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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Forward Wind, Fond du Lac County

Photo by Barger Photography (courtesy of Michels Corporation)

Alliant power plan draws fire, support

From an article by Craig D. Reber in the Telegraph Herald (Dubuque):

CASSVILLE, Wis. — Now the wait begins.

More than 400 people attended Monday’s Public Service Commission of Wisconsin-hosted public hearing at the Cassville Elementary School gymnasium on Alliant Energy’s application to build a new electric power plant.

Alliant wants to add a 300-megawatt generator - which would produce enough electricity to light 150,000 homes - at the Nelson Dewey Generating Station along the Mississippi River in western Grant County. The company said the plant also will be capable of burning biomass such as switchgrass, corn stalks and wood. Alliant’s alternate site is the Columbia Energy Center, just outside of Portage.

The commission has the authority to approve, deny or modify any proposed electric construction project.

On Monday, the plan attracted supporters and critics. Supporters cite economic development, jobs, and the need for more energy in the state. Opponents cited concerns ranging from health concerns to an increase in pollutants and global warming.

Pam Kleiss, of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Wisconsin, said coal-burning power plants release pollutants that cause a significant challenge to public health.
“The public health care costs are well-documented,” she said.

One of the first speakers was Cassville Village President Louis Okey who was blunt.
“Cassville needs this plant,” he said. “It may not survive if it doesn’t get this plant. There are a lot of places where a plant like this isn’t wanted. There’s overwhelming support here.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Waukesha home opens for Solar Tour

A press release issued for the Wisconsin Solar Tour:

A Waukesha home will be one of more than 150 sites in the state open for the 2008 Wisconsin Solar Tour on October 4.

The home of Julie and Vince Toman, 2105 Parkview Court, features 30 roof-mounted solar panels following the second story roofline in the rear of the house.

“It produces more electricity than we need for much of the year. We’ve only paid 6 electric / gas bills in the last 15 months,” according to Julie Toman.

“In fact, we get a credit for the amount of excess electricity it generates,” she added.

Businesses with solar installations will welcome visitors on October 3, the first day of the two-day Solar Tour, organized by the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA), located in Custer, Wisconsin.

Tour destinations will showcase advances in energy efficient construction, new products, sustainable landscaping, and renewable energy technologies.

“The tour demonstrates that renewable energy is practical, reliable, and affordable in today’s economy,” said Amy Heart, Program Director for the MREA.

“Tour participants have the chance to talk with people who live and work with renewable energy and green building features,” Heart added.

Full details on the Solar Tour and all the open businesses and residences are online at

Brockway home will produce as much energy as it uses

From a story by Matthew Perenchio in the Jackson County Chronicle:

BROCKWAY — When Tom and Verona Chambers were looking for a place to build their home, all they really wanted was a spot with a good view, a hill and some water nearby.

And for what they found that Mother Nature created naturally, they’re giving right back.

The Chamberses are in the midst of constructing what will not only be an energy-efficient home in Brockway but a net-zero energy home as well — meaning it has the potential to produce as much energy as it uses.

“It’s actually quite easy to do but not done much,” said Tom, who is the principal at Black River Falls High School.

“I’m not really one to freeze or sit by a little light, and I’m certainly not someone who hunkers down in a quilt on cold nights and doesn’t move,” said Verona, who teaches German and world culture at Tomah Middle School. “What I wanted is some dang, darn good living at an affordable price.”

That type of living, as the Chamberses will show, can be Earth-friendly.

The entire project started in 2007, and original plans were to include solar panels, and, in the state of Wisconsin, electrical companies buy any excess energy that is put back into the electrical grid.

In the case of the Chambers’ house, they were hoping their solar panels would produce as much electrical energy as they used — making the residence a net-zero home — and any extra electricity produced would go to help other energy uses on the grid.
Many solar-powered and energy-efficient businesses and homes around Wisconsin, including western Wisconsin, will be open to the public during the Wisconsin Solar Tour on October 3 and 4.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Webinars: Building Communities Educational Series

From the UW-Extension Center for Community and Economic Development:

Today’s society is complex and challenging. There are myriad social, environmental and economic opportunities and challenges facing communities and businesses of all types and sizes. How do we engage each other in ways that benefit more than just a few special interests? How do we proceed so that we can achieve important objectives, but not do so at the expense of other ones that we also value? Is there a way of balancing a healthy economy, a healthy ecosystem and a healthy community? If we find that balance, can we sustain it?

This year’s Building Communities Webinar Series tackles these important questions. We address global, regional and local issues and challenge ourselves as both a community and as individuals. Join us in discovering some of our constraints and uncovering the limitless potential we possess to overcome them. If you care deeply about the economy and the viability of our businesses … if you care deeply about the ecological health of our planet … if you care deeply about the quality of life of our community – this webinar series is for you. Join us to be enlightened, to be informed, to be challenged, and to be called to action!

Who Should Attend:
Extension educators along with local elected and appointed officials working with communities on economic development and quality of life issues, including local business leaders, economic development professionals, and environmentalists.

University of Wisconsin-Extension Center for Community and Economic Development and Sustainability and Energy Teams. . . .

The registration fee is $40 per program/$275 for the series per site (You can invite as many people as you would like to participate at your site).

Programs will be held on the third Tuesday of the month from 11:30 A.M. - 12:30 P.M. (Central Time) from October 2008 - June 2009.

