Search This Blog

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Onalaska schools save energy and money

From an article by Bob Seaquist in the Onalaska Holmen Life Courier:

Saving energy in small ways is saving the Onalaska School District big money. Doug Hause, the district’s energy director told the Onalaska Board of Education Monday night the effort has saved $446,058 over the past 24 months. That is a 30 percent drop from what energy expenditures would have been without the program.

“We don’t suddenly have $400,000 sitting there but just have $400,000 less in expenses,” Superintendent John Burnett said.
In the past two years Onalaska schools spent $1,096,427 for energy.

The district contracts with Energy Education Inc., paying the firm about $88,500 per year in a four-year contract.

The company estimates the school district will save $4.5 million over a 10-year period if it sticks with the effort, Hauser said.

Remarkably, energy savings continue piling up even though the program is going into its third year. Hauser said a “plateau” has not occurred because there are “so many ways n facets n to save energy.” He gives extra credit to building head custodians who keep looking for ways to cut electricity, heat and air conditioning waste.

Transit backers' quest for financing may get results soon

From an article by Larry Sandler and Patrick Marley in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Wisconsin's public transit supporters have their best chance in years to win long-sought funding for buses and proposed commuter trains.

But that's no guarantee they'll get it - or that what they get will pay for everything they want.

Heading into next year's state budget debates, key elements are in place to overhaul transit finance: the passage of a Milwaukee County advisory referendum seeking a local sales tax for transit and other services; growing support from legislators, Gov. Jim Doyle and the business community for buses and KRM Commuter Link trains; a sense of urgency that the cash-strapped Milwaukee County Transit System is running out of time; and a statewide coalition that reaches beyond southeastern Wisconsin into Dane County and the Fox Valley.

Also in place, however, are the same factors that have blocked a solution until now: Conflicting agendas from Milwaukee-area politicians; and fear that voters will punish lawmakers who raise sales taxes.

For years, transit advocates have sought to take buses off the property tax and out of competition with other local services for funding. Sales taxes support most other major U.S. transit systems, but Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker and others have opposed new taxes here.

While the issue has been debated, the Milwaukee County bus system has been caught in a cycle of fare increases, service cuts and falling ridership as federal funds dwindle. Without new state or local funding, the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission and the Public Policy Forum have warned that the bus system could face a 35% service cut by 2010.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Sustainable Eau Claire meeting, Dec. 1

From a post on a site called Volumne One:

Meet to plan programs and projects for upcoming year, and informational update on Eau Claire's progress towards area sustainability.

7:00 p.m.
Unitarian Universalist Congregation
835-1733
421 S. Farwell St.
Eau Claire, WI

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Eau Claire Energy Cooperative offers green power

From the Evergreen page of the Eau Claire Energy Cooperative:

Evergreen is a voluntary renewable energy (green power) program available to your home, farm, or business through Eau Claire Energy Cooperative, a member-cooperative of the Dairyland Power system. Evergreen is for those who want to do more to support renewable energy generation.

This is how it works:
1. You choose one of the Evergreen Levels listed below.
2. For each block (100 kWh) you will be purchasing that amount of energy from a renewable energy source.
3. Your energy bill will be charged the additional cost (see chart below) to help offset the cost it takes to support renewable energy.
4. A one year subscription is required, but after that you can cancel at any time.

MOSES announces organic conference details for 2009

From the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES)announcement of the 2009 Organic Farming Conference, February 26-28, 2009, in La Cross

An extraordinary, farmer-centered event, the Organic Farming Conference is the largest organic farming conference in the U.S. In 2008, more than 2,300 people attended, with participants traveling from 37 states and 1 foreign country. Sponsored by the Wisconsin-based Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES), the conference is celebrated as the foremost educational and networking event in the organic farming community.

The conference is highly regarded due to its practical workshops designed to help beginning, transitional, and experienced organic farmers.

Congress for the New Urbanism meeting, Dec. 3

Congress for the New Urbanism
CNU Wisconsin Group

Invites you to attend a great local opportunity to become involved in CNU and meet professionals and others with similar interests.

Presenting: “New Urbanism and You”

With Guest Speaker: Steve Filmanowicz, Communications Director, Congress for the New Urbanism

Steve will speak about the benefits of walkable urban development, ranging from more livable communities, to reduced carbon emissions – plus, how CNU is working to remove the barriers that stand in the way of great neighborhoods and sound transportation systems.

MILWAUKEE
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
5pm (light snacks served)
Office of Engberg Anderson Design Partnership
320 E. Buffalo - Corner of Milwaukee & Buffalo Streets, 53202
Take elevator to 5th Floor
Doors open until 6pm

Note: The CNU Wisconsin Group is developing a chapter of the national Congress for the New Urbanism - which seeks to expand its influence and capabilities through chapters. For questions, call Joan Herriges at 414-289-7685, or email joanherriges@yahoo.com.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Principles and work of Sustainable Dunn

From the Web site of Sustainable Dunn:

Sustainable Dunn will be guided by the following principles:

1. Minimize use of fossils fuels and minerals taken from the Earth.
2. Minimize dependence on manmade chemicals.
3. Minimize harm to the natural world.
4. Meet human needs fairly and efficiently with minimal impact on the environment

To this end, Sustainable Dunn will work to:

1. Raise awareness about the threat global climate change, and other environmental degradation, poses to life on this planet.
2. Raise awareness about the negative impacts of natural resource depletion (e.g, water, oil, etc).
3. Raise awareness about what actions individuals can take to create an environmentally and economically sound present and future.
4. Develop policy recommendations regarding actions government and business can take to create an environmentally and economically sound present and future.
5. Initiate projects in the community to create an environmentally and economically sound present and future.
6. Increase participation in local sustainability efforts.

Report on power project forum

A report on WXOW News 19 (La Crosse) about a public forum on a power project called CapX 2020:

La Crosse, WI (WXOW)- It's a highly controversial project. Opponents claim these 150 foot tall towers placed every one thousand feet would have a detrimental impact on the environment and wildlife. They also claim there are better options to meeting growing energy needs.

Utilities like Xcel Energy and Dairyland Power support the lines saying it's necessary to meet the growing demands for energy.

It's called CapX 2020. The powerlines would start in the Dakotas and continue through Rochester and through the La Crosse Area. Those with Xcel say regional electric use has grown by 80-percent since the early 1980s. Attorney Carol oOerland is against the power lines says there's alternatives like renewable energy and conservation.

"And we don't need it. There is other ways to generate electricity. We can use wind and gas combos. It's just not needed," says Carol Overland, Attorney.

"The lines, it's about growth. For example, in the La Crosse metro area you have 20% growth in the last 20 years in the entire Rochester region has seen 50 percent growth," Says Xcel Energy Communications and Public Affairs Manager, Tim Carlsgaard.

This is something both the state of Minnesota and Wisconsin will decide. State and federal permits are both needed as well in order for high voltage transmission lines to be built.

Dependable transit vital to Milwaukee’s future

An opinion piece by Michael Grebe in The Business Joournal:

As gas prices fluctuate and the economy trudges along, sustainable, dependable modes of transit will be critical to keeping our local economy from stagnating. If southeastern Wisconsin desires economic growth and prosperity for citizens, we must follow peer cities nationwide and invest in our current transit systems and new initiatives encouraging economic development in the region.

The Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) must be properly funded so it can continue to provide critical service and access to jobs and educational opportunities in this community. Routes should be restored and frequency of buses increased. Continuing to cut funding and service to this system is an added blow to the populations hardest hit by these economic times.

To complement bus service and connect local residents to nearly a million jobs in the corridor linking this region to Chicago, the proposed Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter rail would expand the pool of potential jobs and employees for this region and promote economic development. Connecting with other transit options such as buses and shuttles, it would provide southeastern Wisconsin with the full-service mass transit system it needs, creating an infrastructure linking people to jobs to support economic growth in this community.

Southeastern Wisconsin is one of the few metro regions of our size that funds transit with property taxes. Recently, the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) supported removing bus transit from the property tax and enacting up to 0.5 percent sales tax to fund transit.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Eau Claire seeks input on more sustainable comprehensive plan, Dec. 11

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

Sustainability “is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This definition has come to mean not only meeting human needs, but environmental and economic as well. Thus, to do its part, the City of Eau Claire is conducting a process to amend its Comprehensive Plan addressing green issues more adequately.

Eau Claire’s Comprehensive Plan has won ‘Excellence in Planning’ awards by the Wisconsin Chapter of American Planner’s Association for both our 1993 and 2005 plans. Although there are many sustainable development goals, objectives and policies already listed in the 2005 plan, more could be addressed in the areas of energy, recycling, waste, green buildings, food production, and climate change. Thus, this amendment process will seek community input on these and other issues as we increase our efforts towards creating an even more sustainable future.

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, WI, 54703. The next workshop is on December 11, 2008 at 7 p.m.

La Crosse company sells natural gas-powered car

From a report on WISC-TV:

LA CROSSE, Wis. -- With gas prices still hovering above $2 per gallon, imagine paying as little as $1.25 a gallon to run a car.

Such a cost savings comes not from gasoline, but instead pumping a fuel that many of people already use to heat their home or to cook a meal.

Natural gas is a fuel that is readily available, produced in North America and is virtually pollution free. According to current designs, a compressed natural gas-powered vehicle could hypothetically be filled up in home's garage every night.

A version of this vehicle is available today in Wisconsin.

A Honda Civic looks just like any other sedan seen on the road, but it isn't. The Civic has a trick up its sleeve.

"This car is fueled by American-produced natural gas," said Chris Schneider, president of Honda Motorwerks in La Crosse. "It's stored as a gas and I should say, when we talk about gas, we are usually referring to gasoline that's stored as a liquid. This is stored as a gas."

Coal to sustain We Energies bills

From an article by Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
The falling price of natural gas could result in a small refund to We Energies electricity customers early next year, but the Milwaukee utility is forecasting a big jump in the price of another fuel it uses in its power plants - coal.

The utility is forecasting a jump of $100 million, or 25% in the amount of money it plans to spend on coal next year, utility spokesman Brian Manthey said.

The key drivers of the higher cost: rises in market prices for coal and transportation expense by rail from Wyoming and Colorado. Also factoring in, to a lesser degree, Manthey said, is the need to buy more coal next year as the first of two new coal plants under construction in Oak Creek prepares to start generating power.

Two months ago, the utility signaled to investors that it might have to raise prices for customers next year because of rising coal costs. But the slowdown in the economy and the resulting drop in natural gas prices has made that less likely, Manthey said.

The typical We Energies customer using 750 kilowatt-hours a month currently pays $89.23 per month for electricity.

The company raised prices three times this year for a total of 9%. One increase was to cover the costs of the utility's power plant construction program and other projects. The other two came in response to soaring fuel prices. The state's other utilities have also raised fuel prices at least once this year.

Based on November bills, We Energies customers' monthly bills are lower than those of three of the five investor-owned utilities in the state. Customers of two Madison utilities and one in Green Bay pay more, while customers of Xcel Energy Corp.'s Eau Claire utility pay less.

As recently as two months ago We Energies said soaring fuel costs would reduce its 2008 profit by as much as $20 million to $40 million from the company's business plan, but the drop in natural gas prices since the summer now means customers could see a refund early next year.

"Whether or not there will be a refund and how much money would be refunded will be known after the books are closed in December," Manthey said.

But the drop in natural gas prices could help customers on their heating, or natural gas, side of their monthly utility bill if gas prices remain low, Manthey said.

Another increase on electricity bills will hit We Energies customers in January. The increase, authorized earlier this year by the state Public Service Commission, will amount to a jump of nearly 4%, or nearly $4 a month for the average residential customer, pushing the monthly bill to $93.07.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Four priorities for Conservation Lobby Day, Feb. 25, 2009

From an announcement issued by the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters:

With a new legislative session comes new opportunities AND new Conservation Priorities! At the 11 Listening Sessions held around the state, local groups and citizens like YOU had a lot to say about which issues should be top priorities. In the end, only 4 can rise to the top.

In 2009-2010, the conservation community will be fighting to make sure:

+ Wisconsin adopts a strong statewide plan to tackle global warming.
+ Wisconsin returns to an Independent DNR Secretary and has timely DNR Board Appointments by the Senate.
+ Wisconsin develops a statewide plan to protect our drinking water.
+ Wisconsin creates standards for safe agricultural, industrial and municipal waste-spreading. . . .

On February 25th, 2009, join citizens from across Wisconsin at the state Capitol to tell legislators that you expect them to vote well on natural resource issues.

RSVP TODAY for Conservation Lobby Day on February 25th, 2009!

Climate change a priority for Conservation Lobby Day, Feb. 25


From an announcement issued by the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters:

With a new legislative session comes new opportunities AND new Conservation Priorities! At the 11 Listening Sessions held around the state, local groups and citizens like YOU had a lot to say about which issues should be top priorities. In the end, only 4 can rise to the top.

In 2009-2010, the conservation community will be fighting to make sure:

+ Wisconsin adopts a strong statewide plan to tackle global warming.
+ Wisconsin returns to an Independent DNR Secretary and has timely DNR Board Appointments by the Senate.
+ Wisconsin develops a statewide plan to protect our drinking water.
+ Wisconsin creates standards for safe agricultural, industrial and municipal waste-spreading. . . .

On February 25th, 2009, join citizens from across Wisconsin at the state Capitol to tell legislators that you expect them to vote well on natural resource issues.

RSVP TODAY for Conservation Lobby Day on February 25th, 2009!

Four priorities set for Conservation Lobby Day, Feb. 25, 2009


From an announcement issued by the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters:

With a new legislative session comes new opportunities AND new Conservation Priorities! At the 11 Listening Sessions held around the state, local groups and citizens like YOU had a lot to say about which issues should be top priorities. In the end, only 4 can rise to the top.

In 2009-2010, the conservation community will be fighting to make sure:

+ Wisconsin adopts a strong statewide plan to tackle global warming.
+ Wisconsin returns to an Independent DNR Secretary and has timely DNR Board Appointments by the Senate.
+ Wisconsin develops a statewide plan to protect our drinking water.
+ Wisconsin creates standards for safe agricultural, industrial and municipal waste-spreading. . . .

On February 25th, 2009, join citizens from across Wisconsin at the state Capitol to tell legislators that you expect them to vote well on natural resource issues.

