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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bipartisan group of legislators introduce wind siting bill





















Terry McGowan of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 139 speaks at the press conference for the introduction of a bill to set uniform siting standards for wind projects in Wisconsin.

From a news release issued by Sen. Jeff Plale, Rep. Jim Soletski, Sen. Randy Hopper, and Rep. Phil Montgomery:

MADISON – A bipartisan coalition of Wisconsin legislators announced that they are introducing legislation that calls for the creation of uniform siting standards for wind energy projects. Senate Bill 185 (SB 185), and its Assembly companion, directs the Public Service Commission (PSC), after public input, including a stakeholder committee, to establish by rule, permitting standards to be applied by local or state government to wind energy installations, regardless of size and location.

“Too many wind projects are victims of delay tactics and other obstructions,” Senator Jeff Plale, Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Utilities, Energy, and Rail said. “SB 185 will enhance Wisconsin’s economy by protecting and creating “green-collar” jobs; it will attract new investment to our state and support state energy policy. I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that we can make Wisconsin more attractive to wind energy and achieve the resulting economic and environmental benefits.”

“A sensible wind energy policy will help Wisconsin harness the jobs and growth opportunities that green power provides,” stated Representative Jim Soletski, Chair of the Assembly Energy and Utilities Committee. “I am excited to be working with a bipartisan group of legislators from diverse regions of the state to remove the obstacles to more development of wind power in Wisconsin. By advancing this legislation, Wisconsin utilities can move toward meeting their obligation to generate clean energy and much needed jobs can be created for our workers.”

"We can't build a 21st century energy infrastructure by digging in our heels,” Senator Randy Hopper said. “This legislation will ensure that interested parties from all over our state can take part in developing the Public Service Commission's guidelines."

"Wind power is job-creating power," according to Representative Phil Montgomery. "A fair and uniform state standard for siting wind developments will create an environment of investment in our state while moving us closer to our green energy goals."

In addition to RENEW, the following organizations issued statements of support for Senate Bill 185: CREWE, Clean Wisconsin, Citizens Utility Board, Customers First!, Renewegy, Wind Capital Group, WPPI/Municipal Electric Utilities.




















Terry McGowan of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 139 speaks at the press conference for the introduction of a bill to set uniform siting standards for wind projects in Wisconsin.

From a news release issued by Sen. Jeff Plale, Rep. Jim Soletski, Sen. Randy Hopper, and Rep. Phil Montgomery:

MADISON – A bipartisan coalition of Wisconsin legislators announced that they are introducing legislation that calls for the creation of uniform siting standards for wind energy projects. Senate Bill 185 (SB 185), and its Assembly companion, directs the Public Service Commission (PSC), after public input, including a stakeholder committee, to establish by rule, permitting standards to be applied by local or state government to wind energy installations, regardless of size and location.

“Too many wind projects are victims of delay tactics and other obstructions,” Senator Jeff Plale, Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Utilities, Energy, and Rail said. “SB 185 will enhance Wisconsin’s economy by protecting and creating “green-collar” jobs; it will attract new investment to our state and support state energy policy. I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that we can make Wisconsin more attractive to wind energy and achieve the resulting economic and environmental benefits.”

“A sensible wind energy policy will help Wisconsin harness the jobs and growth opportunities that green power provides,” stated Representative Jim Soletski, Chair of the Assembly Energy and Utilities Committee. “I am excited to be working with a bipartisan group of legislators from diverse regions of the state to remove the obstacles to more development of wind power in Wisconsin. By advancing this legislation, Wisconsin utilities can move toward meeting their obligation to generate clean energy and much needed jobs can be created for our workers.”

"We can't build a 21st century energy infrastructure by digging in our heels,” Senator Randy Hopper said. “This legislation will ensure that interested parties from all over our state can take part in developing the Public Service Commission's guidelines."

"Wind power is job-creating power," according to Representative Phil Montgomery. "A fair and uniform state standard for siting wind developments will create an environment of investment in our state while moving us closer to our green energy goals."

In addition to RENEW, the following organizations issued statements of support for Senate Bill 185: CREWE, Clean Wisconsin, Citizens Utility Board, Customers First!, Renewegy, Wind Capital Group, WPPI/Municipal Electric Utilities.