This year, the series will focus on Sustainability:

October 21, 2008, 11:30 - 12:30 P.M., C.T.
Setting the Stage: Sustainability and Sustainable Community Development

November 18, 2008, 11:30 - 12:30 P.M., C.T.
Energy Efficiency

December 16, 2008, 11:30 - 12:30 P.M., C.T.
Renewable Energy

January 20, 2009, 11:30 - 12:30 P.M., C.T.
Sustainability and Comprehensive Planning

February 17, 2009, 11:30 - 12:30 P.M., C.T.
Sustainable Business Practices and Strategies

March 17, 2009, 11:30 - 12:30 P.M., C.T.
Green Collar Jobs: Sustainable Work in a Low Carbon World

April 21, 2009, 11:30 - 12:30 P.M., C.T.
Local Food Networks: Food Localization as a Sustainability Strategy

May 19, 2009, 11:30 - 12:30 P.M., C.T.
Sustainability Indicators and Measurement

June 16, 2009, 11:30 - 12:30 P.M., C.T.
Community Organizing for Sustainability

Northcentral Home Energy Conservation Workshop slated

From an article in the Wisconsin Ag Connection:
Homeowners, renters, and people who are contemplating building a new home can learn about ways to save energy in the home by attending the second annual Northcentral Home Energy Conservation Workshop on October 11 at the Rib Lake High School. The program will cover alternative home heating systems, solar energy applications, energy saving ideas for new and existing homes, home energy audits, renewable electricity and alternative home construction methods. The workshop will cover the costs and payback potential of the various types of systems and practices as well as tax credits and cash incentives for various energy saving applications. Speakers will discuss practical, feasible ways to save money and energy and provide information that can be used to choose energy-saving practices.

The program includes 15 breakout sessions and includes a lunch featuring locally grown foods from the Price and Taylor County areas. In the afternoon, participants can choose from two options: a tour of two nearby homes demonstrating a variety of energy-saving practices, or a workshop on designing and building window quilts. The Price and Taylor County UW-Extension Offices and Land Conservation Departments, the Upper Chippewa River Basin Program, and Pri-Ru-Ta Resource Conservation and Development Council are sponsoring the program in partnership with Price Electric Cooperative, Taylor Electric Cooperative, Clark Electric Cooperative, Xcel Energy, Medford Electric Utility, Wisconsin Focus on Energy, and the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, with major funding through a grant from the Wisconsin Environmental Education Board. . . .

For more information or a brochure, contact the Price County UW-Extension Office at 715-339-2555, or Taylor County UW-Extension at 715-748-3327.

Cuba City gains jobs from Wausaukee Composites' wind energy foray

From an article by Craig D. Weber in the Dubuque, Iowa, Telegraph Herald:
CUBA CITY, Wis. -- Operating in what was once the Cuba City Machine building, now known as the Wausaukee Composites building, the burgeoning wind energy industry sounds a clarion call in the city of 2,000.

"Wausaukee Composites is excited to play a contributing role in the rapidly developing wind energy industry in North America," said David Lisle, president and CEO of Wausaukee Composites Inc. "We have been actively developing new manufacturing opportunities in this emerging market segment for more than two years."

That opportunity includes Cuba City. Wind turbine nacelle cover assemblies are being manufactured in the 42,000-square-foot facility located on the city's south end. Production began on Feb. 18 with about 12 employees.

"The Cuba City plant will be a dedicated facility to the wind energy industry," Lisle said, explaining the facility has the capacity to produce up to 800 wind turbine nacelles a year.

Wind in Wisconsin: Ready for the Big Leagues

A presentation by Michael Vickerman, RENEW Executive Director, on behalf of the Wisconsin Wind Working Group to the American Society of Civil Engineers-Wisconsin Section in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, on September 26, 2008.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Kettle Foods gets it

From the Green Racine blog:
Salem, Ore.-based Kettle Foods says that it has yielded environmental and economic benefits by adopting measures that include offsetting all of the electricity used to operate both its Salem and Beloit factories with wind power. Additionally, the Beloit plant is home to 18 rooftop wind turbines.

"When we decided to go for green - or in this case, gold - with LEED certification of our new factory, we knew it was the right thing to do," says Tim Fallon, president of Kettle Foods' North American division.

The company also recycles of 2,300 gallons of waste oil with conversion to biodiesel used to power a company fleet of diesel-engine cars called BioBeetles, and reduces more than three million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions annually resulting from the elimination of shipping lines between Oregon and the Midwest.

Solar hot water from a Platteville garden

From left to right: Todd Timmerman, solar installer;
Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin; and Nancy Collins.

From an article in the newsletter of RENEW Wisconsin:
Ben and Nancy Collins weren’t only thinking about energy savings when they installed a solar hot water system at their Platteville residence to serve their family of six. They also wanted to influence their children’s attitudes toward renewable energy use.

Says Nancy Collins: “We want our children to grow up thinking that it’s normal for families to harvest solar energy.”

”It’s not space age or futuristic technology,” she adds. “I was surprised at the simplicity of the system and the efficiency of the heat exchange. It is a sound investment for energy savings. Gas prices have gone up but our bills have stayed the same.”

But there are aspects of the Collins’ solar hot water system that are decidedly not normal. For example, due to heavy shading from nearby trees, the solar collectors could not be placed on the rooftop of the Collins’ home. Instead, the installer, Todd Timmerman of Timmerman’s Talents, Platteville, went searching for the least-shaded section of their yard, which turned out to be their garden.

But such is the Collins’ commitment to harvesting solar energy that they decided to move the garden, and situate the collectors in its place, amidst the cilantro, basil and strawberries. On that space now stands a four-foot-tall wooden structure, housing two collector panels facing the sun at a 45ยบ angle. Since its completion in September 2007, the ground-mounted system has become a neighborhood fixture, a few feet from where neighborhood children congregate and play in the Collins’ yard.

