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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Show off your system!

From the Midwest Renewable Energy Association:

Interested in showcasing your new renewable energy installation at your home or business? Sign-up for the Wisconsin Solar Tour, October 3 & 4, 2008. Open your doors, and help others learn about renewable energy, green building and sustainable practices. Fill out the online application.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Energy: A challenge to us all

An editorial from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Former Vice President Al Gore’s recent call for the nation to produce all electricity from wind, solar and other renewable sources within 10 years appears unattainable, energy wonks have been quick to note.

And we appear to be part of that naysaying pack.

In the editorial above, we commend Gov. Jim Doyle’s Task Force on Global Warming for setting goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 22% by 2022 and a 75% reduction by 2050. That’s not zero in 10 years.

We commend those Wisconsin goals because they are “realistic,” as in doable, but that doesn’t mean that we oppose speeding things up.

We put those quotation marks around the word because we also realize that citing “realism” often has been just another way of slowing progress.

So, here’s the real utility in Gore’s call for speedier progress: It recognizes that deeper commitment can produce speedier results.

Too costly to move quicker? Those costs have to be weighed against those already levied by our reliance on fossil fuels. And the time allowed to break this addiction to oil has to be weighed against how every minute, every hour, every day of carbon emissions brings the world closer to that tipping point that spells global catastrophe.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Solar Decade Conference set for Oct. 23 in Milwaukee

From the preliminary agenda for the Solar Decade Conference posted on the conference Web site:

9:15 Opening Keynote Addresses: Solar Electric and Solar Thermal Experts

10:30 Breakout Sessions
Residential Solar Case Studies, Moderator TBD
The Future of the Solar Electric Market, Speaker TBD
Introduction to Solar Thermal Systems, Speaker TBD
Starting a Solar Business Panel, Moderator Michael Allen, Energy Law Wisconsin

12:15 Lunch with presentations by
University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee's Solar Decathlon Team
Solar Market Expert

1:30 Breakout Sessions
Solar Green Building Case Studies, Moderator Sue Loomans, WGBA
Introduction to Solar Electric Systems, Speaker Clay Sterling, MREA
Solar Thermal - Technical Details, Bob Ramlow, Speaker Artha Sustainable Living Center
Growing Wisconsin's Solar Businesses Panel, Moderator Niels Wolter, Focus on Energy

3:15 Breakout Sessions
Solar Communities, Moderator Tehri Parker, MREA
The Economics of Solar Power, Speaker Niels Wolter Focus on Energy
Market Status of Solar Thermal, Speaker TBD
Marketing: Changing the Solar Dialog, Moderator/Speaker Kelly Lang, Focus on Energy

4:45 End of Conference

Friday, July 25, 2008

Green light on transit? Walker to seek funds for rapid bus lines

From an article by David Doege in The Business Journal of Milwaukee:

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker plans to seek $50 million in federal funds for two bus rapid transit lines that could help break the long-running stalemate over upgrades to the Milwaukee area’s transit system.

The funds would be in addition to the $91.5 million in federal funds allocated to the Milwaukee area in the early 1990s that has gone unspent because Walker and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett cannot agree on a revised mass transit plan. Business and community leaders have been pushing hard in recent months for an upgraded transit system to help the area’s economic development efforts and business climate.

Walker said this week that he will meet in the next few days with officials from the Federal Transit Administration to begin the application process for funding he believes would support one north-south line beginning at Bay Shore Town Center in Glendale and an east-west line beginning on the Milwaukee County Grounds in Wauwatosa.

A bus rapid transit line would use new buses that would operate in a dedicated lane at higher speeds with fewer stops than traditional urban bus systems.

“This would probably be something that we could put in the 2010 budget,” he said.

The funding Walker intends to seek is available under an federal program called Very Small Starts. According to an agency fact sheet, the program targets “simple, low-risk (transit) projects” and features a “highly simplified project evaluation rating process.”

To win approval, projects must be on corridors with more than 3,000 riders daily, offer service at least 14 hours per day, utilize vehicles with signal priority and feature on-peak service every 10 minutes and off-peak service every 15 minutes, among other criteria.

