Search This Blog

Friday, October 31, 2008

Superior pushes home weatherization program, state offers heating assistance

From an article by Mike Simonson of KUWS posted on BusinessNorth.com:

Superior’s weatherization program held an open house Thursday to get the word out on how people can make their homes more energy efficient. Joe Cadotte reports.

Superior weatherizes over a hundred homes every year. Through the program, they replace and fix everything from furnaces to light bulbs, saving homeowners 20 to 30 percent on utility bills. Superior Weatherization Program Spokesperson Jean Dotterwick says money is available to weatherize 120 homes in the area, but many people hesitate to apply.

“Elderly or older people just don’t feel they have the right to it. Anytime they have fuel assistance we get a notice of that, and we will often send out letters to these people who haven’t been weatherized yet.”

Superior resident Adam Johnson is having his home weatherized. Johnson says he’ll save over $7,000 through the program.

“It allows us to be able to live in a house that isn’t drafty. My kids don’t have to have boots on, you know what I mean? Not boots, but they don’t have to have extra coats on, stuff like that.”

State Senator Bob Jauch of Poplar says 175-thousand families in Wisconsin will receive heating assistance this year. In addition, thousands of homes will be weatherized.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Wind-powered cars

From an article by Jeff Anthony, American Wind Energy Association and RENEW Wisconsin board member:

. . . While wind energy is becoming a mainstream source of electricity in the U.S., with a realistic potential of powering 20% of our electric needs by 2030, its ability to play a key role in powering PHEVs [plug-in hybrid electric vehicle] makes for an even brighter future for the clean, renewable energy source. . . .

With widespread deployment, the impact of PHEVs on the transportation sector and the nation would be massive. A study by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory found that replacing 73% of the U.S. light-duty vehicle fleet with PHEVs would result in a reduction in oil consumption of 6.2 million barrels a day, cutting the need for imported oil by about 50%.

But what would such a heavy reliance on electricity generation for transportation purposes do to aggregate power plant emissions? A joint study by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the Natural Resources Defense Council found that if 60% of light vehicles in the U.S. were replaced by plug-in vehicles by 2050, electricity consumption would rise only about 8%. The net gain from significantly reducing oil use for transportation—while only marginally increasing the use of fossil fuels to produce electricity—would translate into net carbon dioxide reductions of 450 million metric tons annually—equivalent to taking 82 million cars off the road. And when you bring wind power into the equation, the news gets even better: if the renewable energy resource contributes a greater share to the electricity supply mix that ultimately would recharge the PHEV fleet, any increase in emissions from greater electricity usage can be cut dramatically, making the net emissions reduction even lower.

The primary reason PHEVs result in significant net emissions reductions is that electric motors are several times more efficient than gasoline internal combustion engines. EPRI estimates that while charging, PHEVs will draw only 1.4 kW-2 kW—about the same as a dishwasher. Moreover, in a transportation world that includes many PHEVs, electric rates are likely to be designed to ensure that vehicle charging occurs almost exclusively at night, guaranteeing that PHEVs will use low-cost electricity—while not imposing additional strain on the electric grid during daytime hours of peak electricity usage. And wind energy fits ideally into that part of the equation for another reason as well: wind power output is typically highest at night in many parts of the country. . . .

Is wood Wisconsin's gold rush?

From an article by Chad Dally in The Daily Press (Ashland):
While the Industrial Revolution changed the foundations of the United States' economy, the dependence on fossil fuels to spur it along created the need a century later for what some have dubbed a "bio-based revolution" emphasizing the use of alternative and renewable energy as the foundation of the future.

Within Wisconsin's 16 million acres of public and private forest land there lies a key piece of that renewable energy future in woody biomass collecting throughout the forest floor. The tops of trees, branches and other dispersed, gnarly bunches of slash that loggers previously left in the woods is attracting more and more commercial attention for its possible usage as wood pellets for heat and power, and fuel for utility company boilers.

But is there enough? Consider some of the competitors for the resource:

• There are at least seven pellet plants in the state and Superior Wood Products is hopeful it will receive permits needed to construct its own pellet plant in Ino, located in Bayfield County. The company aims to produce 100,000 oven-dried tons of pellets each year, which could generate up to 4,775 kilowatt hours (kWh), according to the company's Web site.

To produce the pellets - and the heat to dry wood that becomes a pellet - the company will need about 200,000 tons of green wood, said Don Peterson of Renewable Resource Solutions, a consulting firm assisting Superior Wood Products.

• Northern States Power's Bay Front plant in Ashland will convert a coal-fired boiler to one using wood waste to create synthetic gas. If the plant comes online in 2012 as expected, the plant will nearly double its use of woody biomass, from 200,000 tons to between 330,000 and 360,000, said Dave Donovan, Xcel's manager of regulatory policy.

• Flambeau River Biofuels in Park Falls obtained a $30 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy toward a plant that will convert 1,900 tons of forest residue into 40 million gallons of fuel and 2 trillion Btu of heat and power.

• Even schools like Glidden in Ashland County have installed wood-fired boilers to help offset their energy needs with renewable fuel.

ConocoPhillips' chief calls for long-range energy policy

From an article by Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
James Mulva, head of the nation's third-largest oil company, said it's time for politicians to develop an energy policy that addresses both energy security and climate change.

Mulva, a native of De Pere who is chairman and chief executive of ConocoPhillips, said the economic crisis has resulted in an unexpectedly rapid drop in oil and gasoline prices that serves as a "temporary timeout" in a longer-term trend of rising demand for energy.

The economic crisis is resulting in flattening or dropping demand for energy.

"But our experts tell us that this represents really a temporary timeout in what we see as a global competition for development of energy around the world," Mulva told more than 400 students and businesspeople Wednesday at the Marquette University Business Leaders Forum.

"When this happens the energy market will tighten. But this timeout does not extend to climate change. Global warming continues," he said.

The time will be ripe for a new president and Congress to address energy and climate issues, but Mulva said economic concerns and restoration of stability to financial markets will and should remain government's first priority.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Animation shows how solar electric and solar hot water systems work

From Focus on Energy:

It’s a great time to protect the environment, reduce your carbon footprint and save money in the long run. Do it all by installing a solar electric or solar hot water system.

Solar electric systems: capture solar energy and transform it into electricity. Click here to learn more and see how solar electric systems work.

Solar hot water systems: use the sun to heat water and then store it for extended periods, right on your property, making plenty of hot water available for showers, laundry and dishes. Click here to learn more and see how solar hot water systems work.

Right now, there are valuable financial incentives available that can significantly reduce the cost of these systems:

+ Federal tax credits
+ Cash-Back Reward of up to 25% for project costs
+ Site Assessment co-funding of up to 60%
+ An additional $500 bonus for owners of Wisconsin ENERGY STAR® Homes or existing homes that have gone through the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program
+ For multi-family buildings or other businesses, implementation grants are available to install solar projects

Visit focusonenergy.com/renewable to learn more about solar and available financial incentives or to sign up for our Renewable eNewsletter.

The Amish go solar – in a simple way

From an article by Mary Beth McCauley in The Christian Science Monitor:

The buggy is in the drive. Trousers flutter on the clothesline. Horses prance as they work the field, their manes flowing, their step high. And mounted there on the shed out back are, well, solar panels – looking as if this Hollywood-set Amish family somehow stumbled into the Philadelphia Home Show.

Solar energy has been used by a few of the technology-eschewing Amish for decades now. But with soaring energy costs, more families are putting sunlight-collecting panels on their barns and outbuildings. Indeed, area dealers report sales of solar systems to the Amish are up 30 percent to 50 percent this year alone.

Unlike the non-Amish – who tend to favor large alternative energy systems that connect directly to the public utility grid – Amish prefer simple stand-alone systems. They use solar panels to power a battery for a specific task – such as running the lights on a buggy or operating a woodshop motor. The don’t use electricity inside the home. Solar energy is replacing propane, gas, or diesel to run small motors on farms and in businesses.

“The solar power system is really simple – a couple of panels and a battery,” says Sam Zook, of Belmont Solar, in Gordonville, Pa.
Isn’t this still a bit high-tech for the horse and buggy set?

Not at all says Mr. Zook. “The Amish are not completely disconnected from the outside world. There’s always someone running a retail store [nearby] and introducing a new item.”

Whether these are accepted or not is up to church leaders, and rulings differ from congregation to congregation and district to district. Cars and electricity tend to be rejected. And solar is not accepted everywhere yet, says Zook, even here in Lancaster County, which is considered one of the nation’s more progressive settlements of Amish.

Lower demand lowers Wisconsin Energy profits

From an Associated Press article posted on INO.com News:

(AP:MILWAUKEE) Electric and natural gas utility Wisconsin Energy Corp. said Wednesday its third-quarter profit fell 7 percent as cool summer weather lowered demand for air conditioning.

For the quarter ended Sept. 30, Wisconsin Energy earned $77.5 million, or 65 cents per share, compared with $82.9 million, or 70 cents per share, for the same quarter in 2007.

Earnings from continuing operations _ which excludes results from businesses that have been, or are in the process of being sold _ totaled $77 million, or 65 cents per share, compared with $83.1 million, or 71 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter.