Wind in Wisconsin: Permitting Crisis

From a presentation on wind permitting in Wisconsin by Michael Vickerman, executive director, RENEW Wisconsin:

Why are so many wind projects serving WI utilities located out of state?

1. The wind resource is stronger in states to our west, which reduces the per/MWH cost of development.
2. It is proving exceptionally challenging to secure a permit to build wind projects in Wisconsin, especially those under 100 MW.

Bill to protect bikers approved

From an article by Nick Halter in the Wausau Daily Herald:

Both houses of the Wisconsin Legislature on Tuesday passed bills that would fine drivers who open their doors without first checking for bikers.

The bill, which is expected to be signed by Gov. Jim Doyle, would fine motorists up to $40 for the first offense and up to $100 for the second time in one year. The bill also eliminated the part of the law that requires bicyclists to stay three feet from vehicles.

Nick Holzen, 26, a mechanic at City Bike Works on Third Street in Wausau, said he has been hit by a car in the past and is glad attention is being paid to the issue. He said bike sales are way up at Bike Works and there will be more bicyclists hitting the roads this summer.

"With the economy down, there will be more people out on the road," he said.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Renewable Energy Projects: Guiding Your Through the Process

From a fact sheet published by Focus on Energy:

Many people are interested in using renewable energy to meet their home or business energy needs, but sometimes the process is not clear and people don’t know where to turn for help. Use the steps below as a guide to help you discover whether renewable energy can work for you. . . .

1. LEARN ALL ABOUT IT. . . .
2. GET A SITE ASSESSMENT. . . .
3. CALL AN INSTALLER; GET ESTIMATES. . . .
4. CHECK ZONING, UTILITY REQUIREMENTS, INSURANCE AND OTHER LEGALITIES. . . .
5. SECURE FINANCING. . . .
6. LEARN HOW TO MAINTAIN YOUR SYSTEM—SAFELY. . . .
7. ENJOY SAVING MONEY AND ENERGY. . . .

FOR MORE INFORMATION: focusonenergy.com
Contact Focus on Energy to learn more about renewable energy choices. We have fact sheets and case studies featuring solar water heating, solar electricity, passive solar design, bioenergy and wind turbines for homes, farms and businesses. Renewable
energy incentives are also available. Call 800.762.7077 for more information.

Building a new home that's ready for renewable installations

From a fact sheet published by Focus on Energy:

Rising energy costs and concern for energy security and the environment are driving forces in a growing trend to incorporate renewable energy technology into residential housing. Focus on Energy and the Wisconsin ENERGY STAR® Homes Program recognize this as an opportunity for builders. The following checklist of building details is a first step to promote and market the construction of new homes that are built "ready" for future renewable energy installations.

PLANNING AHEAD IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO
To maximize the potential benefit of any future solar renewable energy system, the following should be considered when planning and building a home.

1. Reduce loads
Reduce or minimize energy loads where possible through the home's heating, cooling, water heating and electrical systems. At a minimum the home should satisfy the Wisconsin ENERGY STAR Homes Program building performance standards and, where possible, incorporate ENERGY STAR qualified lighting, appliances and HVAC systems.

2. Maximize solar access
To maximize solar access, face the roof surface and pitch within 30 degrees of due south. The roof should be unobstructed from both the winter and summer sun and have a slope of between 30 degrees and 60 degrees. For more information on solar access, see the Passive Solar Design fact sheet or contact the Focus on Energy Renewable Energy Program at 800.762.7077 for solar site assessment information.

3. Follow zoning laws and applicable codes
Wisconsin State law does not allow zoning or covenants that restrict the use of a solar energy system except for reasons of health and safety. Also investigate applicable Uniform Dwelling Code and the National Electric Code as they pertain to any pre-installation requirements.

Flying a solar flag: Pole-mounted solar panels for businesses and non-profits

From a fact sheet pubilshed by Focus on Energy:

Pole-mounted solar electric systems offer an excellent opportunity for businesses to display a commitment to renewable energy. Also called solar flags, these systems are economical because they tend to be small. Today, solar flags are seen outside business establishments, in parking lots and in city parks. Not only do solar flags generate electricity, they also promote clean energy technology in a highly visible way.

