Search This Blog

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Power answer blowing offshore

From an editorial in The Journal Times (Racine):

With oil at record prices along with gasoline at the pump, Wisconsin has again awoken to the potential of the free energy flowing in the winds off the shore of Lake Michigan.

We say again because there was a feasibility study in 1992 to assess the potential of wind power from turbines sited just a few miles offshore on the Racine Reef. Last week’s news reports discussed the possibilities which three developers see in generating power from the lake winds with a few hundred turbines placed some miles off the coast. They have not applied to the state for any permits; these are mere concepts, not finished designs. We hope for quick action rather than concepts.

Although one potential developer said his project is on hold while awaiting a method of mooring turbines in deep water, in fact those solutions already exist. Last month a company called Blue H Technologies announced a lease of 40 square miles in the Atlantic Ocean 23 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard for the first deep water wind farm built on floating platforms. In the fall, officials in the United Kingdom unveiled two 5-megawatt turbines placed in 150 feet of water 15 miles off the coast of Scotland.

On the other side of the lake, Muskegon, Mich., is also looking at becoming a wind power capital. Consultants there have calculated that at an extreme, an area of 8,806square miles in the middle of the lake from Beaver Island to Chicago could hold 36,400 towers producing a combined 182,000 megawatts. For comparison, each of the two coal-fired generators being built in Oak Creek will produce 615 MW of power.

One issue for people on shore is the appearance of these modern turbines. These are giants reaching heights of 300 or so feet, and while we wouldn’t want to see such monsters standing on the Racine Reef, turbines 15 or 20 miles off the coast would be barely visible.

There are problems with wind power, no question, starting with the problem that the wind doesn’t blow all the time. But there are solutions to that — backup generating stations or storing excess power as compressed air, for example.

As we said, these ideas have been floating around since at least the early ’90s. It’s time for some action . . .

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Solar workshops set for Milwaukee and suburbs

We Energies is partnering with the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA), Focus on Energy, and local hosts to offer a series of seminars to provide information about generating renewable energy for homes and small business.

PV Systems for Residential Applications covers solar photovoltaic (PV) technology, site selection, system sizing, available financial incentives and installer selection:

May 17 1:00 pm
Outpost Natural Foods
100 E. Capital Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53212

Sept. 27 10:00 am
Milwaukee Area Technical College
Oak Creek Campus
6665 S. Howell Avenue
Oak Creek, WI 53154-1107
Solar Water Heating for Residential Applications covers solar water heating technology, site selection, system sizing, available financial incentives, and installer selection:

May 1 6:00 pm
Good Harvest Market
1850 Meadow Lane
Waukesha, WI

May 17 10:00 am Outpost Natural Foods
100 E. Capital Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53212

Sept. 27 1:00 pm Milwaukee Area Technical College
Oak Creek Campus
6665 S. Howell Avenue
Oak Creek, WI 53154-1107
Go to We Energies' Web site for more details.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Keep blowing wind power forward

From an editorial in the Wisconsin State Journal:

The exciting possibility of harnessing significant wind power using giant turbines offshore on Lake Michigan moved closer to reality last week.

State officials said three developers are contemplating various ways to erect hundreds of wind turbines on the water that could transmit clean energy back to land.

The plans are only conceptual. Yet state officials are wisely encouraged and seriously exploring several options, potential costs and hang-ups.

Wisconsin is not a windy state. And attempts to build giant wind turbines on land in the past have faced fierce opposition from some neighbors who don 't like the look or sound of them.

That 's what makes the prospect to putting turbines on lakes Michigan and Superior so appealing. The wind over the lakes is notoriously strong. And if positioned far enough off land, the turbines won 't be visible to shoreline property owners who might otherwise object.

Photo from the National Renewable Energy Lab.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Local leaders cite new report as boosting KRM

From a report just released by the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group (WISPERG:

Milwaukee, WI - The KRM Commuter Rail line and other public transportation projects received a boost as civic leaders held an event at the Milwaukee Intermodal Station calling for approval of financing and citing a major new report on oil savings and other benefits from public transportation across the country. The WISPIRG report, A Better Way to Go: Meeting America’s 21st Century Transportation Challenges with Modern Public Transit, examines the challenges faced by America’s transportation system and the benefits of existing rail and bus projects in Wisconsin and other states.

According to the report, transit in Milwaukee is responsible for 1.1 million gallons of oil saved and $3 million dollars saved that would have otherwise been spent on gas. With rising gas prices, the report underscored the value and need for lawmakers to invest in transit. Around the country transit saves 3.4 billion gallons of oil each year, prevents 541 million hours of traffic delay and reduces global warming pollution by 26 million tons. Demand for public transportation is booming nationally, with transit trips far outpacing the growth of auto miles or population since 1995.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Challenge the Governor's Task Force on Global Warming

From Hans Noeldner:


Let's challenge the Wisconsin Governor's Task Force on Global Warming to take its own medicine! Please contact the co-chairs and urge them to:

(1) Determine the "Carbon Footprint" of the Task Force's upcoming
meeting on Thursday, April 18

(2) Establish specific greenhouse gas reduction targets for
subsequent Task Force meetings

(3) Announce the Task Force's April 18 "Footprint" and its reduction
targets (via press conference or press release)

(4) Measure "Carbon Footprints" for all subsequent meetings

(5) Provide the public with a final report

Email your request to:

Tia Nelson, co-chair

Roy Thilly, co-chair


(1) The job of the Task Force on Global Warming is to design policies
that will slash Wisconsin's greenhouse gas emissions 60 to 80% below
1990 levels by the year 2050.