The array installed by Timmerman captures radiant solar energy through a series of vacuum-sealed tubes (also called evacuated tubes). Inside each tube is a copper heat pipe. Sunlight striking each of the 40 tubes heats a liquid inside each heat pipe, which quickly turns into a vapor. The gas travels upwards and releases heat into a larger pipe running along the top of the array. At that point the heat is transferred to a glycol solution that is then pumped into the house to where it heats the water inside.


12.04.12 PSCW Decisions "Tax" Renewable Energy
11.08.12 The Real Meaning of Kewaunee's Demise
08.16.12 Natural Gas: Wrestling with Reality

07.11.11 Wisconsin's Widening War on Renewables

11.10.10 Shirley Wind: An Auspicious Debut for Emerging Energies
09.30.10 Meet Butler Ridge, Wisconsin’s Newest Wind Project
09.27.10 Touring This Year’s Renewable Energy Crop
07.12.10 The Oil Spill and You
05.05.10 Impressions of Wind Siting Council's Tour of Wind Development in Fond du Lac County
05.04.10 A Cruel Month for Renewable Energy
04.15.10 Legislators Fire Blanks at Clean Energy Jobs Act
04.07.10 Costs of Coal Plants Keep Going Up
02.22.10 Of Molehills and Renewable Energy Purchases
02.17.10 Clearing Up Wisconsin’s Lakes With Clean Energy
02.12.10 Letter to Sen. Miller & Rep. Black on rate impacts of ARTs

12.22.09 Think Tank Flunks Renewable Energy Analysis
11.20.09 Fact sheet: Renewable energy buyback rates
10.19.09 Educating Schools on Solar Air Heating
10.10.09 Plain English explanation of wind siting reform law
09.25.09 CWESt's Report Adds Noise to Wind Debate
08.11.09 Pursuing Sustainability Through Economic Adversity
07.10.09 It’s Time to Bring Renewable Energy Home
06.02.09 Windpower - A Stabilizing Force in an Economic Downdraft
04.07.08 The Importance of Doing the Math
01.27.09 Response to anti-wind comments of State Rep. Bob Ziegelbauer

12.05.08 Q&A on higher buyback rates on electricity from renewables
10.07.08 Palin's Folly
07.24.08 Sock maker steps up to solar hot water
07.10.08 An Open Letter to Congress: Extend Renewable Energy Tax Incentives
05.19.08 Fossil Fuel Watch: Gas Tax Pain
03.31.08 Oppositon to Windpower Pollutes Climate Policy
01.04.08 Walling Out Wind

07.27.07 A Federal Energy Policy: Can It Happen Here?
03.20.07 Fossil Fuel Watch: Solar, The No-risk Path to Wealth Creation

12.28.06 Fossil Fuel Watch: Meet My Solar Clothes Dryer
11.16.06 Mid-Term Elections: Renewable Energy Cleans Up
11.02.06 Draining Canada First

10.06.05 Fossil Fuel Watch: Stirrings in the Land of What-Me-Worry?
09.21.05 Fossil Fuel Watch: The Eye Between the Storms

Holmen schools join Energy Star challenge

From a story on

The Holmen School District is undertaking an energy challenge.

Tuesday Lietenant Governor Barbara Lawton announced Holmen will participate in her Energy Star School Challenge.

The challenge means the school district makes a committment to reducing its energy consumption by 10 percent.

La Crosse is already participating in the challenge by doing things like turning off lights and computers when they're not in use, to cut down on energy consumption.

"Becoming more efficient in the use of energy remains an important and necessary goal for the School District of Holmen," said Holmen School District Superintendent Dale Carlson. "We look forward to partnering with Lt. Governor Lawton and her Energy Star Challenge as we commit to continually improving our energy performance."

Lawton issued her Energy Star School Challenge in April as part of her Green Economy Agenda. Lawton said that her goal for the challenge is to commit at least 100 new school districts, nearly 25 percent of all Wisconsin school districts, to reduce their energy costs by at least 10 percent.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Milwaukee gets high marks for sustainability, energy, water

From an article by Jeff Sherman posted on

According to a story today from, Milwaukee is the 12th most sustainable city in the country. It is first in a ranking of "water supply" and second in one of "natural disaster risk."

The health and sustainable living Web site says, "America's 50 biggest cities are thinking green and the 2008 SustainLane U.S. City Rankings-topped by Portland, Ore.-reveal which cities are increasingly self-sufficient, prepared for the unexpected and taking steps toward preserving and enhancing their quality of life." said this about Milwaukee, "Since Milwaukee inaugurated its first office of sustainability in 2006, green momentum in the Midwestern city has picked up steam. Located on the western shore of Lake Michigan, Milwaukee has invested in New Urbanist redevelopment, consciously folding sustainability into it's planning and design (one green public housing development nabbed a Sierra Club honor in 2005). It has also taken great care to manage storm water and reduce runoff into the lake and area rivers. And that's not all: In 2006, five percent of its fleet vehicles ran on alternative energy. A year later, more than 40 percent of the city's fleet are powered by alternative fuel. A 2006 energy audit of the City Hall complex led to power-saving measures that reduced energy use there by nine percent and saved the city $35,000 in one year. The city also has public outreach campaigns for recycling, composting, and water conservation. The city's updated bike plan may help get the near-75 percent of car commuters heading out to work...riding their bikes instead!"