Revenue declined 3 percent to $852.5 million from $881.5 million in the 2007 period.

On average, analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected a more modest profit of 55 cents per share, on $892.8 million in revenue.

Wisconsin Energy said residential use of electricity fell 5 percent in the quarter from a year ago. Among small commercial and industrial customers, consumption was off by 1.4 percent, while use among large commercial and industrial customers was down 3.5 percent versus a year ago.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Solar thermal incentives for non-profits

From a page on the Web site of We Energies:

This program assists qualified not-for-profit customers install solar water-heating systems. Customer incentives are provided from We Energies Renewable Energy Development Program. The incentive amount is a dollar-for-dollar match of the Focus on Energy Solar Water-Heating System Cash-back Reward Program or the Solar Water-Heating Implementation Grant for larger systems. Supporting solar water-heating system installations helps We Energies demonstrate to customers the benefits of solar water-heating energy systems.

Eligibility: Applicants must be We Energies retail electric customers located in Wisconsin, and one of the following:

+ Not-for-profit organization.
+ Not-for-profit educational/academic institution, unit of government, or special district or authority defined as government under Wisconsin law.

PSC to hold public hearing in La Crosse on Excel rate request

An announcement from the Public Service Commission:
MADISON – The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) will hold public hearings on Monday, November 3rd in Eau Claire and La Crosse on Xcel Energy’s request to adjust its electric rates. Excel has requested to increase their electric rates by 8.6 percent.

When a utility requests a change in rates, the PSC conducts a thorough audit of the utility’s expenses and revenues. The agency will look at the amount Xcel needs to provide a reliable source of energy to customers, which includes costs of fuel, maintenance, new construction and environmental protection.

Public comments on Xcel’s application will be included in the record the Commission will review to make a decision. The PSC has the authority to approve, deny or modify the application. Citizens are encouraged to attend the hearings, which will be broadcast simultaneously from three different locations at the following times:

Monday, November 3
3:00 p.m. & 6:30 p.m.

UW-La Crosse
Wing Communications Building, Room 102
1725 State Street
La Crosse, WI

UW-Eau Claire
Old Library, Room 1132
105 Garfield Avenue
Eau Claire, WI

Public Service Commission of Wisconsin
Amnicon Falls Hearing Room – 1st floor
610 North Whitney Way
Madison, WI

If you cannot attend the public hearings, but would like to provide comments, you can do so on the PSC’s website at http://psc.wi.gov through November 3. Click on the Public Comments button on the PSC’s homepage and click on the case title.

Hearing locations are accessible to people in wheelchairs. Anyone requiring accommodations to participate should contact Docket Coordinator Jodee J. Bartels at (608) 267-9859. Documents associated with Xcel Energy’s application can be viewed on the PSC’s Electronic Regulatory Filing System at http://psc.wi.gov/. Type case numbers 4220-UR-115 in the boxes provided on the PSC homepage, or click on the Electronic Regulatory Filing System button.

PSC to hold public hearings in Eau Claire on Excel rate request

An announcement from the Public Service Commission:

MADISON – The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) will hold public hearings on Monday, November 3rd in Eau Claire and La Crosse on Xcel Energy’s request to adjust its electric rates. Excel has requested to increase their electric rates by 8.6 percent.

When a utility requests a change in rates, the PSC conducts a thorough audit of the utility’s expenses and revenues. The agency will look at the amount Xcel needs to provide a reliable source of energy to customers, which includes costs of fuel, maintenance, new construction and environmental protection.

Public comments on Xcel’s application will be included in the record the Commission will review to make a decision. The PSC has the authority to approve, deny or modify the application. Citizens are encouraged to attend the hearings, which will be broadcast simultaneously from three different locations at the following times:

Monday, November 3
3:00 p.m. & 6:30 p.m.

UW-Eau Claire
Old Library, Room 1132
105 Garfield Avenue
Eau Claire, WI

UW-La Crosse
Wing Communications Building, Room 102
1725 State Street
La Crosse, WI

Public Service Commission of Wisconsin
Amnicon Falls Hearing Room – 1st floor
610 North Whitney Way
Madison, WI

If you cannot attend the public hearings, but would like to provide comments, you can do so on the PSC’s website at http://psc.wi.gov through November 3. Click on the Public Comments button on the PSC’s homepage and click on the case title.

Hearing locations are accessible to people in wheelchairs. Anyone requiring accommodations to participate should contact Docket Coordinator Jodee J. Bartels at (608) 267-9859. Documents associated with Xcel Energy’s application can be viewed on the PSC’s Electronic Regulatory Filing System at http://psc.wi.gov. Type case numbers 4220-UR-115 in the boxes provided on the PSC homepage, or click on the Electronic Regulatory Filing System button.

LaCrosse County debates LEED’s green merits

From an article by Paul Snyder in The Daily Reporter:

La Crosse County will pay for a greenish jail, but the price tag for LEED honors might be too steep.

“I’m willing to spend money for energy conservation,” said County Supervisor John Medinger.

“But I’m not sure what we get for LEED certification at about $200,000.

“If it’s just a plaque that says, ‘Nice job, now give us $200,000,’ I’m going to lean against it.”

The La Crosse County Board last week approved a $29.5 million expansion for the county jail in La Crosse, but members delayed a vote on seeking Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification or adding green features that were not in the original bid package.


County Administrator Steve O’Malley said the board has until the second week in December to decide on certification, which he said would cost $166,000, or an alternate package of green features, such as a solar hot water system, a retention pond and a heat-reclaiming system.

“From what I can tell, the board is really on the fence about it right now,” O’Malley said. “Some green features are already built into the project, but I think they’ll go for additional energy-saving features if they can see the payback.”

The county estimated the alternate package of green elements would add $500,000 to $600,000 to the project cost. Medinger said some projects related to the jail expansion, including a probation center, could be delayed to free up the money.

County officials owe it to their constituents to find a way to achieve the greenest possible jail, said County Supervisor Maureen Freedland, who chairs the La Crosse County Law Enforcement Center Construction Committee.

“We’re looking for more than just efficiency,” she said. “It’s the societal factor, what it means to the area, and what we’re saying to the community.”

Freedland said LEED certification is an important part of that package.

“There are people on the committee that think it’s just a plaque or a piece of paper,” she said. “But that money gets you site visits to make sure programs and features are set up and running properly.”

Monday, October 27, 2008

CFLs give a new meaning to daylight savings

From a media release issued by Focus on Energy:

As fall turns to winter and the sun sets earlier each night, Wisconsinites are turning on their lights, and in doing so, spending more money on electricity. Fortunately, there is a way to turn on lights and turn back energy costs.

With just a twist of the wrist, ENERGY STAR® qualified compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) can reduce energy use by up to 75 percent, and changing out the five most used bulbs in a home can save $35 in energy costs the first year alone.

To add another twist on the savings, Focus on Energy, Wisconsin’s energy efficiency and renewable energy initiative, is offering ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs for a discounted price at participating retail locations, beginning October 1 for a
limited time.

“Over the past several years, residents throughout Wisconsin have reduced their energy use and their utility bills by using ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs, but there are still many who have not made the switch,” said Mike Plunkett, Lighting Program Manager. “Fortunately, for those still holding out, the technology has improved over the years with the issues of humming, flickering and poor light quality having been eliminated. So people who didn’t like the early bulbs may be surprised to find they’ll get a great functioning bulb that saves them money for years to come.”

. . . ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs are being sold for a discounted price at select retail locations, including Ace Hardware, Big Lots, Copps Food Center, Cub Foods, Do it Best, Dollar Tree, Festival Foods, Hardware Hank, Home Concept, Menards, Mills Fleet Farm, Pick ‘n Save, Sentry Foods, ShopKo, True Value Hardware, Trustworthy Hardware and Woodman’s locations.

Oakdale Electric Coop to participate in all of Focus on Energy programs

From a media release issued by Focus on Energy:

Focus on Energy, Wisconsin’s energy efficiency and renewable energy initiative, announced today that Oakdale Electric Cooperative officially became a program member beginning October 1, 2008. The utility serves approximately 15,000 customers throughout Monroe and Juneau counties and portions of Jackson, Sauk and Wood counties. . . .

Oakdale Electric Cooperative will participate in the Business, Residential and Renewable Energy offerings under the Focus on Energy umbrella. The benefits of participating include:
· Business Programs that help manufacturers, commercial businesses, farmers, schools and local governments reduce operating costs, increase their bottom line and improve productivity and employee and customer comfort. The programs offer technical expertise, training and financial incentives to help implement innovative energy management projects.
· Wisconsin ENERGY STAR Homes, Home Performance with ENERGY STAR and Apartment & Condo Efficiency Services Programs that encompass new and existing homes,
multi-family construction and remodeling projects for all types of residential dwellings. These programs help homeowners and landlords integrate energy improvements into their remodeling projects, as well as deliver newly-built homes, apartments and condominiums that are comfortable, safe, durable and energy efficient.
· Lighting and appliance programs that increase the availability of ENERGY STAR qualified products ranging from compact fluorescent light bulbs to heating and cooling equipment. These efforts deliver lower energy bills for residents and businesses and increased sales for retailers and contractors.
· Renewable Energy Programs that help residents and businesses harness energy from sunlight, wind and organic materials.
· Targeted Home Performance that reduces energy bills while increasing comfort and safety for income-qualified participants

Doyle dedicates first turbine project in seven years





















Govenor Doyle chatted during the dedication program with students from Lakeshore Technical College's Wind Energy Technican program.