Local governments must provide at least 20 percent of the total cost for approved projects. Walker said that some of that would have to be built into the budget, but that part of it could come through “in kind” design services provided by county personnel who would participate in designing and establishing the system.

“We would have time to work with the County Board to set this up,” Walker said. “There would have to be an appropriation in the budget, but it would not involve a tax increase.”

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sock maker steps up to solar hot water

“We wanted to do something genuine, not phony,” said Bob Chesebro, president of family-owned Wigwam Mills, Sheboygan, about his company’s decision to install a solar energy system.

Initially, Chesebro wasn’t sure which kind of solar energy system to go with. But the more he delved into the question, the more he came to believe that solar hot water would provide the best fit for the 103-year-old company.

Placed in service in February 2008, Wigwam’s 27 solar collectors supply 47 percent of the hot water used by the company to shrink, bleach, antimicrobial treat, wash and soften 40,000 pairs of socks each day. . . .

Complete story here.

Governors' meeting in Milw invites public participation

A meeting of the Advisory Committee of the Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord will meet in Milwaukee, July 29, 2008, 12:30- 4:30PM.

According to the meeting Web site, during the breakout sessions:
. . . a subgroup member will give a short presentation regarding the composition and work of the subgroup. There will also be time allotted where the presenter will solicit questions and comments from the audience.
The Web site also explains the accord:
Last November, nine Midwestern states and a Canadian premier signed the Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Accord at a summit of governors in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Realizing the unique and major impact that the Midwestern states play in the emissions of carbon, these governors wanted to institute Midwestern practicality in the debate on global warming. While the Midwest has intensive manufacturing and agriculture sectors, making it the most coal-dependent region in North America, it also has world-class renewable energy resources and opportunities to allow it to take a lead role in solving the effects of climate change. The geographical location and ideological-centered beliefs of the Midwestern region provide its leaders with an ability to push the federal policy debate in a productive direction. Through the Accord, these governors agreed to establish a Midwestern greenhouse gas reduction program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their states, as well as a working group to provide recommendations regarding the implementation of the Accord.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Healthcare execs place higher priority on energy efficiency than others, research shows

From a media release issued by Johnson Controls:

MILWAUKEE, July 21 /PRNewswire/ -- The American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE) and Johnson Controls, a global leader in creating smart and sustainable environments, announced new research on energy efficiency in healthcare. The results give the healthcare industry reason to celebrate. Not only do healthcare executives place a higher priority on energy efficiency than executives in
other industries, they are more likely to expect to make improvements over the coming year. . . .

Healthcare executives place greater importance on energy efficiency than others. Only 57 percent of respondents to the multi-industry study called energy efficiency "extremely important" or "very important," compared with 65 percent of healthcare respondents. Healthcare organizations are consequently more likely than companies in other industries to invest in energy efficiency. Two thirds (67 percent) of healthcare organizations reported plans to spend capital on energy efficiency this year, compared to 56 percent in the multi-industry survey. Moreover, healthcare organizations will tolerate a longer payback period (4.2 years) on energy efficiency projects than other industries (3.6 years).

Skyrocketing Energy Prices Motivate Investment in Energy Efficiency

Survey respondents project energy price increases of 11 percent this year. On average, healthcare organizations will spend eight percent of their capital budgets and six percent of their operating budgets to conserve energy over the coming year. Their drive toward energy efficiency is motivated primarily by cost, with 59 percent of respondents saying that the need to control costs is a greater motivator than environmental responsibility.

"We live in an age of rising energy prices and growing environmental consciousness," said Clay Nesler, vice president of global energy and sustainability, Johnson Controls. "All industries are investing more aggressively to control energy costs and improve their sustainability. We believe this is a long term trend. . . ."