Twin Ports gets wind shipments

From a story on the Web site of WQOW, Eau Claire:

SUPERIOR, Wis. (AP) - Seven shiploads of wind turbine components are being unloaded at the Duluth-Superior port for transport to wind farms across the Midwest and beyond.

The components are being stored on nearly 50 acres at the Twin Ports before they're trucked to Illinois, Iowa, North Dakota and even as far as Montana.

100-ton-capacity cranes lift and load generators, blades and hubs onto specially built trucks designed to hold the weight. About 2,000 wind turbine components have come through the Twin Ports so far this year.

The Duluth-Superior port set a record in 2007 when 310,000 freight tons of wind cargo passed through.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Summer/fall newsletter now online

RENEW Wisconsin's summer/fall edition of Wisconsin Renewable Quarterly is now online, including the following articles:

Peak Oil Spices Meeting with Cong. Baldwin
Countdown to Solar Tour
Solar H2O on Madison Fire Stations
Global Warming Task Force Report
Wisconsin’s Newest Wind Projects
PHEV+Wind=Clean Air
Small Wind Conference Wrap-up

WPPI wants to fund zero energy homes

From a media release from Wisconsin Public Power, Incorporated:

Homeowners looking to build or remodel in communities served by WPPI member utilities have an opportunity to reduce their carbon footprint through WPPI’s GreenMax Home program. WPPI is now soliciting competitive proposals for grants to help fund the construction of up to three net zero energy homes within WPPI member utility service areas.

As part of WPPI’s overall efforts to encourage public and community support for renewable energy, energy conservation and energy efficiency, the GreenMax Home program will help customers build highly efficient, environmentally friendly homes. Grants will be awarded to cover part of the incremental cost of designing and building a GreenMax Home over the cost of constructing a conventional Upper Midwest house. Incremental costs will include the design elements and technologies directly related to reducing energy use or producing energy through renewable resources.

“We are pleased to present another opportunity for homeowners in WPPI member communities to build and live in homes with net zero energy use,” said Senior Vice President of Customer Services and Administration Tom Paque. “The GreenMax Home program allows homeowners to take advantage of renewable energy technologies and demonstrate practical approaches to the efficient use of energy.”

WPPI’s GreenMax Home program supports the design and lifestyle choices that move a home from “highly efficient” to “net zero.” Net zero homes combine state-of-the-art green and environmentally friendly technologies and practices with renewable energy technology to ensure that the homes produce as much energy as they consume. To the greatest extent possible, the energy consumption (heating, cooling and electrical) of the homes will be provided by renewable energy sources.

WPPI's member utilities are
Alger Delta, MI
Baraga, MI
Black River Falls
Cuba City
Eagle River
Gladstone, MI
Independence, IA
L'Anse, MI
Lake Mills
Maquoketa, IA
Mount Horeb
Negaunee, MI
New Glarus
New Holstein
New London
New Richmond
Norway, MI
Oconto Falls
Prairie du Sac
Richland Center
River Falls
Sturgeon Bay
Sun Prairie
Two Rivers

Few institutions are buying green energy

From an article in The Country Today:

RIVER FALLS - High prices, uncertainty over future supplies and concerns about global warming have brought energy issues to the forefront of policy debates in Washington and communities across the country.

These same factors are at play in western Wisconsin, where "green" economic development opportunities and the desire to sustain rural working lands are fueling a growing interest in renewable energy such as wind, solar, hydroelectric and biomass, say organizers of a recent survey conducted by the UW-River Falls Survey Research Center.

But data the center has collected show that, while there is a lot of interest and support for green energy, there is not a great deal of actual use at this point.

The survey finds that electricity from renewable sources makes up slightly more than 7 percent, on average, of total energy use in public institutions in western Wisconsin.

The proportion of total electricity used by those organizations that comes from "green" sources is variable, ranging from 25 percent to 2.5 percent.

"There is a huge groundswell of support for renewable energy in St. Croix County," said Pete Kling, UW-Extension agent for St. Croix County, which funded the survey. "In the past year, more than 500 people have attended renewable-energy forums, round-tables and field tours in western Wisconsin to learn more about opportunities in our own backyards."

Monday, September 22, 2008

WPPI wants to fund zero energy homes

From a media release from Wisconsin Public Power, Incorporated:

Homeowners looking to build or remodel in communities served by WPPI member utilities have an opportunity to reduce their carbon footprint through WPPI’s GreenMax Home program. WPPI is now soliciting competitive proposals for grants to help fund the construction of up to three net zero energy homes within WPPI member utility service areas.

As part of WPPI’s overall efforts to encourage public and community support for renewable energy, energy conservation and energy efficiency, the GreenMax Home program will help customers build highly efficient, environmentally friendly homes. Grants will be awarded to cover part of the incremental cost of designing and building a GreenMax Home over the cost of constructing a conventional Upper Midwest house. Incremental costs will include the design elements and technologies directly related to reducing energy use or producing energy through renewable resources.

“We are pleased to present another opportunity for homeowners in WPPI member communities to build and live in homes with net zero energy use,” said Senior Vice President of Customer Services and Administration Tom Paque. “The GreenMax Home program allows homeowners to take advantage of renewable energy technologies and demonstrate practical approaches to the efficient use of energy.”

WPPI’s GreenMax Home program supports the design and lifestyle choices that move a home from “highly efficient” to “net zero.” Net zero homes combine state-of-the-art green and environmentally friendly technologies and practices with renewable energy technology to ensure that the homes produce as much energy as they consume. To the greatest extent possible, the energy consumption (heating, cooling and electrical) of the homes will be provided by renewable energy sources.