RSVP TODAY for Conservation Lobby Day on February 25th, 2009!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

MATC-Mequon dedicates wind turbine

From a media release issued by Milwaukee Area Technical College:

A ribbon cutting ceremony celebrating the erection of a wind turbine at Milwaukee Area Technical College’s Mequon Campus was held at the campus Nov. 12. The 160-foot tall unit with a blade diameter of 56 feet is the largest wind turbine on a college campus in the state. It is part of a sustainability initiative designed to educate students and the public about renewable energy technologies. . . .

Located at the south end of the campus building, the 90-kilowatt, V-17 turbine is a remanufactured unit made in Denmark by Vestas, the world’s largest manufacturer of turbines. It does not feed electricity to We Energies but supplies power directly to the Mequon Campus. . It will directly provide about 8 percent of the campus’ electricity, saving taxpayer dollars.

The wind tower cost approximately $200,000, with grants of $57,000 from Focus on Energy and $25,000 from We Energies. The college expects to recoup its investment within eight years or less at current energy prices.


More on the wind turbine here.

Counties not counting on lower fuel costs

From an article by Dan Springer in the La Crosse Tribune:

Officials in area counties said while tumbling oil prices could provide some budget relief, they don’t trust the trend will last.

After talking about painfully steep costs for fuel, energy and asphalt for so long, county officials struggled to gauge what the recent falling prices might mean as they finalized annual budgets last week.

In the period between when most area counties established a preliminary budget and the 2009 plan was approved, the price of gasoline dropped as much as 46 percent, and the cost of energy was not far behind.

As La Crosse County leaders looked to whittle away at their 2009 budget, County Administrator Steve O’Malley suggested the board could lower its figures for fuel in the coming year.

As O’Malley expected, the idea wasn’t seriously considered.

“Do any of you have an idea where prices are going to go?” O’Malley asked at one meeting. “Maybe your crystal ball is clearer than mine, but I doubt the prices won’t go back up.”

Area county leaders agreed that banking on lower fuel-related costs would be a foolish move.

“We left it the same,” said Jeff Amo, first vice-chairman for the Jackson County Board. “We just don’t trust it’s going to stay there all next year.”

High fuel prices were to blame for Jackson County’s decision earlier this year to lay off workers in the highway department. Several of those workers since have been brought back, so the board would like nothing more than to see prices remain low to keep them on the job, Amo said.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

St. Croix Institute for Sustainable Community Development

From the institute's description of itself:

Founded in May of 2007, the Institute is a "go-to" resource for every context of "Sustainability in the St. Croix River Watershed." Besides the "walk the talk" service it provides to the UWRF campus community, it is the primary resource for regional, county, town, and municipal leaders seeking assistance with sustainable community development (SCD) in response to the myriad of environmental, social, and economic challenges.

Through a holistic, systems-thinking approach, Institute staff, faculty experts, student interns, and research teams from UWRF are coordinated to address the breadth and depth of comprehensive planning, development, and commercial issues that ultimately define the quality of “The River” and the quality of life in the valley.

This includes, but is not limited to:

+ Assisting the region in a comprehensive benchmarking and tracking of integrated data on ecologic integrity, social justice, and economic vitality;
+ Achieving maximum self-sufficiency and commercial value for local food, fuels, water, housing, transportation, native habitat, and carbon sequestration systems; and
+ Partnerships across all social contexts, from the arts to community health, job development, education, and other civic engagement initiatives.

Easy to understand fact sheets on energy tax credit

The Web site awkwardly called the Database for State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency hosts two useful fact sheets for any individual or business considering a renewable energy installation.

Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit covers these eligible renewable enrgies and technologies: Solar Water Heat, Photovoltaics, Wind, Fuel Cells, Geothermal Heat Pumps, Other Solar Electric Technologies

Business Energy Tax Credits covers these eligible renewable enrgies and technologies: Solar Water Heat, Solar Space Heat, Solar Thermal Electric, Solar Thermal Process Heat, Photovoltaics, Wind, Biomass, Geothermal Electric, Fuel Cells, Geothermal Heat Pumps, CHP/Cogeneration, Solar Hybrid Lighting, Direct Use Geothermal, Microturbines

Cheaper oil, financial meltdown toast ethanol industry

From an article by Mike Ivey posted on The Capital Times:

Well, one thing about the global recession - it sure brought oil prices down.

Just a few months ago it seemed certain that gasoline was headed toward $5 a gallon. Now, it's back below $2.50. If it falls much lower, maybe GM will consider reopening its monster truck factory in Janesville.

In all seriousness, however, you hope that cheaper gasoline doesn't distract Americans from the challenge at hand of reducing dependence on foreign oil while curbing air pollution.

But if history shows us anything, consumers have short memories when it comes to anything related to their automobiles.

What the financial meltdown has done though is deal yet another blow to the beleaguered ethanol industry which was just starting to get a real toehold in Wisconsin before the bottom fell out.

Man, this state has got bad timing.

First it completely missed the IT revolution of the 1980s.

Then it largely missed out on the ethanol boom of the 1990s as neighboring states like Iowa and Minnesota jumped in big time.

Now, with Wall Street in turmoil, dollars for new biofuel ventures are even harder to come by.

In June, North Prairie Productions abandoned plans to build a $42 million biodiesel plant near Evansville in Rock County. It would have been the largest in the state, producing an estimated 45 million gallons of fuel annually.

And the story is being repeated across the Heartland.

In Missouri alone, more than a dozen ethanol and biodiesel companies sought state regulatory approval in 2006 to recruit investors for projects in South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana and Iowa. Two years later, as many companies have failed or stalled as have finished their projects, according to a recent Associated Press report.

But I'm not crying over the biofuel bust.

From the beginning, it was little more than a government subsidized boondoggle that only put money in the pockets of huge corn growers like Archer Daniels while diverting attention from producing more efficient vehicles or encouraging transportation alternatives.

Moreover, from an air pollution standpoint, corn-based ethanol now appears to be a serious net loser when it comes to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, a major contributor to global warming.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Biomass buffers can increase farm income and much more

A media release issued by Better Environmental Solutions:

Wisconsin Dells — After record floods, Better Environmental Solutions today released a Biomass Flood Reduction Buffer Plan to help farmers restore buffers in floodplains to reduce flooding, provide biomass for power plants, increase farm income and cleaner water. Brett Hulsey, President of Better Enviro presented the plan at the annual meeting of the Wisconsin Association of Floodplain, Stormwater and Coastal Managers annual conference, “Change…How Will We Respond?” in Wisconsin Dells.

“These annual floods are tragic and biomass buffers can reduce the risk to flood victims and farmers, reduce pollution, grow fuel for power plants, and reduce the risks of extreme climate change,” said Hulsey.

Biomass buffers can also help clean up our streams and drinking water, help increase farm income, reduce crop loss and crop insurance payments, and improve habitat for people, fish and wildlife. Farmers would plant biomass buffers of native grasses like switchgrass, fast-growing willows and/or poplars to replace crops that are flooded each year. These buffers would be managed to optimize for flood protection, water quality, and biomass production for power plants and cellulosic ethanol production.

“We know buffers provide wildlife habitat, clean our water and reduce flooding,” said Tom Thrall, former state biologist of the Natural Resource Conservation Service. “The good news is that utilities and the state can contract with farmers to convert these floodplains to biomass.”

The Better Enviro analysis shows that farmers can make more from Biomass Buffers at $50/ton than with $4/bushel corn production.“We know that buffers and conservation must pay farmers, or they won’t stay,” said Hulsey. “Wisconsin has lost a higher percentage of Conservation Reserve Program lands than any other Midwest states and biomass buffers may be our best chance to protect our streams and produce fuel.”

