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Monday, January 16, 2017

2016’s Standout Renewable Energy Projects to Receive Recognition This Week

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                 
January 16, 2017

More information                   
Tyler Huebner, Executive Director
608.255.4044 x 1
tyler.huebner@renewwisconsin.org

The biggest and best renewable electric installations in 2016 are set to be recognized at RENEW Wisconsin's annual Renewable Energy Summit this Thursday, January 19th in Madison.  The recognition ceremony will take place at 12:45 PM, during lunch.  The Summit will be held at the Monona Terrace in Madison; registration starts at 8:00 AM and the program runs from 9:00 AM to 3:30 PM.

As strong a year as 2015 was for Wisconsin solar installers, 2016 shattered records for total capacity added, with several electric providers, led by La Crosse-based Dairyland Power Cooperative and many of its member cooperatives, generating most of the momentum.  Between utility-scale projects on the one end to residential rooftop installations on the other, Wisconsin’s solar output will more than double the previous year’s totals.

Indeed, since last year’s Summit, construction started on more than 30 megawatts of solar panel installations, which will generate enough electricity to supply about 5,000 Wisconsin homes’ annual electricity usage.

The recognition will be bestowed across three categories:

Utility solar. In 2016 Dairyland Power Cooperative entered into contracts to purchase the output from 14 solar arrays under construction in Wisconsin, with a combined capacity of nearly 19 megawatts. On top of the capacity serving Dairyland, many member cooperatives agreed to additional panels to supply their shared solar programs. All told, Wisconsin’s electric cooperatives committed to more than 21 megawatts of solar last year.

Two Madison-based investor-owned utilities, Alliant Energy and Madison Gas & Electric, brought three arrays online in 2016. When it was energized, Alliant’s solar array in the Town of Beloit became the largest solar-powered generator in Wisconsin. Madison Gas & Electric’s shared solar project came about through an innovative partnership with the City of Middleton, whose rooftops now holds more than 600 kW of solar, as the City police station added an array in addition to the larger MG&E Shared Solar project.



Landmark and innovative initiatives.  National corporations, state-based businesses, Wisconsin communities, and local activists continued their progress in embracing solar energy to advance public policy goals and/or enhance their business profile. In 2016, several noteworthy initiatives and collaborations were launched that married clean electricity productions with other objectives such as economic competitiveness, job training, and community-building.

Residential solar group purchase programs.  Cities and nonprofit organizations collaborated to launch four community-based solar group purchase programs, spanning from Eau Claire in the northwest to Racine in the southeast.  Solar group purchase programs are designed to reduce the cost and complexity of installing solar panels on individual houses, while sharing the benefits of increased marketing and community involvement. By the end of 2016, these four programs resulted in 139 households committing to install more than 600 kW of solar on their properties, far outpacing previous years’ totals.

"Wisconsin solar energy saw its best year ever in 2016, with the projects installed and under construction more than doubling the state’s total production,” said Tyler Huebner, RENEW Wisconsin’s Executive Director.  “But we can’t stop here, because our neighboring states are growing even faster than us. In 2017, we will also see the welcome development of wind energy and biogas investments come back to Wisconsin.  Increasing our renewable energy investments and usage will help build a stronger, cleaner economy for Wisconsin.”

For more information on the 2017 Summit program agenda, speakers, and registration, please visit http://www.renewwisconsin.org/2017_Summit/.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Keynotes and Theme Set for January Renewable Energy Policy Summit

Event to Spotlight Mainstreaming of Clean Energy

Immediate release                    
December 20, 2016

More information
Tyler Huebner, Executive Director
608.255.4044 x 1
tyler.huebner@renewwisconsin.org

RENEW Wisconsin will host its sixth annual Renewable Energy Policy Summit on Thursday, January 19th, 2017, at Monona Terrace in Madison. The theme of the event, "Clean Energy Goes Mainstream," will highlight the significant expansion of renewable power underway in Wisconsin, both at the customer and utility level.

This one-day event will feature two keynote speakers.

- Barbara Nick, CEO of La Crosse-based Dairyland Power Cooperative, which has entered into contracts to supply its member co-ops with renewable electricity from a large wind power project in Lafayette County and 14 solar arrays across western Wisconsin. Barb will explain why Dairyland decided to accelerate its own clean energy transition and how its new sources of solar and wind energy will benefit its member cooperatives.

- Adam Browning, Executive Director of Vote Solar, which is working to make solar power the go-to energy resource in all 50 states. As the afternoon keynote, Adam will highlight solar’s dramatic expansion in recent years, including its impact on the national economy and on local economies throughout the United States. He will also discuss the critical role that state policy will play in maintaining solar’s momentum.