WPPI's member utilities are
Alger Delta, MI
Baraga, MI
Black River Falls
Cuba City
Eagle River
Gladstone, MI
Independence, IA
L'Anse, MI
Lake Mills
Maquoketa, IA
Mount Horeb
Negaunee, MI
New Glarus
New Holstein
New London
New Richmond
Norway, MI
Oconto Falls
Prairie du Sac
Richland Center
River Falls
Sturgeon Bay
Sun Prairie
Two Rivers

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Gov. Doyle announces $7.3 million in clean energy funding

From a media release issued by Governor Doyle:

MILWAUKEE – Governor Jim Doyle today announced $7.3 million in grants and loans from the Wisconsin Energy Independence Fund (WEIF) for research and development and commercialization or adoption of new technologies. These awards will leverage $44.2 million in investments and create new jobs for Wisconsin families on farms, in forests, in research labs and for manufacturers.

“From manufacturing wind turbines and solar panels to retro-fitting fuel pumps and exploring the latest clean technologies, our future lies in seizing green opportunities that will create good jobs for our citizens and add billions of dollars to our economy,” Governor Doyle said. “Today we are awarding more than $7 million in grants and loans to companies that are committed to expanding Wisconsin’s clean energy industry. “

Governor Doyle made the announcement today at Eaton Corporation in Milwaukee. Five Milwaukee-area projects totaling $1,692,000 are receiving funding. Eaton is using $229,000 to develop a power conversion and energy storage system that manages the energy from a renewable source. Eligible applicants for the grants and loans include businesses and researchers. Governor Doyle will announce the remaining statewide grants in the coming days.

The Wisconsin Energy Independence Fund is an integral part of Clean Energy Wisconsin, Governor Doyle’s strategy to strengthen Wisconsin’s energy future. This comprehensive plan moves Wisconsin forward by promoting renewable energy, creating new jobs, increasing energy security and efficiency, and improving the environment. . . .

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Two solar workshops, MATC - Oak CreekSept. 27

From the Milwaukee Area Technical College:

MATC is proud to host two seminars in partnership with We Energies and the Midwest Renewable Energy Association on Saturday, September 27, in our ECAM facility (Room E-114) on the Oak Creek campus. We urge you to take advantage of these outstanding opportunities!

These Seminars provide information about generating renewable energy for your home or small business. Seminars include demonstrations and print materials. The Seminars have no prerequisites, and you may attend one or both Seminars.

PV (solar electric) Systems for Residential Applications covers solar photovoltaic (PV) technology, site selection, system sizing, available financial incentives and installer selection.
Sept. 27
10:00 am
Milwaukee Area Technical College, Oak Creek Campus
E-1146665 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.
Sept. 27
1:00 pm
Milwaukee Area Technical College, Oak Creek Campus
E-1146665 S. Howell Avenue, Oak Creek, WI 53154-1107

Seminars are scheduled for two hours. For more information, call 715-592-6595. To register for a seminar go to the Midwest Renewable Energy Association registration page for We Energies Renewable Energy Seminars at

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Family enjoys wind turbines

From an article by Rick Vanderlinde in The Alliston Hearld(central Ontario, Canada):

SHELBURNE — As Andria Hutchinson watched the giant wind turbines being erected around her home two years ago, she grew uneasy.

The windmills, with their massive concrete columns and large fiberglass blades, were beginning to dominate the flat farmland of Melancthon Township, just west of Shelburne.

“We didn’t know what to think when they were going up,” she says, gazing at the blades of a turbine spinning in the brisk breeze last Thursday. “They sat there all winter and we thought, ‘Gee how loud are these things going to be?’”

Two summers later, Hutchinson and her young family have grown to enjoy the 45 windmills built by Canadian Hydro in this Dufferin County township.

“We don’t mind them at all. There’s no real noise from what we can tell,” she says. “You basically have to stop walking along the gravel to hear them because your footsteps are louder than they are.”

Hutchinson, who lives on a farmstead but doesn’t have any of the windmills on her land, even enjoys the striking display of the white windmills.

“I found they actually relax you. They have a calming effect as the blades spin around,” she says. “It’s kind of nice.”

Monday, September 15, 2008

Non-Profits Renewable Energy Grants Workshop, Sept. 23

From the Web site of We Energies:

If you are interested in our renewable energy grants but not sure how to get start, attend our free Renewable Energy Grant Workshop on Sept. 23, 2008, at the Milwaukee Marriott West from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Pre-registration required.
According to the Web site, We Energies offers "Prescriptive and Custom Incentives to non-profit, charitable organizations that implement electric or natural gas-saving measures at their facilities. This guide, along with a conversation with a program representative, can assist you in determining your eligibility."

Friday, September 12, 2008

Wind farm open house, Saturday, Sept. 13

The Blue Sky Green Field Wind Energy Center, located in the towns of Calumet and Marshfield in northeast Fond du Lac County, is designed to generate 145 megawatts (MW) of electricity, and is capable of powering approximately 36,000 average residential homes. The site consists of 88 wind turbines.

Construction of the project began in June 2007. On May 19, 2008, Blue Sky Green Field was placed into commercial operation. The turbines are capable of generating more than 328 million emission-free kilowatt-hours annually.

Saturday, Sept.13
9:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Blue Sky Green Field Office
N9470 County Highway W
Malone, WI 53049

Tours will be given approximately every 30 minutes. WE Energies invites you to stop by at your convenience during the tour hours listed above. No reservations required.