Interest in Renewable Energy Grows

Healthcare has not adopted renewable energy technology to the same degree as other industries. More than two thirds (68 percent) of respondents to the multi-industry study have invested in renewable technologies or have actively considered investing. Only 38 percent of healthcare organizations reported similar interest in renewable energy. Included in this number, 25 percent of healthcare organizations have looked actively at solar energy, and significant numbers have shown interest in other technologies such as biomass, geothermal and wind.

"Finding sites for energy generating equipment like solar panels and wind turbines can be a challenge for compact urban hospitals, but it is a challenge that can be overcome," notes Don Albinger, vice present of renewable energy, Johnson Controls. "Our job is to educate healthcare leaders about new, creative and cost effective techniques for incorporating renewable energy in space constrained settings."

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Alliant faces resistance on coal plant proposal

From an article by Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Alliant Energy Corp. has proposed to build an inefficient, more polluting kind of coal-fired power plant at a time when concerns are rising about emissions from such plants, a key opponent of the project said Wednesday.

Alliant has proposed a $1.1 billion to $1.3 billion coal plant in Cassville in southwestern Wisconsin to help it meet rising demand for power. The utility is seeking state approval for the project, which is the third new, coal-fired power plant proposed in the state this decade.

But Clean Wisconsin staff scientist Peter Taglia called on Alliant to follow the lead of other utilities, such as Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy Corp., that have committed not to build new coal plants because of their emissions of greenhouse gases and rising construction costs.

“Anyone right now would think GM (General Motors) would be crazy to build a new Suburban plant,” he said.

“Five years ago, GM was saying fuel prices are going to remain low and everything’s going to be fine. The difference here is that this is a 50-year plant,” he said. “We are entering an era of high fuel prices and climate issues that are unprecedented, and this is the exact worst time to be building something that’s fraught with so many environmental and economic uncertainties.”

Alliant has said it delayed proposing a coal plant in recent years as it worked aggressively to expand in areas such as energy efficiency, renewable power and natural gas-fired power plants.

The utility announced last month that it would step up its investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency, increasing the funding for its efficiency program by 50%.

Alliant says it chose a less-efficient type of technology because that system is more conducive to burning switchgrass, corn stalks and other biomass. The plant will burn 20% biomass and 80% coal.

The utility also said last month that the cost of the project had risen to $1.1 billion to $1.3 billion from earlier projections of $850 million to $950 million.

“When you look at our resource plan as a whole, it’s a plan built around balance,” said Alliant spokesman Rob Crain. “And this plant certainly fits into that balanced plan.”

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Videos on wind and solar

The Web site of We Energies offers videos on the experiences of real people with wind and solar installations.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Johnson Controls develops solar kits, ‘green’ design

From an article by Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Glendale - Tapping the sun's rays for electricity has remained a small niche in the alternative energy arena.

But with industry forecasts showing the market tripling or more over the next decade, Wisconsin's largest company wants to help shift perceptions so that energy from the sun is cast in a new, and more mainstream, light.

Johnson Controls Inc. is rolling out new solar kits designed to make it easy for a school district or other customer to add some solar to their energy mix.

"This is our attempt just to take the mystery out of it" for customers, said Don Albinger, director of renewable energy programs for Johnson Controls. "It's meant to give them their first taste" of solar and their first chance to see their utility electric meter spinning in reverse, he said.

The kits will target colleges, school districts and local governments that are looking to showcase their renewable energy efforts.

The company is also looking to highlight renewable power at its revamped headquarters campus in Glendale and possibly at its downtown Milwaukee office.

The headquarters expansion is part of a broader drive by Johnson Controls to tap demand for energy-saving technologies in buildings and vehicles. The company is forecasting it will add 60,000 jobs worldwide over the next five years - and expand its local work force by 16%, or 450 jobs.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Focus on Energy seeks demonstration project on solar wall collector

From a demonstration project grant announcement by Focus on Energy:

This Demonstration Grant provides financial support for the installation of commercially available transpired solar wall collector systems, which are most commonly used in facilities needing large volumes of make-up air. Focus on Energy seeks applicants with an ideal site to install, assess and promote the use of this little-utilized solar technology. This special Demonstration Grant will give priority to highly visible installations at building sites of organizations with an educational mission. Public facilities with high levels of foot traffic and a means of raising awareness about the technology are encouraged to apply. Examples of highly visible locations include municipal buildings, nature centers, schools, colleges, and museums. Grant applicants are expected to prepare a visual presentation about the system and utilize displays, brochures or on-site kiosks to provide educational information about this solar technology. The project lead or the installation contractor should be prepared to present this material at a Focus-on-Energy-sponsored renewable energy event. Focus on Energy will need access to monitor the system’s energy performance, or we can assist the grant recipient in monitoring, if preferable.