A report from Jeff Anthony of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA):
At the first wind project dedication ceremony for a major wind project in the state of Wisconsin in over seven years, Governor Jim Doyle (D) and other state government officials dedicated the Forward Wind Center in Brownsville, WI. Governor Doyle gave remarks at the ceremony on Wednesday, October 22, 2008 at the Brownville Community Center, noting that “the project represents a clean energy milestone for Wisconsin, meaning greater energy security, better wages in green jobs, and clean air and water for generations to come”. He also emphasized that in the economic turbulence “clean energy future greater investment, more jobs, and more security at home”.

A global warming task force commissioned by Governor Doyle issued a report in August recommending that Wisconsin accelerate its Renewable Energy Standard targets, achieving 10% by 2013, 20% by 2020 and 25% by 2025. Governor Doyle also reiterated his intent to pass the enhanced RES in the 2009 legislative session to require state utilities to get 25% of their electricity from renewable energy such as the energy produced by the Forward Wind Center by the year 2015. He also called for the great manufacturing capabilities in Wisconsin to be directed towards clean energy technologies such as wind power as well.

Michael Polsky, President and CEO of Invenergy, welcomed an over-flowing crowd to the project dedication ceremony and described the benefits of wind power, saying “It just makes sense” from so many different perspectives, including energy security, long-term clean energy production, and environmental benefits. Tours were conducted throughout the afternoon by developer Invenergy, the project owner and operator. The output of the project is under contract to four Wisconsin utilizes: Madison Gas & Electric, Wisconsin Public Service, Wisconsin Power & Light (Alliant Energy), and Wisconsin Public Power, Inc. The Forward Wind Center consists of 86 General Electric 1.5 MW wind turbines (for a total of 129 MW) covering 12,000 acres in Dodge and Fond du Lac counties in Southeastern Wisconsin. Commercial operations at the facility began in March 2008, the project is expected to produce enough energy to power 30,000 homes and avoid the burning of 187 million pounds of coal per year. The Forward wind project is one of four major wind projects schedule to come on-line in 2008, representing a major step forward for the state of Wisconsin.
More from an article by Aubrey Fleischer in The Reporter (Fond du Lac).

Friday, October 24, 2008

Home Energy Makeover

A video from Focus on Energy and Fox 6 on cutting energy costs by adding installation and sealing air leaks in a home.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Competitive Advantage of Solar Hot Water in Wisconsin

A PowerPoint (in PDF) by RENEW Wisconsin's Executive Director Michael Vickerman presents the preliminary conclusions of a forthcoming white paper on solar hot water system:

 When energy prices rise above $1.00/therm and incentives are available to reduce system cost by half, the internal rate of return (IRR) on investment in a commercial SHW system will surpass those of traditional investments. Moreover, it is as risk-free an investment as one can make.

 Natural gas price volatility will invariably impart a herky-jerky pattern to annual returns and installation activity.

 To ensure the steady of expansion of SHW technology, governments should consider policy options to provide some buffer against fuel price volatility and reduce front-end costs.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Just over the state line

Towers await turbines at EcoEnergy's EcoGrove wind project near Lena, Illinois.

Hudson company sets Minnesota solar standard

Energy Concepts, Hudson, installed Minnesota's largest solar system, according to an August article Jean Hopfensperger in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune:

A Minnesota first is unfolding this month on the rooftop of a Vadnais Heights social service agency, where 525 solar panels are being installed to take energy conservation to new heights.

When completed this month, the largest solar electric project in the state will sit atop an agency best known for helping adults with disabilities. State officials say it will increase Minnesota's solar capacity by 10 percent.

What's even more unusual is that the rooftop rays will fuel a geothermal energy system hidden below the concrete parking lot of the building, home to Merrick Inc., a nonprofit that is making its energy production -- and its own products -- a Minnesota model of green.

"We've married two emerging technologies, geothermal and solar, in a commercial setting,'' said John Wayne Barker, executive director of Merrick Inc. "We've taken an ugly duckling -- this building -- and turned it into a swan. Hopefully we'll inspire others to do the same.''

The 100-kilowatt project reflects the rise of large-scale solar experiments in Minnesota, said Stacy Miller, solar administrator at the Minnesota Office of Energy Security. Of the 250 or so solar installations, the average-sized project is just four kilowatts, she said.
From the newsletter of Energy Concepts:
With the help of Energy Concepts, the Merrick building in Vadnais Heights, recently broke a record for solar installations in Minnesota. Lined up on its flat roof just south of St. Paul, 108 solar modules are daily converting the sun’s energy into electricity. The 130,000 kilowatts it is expected to generate annually will be the highest ever for a single Minnesota project and represents fully 10% of installed solar capacity in the Gopher State.

Designed by Energy Concept’s Craig Tarr, the solar installation powers the company’s underground geo-thermal system, which provides most of the building’s heating and cooling.

“It’s a biggie,” Tarr says, “and represents a new level of achievement in terms of combining solar and geo-thermal at one site. Senator Klobuchar, the Governor—they have VIPs visiting that site almost every day.”

Minnesota and Wisconsin, despite their stereotype of being cold and dark, actually, according to Tarr, have excellent overall solar potential.

Mayor will accept $400,000 grant at solar conference

From a media release issued by Milwaukee Shines:
On Thursday, October 23rd, Milwaukee will host the fourth annual Solar Decade Conference at the Midwest Airlines Center, expected to draw 400 people. Sponsored by We Energies, Focus on Energy and the Wisconsin Green Building Alliance, the conference will focus on reducing the informational, economic and procedural barriers to solar energy proliferation in the region.

“The benefits of solar energy are great,” said Mayor Tom Barrett, “Not only does solar energy provide power from a secure domestic source, promote sustainable urban development, and support greenhouse gas reduction targets, but advancing solar technology creates new economic opportunities for our residents and businesses.”

Also during the conference, Mayor Tom Barrett will accept a grant of $200,000 from Tom Kimbis, Director of Market Transformation for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Program. Earlier this year, the City of Milwaukee was named one of America’s 25 Solar Cities by the Department of Energy because of its commitment to solar technology adoption. This grant was awarded at that time.

Roman Draba, Vice President of Regulatory Affairs & Policy at We Energies will present a matching grant also in the amount of $200,000.

The awards are intended to accelerate solar adoption in cities by supporting their innovative efforts with financial and technical assistance. Selected cities are those prepared to make a comprehensive, city-wide approach to solar technology that facilitates its mainstream adoption.
The Solar Decade Conference, open to the public, will feature "renowned industry experts as they discuss the benefits of solar energy for your home, business and career!"

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Alliant files "closing arguments" on Cassville plant

From a media release issued by Alliant:

MADISON, WI – October 17, 2008 – A decision on the future of the Nelson Dewey Generating Station is just weeks away. The final phase of the regulatory process kicked off today, as Wisconsin Power and Light Company (WPL), a subsidiary of Alliant Energy Corporation (NYSE: LNT), filed its . . . brief in the case.

The brief highlights that no generating facility in Wisconsin history has ever provided the varied benefits that Nelson Dewey 3 will bring. These benefits include helping to jump start the biofuels economy in Wisconsin and establishing an estimated $50 million dollars annually in economic development from that market, creating much-needed jobs for southwest Wisconsin during the construction and operation of the plant, and increasing the transmission import capability into the state by as much as 600 megawatts.

Also addressed in the brief is the importance of strong ratemaking principles to the project. Ratemaking principles define how construction costs will be recovered in utility rates throughout the life of the generating facility. “These are clearly challenging economic times for all of us,” said William D. Harvey, Chairman, President, and CEO – Alliant Energy. “We are thankful that, in Wisconsin, our regulators have the ability to fix the financial parameters for the lifetime of the project. That certainty can help provide our customers and our company with stability, which, now more than ever, is critical.”

The proposed 300 megawatt plant will have the ability to burn not only coal, but also switchgrass (native prairie grass), corn stalks and waste wood from area fields and forests. The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) is considering WPL’s proposal, with final briefs in the docket due at the end of this month. The PSCW is expected to issue an oral decision about the future of the project in mid-November, with a written order due in mid-December.

Green Max Home

From a story by Sarah Rasmussen on WEAU News:

We've all heard of building energy efficient homes, but with a new grant, a Black River Falls couple is taking their plans to the extreme.

The Chambers' are building a Green Max, net zero home that will produce just as much energy as it consumes.

Tom Chambers says the overall cost is $325,000 to build, but a $50,000 grant from Wisconsin Public Power Inc. and an additional $16,000 in energy incentives will help them complete this technological wonder.

After more than a year of planning and several blueprints later, the chambers are finally able to build their Green Max home.

"We always, both of us have been conscious of sustainability and conservation,” Chambers says.