The turbine is located a short walking distance from the parkingarea. Please wear sturdy shoes suitable for walking on a graveled surface.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Webinar on renewable energy for green communities

Focus on Energy, Wisconsin's energy efficiency and renewable energy initiative, is proud to sponsor a Webinar on Thursday, Oct. 2, 2008 titled Sustainable Energy for Green Communities.

The Webinar is designed for individuals who envision a greener future for their communities. Participants will be presented an overview on how to create a community energy plan with energy sustainability as a key component. This plan focuses on areas such as carbon emissions and environmental quality, energy efficiency strategies to apply at the community level and a discussion on renewable resources such as solar, biomass and wind energy.

Participants will also learn how Focus on Energy can assist communities in implementing energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. In addition, other community energy resources will be presented from the University of Wisconsin Extension Service, and the Wisconsin Office of Energy Independence through its Energy Independent Communities Program.

Thursday, Oct. 2, 2008
12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Those interested in participating in the Sustainable Energy for Green Communities Webinar can register online at The cost is $29.00.

Local government officials and planners, private planning consultants, plan commissioners, and other professionals and volunteers involved in sustainable community planning issues. (1.25 AICP Certification Maintenance credits, AICP approval pending)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Green Vision for Milwaukee

The Green Vision statement of the Milwaukee Office of Environmental Sustainability:

It's about our economy.

It's about our environment.

It's about a New Milwaukee.

Milwaukee will be a livable city where our rivers and lakes are clean;
where our beaches are crowded with families enjoying the sand and water;
where our political leaders do not hesitate to innovate;
where our air is clear and our children can safely play outside on summer days;
where shopping and entertainment are within walking distance of our homes;
where employers in the hottest green technologies come to do business;
where our workforce is qualified and ready to work for these businesses;
where our city is known to young professionals around the country as a progressive place to live;
where we consider the future when we make decisions today;
where the story when it rains is how green and our streetscapes are, not that our sewerage plants have overflowed;
where citizens, businesses, and governments come together to find practical solutions our shared challenges;
and where we do the hard work to make this vision a reality.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Vickerman responds to anonymous "Greenie"

RENEW's Executive Director wrote the following response to a post by "Greenie" in a forum of the Wisconsin State Journal:

Forumite Greenie writes: “The biggest problem with the federal production tax credit for renewable energy is that it only covers wind and solar. In the state of Wisconsin where our wind resource is low, the production tax credit is what's driving wind developers to put turbines where they don't belong.”

Inaccuracies abound in that statement. One, the federal production tax credit covers wind and closed-loop biomass and biogas from livestock manure. Two, it does not cover solar. There is a 30% investment tax credit specific to most solar energy systems (not solar pool heaters). Three, the wind resource in Wisconsin is pretty good in certain locations, like along the Niagara Escarpment. At the two recently completed wind projects—Blue Sky Green Field and Forward—capacity factors should average 30%. The same should be true of the two wind projects under construction, Cedar Ridge and Butler Ridge. Fourth, the tax credit is based on output. The greater the amount of kilowatt-hours produced at a particular site, the greater the value of the tax credits. Furthermore, the tax credits are good for 10 years. After that, the turbines on their own, Since they are built to last 25 to 30 years, there had better be a decent resource where they are located, which is the case with every wind turbine operating in Wisconsin

Greenie continues: “They [manure digesters] would take nitrates out of the water, help farmers with their high electrical bills and provide power to the surrounding community. The Crave Brothers who produce excellent cheese on their farm put in a manure digester that not only took care of their $6,000 a month electrical bill, but also supplies electricity to the 126 homes around them. The nitrates no longer go into the ground water. They're left with very clean compost material which can be used for many things. So why won't they get any production tax credit money?”

Not only are manure digesters eligible for the federal production tax credit, they are also eligible for State of Wisconsin financial incentives through the Focus on Energy program. A manure-to-methane electric generation system can receive up to $250,000 in financial support from Wisconsin utility ratepayers. Generally, these incentives account for 10% to 25% of the installed cost of these systems, depending on their size.

RENEW Wisconsin strongly supports generating electricity or renewable natural gas from livestock manure. In several rate cases, RENEW argued that the utility should provide a higher buyback rate for manure-to-methane electric generation system. Several utilities have raised their buyback rates, though they still fall short of what is needed to cover installation costs. Having said that, Wisconsin has more livestock biogas generation systems than any other state. And several companies that are active in this market, including Clear Horizons, the company that installed the system at the Crave Brothers farm, are RENEW members,

More from Greenie: “For Wisconsin, industrial scale wind farms will always depend on coal burning power plants to operate.”

This is simply false. As any utility grid operator can confirm, a new wind farm does not need new baseload capacity to back it up. There is an abundant amount of reserve generating capacity in Wisconsin to absorb many new windpower installations.

Greenie again: “The production tax credit makes it so developers turn profit on inefficient and inappropriately sited turbines which are destroying so many Wisconsin communities.”

Name one Wisconsin community that has been “destroyed” by wind turbines.

We Energies, which owns the 88-turbine Blue Sky Green Field installation, is hosting an open house this Saturday. At the open house you’ll have the opportunity to see and hear the turbines with your own sensory apparatus. While you’re in that part of Fond du Lac County, ask the locals for their opinion of the installation. You’ll discover that the project is quite popular with Marshfield and Calumet township residents.

Greenie’s on a roll: “ If you feel like looking deeper into this if you follow the roots of the wind industry, state mandates for renewable energy standards (almost all of it going to WIND) the production tax credit (almost all of it going to wind) and the green credits (Wind again) you'll end up at ENRON -- once one of the biggest wind developers in the country.”

