Cal Couillard has a vision to make Wisconsin competitive with other states on solar rapidly and he’s actualizing it, between his business- Speed Solar and the Couillard Solar Foundation that he and his wife Laurie run in Deerfield. One part of his plan is to prepare youth for jobs in solar and to create an educated workforce in Wisconsin. Through the Foundation’s Solar on Schools program, in partnership with MREA, the foundation is donating half of its modules to 100 public schools in 4 years to move schools to incorporate solar and to save them money on energy costs.
The Couillards’ philanthropy supports the Solar for Good grant program, administered by RENEW Wisconsin, that supplies solar panels to mission-based nonprofits, houses of worship, housing authorities and public schools (see Funding). They have helped the Deerfield area benefit from distributed solar, as well, with solar installations on the wastewater treatment plant, garage and high school (see project photos).
Speed Solar, the for-profit side, is a distributor of bifacial solar panels that they sell to commercial and industrial markets as well as to small installers. According to a study by Sandia National Labs and Michigan Tech, bifacial technology is 15-20 percent more efficient than standard panels, snow melts from them faster, and they cost less.
Speed Solar and the Couillard Solar Foundation are located in downtown Deerfield. The owner and philanthropist, Cal Couillard, drives an electric Tesla that he charges with a solar charging station he built on site (shown below). The business and foundation support local projects in Deerfield. Pictured here: Deerfield Waste Water Treatment Plant 180kW AC ground mounted solar system that supplies all the electricity used by the plant; Town of Deerfield garage that has 7kW of solar PV on two trackers that cover its electric needs. The standard panel on the right is solid, while the other is a bifacial panel that allows reflection from the back side, making it more efficient.
Speed Solar’s warehouse stores the bifacial PV panel inventory that the Couillard Solar Foundation supplies to Wisconsin nonprofits, houses of worship and schools that are awarded Solar for Good grants. Deerfield High School (top right) received a 360kW solar system that supports half their electric load. Bottom photos are outside and inside the Speed Solar solar powered EV-charging shed with battery storage.
Photos courtesy of Sherrie Gruder, UW-Madison Extension