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April 2012 Publisher Letter

A few months ago, Brent Brucker, the general manager of Helios Solar Works, and I were brainstorming an idea for an article that would spread the word about the benefits of solar energy. I proposed interviewing him about his Milwaukee-based company that manufactures solar panels, but he instead suggested, “Let’s talk about why Milwaukee, a place where people don’t naturally think about solar energy, has become a solar hot spot.” That was the inspiration for Linda Sechrist’s feature article, “Milwaukee:Powered by Solar and People.”

Numerous factors have contributed to our hometown achieving a preferred place in the solar industry. In 2008, the U.S. Department of Energy named Milwaukee a Solar America City, one of 25 in the country. The accompanying grant partially funds Milwaukee Shines, the city of Milwaukee’s solar energy program, which recently rolled out a program to help city residents finance home solar installations. We can be especially proud to have our very own local manufacturer of solar panels, Helios Solar Works, whose new 9T6 Series produces 420 watts per module, the most for any U.S-made crystalline module.

Renewable energy heroes, causes and companies are claiming their homes in Wisconsin. The Midwest Renewable Energy Association, which offers workshops and training on renewable energies and sustainable living for homeowners and professionals, annually stages the world’s largest and longest-running Energy Fair just a few hours from here, in Custer, Wisconsin. Furthermore, a recent report by the Midwest Environmental Law & Policy Center cited 12,000 Wisconsin jobs tied to renewable energy. In fact, two international renewable energy companies, Spain’s Ingeteam and Italy’s Caleffi, have chosen to establish their U.S. headquarters in Milwaukee.

Our city also has become a center for progressive urban agriculture, with15,000 visitors annually traveling here from around the world to see how CEO Will Allen and the Growing Power organization are converting the desolate wastelands of American cities into fertile gardens. Strategies range from covering concrete with fertile soil and setting up hoop houses heated by compost to helping people learn how to raise their own food in urban communities.

Last month I heard Allen speak at the 9th Annual Green Energy Summit, in downtown Milwaukee. Noting that about 60 percent of the attendees were under the age of 40, he praised the up-and-coming generations that are reclaiming the world. “Sustainability has become a young movement, and these young people will take the movement to the next level,” remarked Allen. “They have innovative ideas, they are visionaries, and they are passionate about giving back to the community. They have learned that when you give, you get twice back.”

That is a vital lesson for people of every age. As we celebrate Earth Day this month and beyond, let’s acknowledge the remarkable place where we live and protect our region’s bounty through conservation and sustainability.

To real progress,

Gabriella Buchnik, Publisher

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