monitoring of the systems will be accessible via a Web-based dashboard.

The Alliant Energy project features the largest installation yet of Spotlight Solar trees, with 23 of the striking clean energy-generating structures providing a distinctive visual element to the project. Alliant Energy and EPRI sought to encourage the public’s engagement with solar technology and chose Spotlight’s elegantly designed structures to bring solar to eye level in an engaging form. Alliant Energy has several solar projects in development throughout its Iowa and Wisconsin service territories.

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Spotlight Solar trees

“This project will research many different solar technologies and installation strategies,” said Rick Zimmerman, Alliant Energy Project Manager. “We also want our customers to benefit from this learning opportunity, so we’ve made these installations at our Madison campus uniquely engaging. Solar is an elegant technology, so we felt it should be presented elegantly.”

Built by Madison-based H&H Solar Energy Services, Spotlight Solar’s installations feature clusters of each of the company’s products — Lift, Curve, Industry and Trestle — sited at different locations around the campus, which together account for 66 kW of the total generation capacity installed. The PV systems will generate approximately 86,000 kWh of electricity per year.

Spotlight Solar’s solar structures are thoughtfully engineered, aesthetically pleasing systems designed to complement other, less-visible clean energy investments. They catalyze conversation and awareness around solar energy and sustainability.

“The Alliant Energy demonstration project offers a potent combination of solar research facility, public education, and customer outreach,” said Craig Merrigan, CEO and co-founder of Spotlight Solar. “Not only will our products contribute to Alliant Energy’s research aims, they will raise awareness and understanding of solar among the community, and even contribute to the beauty of the property.”

Spotlight Solar’s installations at Alliant Energy’s headquarters represent the latest project showing the diverse potential for the deployment of publicly visible solar trees. The company has installed many solar structures across the United States, most recently at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL and at schools in Virginia.

Further reading: Northeast Solar Boom: Untapped commercial deals are about to pay off in New England 

— Solar Builder magazine

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