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The City of Madison kicked off a program to double that city's use of solar energy by 2010.

Madison lets the sun shine in

Here's an idea that could lower Milwaukee heating and electric bills. The City of Madison kicked off a program to double that city's use of solar energy by 2010. It even has a catchy name -- MadiSUN.

The 2-year effort hooks up the city with Focus on Energy, UW Extension and Madison Gas and Electric (MG&E) with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy's "Solar America Cities" program.

The goal of MadiSUN is to help provide information and expertise that can make it easier to install solar energy. This will be done with the assistance of a consultant who can provide residents and businesses with technical expertise and answers to questions regarding design, permitting and rebate programs. A Web site will also be launched.

The announcement was made beneath a solar canopy in a playground sandbox. MG&E and the City of Madison jointly worked on the installation of the solar electric shade structure. The 40 by 20-ft. structure is designed to provide shade for the toddler sandbox area while incorporating a 2.1 kilowatt photovoltaic system on the roof. The system produces 2,600 kilowatt hours per year and reduces CO2 emissions by 5,200 pounds annually.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett commissioned a "Green Team" in 2004 and has made green energy a focus for city buildings, but on a citywide scale this could be an interesting experiment, especially since the days of the ugly solar panels on rooftops are over. The panels are much smaller and more aesthetically pleasing now.

The city has an Office of Environmental Sustainability and its Web site offers practical tips to green up the yard and home.

More Political Capital Spent on GM: A laundry list of state pols got in line to bemoan General Motors' announcement that it would end all production and close its Janesville plant. Sure, the local officials and even the governor were expected to show up and wring their hands.

But state Sen. Ted Kanavas? The Brookfield Republican's gubernatorial aspirations are getting around the state -- mainly due to the fact that he's got so much money in his campaign fund that he's got to do something with it -- but it seems he's bordering on trying to make some hay on this one, promptly sending out a press release with a tough-it-out attitude.

"The people of Janesville and the city itself, along with the rest of southern Wisconsin are strong," says Kanavas in the statement.

Ironically, Kanavas suggests offering tax incentives as a way to replace the 800-some jobs lost in the GM move. GM received tax incentives not too long ago when it considered closing the plant. That didn't quite work, did it?

"Lowering taxes, providing incentives and giving the people of Janesville, along with the rest of our state, the chance to use their natural ability to innovate new ideas is the best response to an event like this. There is a bright future ahead for Janesville and the rest of our great state if the proper steps are taken today."

And then there's Barack Obama getting in on the group grief, as well. He seems willing to use tax credits, too.

"I've proposed investing $150 billion over 10 years in green energy and creating up to five million new green jobs. We'll finally provide domestic automakers with the funding they need to retool their factories and make fuel-efficient and alternative fuel cars."

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