Fox Valley nature reserve goes solar

MENASHA, Wis. (WBAY) - Solar panels are now helping power a Fox Valley nature preserve.

The Heckrodt Wetland Reserve in Menasha hopes it will serve as an inspiration for renewable energy.

More than 55,000 visitors, including 10,000 students, enjoy nature's beauty each year at the reserve.

After reviewing the non-profit's mission statement recently, leaders discovered an opportunity to become better environmental stewards and conservation educators.

"How can we use renewable energy here on the reserve? We saw what Bubolz was able to do over at their reserve. We said, here's an opportunity for us really to become more engaged in what we continue to educate people about," says Bill Sepnafski, Heckrodt Wetland Reserve Board Chairman.

The end result, 56 solar panels now in operation.

A win for Heckrodt and the environment.

"This is a 19.6 KW system. It's going to generate about 26,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year. That's equivalent to saving 21 tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere every year. The utility bill based on their past history should go down by at least 33 percent. As they continue to make more energy efficiency improvements, the percentage will only increase," says Jesse Michalski, Eland Electric project manager.

Thanks to Renew Wisconsin, WPPI Energy and Menasha Utilities, more than half of the $30,000 solar project is covered through grants.

Eland Electric provided more than $3,000 in labor.

"Those partnerships with us offer them the opportunity to say these are definitely valued things in our community, not only here in Menasha but throughout the entire state, throughout the entire world. It's definitely a universal opportunity," says Sepnafski.

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