When most people think of solar panels, they think of roof-mounted systems. However, roof-mounted systems are often hidden from view, partially shaded by trees, or not facing the best direction to capture solar energy. Solar flags can be installed in highly visible locations and positioned optimally to capture sunlight. Installing a solar flag does not involve attaching anything to your building, and the occasional maintenance requirements will not include a trip to the roof. Also, unlike roofmounted systems, pole-mounted solar flags do not need to be removed and reinstalled when the roof is replaced.

Solar electric flags can offer great economics and a relatively low cost. They are available in different sizes and prices (see Table 1). Costs tend to be significantly lower for business owners who pay federal taxes. If your electric utility offers a solar buyback rate, your solar flag can pay for itself in less than ten years. What’s more, some utilities offer additional incentives to nonprofit organizations and government agencies.

Kohl's ranks third, State of Wisconsin 37th in 'green' power use

An article from The Business Journal of Milwaukee:

Kohl's Corp. now get more than 50 percent of its energy from renewable energy sources, enough to rank it the third-largest buyer of "green" power in the country, according to federal officials.

The Menomonee Falls-based department store chain moved up in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Green Power Partnership list of the top 50 buyers of green power from eighth in 2008. Kohl's more than doubled its annual usage of power from renewable sources to 601 million kilowatt-hours from 236 million a year ago, the EPA said Monday.

Kohl's trails fellow Fortune 500 companies Intel Corp. (1.3 billion kWh) and PepsiCo (1.14 billion kWh) on the list. Kohl's is the top ranked retail company. Retailer Whole Foods Market (527 million kWh) ranked fifth on the list behind Dell Inc. (553.7 million kWh).

Kohl's purchases of green power includes energy from such sources as solar, wind and landfill gas. According to the EPA, Kohl's green power purchase is equivalent to avoiding carbon dioxide emissions of more than 79,000 passenger vehicles per year, or is the equivalent amount of electricity needed to power nearly 60,000 average American homes annually.

Ranking 37th on the list of the top 50 green power purchasers was the state of Wisconsin (92.4 million kWh). The state is buying biomass, solar and wind generated power from state utilities Madison Gas & Electric, We Energies and Wisconsin Public Power Inc. No other Wisconsin-based concern made the EPA's 2009 list.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Coalition supports proposed uniform wind siting rules

From a news release issued by Clean, Responsible Energy for Wisconsin's Economy (CREWE):

MADISON, Wis.— CREWE supports the current legislative proposal recommending uniform standards for the siting of large and small wind energy systems to be set by the Public Service Commission (PSC).

The bill proposed by State Sen. Jeff Plale (D- South Milwaukee), chair of the Senate Energy and Utilities Committee advocates that the Public Service Commission develop uniform siting standards for wind power projects across the state. The bill is circulating in the legislature but has not yet been introduced.

The current siting rules are just not fair says Curt Pawlisch, attorney for Wind for Wisconsin, a member of CREWE. Recent disputes over municipal ordinances have had a negative impact on developing energy alternatives and a greener economy.

Wind power is a growing and maturing industry that can play a significant role in Wisconsin. Perhaps the single greatest barrier to the development of this sector of energy policy is a lack of consistent and stable policy.

“Adopting a consistent and uniform siting policy will signal to land owners, wind developers, wind turbine manufacturers and in essence, to the rest of the nation, that Wisconsin is open for business in terms of wind development and growth.” Supporters of this legislation also contend that the single biggest constraint to increasing wind generation in Wisconsin is the current permitting environment which is far more problematic in Wisconsin than other states in the region. . . .

CREWE members include Wisconsin Energy Corp., Alliant Energy, Xcel Energy, EcoEnergy LLC MillerCoors, Johnson Controls, the Forest County Potawatomi Tribe, Madison Gas & Electric, Orion Energy Systems, C5•6 Technologies, American Transmission Co., Wind for Wisconsin, WPPI Energy and Emerging Energies of Wisconsin.

