Rural electric cooperatives haven’t traditionally been aligned with clean energy advocates, but Dairyland Cooperative CEO Barbara Nick will be one of two keynote speakers next month at a renewable energy policy summit in Madison.

While coal-fired generators account for about 90 percent of the La Crosse-based utility’s current portfolio, Dairyland is making aggressive investments into renewable energy resources. Last year the company announced plans for a 98-megawatt wind farm in southwestern Wisconsin and 15 solar gardens that will double Wisconsin’s current solar capacity.

Tyler Huebner, executive director of the summit’s sponsor, Renew Wisconsin, said the goal to to highlight the expansion of renewable power in the state.

“Dairyland Power is out in front right now on renewable energy as far as the power providers in the state,” Huebner said. “It’s just a really good show of leadership from Dairyland Power. We want to hear why they’re moving in this direction. …and let other utilities know how they can replicate it.”

The day-long event will also feature solar energy policy experts, the leader of a conservative energy advocacy group from Michigan and a Department of Defense engineer who has overseen solar projects for the nation’s largest energy user.

Nick, who expects to announce another wind projects in the weeks before the summit, says she hopes to explain how Dairyland’s business model — in which member coops and municipal utilities approve strategies and set rates, allowed the cooperative to pursue resource diversification.

“One of my top priorities … is to make sure we focus on a measured, smart, prudent diversification of our energy portfolio,” she said. “It’s going to be measured and it’s going to be smart.”

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Rhymes with Lubbock. La Crosse Tribune reporter and data geek. Covers energy, transportation and the environment, among other things. Call him at 608-791-8217.

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