Ms. Nick will kick off the summit program with her keynote address, followed by a panel session discussing the driving forces behind the clean energy transition and its broadening appeal among homeowners, businesses, and policymakers.

After lunch, RENEW will recognize the most noteworthy clean energy installations launched or energized this year in Wisconsin, as well as the individuals, organizations, and communities that made them happen.

Adam Browning will launch the afternoon program with his keynote, followed by an industry panel session examining the factors propelling the clean energy expansion, and identifying the mix of policies and practices for sustaining that expansion.

The program will feature networking opportunities with exhibitors and attendees, as well as a social hour following the close of the formal program.

RENEW Wisconsin’s Executive Director Tyler Huebner says, “We chose this year’s theme to highlight the acceleration of clean energy across corporate America, utilities, and everyday homeowners.  Solar energy is poised to continue its growth in Wisconsin, while wind power and biogas appear on the verge of making comebacks.  All these resources are cost-effective today, and can provide significant value to Wisconsin if deployed more aggressively.”

Summit registration is open and over 150 individuals have already signed up.  Rates are $120 for Members of RENEW Wisconsin, $150 for non-members, $90 for government and non-profit employees, and $35 for students. Membership with RENEW starts at $35 for individuals and $200 for businesses and organizations.

For more information on the 2017 program agenda, speakers, and registration, please visit our website.  

An impressive list of corporate and organizational sponsors has already signed on to support the event, which are showcased on the final page.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Businesses Lead the Way on Solar at Wisconsin Sustainable Business Conference

By Katherine Klausing, Engagement Manager

Wisconsin’s businesses are leading the way on solar, and they’re encouraging their colleagues do the same. That was the message last week in Onalaska, as RENEW Wisconsin’s Tyler Huebner convened a panel at the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Conference.

RENEW Wisconsin brought together executives from Gundersen Health System of La Crosse, Reynolds Transfer of Madison, and Phillips Medisize of Phillips to talk about how investing in solar energy has helped their companies save money and meet their sustainability goals.

Gundersen Health Systems' Sparta Clinic
Photo credit: Gundersen Health Systems.
Gundersen Health Systems’ Alan Eber explained that his company is able to save significant costs by building its clinics to use about half as much energy as a typical healthcare facility. “We take the architecture guidelines of 2030 and apply them today,” said Eber, explaining how this results in much lower costs over the life of its buildings. “For us, it’s all about reducing waste.” Gundersen has invested in a 100kW solar array on top of its new clinic in Sparta. To meet its full commitment to energy independence, the company will also buy the output from 220kW of Xcel Energy's shared solar array under development. Gundersen Health Systems has been recognized as RENEW Wisconsin’s Energy-Independence Enterprise of the Year.

Reynolds Transfer and Storage's solar
array. Photo credit: SunPeak.
Ben Reynolds of Madison-based Reynolds Transfer and Storage also shared his positive solar experience with the crowd. Reynolds, a sixth-generation member of the family-owned business, led the procurement and installation of 48kW of solar on the company’s two warehouse facilities in Madison. Reynolds estimates that the solar array will save them about $7,500 every year, not including the money the company has saved by converting some of its power load from gas to electricity and timed its use to capitalize on the solar panels’ production. Read more about Reynolds Transfer and Storage’s solar project here.

Jonathan Roberts of SoCore Energy shows off Dairyland
Power Cooperative's latest solar array, located near New Richmond.
 Photo credit: SoCore Energy.
Dan Andersen of Phillips Medisize explained that his company took a different approach. The medical device manufacturer’s leaders looked into installing solar on-site, but decided they liked the ease and simplicity of investing in a shared solar array. So Phillips Medisize will buy a portion of its power every month from two new community solar arrays built in New Richmond and Eau Claire.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Content kicked off the session by sharing new national polling showing the vast and diverse support that renewable energy garners nationwide. Polling conducted by Public Opinion Strategies immediately following the November elections found that 76% of Americans support installing more solar energy.

The fact that solar energy is so popular should be of interest to businesses considering solar, pointed out RENEW’s Huebner. “Businesses that invest in solar and renewables are on the correct side of the citizens and therefore customers, suppliers, and employees.”

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Statewide Funding for Renewable Energy Incentives Increased to $8.6 million

Today, the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin finalized decisions related to Focus on Energy’s renewable energy program for 2017 and 2018.

Overall Funding: The first item to note is that the total funding for renewable energy incentives is now $8.6 million over the 2017-18 two-year period.  This is up from $7.7 million decided in their previous meeting of October 20th, and reflects an additional $900,000 from unspent funds remaining in the now-terminated Renewable Energy Loan Fund.