Solar panels will help the home produce energy, but there are many other energy saving aspects in the home to help it break even.

"First thing you have to do is build a home that is isolated from everything exterior,” Chambers says.

"We've added additional foam insulation under the basement slab. There's two inches of foam there. There's two inches of foam on the exterior of the basement walls. You can see we've added an inch of foam all the way around the exterior of the wall,” says General Contractor Todd Paige.

He says they built the home using 2x8s instead of 2x6s to increase the amount of insulation in the walls.

Another interesting aspect of the home is the windows. For example, the windows on the west side of the house will be treated to let more heat from the sun in during the winter, while the windows on north side of the house have been treated to block heat from the sun during the summer.

The Chambers’ home will be heated by a geothermal heating system.

Habitat for Humanity Open House features solar installation, Oct. 22

From a media advisory issued by Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity:
Focus on Energy, along with a coalition of renewable energy organizations, have partnered with Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity in an effort to build sustainable and affordable homes by installing 11 solar hot water systems and nine photovoltaic systems on 20 Habitat homes. In celebration of the completed project, there will be an Open House on Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2008 from noon to 3 p.m. at 3022 N. 7th Street in Milwaukee.

The incorporation of solar technology on MHH homes was a pilot project which offered the unique opportunity to train future contractors in the solar industry by allowing them to gain hands-on experience. The goal was to help build a stronger solar base in the greater Milwaukee area and bring those in the industry together.

Future homeowners will be educated about how their systems work and will be enrolled in the We Energies buy-back program that will significantly reduce or eliminate their energy bills.

To learn more about Focus on Energy and its Renewable Energy Program, call (800) 762-7077 or visit www.focusonenergy.com.

Monday, October 20, 2008

SC Johnson touts renewable energy commitment

From a media release issued by SC Johnson:

RACINE, Wis., Oct 17, 2008 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Innovation isn't just the hallmark of SC Johnson's products, it's also fundamental to how its products are made. That's why when consumers reach for a can of Pledge(R) furniture polish produced with green energy, or a Ziploc(R) bag made with wind power, they can feel good knowing their purchase is from a company that's doing what's right for people and the planet.

In fact, one in every two U.S. households(1) is making a difference by using an SC Johnson product around their home, such as Windex(R), Pledge(R), Ziploc(R), Glade(R), Raid(R) or Scrubbing Bubbles(R), all of which are made using renewable energy. That's nearly 57 percent of U.S. households -- or 66.2 million families -- making a difference when they buy SC Johnson products.

This important point of difference is highlighted in a new advertisement from SC Johnson, featuring company Chairman and CEO Fisk Johnson. The ad highlights the company's innovative use of clean and efficient alternative energy sources at its manufacturing operations in Michigan and Wisconsin, and in Medan, Indonesia. "We're reducing greenhouse gases all over the world," Johnson says in the 30-second television spot airing in the United States. "So when you reach for Windex(R), Pledge(R), or any SC Johnson product, you can feel good about it."

Among the alternative energy innovations highlighted in the ad are:

-- SC Johnson's use of wind power electricity for its Bay City, Michigan factory that produces Ziploc(R) brand products, a move that replaces almost half the factory's annual purchase of coal-fired electricity and helps keep 29,500 tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere annually.

-- Its use of cogeneration turbines to produce green energy utilizing methane piped in from a local public landfill as well as natural gas. SC Johnson's cogeneration turbines generate the entire average daily base-load electrical demand of its largest global plant, in Racine, Wisconsin.

-- The company's construction in Medan, Indonesia of an innovative burner/boiler system that runs on palm shells, the remaining waste of the palm oil industry. By transferring this former waste product into a fuel source, the system has cut greenhouse gas emissions at the Medan factory by more than 15 percent and reduced use of diesel fuel by 60 percent.

Grass, trees might be next fuel source

From an article by Joe Knight in the Eau Claire Leader Telegram:
The technology to make ethanol out of grass or trees may be several years away, but that doesn't mean northwestern Wisconsin has to wait to begin developing biomass energy, said Andrew Dane, UW-Extension agent in Chippewa and Barron counties.

Biomass can be used for heating - about three-fourths of the total energy used in Wisconsin is for heating, Dane said. Biomass also can be used to heat boilers, as Xcel Energy is doing to produce electricity at its power plant in Ashland, he said. Xcel is in the process of converting the plant from generating with a combination of coal and wood to all-wood generation.

Two ethanol plants in western Wisconsin are replacing natural gas with corn stover or other biomass to fire their boilers, he said.

"It all comes down to the resources - what we can grow and aggregate and market and distribute," he said.

Switchgrass, corn stover - what's left of the corn plant after the corn grain is removed - other crop residues and short-rotation woody plants are things that can be used now for heating, and later for ethanol, when a process is found to make ethanol from cellulose, he said.

Cellulose is a major component of plants and trees.

"We have short-term opportunities to position our region to take advantage of this (ethanol form cellulose) when and if it becomes technologically viable," he said.

Wood burning is the most familiar form of biomass energy in use. The wood used doesn't have to be from logs. Wood chips or wood scraps pressed into pellets will work.

Several schools in northern Wisconsin already are heating with wood chips.

The Shell Lake school district is using wood chips and corn.

In Barron an elementary school, high school, community center, nursing home and office of Marshfield Clinic all are heated through a wood-chip-burning system. Now school officials are adding a cooling unit to air condition with wood energy.

There are new wood-pellet-producing plants going into Hayward, Ladysmith and Ashland, Dane said. . . .

Friday, October 17, 2008

Time to broaden definition of what's sustainable


The all-electric vehicles from
Columbia ParCar offer one transportation
alternative to the internal combusion engine. (Photo courtesy of
Columbia ParCar, Reedsburg, WI.)


From an editorial in The Thomah Journal:

For all the attention the banking and insurance bailouts have received -- and anything that involves $1 trillion of taxpayer money deserves attention -- it’s only a short-term fix to what ails the American economy and American living arrangements. To solve its long-term problems, America needs a new sustainability agenda.

Unfortunately, discussions of sustainability are limited to the poor and whether it’s possible, for example, to guarantee adequate health care for everyone. That’s a very narrow definition. We need a broader view of sustainability that examines:

* Mobility. Exurban lifestyles in which people live in big houses and drive big automobiles to jobs located 30, 40 or 50 miles away impose a huge cost on the economy and environment. We need an agenda of sustainable neighborhoods that require us to drive fewer miles -- or not at all -- to meet basic needs.

* Energy. It’s unclear how much oil lies beneath the earth’s surface, but this much is beyond dispute: oil is a finite resource, and it will run out some day. It’s not too early to invest in clean, renewable energy sources and develop an alternative to the internal combustion engine. . . .

A nation that can massively subsidize exurban sprawl, non-renewable energy, corporate farms and pre-emptive war is capable of sustaining a sturdy safety net for our sickest, poorest and most vulnerable citizens. It’s just a matter of leaders adopting a new vision of what’s sustainable and what needs to change.

Gundersen Lutheran 'Going Green'

From a story by Mark McPherson on WKBT, La Crosse:

Every day, Gundersen Lutheran works to help patients get better. Now through a new initiative they are working to help the enviroment as well.

Gundersen Lutheran's Going Green program is something they say makes sense for everyone. "We can improve our enviroment and reduce the cost of our operation at the same time," said Gundersen Lutheran Senior V.P. of Business Services Jerry Arndt. Arndt feels it's especially important for a hospital to try and save energy considering how much they consume. "Hospitals use 2 1/2 times more energy than a commercial office building would for example," said Arndt.

The program will include small changes like turning off lights and computers, but includes bigger initiatives like solar panels on the new parking ramp and using methane emissions from the City Brewery to create electricity.

Milwaukee urban farmer recogized for vision of food future

From an article by Karen Herzog and Lee Berquist in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Will Allen was cutting heads of lettuce in a farm field when his cell phone rang.

The caller told him to put down his knife. He had good news:

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, known for its annual award of “genius” grants, was giving Allen $500,000 — no strings attached.

Allen is not your typical farmer. He is the founder of Growing Power, a nonprofit farm in the middle of Milwaukee that raises fresh produce for underserved populations with high rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

The son of an illiterate laborer, Allen has been a leading figure in urban agriculture for a decade. Thanks to the growth of the local foods movement, and now the MacArthur fellowship, his approach of melding sustainable farming and mentoring kids is gaining broader attention.

At 6 feet 7 inches tall and 280 pounds, Allen is a former professional basketball player with the biceps of an NFL lineman.

He is not a table-pounder, but he is passionate about his long-held beliefs: Good food helps build healthy communities, and the costs of relying on food that travels long distances have become too great.

“You have to figure out how to grow food closer to where people live,” Allen, 59, said in an interview in his office crammed with boxes of yellow tomatoes and bags of greens.

“We are in a worldwide food crisis and worldwide energy crisis.”

Time to broaden definition of what's sustainable


The all-electric vehicles from
Columbia ParCar offer one transportation
alternative to the internal combusion engine. (Photo courtesy of
Columbia ParCar, Reedsburg, WI.)