There is a simple reason why wind has become the dominant resource among renewable resources—it’s the only one that can produce power in bulk. Let’s compare the scalability of wind with dairy cattle manure. A Vestas V-82 turbine at Blue Sky Green Field has a capacity of 1.65 MW and will average about 4 million kWh/year (probably more), which is 28% of its rated capacity. How many cows does it take to produce the same amount of energy? Biogas producers agree that the energy value of dairy cow manure equates to 0.2 kW. It takes five cows to constitute one kW of generating capacity, 5,000 cows to constitute 1 MW. If you take the manure from one cow and put it into a digester/generation system that operates 90% of the time, it will produce an average of 1,577 kWh/year. Divide four million into that number and you’ll see that it takes 2,536 dairy cows to produce the same amount of energy as one commercial wind turbine. There are perhaps a dozen dairy operations in Wisconsin that have 2,500 cows, as compared with the 88 wind turbines at the 10,000-acre Blue Sky Green Field project, which should produce about 350,000,000 kWh/year. By my calculations, one would need 223,168 dairy cows to produce enough livestock manure to equal the output from Blue Sky Green Field. To put number that in perspective, we’re talking about nearly 20% of the state’s entire population of dairy cows (currently estimated at 1,252,000, according to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board [[]), all located in specialized dairy operations where their manure is captured and fed into anaerobic digesters.

How many residential solar electric systems is needed to produce 4,000,000 kWh. About 1,700.

By the way, Enron’s wind division was one of the few divisions in the company that generated a profit, which is why GE bought it after Enron filed for bankruptcy.

Greenie closes with this gem: “Why do lobbying groups like Renew Wisconsin carry the flag for wind and almost nothing else? Where is their money coming from?”

In addition to the wind industry, RENEW Wisconsin advocates on behalf of solar energy (electric and hot water), hydro, biomass, and biogas. We do this in many forums: at the Public Service Commission, at the State Legislature, in schools and at numerous county board and town hall meetings. We count among our members such companies as North American Hydro, H&H Solar, Full Spectrum Solar, GHD, Inc., Pieper Power, Lake Michigan Wind and Sun, and Lake Breeze Dairy. Our 330 members contribute about 20% of our revenues in a typical year. The other 80% of our funding comes from foundation grants and Focus on Energy work.

Allow me to ask a question of you, Greenie: Where do you get your misinformation from?

Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin

Monday, September 8, 2008

Testimony in WPS Rate Case, asking for a docket to set uniform buy-back rates across utilities

Michael Vickerman submitted the following testimony (a question and answer format) in the WPS rate case (Docket No. 6690-UR-119) on behalf of RENEW Wisconsin:

Q. What is the purpose of your testimony?
A. . . . The purpose of my testimony is to show that differences in utility buyback rates for solar electricity are beginning to skew the Wisconsin marketplace, resulting in a concentration of installation activity in those territories that offer the most attractive rates. This asymmetry is a reason for convening a proceeding to set Advanced Renewable Tariffs for distributed renewable generation sources that are technology-specific and are uniform across service boundaries. . . .

Q. Which utilities offer a special solar electric buyback rate to customers?
A. We Energies (WE) instituted in January 2006 a 22.5 cent/per kWh buyback rate for solar electric installations. The next utility to offer a solar electric buyback rate was Madison Gas & Electric (MGE). Its 25 cent/kWh rate took effect January 2008. Both rates are fixed over a 10-year term. They are available to all residential, commercial and industrial customers of WE and MGE until a certain capacity threshold is reached. WE’s experimental solar tariff was initially capped at 500 kW. In 2007 WE raised the cap to 1 MW. MGE initially set a ceiling of 150 kW for its solar electric buyback rate, but has since raised it to 300 kW.

Wisconsin Power & Light has proposed a 25 cent/kWh rate as part of its pending rate case. If approved by the Public Serviced Commission, it would take effect January 2009.

In addition to its 22.5 cent/kWh solar rate, WE provides a significant up-front incentive to nonprofit customers that seek to install solar electric systems. Unlike the solar rates offered by WE and MGE, which are adjuncts of their voluntary renewable energy purchase programs, WE’s nonprofit incentive program is supported by all of its customers.

Q. Are the higher buyback rates for solar beginning to influence the marketplace?
A. We’re starting to see signs that they are. Focus on Energy keeps track of the flow of solar electric incentive checks by utility territory. From May through July 2008, Focus incentives supported the installation of 253.8 kW of customer-sited solar generating capacity. Of that total 116.2 kW were installed in WE territory, constituting about 46% of the statewide total. Slightly more than 24 kW of solar were installed in MGE territory during the same time. Taken together, about 55% of Focus on Energy-supported solar electric capacity was interconnected to WE’s and MGE’s distribution systems during that period. For comparison purposes, WE and MGE make up less than half of the state’s electricity sales.

I expect the solar buyback rates offered by WE and MGE will attract an even larger share of total installation volume as the year wears on. Bear in mind that MGE’s solar buyback rate has existed for less than nine months, and we are likely to see a surge of installations in the second half of 2009. Focus on Energy’s August results should be available before the technical hearings begin.

Q. During the same three-month period, how many kW of Focus on Energy-supported solar electric capacity were completed and interconnected to WPS?
A. According to Focus on Energy records, 13 kW of solar electric capacity were added to WPS’s system between May 1st and July 31st, 2008. That number is about 5% of the total solar electric capacity supported by Focus on Energy during that time. For comparison purposes, WPS accounts for about 15% of the state’s electricity sales.
Full testimony here.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Can Milwaukee become a solar city?