A 2007 Better Enviro report, Cellulose Prairie, showed that Wisconsin has enough biomass to displace half its coal use, while restoring critical prairie habitat and reducing flooding. Sixty percent of Wisconsin’s renewable energy comes from biomass and wood now, 10 times more than wind and solar combined.

+++++++++++++++

Better Environmental Solutions is an energy and environmental consulting firm. Hulsey was the first non-governmental person to win FEMA’s Distinguished Public Service Award for helping people recover from floods and restoring wetland to reduce flooding. He has authored numerous reports on flood prevention like “Permitting Disaster,” “Subsidizing Disaster,” “Red River Rampage” and “Wetland Restoration in Waiting.” For more on the Biomass Buffer proposal, go to www.BetterEnviro.Com

RTA takes a good first step, but more is needed

From an opinion piece in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Cooperation among transit authority board members should be lauded, but many obstacles remain in keeping regional transit on track in southeastern Wisconsin.

After a vote last week to resolve a funding issue for regional mass transit, members of the board of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Transportation Authority broke into applause. It was well deserved.

On a 6-1 to vote, members representing the cities and counties of Kenosha, Racine and Milwaukee (one from each city and county, plus one appointed by the governor) agreed to ask the Legislature for authority to levy a sales tax of up to 0.5% for mass transit, including a commuter rail line, in the three counties.

Considering the time and effort it took to get this far and the fact that people in the region often have difficulty agreeing on whether Lake Michigan is wet, that's a significant accomplishment.

The board also asked the Legislature to turn the RTA into a permanent agency that would oversee all mass transit in the three counties, creating a coordinated regional mass transit system with seamless bus and commuter rail services. The RTA recommended that any transit sales tax replace property tax funding for public transit in Milwaukee, eastern Racine and Kenosha counties.

The assumption is that the sales tax would raise enough money to replace the property tax support for transit as well as to expand transit systems in Racine, Kenosha and Milwaukee and to build and operate a new commuter train line, the KRM Commuter Link, connecting Milwaukee and its southern suburbs to Racine and Kenosha.

The agreement came with two major compromises. The first was to ask the Legislature to also authorize municipalities to enact up to an additional 0.15% sales tax for public safety purposes, again primarily to ease the property tax burden. The second was to exclude the part of Racine County that is west of I-94. Residents there apparently are not convinced that they would benefit from public transit.

We're not particularly moved by either compromise. There is a good argument that public safety and protection of property are services that belong properly on the property tax. Furthermore, including an additional tax on top of the 0.5% transit tax may just confuse the issue for some legislators. As to western Racine County, we think it could benefit indirectly at first and perhaps directly later from mass transit services. Excluding it now is shortsighted.

Polk County: 25 X 25?

From a post by on Ecomunicipality.com:

Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle's Office of Energy Independence has received a good deal of support from folks in Polk County. Created by Governor Doyle on April 5, 2007 with the mission to advance energy independence in the State of Wisconsin, the goals of the OEI include:

1. Generating 25% of our state's electricity and transportation fuels from renewable resources by 2025.

2. Capturing 10% of the emerging bioindustry and renewable energy market by 2030.

3. Leading the nation in groundbreaking research that will make renewable energy more affordable and will create good paying Wisconsin jobs.

Last February the Polk County Renewable Energy Committee invited OEI representatives to meet with local elected officials at the Paradise Landing restaurant in Balsam Lake. Secretary of Agriculture Rod Nilsestuen joined in addressing the large group that came to learn how state and local governments might work together to lessen our dependence on energy sources from outside Wisconsin.

RENEW, Clean Wisconsin endorse Manitowoc wind project

Immediate release
November 17, 2008

More information
RENEW Wisconsin
Michael Vickerman
608.255.4044
mvickerman@renewwisconsin.org

Clean Wisconsin
Katie Nekola
608.251.7020, ext. 14
knekola@cleanwisconsin.org


Clean Energy Organizations Endorse Mishicot Wind Project


Representatives of Wisconsin’s leading sustainable energy organizations—Clean Wisconsin and RENEW Wisconsin--endorsed today a proposed seven-turbine windpower project currently under review by the Manitowoc County Board of Adjustment.

The project, proposed by Wisconsin-based Emerging Energies LLP, would be situated within the Town of Mishicot. The County’s Board of Adjustment is scheduled to deliberate further on Emerging Energies’ application at its next regularly scheduled meeting on November 17.

“We are impressed with many of the steps Emerging Energies is taking to spread the benefits of wind energy development to the host community, and especially to neighboring residents,” said RENEW Wisconsin Executive Director Michael Vickerman.

“Their Mishicot Wind Project has been a model of transparency and careful planning, right from the start.”

“The benefits from this project to Manitowoc County’s environment and economy are too great to ignore,” said Clean Wisconsin Energy Policy Director Katie Nekola. “The Mishicot Wind project deserves to be approved and built.”

Vickerman pointed to Emerging Energies’ commitment to incorporating industry “best practices” as another compelling reason why Manitowoc County should approve the project. Once the installation is energized, Emerging Energies plans to compensate neighboring residences within one-half mile of a wind turbine over the life of the project.

“RENEW commends Emerging Energies for volunteering to lead by example and abide by a set of development practices that we hope other developers will follow,” Vickerman said.

Blessed with some of the state’s strongest winds, Manitowoc County adopted a wind ordinance in 2004. Emerging Energies first proposed the Mishicot project in 2005. Progress since that time has been slowed by a countywide moratorium on wind development and the subsequent adoption of one of the most restrictive wind ordinances in Wisconsin.

“Emerging Energies has put together a stellar proposal that satisfies every reasonable public interest standard that can be applied to a wind project,” Nekola said. “The County has deliberated long enough on this matter. It deserves to be approved”

Friday, November 14, 2008

Eligibility relaxed for energy-efficiency assistance

More Wisconsin residents may now be eligible for Focus on Energy's assistance program which offers limited-income homeowners low-cost efficiency improvements to improve the comfort, safety and affordability of their homes. The assistance program called Targeted Home Performance with ENERGY STAR®, is now seeking applications from homeowners with incomes between 150-250 percent of the poverty level, which is a significant increase from the past maximum of 200 percent. To put the new maximum into perspective, a family of four's maximum eligible annual income increased to $53,000 from the previous $42,400. . . .

Targeted Home Performance with ENERGY STAR, is part of Focus on Energy, Wisconsin's energy efficiency and renewable energy program. Targeted Home Performance with ENERGY STAR offers qualifying homeowners a no-cost energy evaluation performed by a qualified program provider. Depending on the results of the evaluation, the home may receive energy efficiency improvements, such as adding insulation, finding and eliminating drafts, replacing an inefficient heating system, installing compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and more. Targeted Home Performance with ENERGY STAR will pay 90 percent of the costs of the energy efficiency improvements - the homeowner pays just 10 percent.

Energy efficient homes save energy and money all year long. In summer, a home that's properly sealed and insulated stays cooler and more comfortable, reducing the need for fans and air conditioners during hot daylight hours. In winter, energy efficient homes keep warm air inside, improving comfort and reducing heating costs during Wisconsin's coldest months.

Homeowners wishing to apply for Targeted Home Performance with ENERGY STAR are encouraged to call Focus on Energy at (800) 762-7077 or visit focusonenergy.com to download an application.