From an editorial in The Thomah Journal:

For all the attention the banking and insurance bailouts have received -- and anything that involves $1 trillion of taxpayer money deserves attention -- it’s only a short-term fix to what ails the American economy and American living arrangements. To solve its long-term problems, America needs a new sustainability agenda.

Unfortunately, discussions of sustainability are limited to the poor and whether it’s possible, for example, to guarantee adequate health care for everyone. That’s a very narrow definition. We need a broader view of sustainability that examines:

* Mobility. Exurban lifestyles in which people live in big houses and drive big automobiles to jobs located 30, 40 or 50 miles away impose a huge cost on the economy and environment. We need an agenda of sustainable neighborhoods that require us to drive fewer miles -- or not at all -- to meet basic needs.

* Energy. It’s unclear how much oil lies beneath the earth’s surface, but this much is beyond dispute: oil is a finite resource, and it will run out some day. It’s not too early to invest in clean, renewable energy sources and develop an alternative to the internal combustion engine. . . .

A nation that can massively subsidize exurban sprawl, non-renewable energy, corporate farms and pre-emptive war is capable of sustaining a sturdy safety net for our sickest, poorest and most vulnerable citizens. It’s just a matter of leaders adopting a new vision of what’s sustainable and what needs to change.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Eau Claire sustainability planning sets November workshop

From the sustainability Web site of the City of Eau Claire:

A series of Community Workshops will be held in the River Rooms on the ground floor of Royal Credit Union Corporate Center, 200 Riverfront Terrace, Eau Claire, 54703. The next workshop is on November 6, 2008 at 7 p.m.

Racine wants green for housing project

From an article by Dustin Block in The Daily Reporter:

Ken Lumpkin cautions against poor timing as Racine closes in on building an environmentally sound housing development in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.

“The whole area needs to be cleared out, new sod put down, and the lot should be utilized as a park until the economy makes a turnaround,” said Lumpkin, a member of the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Racine, about the site of a former homeless shelter torn down earlier this year to make room for development.

“It’s a fragile area directly across the street from an elementary school,” he said. . . .

The city hired Pragmatic Construction LLC, Milwaukee, for preliminary work on the site, and the city is reviewing the results, O’Connell said. He said he wants to give a report to the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Racine, which is in charge of the project, by November.

The challenge for developers of the green housing project is to build affordable new homes in a neighborhood with deteriorating housing stock, said Juli Kaufmann, co-owner of Pragmatic. Homes surrounding the property are valued at about $50,000, according to Racine County property tax data.

But the green, high-efficiency homes Pragmatic specializes in could be the perfect fit for a low-income neighborhood, Kaufmann said. With lower heating and gas bills, the homes would be cheap to run, and they’re built from durable materials that eliminate the need to paint or repair exteriors.

“We certainly think about that, and our clients talk about that,” Kaufmann said. “It’s on the table. The objective would be to figure out how to build reasonably affordable homes with homes across the street selling for $50,000. It’s impossible to build any size home at that price today.”

The city likely would support construction of a spec home on the site and then recruit builders to take on a certain number of lots on the property, O’Connell said. The property could support roughly 10 homes, and could possibly include multifamily homes.

O’Connell said building green homes keeps to the city’s commitment to environmentally responsible construction and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Eau Claire looks toward energy efficiency

From a story by Kelly Schlicht on WEAU News:
There's a lot of buzz about converting old light fixtures and other appliances to new, energy efficient ones, and if the City Council approves a measure at Tuesday's meeting [Sept. 23], the city of Eau Claire could be joining that trend.

18 different stoplights around the city have yet to be changed over to more efficient LED light bulbs, which will save the city money and help save the environment.

But changing a light bulb is just the beginning of the proposed upgrades.

Change is also in the air for this old ventilation system at the Eau Claire city garage, as the city looks to replace it with a new, more efficient model.

"We can run the system intermittently, instead of consistently, which reduces our energy costs, says Eau Claire Public Works Director Brian Amundson.

Grant County leads state in switchgrass, biomass potential

From a media release issued by Better Environmental Solutions:

Platteville--Southwest Badger Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Council, Inc, the Driftless Area Initiative (DAI) and Alliant Energy highlighted six prairie restorations where farmers are planting switchgrass and prairie plants to determine the best management practices to maximize switchgrass yields in Southwest Wisconsin. The biomass field day toured two test plots planted this spring on the Jim and Terry Schaefer farm and the Dan Schaefer farm.

“Planting switchgrass is a great crop for our highly erodible fields,” said Jim Schaefer. “We are looking to develop ways to grow and create more markets for grass and other biomass crops for energy and fuels.”

Grant County has more than 300,000 acres of highly erodible land, but only 33,000 acre are enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to protect it. These test plots allow farmers and researchers to try various strategies to restore native prairie and switchgrass.

“With all the interest in switchgrass and biomass, we wanted to start some test plots to see what we could do to provide fuel for proposed projects in the area,” said Steve Bertjens, coordinator with Southwest Badger RC&D.

“Grant County and southwest Wisconsin are the buckle of the biomass belt and have the best biomass reserves in the state with more than 6.8 tons of potential fuel nearby,” said Brett Hulsey, president of Better Environmental Solutions, an environment and energy consulting firm.

“Restoring switchgrass and native prairie is one of the most effective ways to reduce global warming, provide homes for birds and wildlife, reduce flooding, and clean up our streams.”

Milwaukee's Hot Water Products picked by State for solar hot water services

From a media release posted on marketwatch.com:

TORONTO, Oct 15, 2008 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Mondial Energy Inc. of Toronto, Canada and Hot Water Products of Milwaukee, Wisconsin are pleased to announce that their partnership was selected as one of two renewable energy providers for solar thermal energy services to State of Wisconsin facilities. The state facilities which could potentially purchase solar thermal services from this contract include the 26 campuses of the University of Wisconsin, Department of Correctional institutions, and other State owned buildings.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Renewable energy needed to cut mercury pollution

A letter by Kristin Charipar to the editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
The Oct. 5 article "Strict mercury rules likely to take effect" did not mention a key element: According to the Energy Information Administration, two-thirds of Wisconsin's electricity comes from coal-fired generation. If Wisconsin used more sustainable and less polluting forms for electricity, this mercury rule would not be so controversial.

Wisconsin needs to move toward sustainable energy policies. I fully support the proposed mercury rule because it will give electric companies an additional incentive to stop proposing coal power plants (which not only release mercury but also lots of greenhouse gas emissions) and invest in renewable energy instead. This is rule is taking a step in the right direction by focusing on humanity (our environment and health) rather than a monthly bill.

I applaud the Department of Natural Resources for its work on the mercury rule and hope the government will continue to move toward policies that will make Wisconsin a clean and green place to live.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Apply for assistance before heating season begins

From an article on Living Lake Country:
The Wisconsin Department of Administration’s (DOA) Division of Energy Services and the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) urge energy customers to contact their local utility if their heat is currently disconnected. The agencies also encourage residents to take advantage of energy-efficiency programs and the state’s low-income bill payment assistance programs to reduce the burden of their utility bills this winter.

Wisconsin law states that consumers cannot be disconnected during the heating moratorium period from Nov. 1 through April 15, if they are connected at the start of the moratorium. Customers who are currently disconnected must make arrangements with their local utility to pay outstanding bills to have their service restored. If a consumer has not made arrangements to pay an outstanding bill, the utility is not required to reconnect the service until payment arrangements have been made.

Payment agreements
Consumers who need to set up a payment agreement should call We Energies at (800) 842-4565. If customers cannot reach an agreement with their utility, they may contact the PSC at (608) 266-2001 or (800) 225-7729.

Energy assistance
There is financial assistance available for eligible households who cannot pay their gas or electric bills this winter. The Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP) administers low-income and energy assistance programs for the state. WHEAP is part of the state’s comprehensive Home Energy Plus program which also provides assistance with emergency energy needs, emergency furnace repairs, and weatherization and conservation services.

Eligibility is based on income and family size. For example, a family of four which earns $7,743.75 or less in the three months prior to applying for assistance is potentially eligible. For a two-person family the earnings must be $5,133.75 or less. Benefits are based on income levels and energy bills. Consumers do not have to be behind in their energy bill payments to qualify.

For information about WHEAP, including contact information for local energy assistance offices, call 1(866) 432-8947) or visit www.homeenergyplus.wi.gov.

Sign up for heating assistance before season begins

From an article on Living Lake Country:
The Wisconsin Department of Administration’s (DOA) Division of Energy Services and the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) urge energy customers to contact their local utility if their heat is currently disconnected. The agencies also encourage residents to take advantage of energy-efficiency programs and the state’s low-income bill payment assistance programs to reduce the burden of their utility bills this winter.

Wisconsin law states that consumers cannot be disconnected during the heating moratorium period from Nov. 1 through April 15, if they are connected at the start of the moratorium. Customers who are currently disconnected must make arrangements with their local utility to pay outstanding bills to have their service restored. If a consumer has not made arrangements to pay an outstanding bill, the utility is not required to reconnect the service until payment arrangements have been made.

Payment agreements
Consumers who need to set up a payment agreement should call We Energies at (800) 842-4565. If customers cannot reach an agreement with their utility, they may contact the PSC at (608) 266-2001 or (800) 225-7729.

