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Merrill Singer Goes NationwideSubmitted: 02/07/2013

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


MERRILL - Songs often come to Debbie Merkel while at home in Merrill.

But those tunes are now going national.

We caught up with a Northwoods recording artist getting her biggest break yet in music.

"I write about what's going on in my own life and what others can relate to," she says.

Now, people across the world will be able to relate to the Merrill Christian artist.

"I'll get inspired by something a friend says or something that I see, something that happened to me," she says.

Debbie's been singing since she was eight years old.

But she just broke through and signed with the record label Musik and Film.

She's been on the radio in 25 states since September, with the song "On Heaven's Wings."

Debbie is no stranger to the national stage.

"I've been to showcases in Nashville, I've been to Chicago, I've been to Minnesota, Michigan. Wherever anybody wants me - have microphone, will travel," she laughs.

Her goal for the listener is simple.

"It makes them feel joyous inside, it makes them feel inspired, it makes them feel happy, and I like to hear that feedback back, because that's what motivates me and that's what is my intention," she says.

Debbie's official signing release party comes up next Saturday, February 16 in Merrill.

The event will be at the First Street Coffee Station at 6pm.

The public is invited.

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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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