From an article by Ken Reibel in the Sheperd Express:

Can the red-hot market for solar panels generate green jobs for Milwaukee? Some city officials are hoping so. “We’ll be looking into whether we can build them locally,” says Ann Beier, director of environmental sustainability for the city of Milwaukee.

Beier and others want to use part of a $200,000 federal Solar City grant to fund a feasibility study. “It’s worth exploring,” she says.

The numbers are enticing. The U.S. solar market grew 57% in 2007, and worldwide demand has grown 20%-25% per year over the past 20 years. But barriers to entry are steep, and investment risky. Four manufacturing behemoths currently produce 50% of the solar energy products, or photovoltaics, sold on the planet, and the pace of innovation could leave some investors out in the cold.

“Not the U.S.A., but Germany, Japan and China are the major manufacturers,” says Niels Wolter, solar electric program manager for the Madison-based Focus on Energy Renewable Energy Program. “But solar electric technology has significant room for innovation, so there are opportunities for new businesses to enter the market.”

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Urge Congress to extend credit for renewable energy

An editorial from the Wisconsin State Journal:

America's effort to develop cleaner, more sustainable energy sources is threatened by the looming expiration of federal tax credits that boost renewable energy production and use.

Congress should respond this month by extending and enhancing the credits, which encourage investment in solar, wind, biomass and other renewable power sources.

A significant risk exists that at the end of this year Congress will let credits worth $500 million a year lapse, as it did three previous times. In those cases, investment in renewables fell dramatically before Congress revived the credits. Investment in wind power production, for example, fell 93 percent following the expiration of tax credits in 2000.

This year the vast majority in Congress supports extending the credits, available to homeowners, businesses and investors for buying equipment to use or produce renewable energy. But legislation extending and improving the credits is stalled by a dispute over what to do about the impact on the federal budget deficit.

The credits are part of a larger package of tax breaks scheduled to expire at the end of the year. Extending the breaks would cost the treasury $50 billion over 10 years.

Plans call for Congress to offset the lost revenue by raising fees or taxes or by cutting other programs.

Many senators and representatives are balking at the offsets.

Congress deserves praise for making sure the credits do not exacerbate the already-enormous budget deficits. But its members should also recognize the value the renewable energy tax credits have to an economy weighed down by the high cost of fossil fuels and to an environment threatened by pollution from burning fossil fuels.

With Congress scheduled to adjourn for the year at the end of this month, it's time for its members to compromise on a package of tax credits that can be offset with reasonable fee or tax increases and program cuts.

Wisconsin has much at stake. The state has great potential to become a national leader in renewable energy.

Tax credits spur the industry by making it more cost-effective to invest in equipment to use renewable energy in homes or businesses. The credits also make it more cost-effective to invest in starting or expanding renewable energy production plants.

Allowing the credits to expire would be a setback with costly consequences.

Wisconsin's congressional delegation should help engineer a resolution that extends the credits without enlarging the budget deficit.
The American Wind Energy Association makes it easy to contact your U.S. representatives and senators, through a page dedicated to urging members of Congress to act.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Two Rivers may erect wind turbine

From an article by Cindy Hodgson in the Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter:

TWO RIVERS — Two Rivers Water & Light is considering erecting a wind turbine near the high school on Highway 42. It would be a joint project of the utility, the school and Wisconsin Public Power Inc., according to electric utility director Tom Bushman.

“We’re in very preliminary talks at this point,” Bushman said.

He said he has been in contact with the school regarding the idea for a couple of years, but “price has always been the issue.”

Now Wisconsin Public Power Inc., which is owned by 49 utilities including Two Rivers Water & Light, has indicated it is willing to provide funding, perhaps as much as 75 percent, according to Bushman.

WPPI would like to see at least one alternative energy demonstration project in each of its member cities, he said. Solar projects have been undertaken, and WPPI wants to see some wind projects implemented.

Two Rivers is a suitable location for a wind project, Bushman said, because it has open spaces and offshore winds from Lake Michigan in the afternoon.

If a wind turbine is set up near the high school, the power it generates will offset a small portion of the school’s electric bill, Bushman said.

Eggers Industries, on the other side of Highway 42, also has expressed interested in having a wind turbine, and the company has some vacant land to its south, he said.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

MATC, MSOE have sunny outlooks

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

The largest solar power project in downtown Milwaukee is up and running at Milwaukee School of Engineering.

144 solar panels sit on the roof of the school's student union building and are visible to office workers in nearby downtown buildings. That's by design, said Chris Damm, associate professor of mechanical engineering at MSOE.

"It's a statement to show that MSOE is leading the way in terms of sustainability and engineering, to attract students who are interested in emerging energy technologies and sustainable engineering," he said.

But the project is more than just a showcase for the university. It's part of a training ground for students to engage in research in the growing fields of renewable energy and more efficient energy use.

Already, students did research to help determine the best spot on the downtown campus to place the solar panels - to ensure they wouldn't be blocked by shadows from nearby buildings and generate too little power.

The solar project is the largest in downtown Milwaukee and one of the biggest at the state, though larger projects may be in the works.

The state's largest solar systems are at GE Healthcare in Waukesha and Kohl's Corp. in Menomonee Falls.

The downtown Milwaukee project, with a price tag of $235,000, was paid for through a combination of internal funding, a $100,000 grant from We Energies and a $35,000 grant from the state energy efficiency and renewable program, Focus on Energy.
A side note to the story says:
The future of solar power will be discussed during a conference next month at the Midwest Airlines Center in Milwaukee. The Solar Decade conference is planned for Oct. 23-24. For more, go to or call (800) 762-7077.