Wisconsin's energy experts answer your questions on interactive Web site

From a news release issued by Focus on Energy:

(April 27, 2009) - What's the best way to reduce my home's cooling costs? Are there tax credits available for my renewable energy project? What's the most energy efficient hot water heater? Could new lighting fixtures save my business money? These are among the thousands of questions Wisconsin residents are asking themselves every day. Thankfully, there's an easy and accessible resource where they can get their energy questions answered, as Focus on Energy has launched a new interactive Web site titled 'Ask Focus on Energy' (askfocusonenergy.com).

"The purpose of the Web site is to fulfill the public's growing desire for easily accessible information on the timely topic of energy," said Kathy Kuntz, program director for Focus on Energy. "Given the economic and energy climate, consumers and businesses are now, more than ever, looking to learn how energy efficiency and renewable energy relates specifically to their needs."

How the Web site Works
When you visit the 'Ask Focus on Energy' Web site you have the opportunity to submit a question, or search other questions that may relate to your area of interest. Once your question is submitted, if it is similar to a question already on the site, the answer will immediately appear. However, if your question is unique from any on the Web site, it will be sent to a panel of Focus on Energy experts for review. If your question is selected, it will be answered by one of our experts and posted on the Web site.

As so many people have similar questions and shared interests, you can also search a variety of energy-related topics to see what other people are asking. And to stay even more connected, you can now find Focus on Energy on Facebook and Twitter. These communities allow you to stay up-to-date on the questions and answers being added to the new Web site, as well as get regular energy saving tips.

Renewable energy facility proposed for Port of Milwaukee land

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

An industrial facility that would collect wood waste and other biomass and use it to make wood pellets and natural gas has been proposed for the Port of Milwaukee.

The renewable-energy facility would be operated by Waters' New Biotech Inc., a Pewaukee start-up led by Edward L. Waters.

The Common Council's Public Works Committee on Wednesday is to review a proposal to lease 3.7 acres on the Port's south harbor to Waters' New Biotech. The company would pay $85,100 annually for 15 years, according to the lease proposal.

The firm would demolish some city-owned buildings to make way for the facility and would receive rent credits to cover $116,000 in estimated demolition costs, the proposal said.

Waters' New Biotech plans to convert wood waste into wood pellets that can be burned as fuel, said Eric Reinelt, port director.

The development would include a gasification facility, with natural gas produced as a byproduct, he said.

Deisgn buildings to be solar ready

A letter to the editor to the Dodgeville Chronicle by Joel H. Goodman, M. Architecture diploma, MIT; former assistant professor of architecture at the U. of Minnesota:

Solar electric rooftops, covered with PhotoVoltaic (photons-to-volts) solar panels called PV, is a main part of a low carbon electricity infrastructure plan. The aim is to reduce greenhouse gas pollution causing global warming, reduce stress on the grid, and create local jobs. Of course, no one wants a large added first cost for installing PV solar panels when paying for the construction of a new building.

Therefore, it would be sensible to design new buildings to be SOLAR PV READY. Design features of new buildings prepared for the future addition of large areas of solar electric PV panels include: roof shape, slope and structure; place for PV system inverters, and connecting electrical conduits. A large area Solar PV READY roof could be attractive for stimulus funds, and something positive for the children’s future.

Link to fact sheets on solar-ready residences and solar-ready commercial buildings.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Wisconsin's energy experts answer your questions on interactive Web site

From a news release issued by Focus on Energy:

(April 27, 2009) - What's the best way to reduce my home's cooling costs? Are there tax credits available for my renewable energy project? What's the most energy efficient hot water heater? Could new lighting fixtures save my business money? These are among the thousands of questions Wisconsin residents are asking themselves every day. Thankfully, there's an easy and accessible resource where they can get their energy questions answered, as Focus on Energy has launched a new interactive Web site titled 'Ask Focus on Energy' (askfocusonenergy.com).

"The purpose of the Web site is to fulfill the public's growing desire for easily accessible information on the timely topic of energy," said Kathy Kuntz, program director for Focus on Energy. "Given the economic and energy climate, consumers and businesses are now, more than ever, looking to learn how energy efficiency and renewable energy relates specifically to their needs."