Eligibility relaxed for energy-efficiency assistance

From a media release issued by Focus on Energy:

More Wisconsin residents may now be eligible for Focus on Energy's assistance program which offers limited-income homeowners low-cost efficiency improvements to improve the comfort, safety and affordability of their homes. The assistance program called Targeted Home Performance with ENERGY STAR®, is now seeking applications from homeowners with incomes between 150-250 percent of the poverty level, which is a significant increase from the past maximum of 200 percent. To put the new maximum into perspective, a family of four's maximum eligible annual income increased to $53,000 from the previous $42,400. . . .

Targeted Home Performance with ENERGY STAR, is part of Focus on Energy, Wisconsin's energy efficiency and renewable energy program. Targeted Home Performance with ENERGY STAR offers qualifying homeowners a no-cost energy evaluation performed by a qualified program provider. Depending on the results of the evaluation, the home may receive energy efficiency improvements, such as adding insulation, finding and eliminating drafts, replacing an inefficient heating system, installing compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and more. Targeted Home Performance with ENERGY STAR will pay 90 percent of the costs of the energy efficiency improvements - the homeowner pays just 10 percent.

Energy efficient homes save energy and money all year long. In summer, a home that's properly sealed and insulated stays cooler and more comfortable, reducing the need for fans and air conditioners during hot daylight hours. In winter, energy efficient homes keep warm air inside, improving comfort and reducing heating costs during Wisconsin's coldest months.

Homeowners wishing to apply for Targeted Home Performance with ENERGY STAR are encouraged to call Focus on Energy at (800) 762-7077 or visit focusonenergy.com to download an application.

Eligibility relaxed for energy-efficiency assistance

From a media release issued by Focus on Energy:

More Wisconsin residents may now be eligible for Focus on Energy's assistance program which offers limited-income homeowners low-cost efficiency improvements to improve the comfort, safety and affordability of their homes. The assistance program called Targeted Home Performance with ENERGY STAR®, is now seeking applications from homeowners with incomes between 150-250 percent of the poverty level, which is a significant increase from the past maximum of 200 percent. To put the new maximum into perspective, a family of four's maximum eligible annual income increased to $53,000 from the previous $42,400. . . .

Targeted Home Performance with ENERGY STAR, is part of Focus on Energy, Wisconsin's energy efficiency and renewable energy program. Targeted Home Performance with ENERGY STAR offers qualifying homeowners a no-cost energy evaluation performed by a qualified program provider. Depending on the results of the evaluation, the home may receive energy efficiency improvements, such as adding insulation, finding and eliminating drafts, replacing an inefficient heating system, installing compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and more. Targeted Home Performance with ENERGY STAR will pay 90 percent of the costs of the energy efficiency improvements - the homeowner pays just 10 percent.

Energy efficient homes save energy and money all year long. In summer, a home that's properly sealed and insulated stays cooler and more comfortable, reducing the need for fans and air conditioners during hot daylight hours. In winter, energy efficient homes keep warm air inside, improving comfort and reducing heating costs during Wisconsin's coldest months.

Homeowners wishing to apply for Targeted Home Performance with ENERGY STAR are encouraged to call Focus on Energy at (800) 762-7077 or visit focusonenergy.com to download an application.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

$16 nearly gets you the effect of a wind turbine in your backyard

From an article by Julie Lawrence at OnMilwaukee.com
While new fuel efficient cars and home solar panels are some of the most powerful ways to reduce our carbon footprint, a $25,000 investment is usually out of the question for most college students who are already battling rapidly increasing education costs.

But what about spending $16? Two University of Wisconsin student entrepreneurs say it can go further than you might think.

Mechanical engineering major Ted Durkee and business partner Brandon Gador, a recent graduate of Madison's School of Business, launched Powered Green this past October to provide an economical way for anyone to support renewable energy.

Their product, Energy Seal, is a recycled aluminum laptop sticker that funds carbon offsets. At $16, the cost of the sticker covers the production of enough renewable energy to offset what an average laptop uses in its lifetime.

Amazingly, $14 is enough to subsidize the retail cost of the laptop's lifetime energy consumption, paying for wind turbines that create electricity. The remaining $2 is for the actual seal, visual evidence that promotes the buyer's support of the eco-friendly endeavor.

"It essentially has the effect of a wind turbine in your backyard without actually having one," explains Durkee, who partnered Power Green with Village Green Energy, a renewable energy credit distributor based in California.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Milwaukee company prez says biogas producers need buy-back rates that cover costs

group-lo-res
A Clear Horizons' employee (in the red shirt) leads a tour of the biodigester on the Crave Brothers Farm near Waterloo. The bags along the low wall contain potting soil that includes fiberous material left after the digestion process.

Michael Vickerman previously addressed the need for higher buy-back rates in two proceedings at the Public Service Commission -- the first in a rate case for Alliant Energy and the second in a WPS rate case. The rate issue ranks high on RENEW's agenda for the next two years.

The excerpts below from a guest editorial by Richard R. Pieper Sr., chairman of Milwaukee's PPC Partners Inc., in The Capital Times re-enforces Vickerman's argument:
I'm told the following: the world is going green and Wisconsin wants to grow its business base. I believe the former but not the latter, because the Public Service Commission, utilities and some politicians in this state seem to consider both ideas about as important as what cricket team is the current world champion.

I proudly admit to having a horse in this race or at least a cow in the shed. PPC Partners Inc. is one of Wisconsin's oldest, largest, employee-owned companies. It has over 1,000 employees throughout the U.S., but primarily in Wisconsin. It was started as Pieper Electric by my father, Julius Pieper, with five employees. We have an entrepreneurial spirit and believe in the creativity of Wisconsin workers.

In September, I was told by a group of CEOs that one of our cutting-edge subsidiaries, Clear Horizons LLC, should "locate in California, where you can get things done." We absolutely do not want to relocate this company. We do want Wisconsin to give more than lip service to supporting alternative sources of energy.

Here's what Clear Horizons does.

Clear Horizons has developed a solution to dairy farm manure disposal that not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions created by methane gas from the manure, but also provides enough alternative fuel from a herd of 750 cows to electrically power 200 homes. The equipment takes the methane and uses it to power engines that generate electricity which can be bought by utilities. A light bulb does not care if the current is produced by cows or coal. . . .

The lack of cooperation in this state has caused other companies like Microgy to leave for Texas. GHD, a similar company from Chilton, Wis., is doing work in Idaho and Mexico. Within the last 12 months, the states of California, Arizona and Vermont have passed legislation guaranteeing producers of biogas a minimum payment because those legislators understand America must become more energy independent, as well as reduce need for substations and transmission and subtransmission lines.

Jobs? Recent reports state green energy adds jobs. Every MW of biogas installed creates 35 jobs per year. The biogas potential in Wisconsin equates to 14,000 jobs created per year.

Currently, utilities have little incentive to promote alternative energy sources. They act according to federal mandates but are not creatively pursuing opportunities.

Cleaner air, more jobs; what's not to like? We're here. We're ready. We're necessary to the future of this state. We need some policies. Is anybody listening?

Westby Wind Energy project gets green light

From a story by Dorothy Jasperson in the Westby Times:
The Westby Wind Energy project is no longer just blowing in the wind after Westby City Council members agreed with a planning commission consensus to offer conditional use permits to Heartland Wind LLC.

