Ten years ago, no one would have predicted that the price of solar energy would drop 75 to 85 percent, or wind energy 66 percent — suddenly making solar and wind cheaper than coal when utilities need to purchase more power. Or that Dane County’s government operations would stumble into “100 percent renewable energy” — creating more energy than the county is pulling from the grid — due in large part to harnessing the county landfill’s methane to produce natural gas. In 2017, Madison became the first Wisconsin city (and the 25th in the nation) to formally commit to 100 percent renewable energy, and now groups such as the city’s Sustainable Madison Committee and Dane County’s Council on Climate Change are working with consultants, utilities, businesses, nonprofits and citizens to go completely green. According to those involved, this is not some utopian liberal Madison goal — it makes the most fiscal sense for taxpayers and the timing has never been better.

“Because the price is coming down so much, it is becoming literally impossible to argue against solar and wind,” says Jeanne Hoffman, who staffs the Sustainable Madison Committee, a group of alders and citizens responsible for the city’s 2011 Sustainability Plan and now tasked with implementing the 100 percent renewable energy resolution. Hoffman, facilities and sustainability manager, calls the dramatic drop in solar and wind energy costs “nothing short of miraculous.”

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