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

Local interest in solar energy growing
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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 IN OTHER NEWS

MINOCQUA - You don't need to wait for the grass to turn green for golfing.

Minocqua's Ice Golf is an end of season charity tournament coming up on March 3rd.

The tournament raised more than $18,000  last year for charities including the food pantry and Dr. Kate Hospice.

It has become a Northwoods tradition for some people.

"First year we had it, we had only like 35 golfers, now last year we had over 300 golfers," says Albee's owner Randy Albrecht.

If you don't have a group, they'll put into one.

After everyone is done putting, there will be dinner and a raffle.

For tickets and info call: Albee's Yacht Club at 715-356-1366 OR The Thirsty Whale at 715-356-7108.


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MADISON - An effort to clean up voting records caused problems for some voters during Tuesday's spring primary.

Some voters' information was removed, even though it was current.

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SUGAR CAMP - A major fire destroyed a machinery repair shop in Sugar Camp on Wednesday morning, sending clouds of black smoke over the Northwoods.

The shop, next to a home on County Highway D west of Sugar Camp, caught fire around 10 a.m.

"There was a machinery malfunction that [the owner said] he was dealing with, and there could also be a heating issue," said Sugar Camp Fire Chief Jason Goeldner. "We got an area to look, but we haven't gotten in there yet to actually try to do a thorough investigation yet."

No one was hurt.

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IRONWOOD, MI - A large fire in Ironwood, Michigan killed at least one person early Wednesday morning.

Ironwood Public Safety reports firefighters were called to the downtown building on E. Aurora Street around 4 a.m.  The fire burned a building with businesses and apartments.

Crews pulled three people from apartment windows on upper floors, but another person pulled from the fire died at the hospital.  The Public Safety Department didn't release the victim's name or age.

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TOMAHAWK - A two-time World Snowmobile Derby Champion raced for something bigger than just himself at last month's derby.

Tomahawk native Nick Van Strydonk decided to design a custom racing suit and matching helmet to be auctioned off the last day of the derby.

Wednesday, he lived up to that promise with a larger donation than he ever expected.

"I'm glad I was at work and sitting down in my chair because it was mind blowing," said Van Strydonk.

At this year's derby in Eagle River, Van Strydonk raced in a custom made suit and helmet which he planned to auction off the last day of the derby.

"It was actually a really cool suit and I only wore it once," said Van Strydonk.

He planned to raise enough money to send at least three veterans on the Never Forgotten Honor Flight which is about $1,500 but much like his competition, he blew that goal away.

"I believe we were just at $5,000," said Van Strydonk.

Strydonk donated $3,000 to the Honor Flight Foundation which will send six veterans on an upcoming flight. He also gave Wounded Warriors $1,000 and $500 to the Tomahawk VFW Post Wednesday.

"It never ceases to amaze me the gratitude and the love that the people of Tomahawk and surrounding A two-time World Snowmobile Derby Champion raced for something bigger than just himself at last month's derby.

Tomahawk native Nick Van Strydonk decided to design a custom racing suit and matching helmet to be auctioned off the last day of the derby.

Wednesday, he lived up to that promise with a larger donation than he ever expected.

"I'm glad I was at work and sitting down in my chair because it was mind blowing," said Van Strydonk.

At this year's derby in Eagle River, Van Strydonk raced in a custom made suit and helmet which he planned to auction off the last day of the derby.

"It was actually a really cool suit and I only wore it once," said Van Strydonk.

He planned to raise enough money to send at least three veterans on the Never Forgotten Honor Flight which is about $1,500 but much like his competition, he blew that goal away.

"I believe we were just at $5,000," said Van Strydonk.

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WAUSAU - Anger over last Wednesday's Florida school shooting could force Congress to find some agreement on gun control. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) thinks it's about time.

The debate on gun rights and public safety has been a big focus since 17 people died at Stoneman Douglas High School.

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MINOCQUA - Kevin Bolger worked hard to get to this moment.

The Lakeland Union High School grad has won his fair share of cross-country ski races since earning a high school state championship title in 2011.

But now he'll get the opportunity to represent the United States at the Cross Country World Cup series in Finland and Sweden next month. 

"Skiing at this level is kind of like the next step you want to get to and ski at. I'm just beyond, I can't really explain it, I'm just super excited," said Bolger. 

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