The permits are for the implementation of three wind turbines on city-owned and annexed land west of Westby. Heartland Wind LLC is the Illinois limited liability company that will be leasing land from the city of Westby and Glen Stalsberg, who owns property adjacent to the city.

The contract easement will allow Heartland Wind LLC to lease the property for 20 years, conduct soil testing, studies and surveys and make payments of $1,000 per year, per turbine site during construction phase and $6,000 annually per turbine once they are operational.

After the 20-year lease has expired the company may offer two five-year renewals for a possible total 30-year contract. Heartland Wind LLC will be responsible for property taxes as a result of the turbine installation and carry a broad form insurance policy against any liabilities incurred with the project. If the project fails Heartland Wind LLC would be responsible for the removal of all the facilities, including foundations to a depth of 48 inches and all removal would have to occur with six months of the contract cancellation. . . .

The initial project calls for the construction of three wind generated turbines at a cost of $3-4 million dollars per unit, with construction anticipated to begin in 2009 or early 2010. Once operational the wind turbines could produce up to 100 percent of the energy now used by residents in the city of Westby, depending on wind speeds and electricity usage, but that doesn’t equate to a reduction in residential and commercial electric rates since the power generated by the turbines from the test project will be purchased as a whole by WPPI, the power purchaser for the Westby Utilities. The overall savings as more natural energy is generated throughout the state by projects like the one EcoEnergy is developing in Westby will be seen in future savings by all WPPI members, not initial reductions for customers living where the wind turbines are located.

State's only oil refinery still seeking supply partner

From an article by Shelley Nelson posted on RiverTowns.net:

Plans for a nearly seven-fold expansion of Murphy Oil's Superior refinery are on hold.

The company, headquartered in El Dorado, Ark., is putting the brakes on detailed design engineering until it can find a partner to provide a reliable source of bitumen crude from the Canadian oil sands to feed the expanded facility.

The proposed project would increase the refinery's processing capacity from 35,000 barrels of crude oil per day to 235,000 barrels per day, making the Superior refinery the largest rather than the smallest of Murphy Oil's three refineries worldwide.

The company also operates a 120,000 barrel-per-day refinery in Meraux, La., and a 108,000 barrel-per-day refinery in Mill Haven, Wales.

The refinery is the only oil refinery in the state.

If it happens, the $6 billion investment - the largest in Wisconsin history - could create 300 permanent jobs and 3,000 to 4,000 construction jobs.

"We've beaten down doors trying to find a partner for the project," said Jim Kowitz, interim manager of the Superior refinery. "We have not come up with a partner yet."

The company needs a partner to ensure a crude supply from the oil sands in Alberta, Canada, for the expanded facility. However, with crude prices hitting record highs, Murphy Oil has found no takers for the partnership.

"With dropping crude prices - if demand stays up - it may look more favorable for Canadian producers to invest in," Kowitz said. " When crude is $140 a barrel, they're making lots of money. When crude is $60 a barrel, they're not making near as much, and they might be interested in spending money to get into the U.S. fuels market rather than just be a crude supplier. That's our hope. If crude stays down for awhile, our project will look more attractive again."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

State panel rejects proposed coal-fired power plant

From a story by Anita Weier in The Capital Times:

The state Public Service Commission on Tuesday unanimously rejected a proposed 300-megawatt mostly coal-fired power plant proposed by Wisconsin Power & Light at Cassville.

In justifying their decision, commissioners cited the cost, inefficiency and carbon dioxide emissions of the plant.

"Based on the evidence, I find this particular project is not in the public interest," said PSC Chairman Eric Callisto.

"Public comment was really significant," said Commissioner Mark Meyer, praising the extent of public participation after he stated that he could not support the application because it did not meet fundamental requirements.

Commissioner Lauren Azar said the proposal would lock the state into a coal technology that may soon be obsolete.

RENEW’s reaction to decision on Cassville plant

Immediate release
November 11, 2008

More information
Michael Vickerman
608.332.1736 (cell)
608.819.0748 (office)

RENEW’s reaction to decision on Cassville plant

“In our eyes, Nelson Dewey 3 did not meet our criteria of a renewable energy facility,” said RENEW Executive Director Michael Vickerman. “The biomass component functioned as a sideshow to obscure the central premise of this plant, which is to burn nonrenewable Wyoming coal in a Wisconsin location. The truth is, there are far easier, more sustainable and less expensive ways to generate new sources of renewable energy in southwestern Wisconsin.”

“Approval of this plant, with its 80-20 coal-to-biomass fuel ratio, would actually make Governor Doyle’s goal of securing, by 2025, 25% of the energy from renewable energy resources a more difficult goal to attain,” Vickerman said. “We applaud the Commission for recognizing the incompatibility of Nelson Dewey 3 with the Administration’s environmental and economic development agenda.”

“Nelson Dewey 3 is an example of combining a 19th century fuel with 20th century combustion technology to tackle a 21st century problem,” Vickerman said. “We agree with the PSC that it clearly has no place in our future.”

Vickerman contrasted Alliant’s proposal with Xcel Energy’s recently announced proposal to convert Bay Front Power Plant in Ashland into a 100% biomass-fueled generating unit when completed. The proposal involves retrofitting an existing coal-fired unit with gasification technology to turn wood fuel and other biomass energy sources into a renewable gas, which will be fed into a new boiler.

“Unlike Nelson Dewey 3, what Xcel proposes to do would actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions from Wisconsin sources, not add to them,” Vickerman said. “Xcel’s initiative would actually reduce the state’s dependence on imported fossil fuels, not increase it.”

“The fact is, biomass energy generation can stand on its own two feet in the 21st century. Wisconsin doesn’t need a new coal plant just to make biomass a viable fuel. In fact, the state doesn’t need a coal plant, period,” Vickerman said.

END

RENEW Wisconsin is an independent, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that acts as a catalyst to advance a sustainable energy future through public policy and private sector initiatives. More information on RENEW’s Web site at www.renewwisconsin.org.

Transit board suggests sales tax for rail, buses for Kenosha, Milwaukee & Racine counties

From a story by David Steinkraus in The Journal Times (Racine):
A group representing three local counties and the governor is proposing a sales tax of up to .5 percent to fund public transit.

It’s easy to get lost in the details, but no one should ignore the magnitude of what happened on Monday morning, said Jody Karls, the city of Racine representative on the Regional Transit Authority.

What the RTA voted to do on Monday was ask the state to make it the permanent transit oversight body for southeast Wisconsin and to give it power to levy local sales taxes of up to 0.5 percent in each member area. That tax would fund the extension of Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter rail service from Kenosha through Racine and to Milwaukee, and would fund other transit modes such as city bus systems.

Beyond those specifics, Karls said, is the over-arching importance of having all the counties and municipalities along the potential KRM corridor speaking with a single voice.

He and other officials met with The Journal Times editorial board on Monday morning, a few hours after the RTA voted on its recommendations. It has a Nov. 15 deadline to report to Gov. Jim Doyle and the Legislature, and it would be up to them to grant the RTA’s requests.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Bayfield County wind energy project possible says assessment

From a story by Rick Olivo in The Daily Press:

Bayfield County could reasonably consider installing a commercial scale wind turbine on one of two possible locations in the county, says a preliminary assessment from a consulting professional engineer.

