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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 [[www.wisdairy.com]), 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

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