A project’s funding level is based on the size and expected energy savings of the transpired solar wall collector. The maximum reward level is $45,000 and the grant will cover a maximum of 35% of the system’s installed cost for nonprofit or publicly owned facilities and a maximum of 25% for other private facilities. Demonstration Grants of up to 65% or $5,000 will also be granted for the preparation or purchase of visual materials. It is expected that up to three grants will be awarded for this special request for transpired solar wall demonstration. This grant will be funded on a competitive basis with preference given to nonprofit or publicly owned facilities. Funding may be less than the level requested by the applicant.

Focus on Energy’s policy limits awards to no more than $500,000 for any individual or business during each fiscal year. This includes projects contracted between July 1, 2007 and December 31, 2008. There is no restriction on the number of contracts an individual or business can receive within the $500,000 fiscal-year limit.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

An Open Letter to Congress: Extend renewable energy tax incentives

An Open Letter to Congress
By Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin
July 10, 2008

If you want to know more about the economic, environmental and security benefits from renewable energy development, look no further than my house in Madison, Wisconsin. A crew from a local solar contractor just finished installing a solar electric system that will, when activated, produce about one-half of the electricity used in our household.

Our desire to turn sunshine into electricity at home generated a tidy revenue stream for the installation contractor, Full Spectrum Solar. Most solar installers in Wisconsin are small businesses that provide their employees with a living wage and a good benefits package. If there is any one economic sector that has kept the U.S. economy from turning into a basket case, it is small business.

The kilowatt-hours generated by our panels will spare Madison Gas and Electric (MGE) from having to produce a like amount, mostly from natural gas. Wellhead natural gas prices have doubled in the last 12 months, driving up the cost of serving peak loads on summer afternoons. But that also is when solar systems are generating close to their rated capacity.

Because solar displaces the highest-cost resources on the electric grid, utilities are becoming increasingly receptive to buying back the solar electricity produced by their customers. From MGE’s perspective, our installation couldn’t happen soon enough. The price MGE is willing to pay for our system’s output, 25 cents per kilowatt-hour fixed over a 10-year period, is almost double its standard retail electric rate. MGE’s solar offer is a voluntary initiative underwritten by more than 10,000 customers who purchase utility-supplied renewable electricity for a small premium.

Clearly, both MGE and its customers believe strongly that solar energy is worth investing in today. Not tomorrow, not next week, today.

Indeed, there is no energy source as local as the sunlight striking the roof over your head. Solar energy is as reliable and predictable as the dawn. Fossil fuels are not needed to deliver the sunlight to the Earth’s surface. If solar energy comes with the territory we inhabit, why not use it?

Moreover, sunshine is not depleted when it’s converted into electricity or heat, nor does the conversion process change the chemical content of the atmosphere. Contrast that with carbon-rich fossil fuels. When a primary fuel like coal is converted into electricity, carbon dioxide is created and released into the environment. The carbon content in the atmosphere is now about one-third higher than it was a century ago, when the Automobile Era and the Age of Electricity were in their infancy. Most of that increase is attributable to fossil fuel combustion.

However useful the electricity may have been to its users, its creation resulted in the permanent removal of coal from the Earth’s crust and higher atmospheric concentrations of CO2 that will last throughout the century. Furthermore, the waste energy discharged through automobile tailpipes and utility smokestacks can’t be turned into oil and coal again. We only get one go-round with fossil fuels.