The report, released to members of the Bayfield County Board Executive Committee Thursday said a large-scale wind turbine would be "reasonably productive” if built on a Mount Ashwabay site or another Bayfield hills site west of the City of Bayfield.

"The county could either develop one of those sites or try to find a site closer to Washburn, where the wind turbine could be directly connected to its largest electric use buildings in Washburn," said Robert H, Owen Jr., of Superior Safety and Environmental Services of Middleton. Owen said the Mt. Ashwabay site was large enough to accommodate about 12 600-kilowatt turbines, with a few more potentially sited on the upper reaches of the ski slope property. Owen said in the report that the county could consider selling the output from the wind turbines to Xcel Energy, or deliver most of its output to county offices and sell just the surplus energy.

While Owen said much research was needed into the amount of wind available from the Bayfield area sites, he said the amount of energy available to a single 600-kilowatt turbine could add up to 1.23 million kilowatt hours a year. Nevertheless, he was careful to emphasize that his estimates concerning available wind energy were only preliminary and could be seriously overstating or understating the amount of energy actually available. He said an absolute necessity to come up with accurate figures was a wind-speed study that could last a year or more at the sites.

Nevertheless, he said because of predictable future increases in the cost of electrical energy, the amount Bayfield County pays for electricity, currently put at five cents per kilowatt hour, could increase to 50 cents per kilowatt hour by the year 2030.

Solar heating system attracts renewed interest at Urban Ecology Center in Washington Park

From an article by Dustin Block in The Daily Reporter:
Solar power, a renewable-energy casualty of the early 1990s slain by cheap fossil fuels, is showing signs of life.

The Urban Ecology Center in Milwaukee is reviving a solar-powered heating system at its community center in the county’s Washington Park.

The solar-thermal system was built in the late-1970s as an alternative source of energy during the oil boycott. But as energy prices fell in the U.S. in the 1980s, interest in renewable energy waned and the Washington Park system was shut down.

Joey Zocher, the Urban Ecology Center’s Washington Park program manager, estimated the solar power system is worth about $250,000. But it will take at least $100,000 to get the community center system running again, she said. The building also needs a new roof.

"The county is supportive,” Zocher said, “but we still have some money to find."

The story behind Washington Park's solar experiment encapsulates the country’s experience with renewable resources, said Bob Ramlow, who has worked with solar power in Wisconsin since the 1970s and was one of the founders of the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair in central Wisconsin.

"In the 1970s, the whole country was excited and thinking about saving energy," he said. "People wanted to do their part. It was patriotic to be involved with renewable energy and energy conservation."

Ramlow said the symbolic moment when the country abandoned that commitment was in 1981, when Ronald Reagan moved into the White House and, on his first day, had the solar collectors on the roof taken off.

"The word from the administration from then to now,” Ramlow said, “was renewable energy sources are the energy of the future, but now we need nuclear, coal and oil."

He said it took nearly 30 years for renewable energy to recover in the U.S. But projects such as reviving solar energy in Washington Park suggest change is coming.

Shawn Young, solar thermal division director for Madison-based H & H Solar Energy Services, inspected Washington Park's solar system last year. He sent a report to Milwaukee County concluding the system was worth saving.

"It's not the best solar collector on the market,” Young said, “but it's not obsolete."

The system collects sunlight on the building's roof and transfers the energy to a liquid that fuels the furnace and generates heat. When it was originally installed, the designers anticipated cutting energy use in the building by 60 to 80 percent. Now, the system could cut energy use 10 to 15 percent, Young said. The decline in savings is mainly because of the system's age.

But even with the reduced efficiency, the county could save $1,000 a month on its heating bill, Zocher said. She estimated the investment needed to refurbish the Washington Park system would take eight years to pay back.

Friday, November 7, 2008

PSC expected to make decision on proposed coal plant on Nov. 11

From a media advisory issued by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin:

This message is to inform you that the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) is expected to make a decision on the Alliant Energy proposed coal fire power plant next week Tuesday, November 11, at the PSC’s open commission meeting.

In early 2007, Alliant Energy filed an application with the PSC for permission to build a new 300 megawatt coal-fired electric generation facility. Alliant Energy has indentified two possible locations for the power plant – their Nelson Dewey Generating Station property in Cassville and the Columbia Energy Center in Portage. The PSC has the authority to approve, deny or modify any proposed electric construction project.

When: Tuesday, November 11, 2008 – 10:30 a.m.
Where: Public Service Commission of Wisconsin
Amnicon Falls Hearing Room – 1st floor
610 N. Whitney Way, Madison WI

River Falls tower talk: Wind blows, testing goes

From an article by Debbie Griffin in the River Falls Journal:

River Falls agreed last year to let Madison-based EcoEnergy install a 197-foot wind-test tower on a hill in the Whitetail Ridge Corporate Park. The company plans to gather wind-speed data through April next year to see if it warrants a permanent 400-foot turbine.

Alex DePillis, an EcoEnergy wind-monitoring engineer, said if the data pans out and the company installs a permanent wind turbine, it would generate enough electricity to power for a year about 350 homes or one of the city’s big industrial businesses.

“The wind-generated electricity would be carried by the city’s lines and used wherever it’s needed at the time,” said DePillis about the potential wind-generated power.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Support Mass Transit and Fuel-Efficient Vehicles

One of several open letters in the Sheperad Express to President-elect

The first priority for the next administration regarding transportation needs to be correcting the serious imbalance between huge federal funding and support for highway expansion and automobile use, compared to only modest support for public transportation. Just months ago, billions of dollars were shifted from the federal mass transit fund into the highway fund to cover our national highway spending binge. Greater federal support for transit infrastructure (longdistance rail, commuter rail, light rail, and bus), as well as for operating expenses, is needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to improve air quality in densely populated cities and to reduce the national insecurity that results from our overwhelming dependence on foreign oil. Ending the existing tilt in the playing field in favor of highways will encourage smart growth, urban infill development and redevelopment, and higher employment in our cities. It will also provide additional environmental benefits ranging from increased energy efficiency to preservation of agricultural land.

The impending government bailout of the American automobile industry—a dinosaur that has survived for the last decade or more by trying to sell every American a truck (SUV) in which to commute to and from work—provides an opportunity to try to reshape and refocus it for the future. The industry will only survive if it can produce technologically advanced, fuel-efficient vehicles that can compete with models from Europe and Asia. Requirements for continued improvement in fuel efficiency and air emission standards are necessary to spur constant innovation, rather than giving the industry a “pass” or exemption.

Dennis Grzezinski
Attorney Specializing in Environmental Law

River Falls partners with state for energy independence

From an article in the River Falls Journal:

River Falls committed early last month to join the Wisconsin Energy Independent Community Partnership, a state-led program aiming to generate 25% of Wisconsin’s fuels – used for electricity and transportation – from renewable resources by the year 2025.

A press release from the River Falls Municipal Utilities and Governor Jim Doyle’s Web site says the city joins 11 other community members of Wisconsin Public Power, Inc., the city’s power supplier, in committing to help the state achieve energy independence.

River Falls plans to reach this goal by using renewable fuels, taking advantage of diverse resources and reducing energy consumption. Participation in the program enables access to more federal and state funding as well as technical assistance in developing renewable sources.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Our public rail system and the jobs it provides are at risk

From a column by State Senator Dale Schultz:

As Wisconsin employers increasingly turn to our state’s rail roads to get their goods to a global market, state residents and communities enjoy the benefits of keeping jobs here, cleaner air from less truck emissions, and safer roads with less truck traffic.