Funding by Program:  The Commission decided to fund programs at the following levels, largely agreeing with recommendations RENEW Wisconsin put forth in late October. Business customers will be able to take advantage of Prescriptive Incentives, which offer pre-determined levels of funding for eligible technologies like solar PV and geothermal projects, as well as the Renewable Energy Competitive Incentive Program (RECIP), which accepts competitive proposals and awards grants for larger projects.

Based on RENEW Wisconsin’s understanding of the Commission’s discussion today, we estimate the budgets accordingly.

Note that these figures may change as more information becomes available.
Incentive Level for Solar PV:  The Commission also adjusted the incentive levels and caps on project sizes for solar photovoltaic systems. The commission lowered the incentive from about 16% of the cost of an average project--$600 per kW--to 12% of the project cost, which will adjust yearly with average market prices. At this year's prices, the incentive would be $450 per kW, according to Commission Chairperson Ellen Nowak. Nowak noted that the solar incentives have been very popular and fully spent down in each year and that reducing the incentive level to match falling market prices would allow more installations to be funded.

Following recommendations from staff and RENEW, the Commission also agreed to raise the maximum eligible project size from 4kW to 8kW for business customers. Residential incentive eligibility will remain capped at 4kW.

“We applaud the Commission’s decision to continue to fund these critical projects,” said Tyler Huebner, Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin. “These highly successful incentive programs will ensure that renewable energy thrives in Wisconsin, keeping our energy costs low and our energy jobs local.”

In addition, the Commission directed $20 million in funding to expand biogas production on dairy farms. An interagency working group will release a joint RFP for a network of interconnected anaerobic digesters, which will allow manure from dairy farms to be converted into renewable natural gas. The Commission noted the many benefits that anaerobic digesters have to offer in Wisconsin, from improving water quality, to nutrient management and local, renewable energy. RENEW Wisconsin has closely followed and supported statewide initiatives to deploy biogas technologies. For more information and our take on Governor Scott Walker’s recent announcement, visit our blog.

Finally, the Commission outlined new programs for rural customers that will align greater access to broadband with participation in Focus on Energy’s efficiency programs. The Commission announced $16 million in funding for new programs that provide broadband-connected energy efficiency devices like smart thermostats and smart power strips, $4 million for energy efficiency retrofits for broadband providers’ facilities and $6 million in additional programs for agricultural energy management, rural small business support and others.


Friday, November 18, 2016

PSC Nearly Doubles Monthly Fixed Charge for Alliant Electricity Customers


For Immediate Release - November 18, 2016
For More Information:  Tyler Huebner, Executive Director, 608-255-4044 ext 1


(Madison, WI).   In today’s open meeting, the Public Service Commission sharply hiked the monthly “fixed charge” that Alliant Energy’s Wisconsin Power & Light residential electricity customers will face by 95%, from $7.67 per month up to $15 per month.

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin building in Madison.
The “fixed charge” is the base fee which all customers must pay each month, no matter how much energy they use.  Overall, Alliant’s residential customers will see their monthly electricity bills increase by 4-5%.

By contrast, the fixed charge that Alliant’s Iowa customers must pay every month remains at $10.50.

“Increasing the fixed charge will raise bills for customers that use smaller amounts of electricity monthly, such as seniors, apartment-dwellers, and energy-conscious customers including those who have installed solar panels,” said Tyler Huebner, RENEW Wisconsin’s Executive Director.

RENEW Wisconsin and a broad set of stakeholders have opposed hikes in fixed charges since 2014,
when these requests first appeared.

“Wisconsin electricity customers now pay dramatically higher fixed charges than their counterparts in other states,” said Tyler Huebner, RENEW Wisconsin’s Executive Director.  Our testimony documented that the vast majority of state agencies nationally are either rejecting these fixed charge hikes outright, or granting much smaller increases, and only in Wisconsin are these fees being nearly doubled.”

As documented by RENEW in testimony, the increase in fixed charges granted to U.S. investor-owned utilities since 2014 has averaged about 14%.  But for the five investor-owned utilities in Wisconsin, the average fixed charge increase has been 83%.

-END-

RENEW Wisconsin leads and accelerates the transformation to Wisconsin’s renewable energy future through advocacy, education, and collaboration. More information on RENEW’s web site at www.renewwisconsin.org.

RENEW Wisconsin Statement on Governor Walker’s Biodigester Announcement

For immediate release                    
November 18, 2016                  

More information
Tyler Huebner, Executive Director
608.255.4044
tyler.huebner@renewwisconsin.org

Governor Scott Walker at Heritage Farm in Kewaunee,
with RENEW's Tyler Huebner in the background.
Yesterday, RENEW Wisconsin was in the audience as Governor Scott Walker announced the State of Wisconsin’s intention to invest in biodigesters that will turn dairy manure into renewable energy while assisting with improvements in water quality.