Used judiciously, solar energy in all its manifestations can help America ease off of its unhealthy and financially burdensome dependence on fossil fuels. Moreover, it is inflation-proof, because the sunlight that strikes the panels doesn’t come with a price tag. Compared with other generation sources, solar energy is virtually maintenance-free.

In one fell swoop, expanding renewable energy’s share of the nation’s energy mix would reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, lower the trade deficit, dampen rising fossil fuel prices, employ hundreds of thousands of people in manufacturing and skilled trades, and extend the available life of the world’s remaining nonrenewable resources. Is there a more effective pathway available to re-energize the nation’s slumping economy and sustain it over the long haul? Not as far as I can tell.

As you very well know, federal tax credits have been the principal policy tool for accelerating renewable energy development in this country. Right now, most renewable energy technologies are more expensive than fossil fuels, but the federal incentives level the economic playing field, providing breathing room for solar, wind and biogas to mature and become cost-competitive with more established energy resources. This has been especially true with wind generation, which has expanded from 6,500 megawatts in January 2005 to over 19,000 today. This tripling of windpower capacity in less than four years could not have happened without the production tax credit being in place during that time.

Here in Wisconsin, the renewable energy marketplace has exploded over the last three years, especially in the solar arena. As of this moment, there are 73 full-service solar electric and solar hot water installation firms active in Wisconsin, more than double the installer base in 2005. While a handful have been around before 2000, most are new entrants into this field. The contractor who installed our solar electric system, Full Spectrum Solar, has seen its revenues increase sevenfold since 2005, when it was established with two co-owners and one employee. That was also the year when Congress established the solar investment tax credit. Now Full Spectrum has 12 full-time employees, five of them hired this year.

How critical is the solar tax credit in driving solar’s growth in the United States? If our middle-class household is at all representative of the solar-installing customer base, I can honestly say that the federal incentive was a necessary component to making that investment work for us. Had federal incentives not been available this year, our budget would have been insufficient to absorb the substantial up-front expense that comes with owning a solar energy system.

Indeed, when I compare the flurry of installation activity now with the near-dormant conditions that prevailed just three years ago, it’s clear that the federal tax credit has greatly expanded the size of the domestic solar energy market.

Bear in mind that there are no other federal policies in place to promote renewable energy development and use. While other nations have adopted different mechanisms“CO2 limits, carbon taxes and feed laws, for example—to nurture this sector, renewable energy policy support in the United States begins and ends with tax credits. Allow them to expire and the safety net underneath renewables disappears with it.

The current cycle of tax credits for wind, solar and biogas will expire January 1, 2009, less than six months from now. Considering how important renewable energy has become for our nation’s environmental health and economic well-being, a citizen could be forgiven for thinking that extending renewable energy credits would be something of a no-brainer for Congress. But despite repeated attempts to extend them, Congress has not yet found a legislative formula that clears a path through the forest of interest groups and narrow partisan agendas standing in the way of timely passage.

Anxiety is growing in the renewable energy world that Congress could very well fumble away its remaining chances to adopt the necessary extension language. Should that happen, the momentum built up over the last three years will dissipate next year, and potentially throw the solar, wind and biogas industries into reverse.

This is no idle fear. Congress waited until October 2004 to extend the renewable enegry incentives that expired January 1st that year. The commercial wind industry ground to a virtual standstill that year and didn’t bounce back until the next year. Plans by overseas wind turbine manufacturers to build up a U.S.-based supply chain were put on hold as demand for commercial turbines sagged. Even though the wind industry has been on a roll over the last three-and-a-half years, memories of the 2004 bust continue to inhibit development of a U.S. manufacturing presence.

Should Congress fail to take action this year, the effects will be even more devastating than in 2004. This time around the entire solar industry“installers, equipment manufacturers, and third-party system owners“will experience a taste of what the wind industry went through before. So, too, will those companies—system designers, general constractors, civil construction companies, component manufacturers and environmental consulting firms“that have recently found a protfitable niche in the expanding renewable energy world. The ripple effect from a lapse in federal policy support, however temporary, will be felt by a wider circle of market actors, including utilities.