(2) Unfortunately, preliminary calculations indicate that the Task
Force's current policy recommendations fail to even reduce emissions
below current levels. Clearly there is MUCH MORE work to do!

(3) Why should the Task Force measure its own Carbon Footprint and
establish its own reduction goals? Because when Task Force members
begin to "walk the talk", they will make an essential shift in their
THINKING – from the abstract and hypothetical to specific ACTIONS
here and now – for example, on their way to and from Task Force

(4) Is this a tall order? No. Here is what needs to happen:

a. Task Force members who drive to meetings would either record
actual fuel consumption or estimate fuel consumption based on
distance traveled and MPG for their vehicle

b. In lieu of recording actual travel distances, driving members
could use Google Maps to compute their totals

c. Wisconsin Public Power Inc. would measure/estimate/prorate heating
and electrical consumption in facilities used by the Task Force

d. Task Force support staff would compute the totals

Monday, April 14, 2008

Kenosha resident generates green power, profits from wind & sun

From a press release issued by Focus on Energy:

KENOSHA, Wis. — Charles Heide of Kenosha is the latest Wisconsin resident to discover the benefits of clean, renewable energy, including reduced energy costs and the satisfaction that comes from helping preserve the environment. His recently completed solar electric and wind systems feed surplus power back to the grid, resulting in monthly energy bill credits.

In June 2007, Heide installed a large 35-kilowatt (kW) wind turbine and in September2007, he installed a 10.5 kW solar electric system. The projects were completed with the help of nearly $65,000 in grants from Focus on Energy, Wisconsin’s energy efficiency and renewable energy program.

Each year, Heide’s wind and solar electric systems will generate more than 87,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity, enough to power eight typical Wisconsin homes. The renewable energy produced by these systems will offset the burning of 44 tons of coal and the release of more than 100 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and a major contributor to global climate change.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Wind turbines in Lake Michigan? It's being studied

From an Associated Press article by Todd Richmond published in the Green Bay Press-Gazette:
MADISON — State regulators want to study what it would take to implant giant wind turbines in Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, a move that might someday lead to new power for Wisconsin but cost millions of dollars and transform serene lake views.

The three-member Public Service Commission voted unanimously today to begin assessing whether the concept can be executed, the power it could generate, the costs and public sentiment.

“There’s enough unanswered questions that it’s a matter of public policy. We should explore it,” said Eric Callisto, commission Chairman Dan Ebert’s executive assistant. “The economics have to dictate this makes sense. But right now we’re in something of an information vacuum.”

Gov. Jim Doyle’s global warming task force recommended the commission, the state Department of Natural Resources and the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands convene a study group on offshore generation in Lake Superior and Lake Michigan. The task force said Wisconsin doesn’t have the same wind quality as western states and should at least examine offshore prospects.

The study group should explore costs, issues related to lake bed development and impact on birds, the task force recommended. The group also should explore a partnership with the state of Michigan in offshore efforts. Callisto said the PSC hopes to complete the study by the end of the year.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Earth Day Celebration, April 26, at Havenswood State Forest

John Bahr, a member of RENEW Wisconsin's Board of Directors, will make four presentations at the Earth Day Celebration at Havenwoods State Forest:

10:00-10:15  Alternative energy sources
11:00-11:15   Cool Cities program
12:30-12:45  Wind power
1:15- 1:30       Global warming

Saturday April 26, 2008
Havenwoods State Forest
6141 N. Hopkins Street, Milwaukee
1 block west of Sherman Blvd. on Douglas Ave.
John began his career with General Electric doing process and product design. After receiving a Ph. D. in biomedical engineering he was appointed to a faculty position by the Medical College of Wisconsin where he did research, system development and taught in the Department of Pediatrics and Obstetrics. He has authored several books and technical papers, and went on to manage two new national businesses in medical data processing before retiring. He also chairs the Energy and Global Warming Committee for the Sierra Club.

Renewable energy financing workshops set, April 18 & April 25

From the Office of Energy Independence:
MADISON – The Wisconsin Department of Commerce (Commerce) and the Office of Energy Independence will host two free renewable energy financing workshops for industry businesses and researchers. The workshops will provide information about the new Wisconsin Energy Independence Fund (WEIF), a renewable energy loan and grant program administered by Commerce, as well as other available renewable energy resources.

“I am pleased that Commerce is able to offer these free workshops as another step toward Wisconsin’s energy independence,” said Commerce Secretary Jack L. Fischer, AIA. “Governor Doyle’s Clean Energy Wisconsin plan calls for $15 million annually in grants and loans for research and development, commercialization or adoption of new technologies, and supply chain development.”

Information about how to apply for the WEIF program, eligibility, and program requirements will be explained at the meeting.

The workshops will be held in:

Madison: Friday, April 18 from 9 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Commerce, 201 W. Washington Avenue.

Stevens Point: Friday, April 25, 9 a.m. - 11:30 a.m., UW-Stevens Point, Legacy Room, Dreyfus University Center, 1015 Reserve Street.

The application period for the first round of funding will run from April 1 to June 2, 2008. For application materials and more information about the program and a program fact sheet, visit the Department of Commerce.

The Office of Energy Independence (OEI) has additional information on other state programs, federal grants, and private funds available for clean energy and fuel-related projects. Contact David Jenkins, OEI, (608) 264-7651,

Friday, April 4, 2008

Driving Away from the Oil Economy

A presentation by Michael Vickerman at the Green Vehicles Workshop sponsored by the Milwaukee Area Technical College.

Vickerman poses the question, "[C]an we change our current habits and attitudes to transition into a less mobile but more sustainable future relying on renewable energy flows and low-EROEI energy stores?"

Complete presentation here.