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NEWS STORIES

Local interest in solar energy growingSubmitted: 08/19/2013
Story By Lyndsey Stemm


EAGLE RIVER - No matter how high energy prices get, our dependence remains the same. We see alternative energy production booming in other parts of the country, but many people feel like it's just not that feasible here.

One Northwoods couple says it is. Kevin and Marta Church own K and M Services, Inc. They've become certified to install solar panels, and decided to start with their own home.

The churchs aren't completely off the grid. That means they produce their own energy during the day, and use energy from WPS at night. But since the installation last October, the energy they buy from WPS has gone from 1,700 kilowatts per hour, to 400.

When they made the change, they found a lot of people had questions about solar energy.

"Some of the misconceptions are we don't have enough sun. We're on the same latitude line as Germany, and they're the largest solar producer in the world. It's just a matter of trees in the area," says Kevin Church.

The couples 24 panel project cost about $32,000. They hope it will have paid for itself in seven years.

But projects can be on a much smaller scale; even as small as four panels for about $1,500.

Energy companies like WPS encourage people to look into their options.

"For customers that do install solar generation or wind generation, Wisconsin Public Service does have a specific program to buy back any excess energy produced by those programs. It's called our net metering program," says Leah Van Zile, says Wisconsin Public Service.

There are other incentives too. For example, the Churchs got $1,200 from Focus on Energy for their solar panel project. They also got a 30 percent federal tax credit.

The Churchs are among only a handfull of people certified to install solar panels in far Northern Wisconsin. But they say interest is picking up.



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BOULDER JUNCTION - A Vilas County shooting range will get some financial aid thanks to the Wisconsin DNR.

The Boulder Junction Shooting Range got a grant for venue upgrades.

The range also got a grant last year.

It used the money to make its facilities handicap accessible.

Range officials say they will use this year's grant for additions.

Those include making the space more energy efficient.

"[The] money will be used for insulating the clubhouse," says Secretary of the Boulder Junction Shooting Range Pete Drahn. "It'll be used to remove doors and windows that we no longer need, and to replace a window with a more energy efficient window."

The range has gotten grants two years in a row, but it won't happen again next year.

"They've told everybody that received the grants this year that they'll start doing grants only every other year for someone who has received it," says Drahn. "So at the earliest, it would be the year after next."

The range's board members want to make the venue better for shooters, but they say they couldn't have done it without the grant's help.

"These are projects we probably wouldn't do for eons," says Drahn. "We don't receive any money from anybody except the users of the range. So we don't have a lot for our capital needs."

The range also plans to install a new fence to improve the facility's safety.

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12 people will take the class.

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Wednesday, teachers were trained on how to use the new technology.

Last year, six third grade classrooms tried out how it would work.

District leaders said parents and students involved in the pilot program liked it.

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The Rhinelander City Council held a meeting last night to go through a list of candidates. At the end of that meeting, they went front from having 22, down to a list of four.

"We have four candidates that we have coming in," said Rhinelander's Mayor Richard Johns. "And the candidates vary, one's from Eau Claire, Antigo, Kewaskum, and Stevens Point. We pretty much have a local area so-to-speak, rather than out of state."

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