How the Web site Works
When you visit the 'Ask Focus on Energy' Web site you have the opportunity to submit a question, or search other questions that may relate to your area of interest. Once your question is submitted, if it is similar to a question already on the site, the answer will immediately appear. However, if your question is unique from any on the Web site, it will be sent to a panel of Focus on Energy experts for review. If your question is selected, it will be answered by one of our experts and posted on the Web site.

As so many people have similar questions and shared interests, you can also search a variety of energy-related topics to see what other people are asking. And to stay even more connected, you can now find Focus on Energy on Facebook and Twitter. These communities allow you to stay up-to-date on the questions and answers being added to the new Web site, as well as get regular energy saving tips.

Wisconsin's energy experts answer your questions on interactive Web site

From a news release issued by Focus on Energy:

April 27, 2009 - What's the best way to reduce my home's cooling costs? Are there tax credits available for my renewable energy project? What's the most energy efficient hot water heater? Could new lighting fixtures save my business money? These are among the thousands of questions Wisconsin residents are asking themselves every day. Thankfully, there's an easy and accessible resource where they can get their energy questions answered, as Focus on Energy has launched a new interactive Web site titled 'Ask Focus on Energy' (askfocusonenergy.com).

"The purpose of the Web site is to fulfill the public's growing desire for easily accessible information on the timely topic of energy," said Kathy Kuntz, program director for Focus on Energy. "Given the economic and energy climate, consumers and businesses are now, more than ever, looking to learn how energy efficiency and renewable energy relates specifically to their needs."

How the Web site Works
When you visit the 'Ask Focus on Energy' Web site you have the opportunity to submit a question, or search other questions that may relate to your area of interest. Once your question is submitted, if it is similar to a question already on the site, the answer will immediately appear. However, if your question is unique from any on the Web site, it will be sent to a panel of Focus on Energy experts for review. If your question is selected, it will be answered by one of our experts and posted on the Web site.

As so many people have similar questions and shared interests, you can also search a variety of energy-related topics to see what other people are asking. And to stay even more connected, you can now find Focus on Energy on Facebook and Twitter. These communities allow you to stay up-to-date on the questions and answers being added to the new Web site, as well as get regular energy saving tips.

1% sales tax best alternative for regional transit

From a news release issued by the Quality of Life Alliance:

This Thursday, Joint Finance will be taking up the issue of the Regional Transit Authority for Southeastern Wisconsin. It is widely speculated that there are not enough votes for it to pass as proposed by Governor Doyle. Instead of leaving out all hope of an RTA in this budget, Quality of Life Alliance urges members of Joint Finance to allow for the start of a single County RTA in Milwaukee.

“Instituting the 1% sales tax for Milwaukee County that passed by referendum in November would provide the source of funding needed for a Milwaukee County RTA and could easily accommodate a broader RTA when it is created,” commented County Supervisor Chris Larson, Quality of Life Alliance spokesperson. “Please give us something we can build off of.”

“For the sake of our future, we are asking the Joint Finance Committee to include in the next State budget what the citizens of Milwaukee County have already approved: a one percent sales tax increase that will provide property tax relief and sustainable, dedicated funding for Parks, Transit and EMS,” added Jim Goulee, QLA member.

Wind farm generates debate

From an article by Joe Knight in the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram:

Wisconsin has a goal of producing 15 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2015.

If the state wants to meet that goal, most of that renewable energy will have to come from the wind, says Ryan Schryver of the environmental group Clean Wisconsin.

However, environmental and industry groups say a patchwork of local wind ordinances, including one in Trempealeau County, has stymied wind energy development in many cases.

More than 600 megawatts of planned wind developments are stalled across Wisconsin because of new ordinances or changes in local rules, Schryver said. One megawatt is enough to power 800 to 1,000 homes.

Three relatively large wind farm developments have gone up in southeastern Wisconsin over the past two years.

Wisconsin spends about $22 billion a year importing energy, including what is used in transportation, according to the Wisconsin Office of Energy Independence, another strong argument for local wind energy, environmentalists note.