Energy assistance
There is financial assistance available for eligible households who cannot pay their gas or electric bills this winter. The Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP) administers low-income and energy assistance programs for the state. WHEAP is part of the state’s comprehensive Home Energy Plus program which also provides assistance with emergency energy needs, emergency furnace repairs, and weatherization and conservation services.

Eligibility is based on income and family size. For example, a family of four which earns $7,743.75 or less in the three months prior to applying for assistance is potentially eligible. For a two-person family the earnings must be $5,133.75 or less. Benefits are based on income levels and energy bills. Consumers do not have to be behind in their energy bill payments to qualify.

For information about WHEAP, including contact information for local energy assistance offices, call 1(866) 432-8947) or visit www.homeenergyplus.wi.gov.

Sign up for heating assistance before season begins

From an article on Living Lake Country:
The Wisconsin Department of Administration’s (DOA) Division of Energy Services and the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) urge energy customers to contact their local utility if their heat is currently disconnected. The agencies also encourage residents to take advantage of energy-efficiency programs and the state’s low-income bill payment assistance programs to reduce the burden of their utility bills this winter.

Wisconsin law states that consumers cannot be disconnected during the heating moratorium period from Nov. 1 through April 15, if they are connected at the start of the moratorium. Customers who are currently disconnected must make arrangements with their local utility to pay outstanding bills to have their service restored. If a consumer has not made arrangements to pay an outstanding bill, the utility is not required to reconnect the service until payment arrangements have been made.

Payment agreements
Consumers who need to set up a payment agreement should call We Energies at (800) 842-4565. If customers cannot reach an agreement with their utility, they may contact the PSC at (608) 266-2001 or (800) 225-7729.

Energy assistance
There is financial assistance available for eligible households who cannot pay their gas or electric bills this winter. The Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP) administers low-income and energy assistance programs for the state. WHEAP is part of the state’s comprehensive Home Energy Plus program which also provides assistance with emergency energy needs, emergency furnace repairs, and weatherization and conservation services.

Eligibility is based on income and family size. For example, a family of four which earns $7,743.75 or less in the three months prior to applying for assistance is potentially eligible. For a two-person family the earnings must be $5,133.75 or less. Benefits are based on income levels and energy bills. Consumers do not have to be behind in their energy bill payments to qualify.

For information about WHEAP, including contact information for local energy assistance offices, call 1(866) 432-8947) or visit www.homeenergyplus.wi.gov.

Coverage of RENEW by others

2008
11.13.08 Public Service Commission takes a stand against coal, Isthmus (Madison, WI)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Forward Wind Center open for public tours, Oct. 22





















Invenergy, the wind project developer, invites the public to attend the Forward Energy Center Open House.

When: October 22, 2008
Open House: 1-6 PM
Tours start on the half hour from 1:00 to 5:30 PM
Brownsville Community Club
871 Main St., Brownsville (on Hwy 49)

Come learn more about the Forward Energy Center and how wind power benefits Wisconsin.

Forward began operations in February 2008, becoming one of the first large-scale wind energy projects in Wisconsin. Forward is owned and operated by Chicago-based Invenergy, which is implementing one of the largest programs of wind development in the United States, Canada and Europe, and is committed to building strong relationships with landowners, communities and utility customers.

Please wear appropriate shoes for walking on uneven surfaces. Reservations are not required.

For more information, contact Susan Dennison at sdennnison@invenergyllc.com

Caravans of wind turbines routed through state; Minnesota aims to be model for wind transport

From a media release posted on BusinessNorth.com:

Duluth, Minn – Caravans of specially-built trucks, accompanied by escort vehicles and state patrol cars have been heading out of the Port of Duluth most every morning since June, loaded with wind turbine components destined for wind energy farms across the Midwest. The pace of that movement is about to pick up as one wind energy leader, in particular, ramps up delivery schedules.

Not surprising, as the demand for wind energy has expanded so, too, has heavy truck traffic. Often those vehicles face road restrictions due to over-weight/over-dimensional (OW/OD) loads and must be rerouted along some circuitous routes to avoid bridges, tight turns, and road construction. As such, motorists along city streets and rural roadways have had to wait patiently while an increasing number of oversized vehicles pass by loaded with huge, white towers, blades, nacelles, hubs and spinners. Freight handlers indicate that those traffic patterns may intensify during the next month as final shipments of wind components head west and south before the snow flies.

Some of these units, the nacelles, weigh 180,000+ pounds. Top tower sections alone are over 100 feet long, with blades measuring up to 150 feet. Permits to haul the majority of OW/OD loads require at least one escort vehicle and a state trooper. For one manufacturer alone, Siemens, there have been four (4) permitted, escorted loads leaving Duluth almost daily this summer carrying nacelles and tower sections, plus an additional six “smaller” trucks loaded with hubs and spinners.

Milwaukee searches for solar contractors

From a story by Sean Ryan in The Daily Reporter:

Milwaukee wants its hometown builders to reap the benefits of a surge in solar energy, but the contractors that do that work are from Madison.

Hiring Madison talent both increases project costs and sends cash to out-of-town businesses, said Ann Beier, director of Milwaukee’s Office of Environmental Sustainability.

“We want the jobs here,” she said. “It’s pure and simple. We want Milwaukee residents to do the work.”

But Milwaukee doesn’t have contractors with the necessary certifications to draw public money for solar energy projects. Focus on Energy, the Madison-based group that offers grants for solar projects, requires contractors have experience and education before installing photovoltaic panels.

Most Focus on Energy-sponsored projects use Madison contractors, said Niels Wolter, solar electric program manager for the organization.

“Of course, that adds to the cost (in Milwaukee),” he said, “and of course Milwaukee wants to keep its money in the city.”

Focus on Energy requires contractors to take weeklong solar-installation courses before working on a project, Wolter said. Then, by the time contractors have worked on a maximum of nine projects, they must get certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners Inc.

Banks, like Focus on Energy, don’t like financing projects if the contractor installing the panels is not certified, said Don Albinger, vice president of renewable energy solutions for Johnson Controls Inc., Milwaukee. But he said there are not many classes to prepare contractors to take the exams.
The Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) offers the necessary classes.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Oconomowoc utility and others making renewable energy easy to use

From a story by Matthew Inda in Living Lake Country:

City of Oconomowoc - One thing that makes Oconomowoc unique is its publicly owned utility company, which strives for environmental efficiency and cheaper prices.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, Oct. 13, adults and children have an opportunity to visit the Oconomowoc Utilities office, 808 S. Worthington St., for an open house that will educate everyone about the local power plant, as well as give customers a chance to purchase blocks of renewable energy.

“You get to learn about all the different things the utility does, and specifically green power,” said Lisa Geason-Bauer, owner and marketing director of Evolution Marketing, and consultant of the Oconomowoc Utilities open house.

Open house visitors can learn about the utility that they, as customers, partially own, and can help the utility become more efficient.

One of the first steps in doing so is for customers to sign up to purchase blocks of renewable energy, varied amounts of kilowatts per hour, by which customers can essentially increase the amount of green energy used in their home.

For example, if someone purchases one block of energy for the $3 price tag, they will receive and be charged for 300 kilowatts per hour of renewable energy that is likely coming from wind power, according to Greg Hoffmann, energy service representative for Wisconsin Pubic Power Inc., the regional public power company to which Oconomowoc Utilities belongs.

Two blocks of energy, or 600 kilowatts per hour, would be $6, three blocks (900 kilowatts) would be $9, and so on.

So if a household used 900 kilowatts per hour of electricity in one month, but bought three blocks of renewable energy, then their household would be using 100-percent renewable energy. Hoffmann said the price of the renewable energy, whether $3, $6 or incrementally greater, is tacked on to whatever that home’s monthly bill is.

Hoffmann said the concept is one that many public and private power companies are using, whether it is wind-, solar- or hydro-based.

Palin's Folly

by Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin
October 7, 2008

What three things do Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria and Venezuela have in common? The first commonality is that they are among the top 10 leading exporters of petroleum worldwide, which is another way of saying that they are the biggest accumulators of foreign cash on the planet.

Commonality No. 2: Gasoline prices in those nations are lower than they are in the United States. The swollen river of revenues that flows into their national treasuries enables these governments to subsidize the price of motor fuel sold to their citizens. In Iran, the portion of federal revenues spent on maintaining price caps on gasoline approaches an astonishing 40%. . . .

Considering the finite nature of their chief exports, these nations would do well to reinvest their windfalls into domestically developable sources of wind and solar energy, to name two energy sources that do not have decline curves associated with them. However, that brings up Commonality No. 3, which is their shared aversion to all energy sources that have the capacity to displace oil and natural gas in some capacity. Renewable energy sources like wind and solar certainly figure prominently in that category.

It is nothing short of amazing to watch these nations squander their colossal fortunes on ephemeral social control measures that only hasten the drawdown of their most economically valuable resource. Subsidizing gasoline is simply a wealth distribution scheme that discounts the future for the present. Its legacy will be to leave billions of people without the capital to invest in building up a sustainable energy future.

