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NEWS STORIES

Northwoods Population Continues DeclineSubmitted: 03/14/2013

Ben Meyer
Managing Editor / Senior Reporter
bmeyer@wjfw.com


NORTHWOODS - Look around, and you may notice the Northwoods population getting older.

But in most areas, it's also getting smaller.

In the last two years, population has been shrinking in many Northwoods counties.

The U.S. Census bureau released their 2012 population estimates this week.

It shows people are either dying or moving away from the Northwoods faster than they're coming in.

Chances are, migration has made up for the biggest portion of loss since 2010.

"People can move into or out of for a variety of reasons, but trends in migration tend to shift a lot more quickly than natural increase," says U.S. Census Bureau Statistician Ben Bolender.

Counties in red are ones that lost population since 2010.

The deeper the red, the more they lost.

Only four counties on the map actually gained population over that two year stretch.

Population loss in northern Wisconsin is nothing new.

"Although in some years in the past decade some of those counties either grew slightly or stayed the same for a year at a time, that overall decline is kind of the same trend that we've seen since at least 2000," says Bolender.

Statewide, though, Wisconsin gained population since 2010.

Urban centers around Milwaukee and Green Bay account for most of that increase.

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MOLE LAKE - When you drive through Mole Lake, you'll notice a lot of solar panels.

It's part of a project tribal leaders have worked on for more than a year, and they hope it will save the community a lot in energy costs.

Tribal leaders applied and received a couple million dollars in grants from the U.S. Energy Department and the Housing and Urban Development Department. Then they started working with a Pewaukee-based company called SunVest Solar, Inc., and started installing the panels on homes and businesses in 
September.

Now, they are almost done.

According to SunVest Solar, this is the largest per capital solar array installation in the Midwest. Tribal Administrator Jeff Ackley, Jr., says 50 homes and 17 businesses have solar panels.

"Most of the state of Wisconsin has less than one percent of its generation coming from solar and now you have a community where almost 50 percent of the homes get their power from the sun," said Adam Gusse, head of operations at SunVest Solar, Inc.

"I thought it would put us on the map," Ackley said.

Project leaders think the panels can produce up to 85 percent of power in homes and between 20 and 60 percent for businesses.

"It will be significant savings all around for the community," Ackley said. "From rough crunchings of numbers we're looking at probably saving between $60,000 and $80,000 per year on energy usage."

The first batch of panels turned on in November, and some people say they've already seen the savings.

"Some are seeing up to $100 in savings just after that first month," Gusse said. "So they'll see much more per month savings as they go on."

Gusse said the panels don't produce as much power in the winter as they will in the summer, but residents still save money.

Tribal leaders can apply for more grants to put panels on more homes. 

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