And who are some of these market actors? What follows is a partial list, by no means complete, of Wisconsin companies that have a stake in this country’s renewable energy future: GDH, Inc. (Chilton), Pieper Power/Clear Horizons LLC (Milwaukee), Johnson Controls (Milwaukee), H&H Solar Services (Madison), EcoEnergy (Madison), RMT WindConnect (Madison), Lake Michigan Wind and Sun (Sturgeon Bay), Bassett Mechanical (Kaukauna), Paterson Solar (Bayfield), Manitowoc Cos. (Manitowoc), Green Sky Energetics (Manitowoc), Tower Tech (Manitowoc), Magnetek (Menomonee Falls), Bubbling Springs Solar (Menomonie), Oscar Boldt Construction (Appleton), Orion Construction Group (Appleton), Timmerman’s Talents (Platteville), Wausaukee Composites (Wausaukee and Cuba City), Cardinal Solar (Sun Prairie), Badger Transport (Clintonville), Mitchell’s Heating and Cooling (Waupaca), Energy Concepts (Hudson), and Chet’s Plumbing and Heating (Stevens Point).

Extending the renewable energy tax credits would cost U.S. taxpayers somewhere between $3 and $4 billion a year, most of it going to wind generation. Some members of Congress consider that an unacceptably large expense. But these are not permanent incentives. In the case of windpower installations, which have a book life between 20 and 30 years, federal tax credits cover no more than 10 years of operation. After the 10th year, project output is fully taxable.

In my view, this is an underappreciated facet of the tax subsidy argument. Long after the tax credits are exhausted, the wind, solar and biogas installations that were aided by them will still be producing self-replenishing, domestically sourced energy for the owner and/or the grid. Can the same be said for incentives that accelerate the drawdown of our nation’s dwindling supplies of oil and natural gas?

Consider the 33 commercial wind turbines installed Wisconsin in the first half of 1999. Beginning July 2009, their output will be fully subject to federal taxes. These turbines, owned by three different Wisconsin utilities, should generate the same quantity of power in 2010“and 2025“as they did in the year 2000. Seen in that light, the tax break that leveraged the existence of those wind turbines is, if anything, a bargain, one whose benefits to our energy future appreciates over time. Shouldn’t that be a guiding principle in formulating national energy policy?

An annual price tag of $4 billion is peanuts compared with the $1.3 billion that leaves this country each day to slake our nation’s seemingly uncontrollable thirst for petroleum. Here’s another metric for comparing the cost of renewable energy incentives: at current rates of spending, the ongoing occupation of Iraq goes through $4 billion in less than 12 days. And one can argue that the pittance that U.S. taxpayers have contributed thus far to support domestic renewable energy sources has produced far better results in the areas of energy security and economic development than the ongoing occupation of Iraq.

But it’s a telling measure of Beltway cluelessness that our federal lawmakers are more willing to make a show of fiscal discipline on renewable energy policy than on an overseas military operation that now drains about $120 billion a year from the U.S. Treasury.

The U.S. economy is on the ropes, and a lot of unpleasant policy trade-offs lie ahead. As the cost of fossil fuels escalate, and the housing sector and the automobile industry contract further, the U.S. can ill afford to skimp on the one energy pathway that can, with the proper policy support, create jobs by the thousands and convert capital into socially productive and sustainable enterprises. If Congress is truly serious about turning the economy around, reducing the trade deficit, making progress on climate change, and creating a more energy-secure America, it must extend the renewable energy tax incentives, preferably this month. No other action will accomplish so much, or cost so little.

Michael Vickerman
Executive Director
RENEW Wisconsin
222 S. Hamilton St.
Madison, WI 53703

Volunteer Opportunity: Solar energy, Maroon 5 and you - August 23

From the Vote Solar Initiative:

We are looking for a few volunteers to help out with a fun project.