Those benefits make our state owned railroad system a great investment and explain why I believe, despite a tough fiscal climate, we should increase funding to preserve the infrastructure of our public rail system in the next state budget.

Our public railroad system, which serves numerous communities, has been a great benefit by helping employers compete in the global market and keep family supporting jobs in Wisconsin.

The system also helps many villages and cities with their community development goals by generating increased tax revenues as employers invest in plant expansions and equipment.

In the past two years, in just the region I represent as a state senator, our public rail system has led to new jobs and tax base through major projects in Boscobel, Reedsburg and Rock Springs. For numerous state communities, rail service has been an essential asset to save jobs and create new jobs.

As rail shipping replaces thousands of truck trips, our roads last longer, our carbon footprint shrinks and we all breathe cleaner air.

The state helps communities and rail shippers save freight rail service through its Freight Rail Preservation Program. FRPP grants fund up to 80 percent of projects to rehabilitate tracks and bridges on public rail lines, buy essential rail lines so they aren’t abandoned, and save rail corridors for future rail service and sometimes as recreational trails in the interim.

While freight rail traffic is growing in Wisconsin, FRPP funding is falling far short of the needs. In the current state budget, FRPP funds met less than ten percent of the needs, forcing delays of badly needed projects on public owned rail lines. Since 1992, most FRPP funding went to add rail lines to our public system as a last resort to avoid loss of rail service for communities.

Alliant pays premium for customer-generated solar electricity


From an article by Jeremiah Tucker in The Sauk Prairie Eagle:

The primary reason Stan Temple is installing a large solar-panel unit outside his home is environmental.

"It's the right thing to do," Temple said.

But after that, it's all about the green — and he doesn't mean energy.

Originally, Temple and his wife, Jane Rundell, were going to install the panels before Dec. 31 when a federal tax credit for solar energy was scheduled to expire.

But when Congress passed the Wall Street bailout package last month a rider was added that extended the 30 percent tax credit for eight years and removed its $2,000 cap.

"If your tax burden don't exceed that amount, you'll get a refund," Temple said.

Now Temple is waiting to activate his solar panels until Jan. 1 in order to take advantage of the new legislation.

After the federal tax credit, Temple also will receive a credit from Wisconsin's Focus on Energy program that provides financial incentives for installing renewable energy sources.

And because of a deal he struck with Alliant Energy, he won't even be using the panels to power his home.

"Alliant will buy my solar power for 25 cents per kilowatt hour, and I pay 11," Temple said.
Alliant now joins MG&E and We Energies in paying a premium rate for customer-generated solar electricity.

Ripple Effect: Uncertain prices 'fuel' return to heating basics

From an article by Darlene Ramos in The Dunn County News:

The business of saving money also makes money. And so it is with the booming business of pellet and wood-burning stoves and furnaces.

In the face of rising fuel prices, energy-conscious consumers are intent on lowering their home-heating costs — and accommodating these customers is also helping local stove dealerships flourish. Stories from both sides are resoundingly positive.

“We are having a hard time keeping up with orders for pellet stoves,” said Dale Amundson of Great American Homes and Fireplace in north Menomonie. “When one considers that the operation of a wood pellet stove is 50 percent cheaper than propane, 70 percent cheaper than fuel oil and 30 percent cheaper than natural gas, it’s easy to see why.”

Pellet stoves require only simple venting, and operation is so safe that with proper installation, insurance companies regard them as nearly a non-issue, said Amundson.
Check the EPA air quality rating on any pellet or wood-buring stove to be certain to avoid putting unnessary pollution into the air.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

'Green' fund details unclear

From an article by McLean Bennett in The Spectator, the student newspaper of the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire:

Several details of a new, multi-thousand dollar "green" coffer need to be ironed out, said Student Senate Treasurer, senior Michael Umhoefer, who helped push for legislation last month to implement an account to fund environmental projects on campus.

The new account would cost students about $20 a year, with the money in the account aimed at funding a variety of green initiatives and environmental student-faculty research projects. But Umhoefer said questions about just where the account money will come from and who will oversee it still remain unanswered.

Those questions, he said, will be resolved if and when the account gets approval from the UW- System Board of Regents. Whether the legislation will even get that far remains to be seen; the $200,000-plus piece of legislation still has to get approval from the student body, which will cast its decision on the account in an online referendum Nov. 20.

Monday, November 3, 2008

DNR employees accept challenge to save gas

From an article by Brad Bryan in the Leader Telegram (Eau Claire):

Imagine driving from Eau Claire to Alaska's border with Canada five times. Or going around the world at the equator almost one and a quarter times.

That's the number of miles - more than 29,000 - that 85 Department of Natural Resources employees did not drive during their recently concluded 28-week Gas Free Challenge.

Finishing on Halloween, the challenge coaxed intrepid employees in the 19-county West Central Region to brave spring rains, summer storms and autumn chills. In doing so, they kept 12.39 tons of CO2 (carbon dioxide) from being released into the atmosphere.

Their goal, however, was less about environmentalism, cost-savings and fitness than it was about awareness.

"I think that once people actually try it and recognize they can get to work on their bikes, it will change how they think about how they get to work," DNR worker Beth Norquist said.

Our public rail system and the jobs it provides are at risk

From a column by State Senator Dale Schultz:

As Wisconsin employers increasingly turn to our state’s rail roads to get their goods to a global market, state residents and communities enjoy the benefits of keeping jobs here, cleaner air from less truck emissions, and safer roads with less truck traffic.

Those benefits make our state owned railroad system a great investment and explain why I believe, despite a tough fiscal climate, we should increase funding to preserve the infrastructure of our public rail system in the next state budget.

Our public railroad system, which serves numerous communities, has been a great benefit by helping employers compete in the global market and keep family supporting jobs in Wisconsin.

The system also helps many villages and cities with their community development goals by generating increased tax revenues as employers invest in plant expansions and equipment.

In the past two years, in just the region I represent as a state senator, our public rail system has led to new jobs and tax base through major projects in Boscobel, Reedsburg and Rock Springs. For numerous state communities, rail service has been an essential asset to save jobs and create new jobs.

As rail shipping replaces thousands of truck trips, our roads last longer, our carbon footprint shrinks and we all breathe cleaner air.

The state helps communities and rail shippers save freight rail service through its Freight Rail Preservation Program. FRPP grants fund up to 80 percent of projects to rehabilitate tracks and bridges on public rail lines, buy essential rail lines so they aren’t abandoned, and save rail corridors for future rail service and sometimes as recreational trails in the interim.

While freight rail traffic is growing in Wisconsin, FRPP funding is falling far short of the needs. In the current state budget, FRPP funds met less than ten percent of the needs, forcing delays of badly needed projects on public owned rail lines. Since 1992, most FRPP funding went to add rail lines to our public system as a last resort to avoid loss of rail service for communities.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Tiptoe Through the Minfields: Permitting Wind Projects in Wisconsin

From a presentation on barriers to project siting by RENEW Executive Director Michael Vickerman for the Wisconsin Wind Wroking Group in November 2008.
The Ultimate Irony

It is easier to obtain a permit from the State of Wisconsin for a 100-turbine project than one from a township board for a one-turbine installation.

However, seeking state approval is an expensive, time-consuming, and lawyer-intensive process.