Under more enlightened regimes, these nations would be plowing their retained earnings into technologies that harvest locally available self-replenishing energy sources to serve future citizens. They would make it a point of emulating Germany, a nation bereft of native oil and gas reserves but certainly not lacking in foresight and political will. Cloudy skies and weak winds notwithstanding, Germany is deploying considerable amounts of social and financial capital to retool its energy infrastructure so that it can take full advantage of its modest solar ration.

In contrast to Germany, there is not a single commercial wind turbine operating in Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Venezuela and Russia. While Mexico and Iran look like go-getters by comparison, their efforts to date amount to less than one-half of Wisconsin’s current wind generating capacity. Moreover, even at this late date, oil-exporting nations have invested only a piddling amount of their capital investments in solar energy.

To demonstrate the aversion that oil-exporting jurisdictions have towards renewable energy, consider the example of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. According to Michael T. Klare, who covers defense and foreign policy for The Nation, Alaska is a “classic petrostate,” featuring a political system that is “geared toward the maximization of oil ‘rents’--royalties and other income derived from energy firms--to the neglect of other economic activities.”

Among the economic activities neglected is renewable energy development. Like Russia, with which Alaska shares a “narrow maritime border,” Alaska does not have a single utility-scale wind turbine in operation, a rather remarkable statistic given its sprawling size and a wind resource that in certain locations can be accurately described as “screaming.” But as long oil revenues are sufficient to allow Alaska to dispense with a state income tax, renewable energy development will remain in a deep freeze.

In a recent article, Klare recounts a talk Palin gave at a February 2008 meeting of the National Governors Association, where she said that “the conventional resources we have can fill the gap between now and when new technologies become economically competitive and don’t require subsidies.”

When asked to elaborate on that point, Palin’s antipathy towards renewable energy was revealed. “I just don’t want things to get out of hand with incentives for renewables, particularly since they imply subsidies, while ignoring the fuels we already have on hand,” Palin said.

Had those words been uttered by the Secretary General of OPEC, they would have been forgotten in a matter of seconds. Coming from someone who could become the next vice president, however, is cause for consternation, in that she is clearly recommending a course of action that would invariably lead to greater dependency on oil.

Certainly, the Palin prescription would reverse the decline in oil revenues propping up Alaska’s state government. But the amount of petroleum that could be extracted in 2020 from Alaska and the Outer Continental Shelf is trifling compared with current U.S. imports of Mexican crude. Even if a mini-surge of petroleum materialized as a result of a McCain-Palin energy policy that put Alaska’s wishes above the best interests of the other 49 states, it wouldn’t even compensate for the declining yields from such aging oilfields as Cantarell or Prudhoe Bay, let alone achieve the chimerical goal of energy independence.

Like the other petrostates of the world, Alaska has no Plan B to fall back on when its endowment of fossil fuels is no longer sufficient to support a state government in the style to which it is accustomed. Let us hope and pray that the voters of the other 49 states see the “drill, baby, drill” mantra for the folly it is, and reject it out of hand in favor of an energy policy that stresses energy security through conservation and renewable energy development.

Sources and complete article here.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Xcel to use wood chips for electricity at plant in northern Wisconsin

From a story by Thomas Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Xcel Energy Inc. will announce today that its power plant in northern Wisconsin will be the largest in the Midwest to make electricity by burning wood chips.

The utility will invest $55 million to $70 million to convert a coal-fired boiler to one that would convert chipped waste wood from northern Wisconsin’s forests into a gas for power production.

Xcel is an eight-state utility company based in Minneapolis. Its Wisconsin electric and natural gas utility is based in Eau Claire.

The initiative is part of Xcel’s strategy to become a leader in production of renewable energy, a plan that could reap financial rewards if the federal government moves to regulate emissions linked to global warming.

Through its wind farms based primarily in Minnesota, Xcel is the largest producer of wind energy in the country, according to the American Wind Energy Association. The company also has 19 dams generating hydroelectric power on rivers in northern Wisconsin.

The Ashland power plant consists of three boilers, two of which burn both biomass and a small amount of coal, and one that burns coal exclusively. The new proposal, to be filed with state regulators this fall, would replace that coal-only boiler with a biomass-to-gas system, company spokesman Brian Elwood said.

One concern, he said, was whether there would be enough waste wood to supply the plant. A study by the Madison-based Energy Center of Wisconsin found there would be enough wood left after forests are logged to supply an expansion, he said.
And from a media release issued by Xcel:

In 2006, Xcel Energy funded a study with the Energy Center of Wisconsin to investigate the amount of biomass that could be removed from Wisconsin's forests to support sustainable energy resources and any associated environmental impacts. The study concluded that area forests within a 50-mile radius of the Bay Front Power Plant could support additional biomass removal without adverse impacts to the local ecosystem. Dedicated biomass energy plantations could ultimately provide a portion of the plant’s increased biomass needs, with additional benefits from carbon sequestration.

"Xcel Energy has been a long-time leader in providing renewable energy from local sources to the citizens of Wisconsin," said Michael Vickerman, executive director, RENEW Wisconsin. "This biomass initiative continues that tradition."

Mark Redsten, executive director, Clean Wisconsin, agreed.

"This project will both lessen Wisconsin's reliance on imported fossil fuels and propel us closer to the renewable energy goals of Gov. Doyle's Task Force on Global Warming," Redsten said.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Propane, heating oil users face costly winter

From an article by Anne Jungen and Samantha Marcus and in the La Crosse Tribune:

Kate Pahl’s December heating bill sent chills down her spine. A new homeowner, Pahl lowered the temperature in her three-bedroom, town of Greenfield mobile home -- first from 72 to 65 degrees, and finally to 55.

Still, her monthly propane bill rose from $200 to $400 to $600.

The dance was maddening.

“(Last) winter was horrible, and it wasn’t even that cold,” the 22-year-old said. “I realize I live in a trailer. I realize it doesn’t have the greatest insulation. But I pay more for this than my parents pay for a three-story house.”

She and her father crawled underneath adding insulation, and she planned to later add weather stripping and tape her windows.

“I’m going to basically wrap my whole place in Saran Wrap,” she mused late in the summer.

But as cold weather months approached, Pahl decided not to stick around and find out what this winter has in store. Last week she sold her home.

“I know this winter would just kill me,” Pahl said. “I knew I would not be able to handle it by myself.”

All Wisconsin residents will be paying more to heat their homes this year, but propane and heating oil customers will be hit especially hard.

Without the cover of government intervention, they are at the mercy of the free market and lack a cold weather rule keeping them warm if the tank runs dry. . . .

How to save on your heating bill
+ If you are a propane or heating oil customer, fill your tank during early fall when prices are lower.
+ Weatherize your home with proper insulation; caulk and weather strip windows and doors.
+ Install a programmable thermostat, and lower the temperature when you’re away or sleeping.
+ Open drapes and shades to let sunlight heat your home; close them in the evening to prevent heat from escaping.
+ Make sure heating vents are not blocked.
+ Use plastic window coverings to reduce drafts.
+ Use furnaces and appliances that are Energy Star qualified.
+ Clean or replace furnace filters monthly.
+ Close the damper in fireplaces when not in use.
+ Close doors to rooms not being used.
Learn about more energy savings ideas and renewable energy options at Focus on Energy.

Forward Wind Center open for public tours, Oct. 22

Invenergy, the wind project developer, invites the public to attend the Forward Energy Center Open House.

When: October 22, 2008
Open House: 1-6 PM
Tours start on the half hour from 1:00 to 5:30 PM
Brownsville Community Club
871 Main St., Brownsville (on Hwy 49)

Come learn more about the Forward Energy Center and how wind power benefits Wisconsin.

Forward began operations in February 2008, becoming one of the first large-scale wind energy projects in Wisconsin. Forward is owned and operated by Chicago-based Invenergy, which is implementing one of the largest programs of wind development in the United States, Canada and Europe, and is committed to building strong relationships with landowners, communities and utility customers.

Please wear appropriate shoes for walking on uneven surfaces. Reservations are not required.

For more information, contact Susan Dennison at sdennnison@invenergyllc.com

Monday, October 6, 2008

Congress extends tax credits for solar and wind projects

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

The $700 billion package designed to help the financial industry will result in more Wisconsin homeowners installing solar panels on the roofs of their houses in the years to come, energy industry observers said Friday.

A package of energy tax credits, adopted as part of the bailout deal, will extend for eight years the tax credit for homeowners considering adding solar.

Energy tax credits had been set to expire at the end of the year until they were included in the Wall Street bailout package.

What's significant about the solar credit, industry observers said, is the decision to remove a $2,000 cap on a federal tax credit for installing solar panels.

That means that a typical solar-electric system that costs about $16,000 is now eligible for a 30% tax credit, or $4,800, said Michael Vickerman, executive director of Renew Wisconsin, a Madison group that advocates for renewable energy.

Word that the bill had passed in the House came as visitors toured homes and businesses with solar panels across the state Friday, as part of the annual Solar Tour sponsored by the Midwest Renewable Energy Association. The tours continue today.