Vote Solar will be the "headlining" non-profit on Maroon 5's summer U.S. tour (you can check out their music at There will be Vote Solar banners up around the auditoriums, and the band is going to make a pitch for folks in the audience to check out the Vote Solar booth in the lobby. The purpose of the booth is to get their fans excited about solar energy, and get them signed-up as Vote Solarian activists.

That's where you come in!

Wisconsin Show:
Marcus Amphitheatre
Milwaukee, WI
August 23, 2008 - Saturday
7:00 pm

We need a few lively, outgoing folks to staff this concert for Vote Solar.

Basically the deal is this: in exchange for free entrance for you and one friend, you need to 1) participate in a conference call prior to the show so we can verse you on a simple pitch; 2) show up at the concert 45 mins. early (we will have a contact person for you to call once you get to the show); 3) talk to fans that come by the booth about the great work Vote Solar is doing across the states and encourage them to sign up as Vote Solar online activists (we will provide you all the materials you will need for this pitch).

When things are slow at the booth, you are welcome to check out the show.

If you are interested in this chance to check out Maroon 5 and promote solar advocacy please let Annie Carmichael know. She can be reached at annie@votesolar.


The Vote Solar Team

The Vote Solar Initiative
300 Brannan Street, Suite 609
San Francisco, CA 94107

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Habitat for Humanity homes to get solar heated water systems

From a request for proposals issued for Habitat for Humanity homes:

Habitat for Humanity, Focus on Energy, the Midwest Renewable Energy Association and We Energies are accepting proposals for a market provider to perform the following work:

Installation of up to three (3) systems on new Habitat for Humanity homes in Milwaukee. There will be six (6) total installations completed; two of the installations will be installed flush with the roof line on North/South running roofs. One will be installed flush with the roof line on East/West running roofs and three will be installed on tilted frames on East/West running roofs (these are suggestions – there is room for recommendations). We are also requesting that two of the systems be installed as drain-back systems – where if you apply to install three (3) systems you must include one drain-back system installation (please see the chart for additional details). Homes will be built “solar ready” with appropriately sized joists and interior plumbing runs. . . .

Proposals should be sent to:
We Energies
Attn: Jessica Thibodo-Johnson
231 W Michigan St – P318
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Or electronically to:

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Everything renewable and efficient

From Focus on Energy's Information Center:

Focus on Energy's Information Center is your ultimate resource for energy efficiency and renewable energy tips and information. Enjoy free access to a library of product and equipment data, fact sheets, case studies, technology updates, industry best practices and more.

Let Focus on Energy give you the information you need to make more informed energy efficiency and renewable energy decisions.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Expect higher heating bills

From an article by Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Consumers should expect energy price sticker shock to continue well past the summer driving season, as pain at the pump is poised to give way to furnace frustration next winter.

The price of gasoline, above $4 for the past month, is on people’s minds — and it’s visible at nearly every major intersection. But another energy jolt may be coming as the price of natural gas, the primary fuel used to heat Wisconsin homes, is at historic highs for this time of year.

Natural gas futures have jumped 82% since the start of the year. Heating oil and propane prices are also soaring.

The increased natural gas prices already have resulted in electricity bills jumping twice since March for customers of Milwaukee-based We Energies and Green Bay-based Wisconsin Public Service Corp. Including increases authorized for three other state utilities, customers of the state’s five investor-owned utilities have seen rates rise by $210 million since the start of the year.

Spokesmen for the state’s large natural gas utilities said it’s too early to predict what customers may pay this winter. The futures price of natural gas, which finished last week at its highest point in more than 2 1/2 years, could still fall below its current, abnormal high, they said.

“Prices right now are in the scary range,” said Kerry Spees, spokesman for Wisconsin Public Service, an electric and natural gas utility. “It makes you look toward the winter with a little trepidation.”

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Buy products made from renewable energy!

From an article by Steve Kokette,, creator of the "Buy Products From Renewable Energy" bumper sticker and author of Money Saving Conservation Products and Projects for the Homeowner.

