Example of solar panels

This image shows an example of what panels in a solar garden may look like. River Falls Municipal Utility has solar panels that provide clean energy to all the City of River Falls' buildings and many community members', as well. (Submitted Photos)

River Falls is again receiving national recognition from the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) for the community’s renewable energy efforts.

NREL evaluated the renewable energy efforts of utilities in four categories and released lists of the top ten utilities across the nation. Customers of River Falls Municipal Utilities (RFMU) rank third in the nation for Green Power Participation and fifth nationally for the community’s Green Power Sales rate. 

With the exception of 2005, River Falls has achieved at least one top ten ranking from the NREL each year the lists have been released since 2004.

NREL’s list for Green Power Participation Rates measures the percentage of customers who participated in a utility’s renewable or ‘green’ energy programs. In 2020, about 12% of RFMU customers voluntarily participated in Choose Renewable.

The Green Power Sales Rate list compares the ratio of a utility’s renewable energy sales to total sales. In 2020, renewable energy accounted for 6.55% of RFMU’s sales — up from 4.16% in 2019, the last year for which NREL compiled this data.

“We’re proud of the people of River Falls for keeping our relatively small community on the map when it comes to renewable energy,” said Kevin Westhuis, utility director of River Falls Municipal Utilities. “To have so many individuals invested in a zero-carbon future is very exciting and I hope we’re able to continue leading the way until every community in the nation runs on 100% renewable energy.”

One of the utility’s most popular offerings, Choose Renewable, helped the community obtain the recognition. The program allows customers to sign up to increase their monthly bill by a few dollars, ensuring their space is powered by renewable energy such as solar, wind and biogas. A typical home can run on clean energy with the purchase of two to three blocks, with one 300 kilowatt-hour block costing $2 per month. RFMU continues to add renewable energy to its overall power supply as well.

In September 2021, the Point Beach Solar Energy Center came online. Located near Two Rivers, the facility features more than 315,000 solar panels with the capacity to generate 100 megawatts of electricity. WPPI Energy, a wholesale power provider owned by the member utilities it serves, is purchasing the energy. As a member-owner of WPPI Energy, River Falls is now powered by a portion of that energy. With the addition of Point Beach Solar, the WPPI Energy membership is

on track to reduce carbon dioxide emissions approximately 45% by 2025 when compared to 2005.

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