Viola now runs only on wind energy thanks to GoMacro, area partners

VIOLA, Wis. (WKBT)– With a population of about 700 people, Viola is a small community but it’s about to make a big difference. All businesses, homes and schools in the village will run solely on wind energy. This is one of the very few places to make the full switch in the nation, especially with this type of arrangement.

Since late-2018, the Viola-based company GoMacro has been running on 100% renewable energy. But they wanted a way to help others do the same.

“We have an opportunity to expand the reach of our sustainability efforts beyond the doors of our building,” said Tony Saarem, director of operations for GoMacro.

So for about ten months, the organic snack bar company has been working with public and private partners to move the idea forward. That includes the Viola Municipal Electric Utility, Upper Midwest Municipal Energy Group and other renewable energy advisors. What they needed to create is a renewable energy tariff.

“What those basically allow customers to do is to pay a little extra money in order to acquire renewable credits,” said Richard Heinemann, an attorney with Boardman Clark.

Heinemann assisted with developing the tariff. He said the community, like many others, already had one in place.

“GoMacro was interested in sort of taking it to another level,” Heinemann said.

All electric utilities are regulated by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin. The project had to first go through a review process with a public comment period.

“There were some challenges around figuring out the mechanism for how that would be worked and how it would be billed,” Heinemann said.

With the final approval, they were able to go ahead with purchasing the wind power created by turbines in Rugby, North Dakota, and some from a wind farm in Cashton, Wisconsin. As of July 25th, they’ve been sourcing the wind energy for the municipality.

Ultimately, this means less energy produced from traditional sources.

“There’s a real tangible impact of displacing the need for fossil fuels,” Saarem said.

But that impact would be amplified if other businesses or organizations did the same. That’s why they’re leading the way, hoping others will follow.

“I’m excited but I’ll really consider it a win when I hear about the next company that does it,” Saarem said.

GoMacro is covering the cost difference of going over to wind energy, so bills will not go up. The program is in effect starting with the August 2020 billing cycle.