In Milwaukee, Ann Beier, head of the Milwaukee Office of Sustainability, heard about the congressional vote during a solar tour stop at Hot Water Products Inc., a distributor of solar-hot water systems.

"It raised the mood quite a bit, because there had been such fits and starts on reinstating these tax credits," said Beier, whose office will kick off the Milwaukee Shines solar-education program this month.

The incentive should boost interest by homeowners in installing solar panels, said Don Wichert, who runs renewable energy initiatives for the state Focus on Energy program.

"With all the stuff that is going on right now with the economy, this is a happening market," he said. "There will not be layoffs in the solar and renewable market for a long time."

Other energy pieces included in the Wall Street bailout package include an extension of wind-energy tax credits for one year.

Animation shows how solar electricity and hot water work

From Focus on Energy:

It’s a great time to protect the environment, reduce your carbon footprint and save money in the long run. Do it all by installing a solar electric or solar hot water system.

Solar electric systems: capture solar energy and transform it into electricity. Click here to learn more and see how solar electric systems work.

Solar hot water systems: use the sun to heat water and then store it for extended periods, right on your property, making plenty of hot water available for showers, laundry and dishes. Click here to learn more and see how solar hot water systems work.

Right now, there are valuable financial incentives* available that can significantly reduce the cost of these systems:

+ 30% federal tax credit up to $2,000 (expires December 31, 2008)
+ Cash-Back Reward of up to 25% for project costs
+ Site Assessment co-funding of up to 60%
+ An additional $500 bonus for owners of Wisconsin ENERGY STAR® Homes or existing homes that have gone through the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program
+ For multi-family buildings or other businesses, implementation grants are available to install solar projects

Visit focusonenergy.com/renewable to learn more about solar and available financial incentives or to sign up for our Renewable eNewsletter.

What's the payback? Don't ask.

From an article by Randy Hanson in the Hudson Star-Observer:

Craig Tarr has grown mildly impatient with people who ask what the payback is on the solar energy systems he designs.

“I don’t like to discuss things in terms of payback,” he says. “My question to that is, when you bought your plasma TV was there a payback? Or did you do it because you wanted to, and it brought comfort to your life?”

For the people who buy his solar energy systems, part of the payback is knowing that they have reduced their carbon footprint.

Craig Tarr, a professional engineer, earns about half of his income by designing renewable energy systems. His goal is to make renewable energy 100 percent of his business within two or three years.

Tarr is the founder of Energy Concepts, a two-year-old renewable energy business located at 2349 Willis Miller Drive in Hudson’s St. Croix Business Park. He’s formed a partnership with Paul Steiner of Steiner Plumbing, Electric & Heating of River Falls, which installs the solar and wind energy systems that Tarr custom designs for homes and businesses.

Solar energy systems are still quite pricey, but a cash-back reward from Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy program and a $2,000 tax credit from the federal government help reduce the sticker shock.

According to Tarr, a solar hot-water system for a family of four at a price of $11,000 to $12,000 is the best buy for residential customers.

Focus on Energy provides a 20 percent cash-back reward on renewable energy systems, which reduces the price of a $12,000 system by $2,400. The $2,000 federal tax reduction further lowers the price of a $12,000 system to $7,600.

Area Xcel Energy and St. Croix Gas customers are eligible for the Focus on Energy rebate. St. Croix Electric Cooperative doesn’t participate in the program and its customers aren’t eligible for the rebate.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Palin's Folly

by Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin
October 7, 2008

What three things do Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria and Venezuela have in common? The first commonality is that they are among the top 10 leading exporters of petroleum worldwide, which is another way of saying that they are the biggest accumulators of foreign cash on the planet.

Commonality No. 2: Gasoline prices in those nations are lower than they are in the United States. The swollen river of revenues that flows into their national treasuries enables these governments to subsidize the price of motor fuel sold to their citizens. In Iran, the portion of federal revenues spent on maintaining price caps on gasoline approaches an astonishing 40%.

This is worth a moment’s rumination. Under this arrangement, the profits from petroleum exports are immediately distributed to the car-driving public in the form of inexpensive gasoline. However, that kind of share-the-wealth policy presents trade-offs to their governments. Yes, rising oil prices will fatten their treasuries, but the outflows required to hold down domestic gasoline prices will also swell, potentially offsetting the revenue increase.

Moreover, the artificially low price of motor fuel encourages more domestic consumption, which eats into the percentage of petroleum that can be sold to foreign countries. This becomes particularly problematic in nations that are struggling to keep extraction volumes from declining, as with Mexico, whose output peaked in 2004. Since then export volumes have fallen by 15%, due to plummeting yields from Cantarell, which until recently was the world’s most productive oilfield outside Saudi Arabia. Indeed, the combination of declining petroleum exports and subsidized gasoline is guaranteed to result in permanent economic austerity for that nation.

Considering the finite nature of their chief exports, these nations would do well to reinvest their windfalls into domestically developable sources of wind and solar energy, to name two energy sources that do not have decline curves associated with them. However, that brings up Commonality No. 3, which is their shared aversion to all energy sources that have the capacity to displace oil and natural gas in some capacity. Renewable energy sources like wind and solar certainly figure prominently in that category.

It is nothing short of amazing to watch these nations squander their colossal fortunes on ephemeral social control measures that only hasten the drawdown of their most economically valuable resource. Subsidizing gasoline is simply a wealth distribution scheme that discounts the future for the present. Its legacy will be to leave billions of people without the capital to invest in building up a sustainable energy future.

Under more enlightened regimes, these nations would be plowing their retained earnings into technologies that harvest locally available self-replenishing energy sources to serve future citizens. They would make it a point of emulating Germany, a nation bereft of native oil and gas reserves but certainly not lacking in foresight and political will. Cloudy skies and weak winds notwithstanding, Germany is deploying considerable amounts of social and financial capital to retool its energy infrastructure so that it can take full advantage of its modest solar ration.

In contrast to Germany, there is not a single commercial wind turbine operating in Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Venezuela and Russia. While Mexico and Iran look like go-getters by comparison, their efforts to date amount to less than one-half of Wisconsin’s current wind generating capacity. Moreover, even at this late date, oil-exporting nations have invested only a piddling amount of their capital investments in solar energy.

To demonstrate the aversion that oil-exporting jurisdictions have towards renewable energy, consider the example of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. According to Michael T. Klare, who covers defense and foreign policy for The Nation, Alaska is a “classic petrostate,” featuring a political system that is “geared toward the maximization of oil ‘rents’--royalties and other income derived from energy firms--to the neglect of other economic activities.”

Among the economic activities neglected is renewable energy development. Like Russia, with which Alaska shares a “narrow maritime border,” Alaska does not have a single utility-scale wind turbine in operation, a rather remarkable statistic given its sprawling size and a wind resource that in certain locations can be accurately described as “screaming.” But as long oil revenues are sufficient to allow Alaska to dispense with a state income tax, renewable energy development will remain in a deep freeze.

In a recent article, Klare recounts a talk Palin gave at a February 2008 meeting of the National Governors Association, where she said that “the conventional resources we have can fill the gap between now and when new technologies become economically competitive and don’t require subsidies.”

When asked to elaborate on that point, Palin’s antipathy towards renewable energy was revealed. “I just don’t want things to get out of hand with incentives for renewables, particularly since they imply subsidies, while ignoring the fuels we already have on hand,” Palin said.

Had those words been uttered by the Secretary General of OPEC, they would have been forgotten in a matter of seconds. Coming from someone who could become the next vice president, however, is cause for consternation, in that she is clearly recommending a course of action that would invariably lead to greater dependency on oil.

Certainly, the Palin prescription would reverse the decline in oil revenues propping up Alaska’s state government. But the amount of petroleum that could be extracted in 2020 from Alaska and the Outer Continental Shelf is trifling compared with current U.S. imports of Mexican crude. Even if a mini-surge of petroleum materialized as a result of a McCain-Palin energy policy that put Alaska’s wishes above the best interests of the other 49 states, it wouldn’t even compensate for the declining yields from such aging oilfields as Cantarell or Prudhoe Bay, let alone achieve the chimerical goal of energy independence.

Like the other petrostates of the world, Alaska has no Plan B to fall back on when its endowment of fossil fuels is no longer sufficient to support a state government in the style to which it is accustomed. Let us hope and pray that the voters of the other 49 states see the “drill, baby, drill” mantra for the folly it is, and reject it out of hand in favor of an energy policy that stresses energy security through conservation and renewable energy development.

Sources:

“Palin’s Petropolitics.” Klare, Michael T., The Nation, September 17, 2008.
http://www.thenation.com/doc/20081006/klare

“Gas Subsidies and Iran.” Cohen, Dave, Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas – USA, July 5, 2007.
http://www.aspo-usa.com/index.php?Itemid=91&id=165&option=com_content&task=view

----------------

Michael Vickerman is executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a sustainable energy advocacy organization. For more information on the global and national petroleum and natural gas supply picture, visit "The End of Cheap Oil" section in RENEW Wisconsin's web site: www.renewwisconsin.org. These commentaries also posted on RENEW’s blog: http://renewenergyblog.wordpress.com, and Madison Peak Oil Group’s blog: http://www.madisonpeakoil-blog.blogspot.com