Heckrodt Wetland Reserve adds solar panels – Leader

Heckrodt Wetland Reserve in Menasha recently celebrated the installation of solar panels.

Eland Electric’s completion of the 19.6 kilowatt system translates to an offset of 5,000 pounds of CO2 emissions, or the equivalent of planting 126 trees.

“Heckrodt Wetland Reserve is excited to include energy conservation in our environmental message,” said Tracey Koening, executive director at the nature reserve. “The Renew Wisconsin Solar for Good grant allowed us to double the size of our solar array, permitting us to practice our Earth Day Every Day message.”

Heckrodt Wetland Reserve is a 76-acre urban nature reserve on the northern shore of Lake Winnebago with habitats including forested wetland, cattail marsh, open water, created prairie, open field and upland forest.

Solar for Good provided $10,000 of grant funding to assist the nonprofit organization with installing solar panels. Solar for Good, an initiative from the renewable energy advocates at RENEW Wisconsin, is funded by philanthropists Cal and Laurie Couillard of Deerfield and additional donors.

Focus on Energy and WPPI Energy provided grants to help build the solar array. Eland Electric donated labor for the installation. The remaining balance for the project was funded by grants secured by Heckrodt Wetland Reserve.

“The addition of solar generation will enhance the education and environmental stewardship legacy that Heckrodt Wetland Reserve has nourished for nearly 25 years,” Menasha Mayor Don Merkes said.

Heather Allen, program director of RENEW Wisconsin, said Heckrodt’s investment in solar power and energy efficiency shows how a community can build value by working together.

Jessie Michalski, owner of Eland Electric, added that Heckrodt “provides an outstanding educational opportunity to the community on the importance of our natural wetlands, and helping them reduce their annual operating costs with renewable energy ensures they can educate the community for years to come.”

The installation of the solar array was part of a major sustainability upgrade at the nature center. Heckrodt installed a sustainable steel roof, steel siding and trim, an LED lighting upgrade and HVAC improvements, and plans to upgrade the insulation in the nature center.

In the first two rounds of funding, Solar for Good provided grants to 24 nonprofit organizations across Wisconsin. When all the projects are completed, the grants will have supported over $1.6 million in solar investment and 730 kW of new solar electric projects to the state. That is the equivalent amount of energy needed to power 146 average-size homes in Wisconsin.