Recently Governor Doyle suggested Wisconsin could become the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy. Doing so would be extremely beneficial for the state in many ways, even if you're not a believer in global warming. Seventy percent of the U.S. economy is consumer driven, and if consumers started consciously spending their money on the thousands of products made with renewable energy, it could help clean the air, and the water.

It feels strange living in an era when life often seems to be regressing in the very places it started. When I was young, the DNR did not recommend limiting your intake of Wisconsin caught fish. Then in the late 60s, a short stretch of the Fox River polluted by paper mills was so polluted the DNR recommended people eat a limited number of fish from these waters. Since the late 60s the number of Wisconsin waters with DNR fish consumption limitations slowly grew over the years, until a few years ago the DNR recommended fish consumption limitations for fish caught in all Wisconsin lakes, rivers, ponds, and streams. This is not progress.

If you want to reduce acid rain, when you buy products, try to buy products made from renewable energy. If you want to reduce mercury pollution, buy products made from renewables. If you want to reduce particulate matter in the air, buy products made from renewables. If you want to help those with respiratory problems, which might include yourself and/or people you know, buy products made from renewables.

Every person who renews a membership or joins RENEW will get a free bumper sticker!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Waukesha family wins home energy makeover

From a media release issued by Focus on Energy:

On Dec. 31, 2007 Focus on Energy, Wisconsin's energy efficiency and renewable energy initiative, launched a contest to find a Milwaukee area family with a home in need of energy efficient improvements. The contest, named Home Energy Makeover, was sponsored by Focus on Energy in partnership with WITI-TV FOX 6 and awarded one lucky winner with energy efficient improvements for their home, including insulation and air sealing, ENERGY STAR® qualified appliances and a new furnace, air conditioner and tankless water heater. . . .

John and Corinne Kangas of Waukesha, Wis., were named the winners of the contest, valued at approximately $20,000, on Feb. 3, 2008 during halftime of the Super Bowl telecast. It wasn't long after the announcement that the Kangas home began its energy transformation.

"We found out we had won the contest when we saw the TV commercial announcing the winner during the Super Bowl. My family was jumping up and down - we were so excited," said Corinne Kangas. "Our home is older, so knowing we won't have to worry about things like the furnace or the air conditioner gives us great peace of mind. Plus, we couldn't wait to learn about the process of making our home more energy efficient."

For several weeks, FOX 6 joined the homeowners on their journey to energy efficiency, covering such details as the energy evaluation of the home, the advantages of ENERGY STAR qualified appliances and the installation of a tankless water heater. Through each step, FOX 6 viewers learned how they could benefit from the same improvements to their homes.

"By identifying what the home needed and then making the necessary improvements, the Kangas family can expect to save approximately 30 percent on their energy bills," said Rich Marshall, Focus on Energy Project Manager. "More importantly, if other homeowners made just a few of the improvements the Kangas family received they could save significantly too."

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Miller supplier plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions

From an article in The Business Journal:

Ball Corp. said Monday it intends to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 16 percent in the next four years.

The Broomfield, Colo.-based manufacturer of beverage cans and bottles (NYSE: BLL) said the goal for cutting emissions is based on a 2002 baseline and will occur through improved energy efficiencies. The firm operates metal beverage and metal food packaging plants in Milwaukee.

Ball disclosed the goal for 2012 in a report titled "Toward a Sustainable Future," which identifies areas where the company is trying to reduce its environmental impact.

Ball said its primary focus is to make lightweight, recyclable packaging when feasible. Using lighter cans means less material is needed, fewer greenhouse gases are produced and less energy is needed for shipping.

Ball said the weight of its products has been reduced substantially through the years. Aluminum cans are 40 percent lighter than they were in 1969, and the steel cans are 50 percent lighter than in 1970.

By turning more to recycled materials, Ball said it can cut 95 percent of the energy used to make aluminum cans from virgin material and 74 percent of the energy required to make steel cans.

The company also is working with the metal industry to determine the carbon footprint of its metal cans. . . .

The company's Ball Metal Beverage Container has a contract with Miller Brewing Co. to serve as the sole supplier of cans for the Milwaukee brewer through 2015.