Governor Walker announced that the Public Service Commission, Department of Natural Resources, and Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection are working together to deliver a Request for Proposals in January 2017.  The request for proposals will allow private firms to submit bids to meet the goals and specifications set out by the agencies.

A major goal of the initiative is to aid with water quality problems in environmentally sensitive areas of the state, and the announcement was made in Kewaunee, one of those regions.  Governor Walker indicated that this initiative is one of a series of steps, and not in and of itself the only solution, needed to aid water quality in Kewaunee County.

Wisconsin is the national leader in deploying biodigesters, also known as anaerobic digesters, on farms.  We have 34 farms with digesters in Wisconsin.  These systems turn cow manure into solids, liquids, and methane, which is an energy resource that is the primary component of what we commonly call “natural gas.”

In many of the digesters on farms in Wisconsin today, the methane is cleaned and passed through a generator to create electricity, which is sold to the local power company.  Most of these digesters are located right on the premises of the dairy farms.

The system envisioned by the Governor’s announcement, according to a recent interim order from the Public Service Commission, might collect manure from farms of all sizes, and process it in a centralized biodigester.  Instead of using the methane to create electricity, it could be further cleaned and then injected into the natural gas delivery system.  Natural gas is used to heat homes and businesses as well as power industrial processes.  (The PSC’s interim order can be found here, see pages 9 thru 11).

“Biodigesters present a win-win-win for renewable energy, the environment, and farmers.  These systems are the ultimate recycle and reuse operation,” said Tyler Huebner, Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin. “Moreover, Wisconsin is blessed with companies that know how to design, engineer, build, and operate these systems such as Chilton-based DVO, Inc., BIOFerm Energy Systems of Madison, Miron Construction of Neenah, Symbiont of West Allis, and Clean Fuel Partners of Madison.”

Digesters process manure in a way that can enable water quality improvement technologies to be added onto the system. Dane County has been investing in these systems over the past half-decade to accomplish similar water quality improvement goals, and their recently passed County Budget includes $18 million to inject methane collected at the landfill into the natural gas pipeline system, similar to what the state may be envisioning.

“Digesters can provide a lot of benefits when they are designed, engineered, and operated with proven technologies and by companies that have delivered solutions that work.  Leadership, collaboration, and transparency will be needed throughout the process to ensure the project’s success. The State’s leadership and funding commitment is a solid next step to bringing more digesters online in Wisconsin,” concluded Huebner.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Dairyland’s Network of Solar Arrays to Expand Further

Anticipating the completion of a dozen solar projects in Wisconsin, La Crosse-based Dairyland Power Cooperative signed contracts this month to add three more arrays to its generation portfolio. With these three arrays Dairyland now has more 20 MW of solar generation under contract, almost all of it located in the Badger State (see table below). These arrays will produce emission-free power for Dairyland’s 25 member distribution cooperatives and 17 municipal utilities.

Chicago-based SoCore Energy will build and
own the three new arrays. Two of the three arrays will be located in Wisconsin, and the third will go up in northeast Iowa. SoCore is also the developer of 11 of the initial 12 arrays announced by Dairyland in February.

All 15 arrays are located in the service territories of Dairyland’s member distribution cooperatives. In conjunction with Dairyland’s utility-scale arrays, many of the host cooperatives are adding their own panels to these installations, to serve customers who subscribe to their shared solar programs.

The environmental benefits from these arrays will go beyond clean energy. Every project site will be revegetated with native plants to create bee and butterfly habitat. When revegetation is complete, SoCore will seek certification of its projects as “pollinator gardens.”

One of the projects under construction, St. Croix Electric Cooperative’s Sunflower II array in Roberts, provided the backdrop for a solar media day on Monday, November 14th. RENEW's Michael Vickerman took part in the open house, providing RENEW's perspective on the rapid growth of solar generation throughout Wisconsin. The Sunflower II project is about 30 miles east of St. Paul, Minn., and 55 miles west of Eau Claire, Wis.






















Of the 45-50 MW of Wisconsin-based solar generating capacity likely to be operational by April 2017, Dairyland’s projects will account for nearly 40% of that total. As of today, the only multimegawatt array producing power under contract to a Wisconsin electric provider is the 2.25 MW installation in Rock County owned by Hanwha Q CELLS USA, which supplies electricity to Wisconsin Power & Light.

For more information on Dairyland’s newest solar projects, see: http://www.dairylandpower.com/dcontent/article/DPCannouncesadditionalsolarcontracts.pdf

As a reminder, Barbara Nick, CEO of Dairyland Power Cooperative, will speak at our 2017 Energy Policy Summit, Clean Energy Goes Mainstream, on January 19, 2017. Learn more and register today!