A bill to set statewide standards for siting wind generators is being considered by the Legislature. Among the standards to be considered would be how far a wind generator has to be set back from property lines, roads and houses and how much noise they could make.

The current version of the bill also would create a process for appealing wind energy decisions by local governments to the Public Service Commission. Under Wisconsin law, the commission regulates the largest wind farms, those of 100 or more megawatts, or farms with about 60 or more towers.

Friday, April 24, 2009

First ever Green Drinks in Eau Claire on Wednesday, April 29!

Come relax with friends and make some new ones as we get together and discuss environmental issues that are important to YOU at Eau Claire’s first ever Green Drinks! Green Drinks Eau Claire, 6:30-7:30 PM, Haymarket Grill, 101 Graham Avenue, Eau Claire, WI 54701

Green Drinks is unique because there is no agenda, there are no dues, there’s no board of directors - it’s just a social opportunity for people to come together and talk with other like-minded environmentalists about ideas, events, and issues going on around our community.

Green Drinks Eau Claire, 6:30-7:30 PM, Haymarket Grill, 101 Graham Avenue, Eau Claire, WI 54701

If you have any questions or ideas please email Tom Stolp, tom@conservationvoters.org or call 715-835-4248. For directions or more information on the Haymarket Grill visit http://www.haymarketgrill.com

Weston power plant cuts emissions

From an article by D.J. Slater in the Marshfield News Herald:

New emission control equipment at the Weston Power Plant has reduced the amount of nitrogen oxide produced at its two oldest generators by 53 percent.

The equipment improves the coal burning process at the plants, decreasing nitrogen emissions. The $7.5 million worth of equipment went on line in March.

"This is part of our company's overall nitrogen oxide emission reduction control plan ... for our older coal-fueled generating units," said Bruce Bruzina, the assistant vice president of energy supply operations for the plant, in a news release.

Nitrogen oxide is a group of highly reactive gases that contain nitrogen and oxygen. It's one of the primary ingredients in smog and acid rain, and contributes to global warming and causes respiratory problems, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The upgrades are part of Wisconsin Public Service Corp.'s effort to meet more stringent state and federal air quality requirements that the EPA established in 2005, said David Capozella, a WPSC representative. The Weston Power Plant had to meet those new standards by 2010, he said.

Wisconsin Public Service Corp., which owns the Weston Power Plant, plans to start installing nitrogen oxide reduction equipment on a third generator in September, with a completion date sometime in mid-2010, he said.

Emerging renewable energy industries will help the Midwest compete

From an article by Jim Leute on GazetteXtra.xom (Janesville):

JANESVILLE — The wind blows and the sun shines across state lines.

And the Great Lakes lap the shores of eight states, not just Wisconsin.

Renewable energy can play a critical role in the economic resuscitation of the Midwest, but only if communities, counties and states are willing to shed the traditions of their parochial past.

"The place to begin is to think across borders in terms of infrastructure, taxation, planning and education," said Richard Longworth, author of "Caught in the Middle: America's Heartland in the Age of Globalism."

Published in 2008, Longworth's book paints a grim picture of the Midwest's losing battle with foreign competition. The former chief foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune has become a popular speaker in Midwestern communities—large and small—that are withering away.

Thursday, Longworth was in Janesville as the keynote speaker for an "Opportunities in Renewable Energy Summit." Wednesday, he'll be back in town to speak at a Professional Development Day at Blackhawk Technical College.

Longworth said the Midwest rested much too comfortably on its roots in agriculture and heavy industry manufacturing. The Industrial Age, he said, was very good to the Midwest, but it's over, and the area is now a global backwater.

"The Midwest did two things really well, and globalization has tossed them both into the air," he said. "We're not coping with that very well …

"This sense of splendid isolation is one we can no longer afford."

Regional collaboration, particularly in attracting emerging renewable energy industries, will help the resource-rich Midwest compete in a global economy, said Longworth, a senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and distinguished visiting scholar at DePaul University.

Local hospital's energy conservation receiving attention

From a story on WXOW-TV (La Crosse):

LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) -Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin is taking a tour of the Gundersen Lutheran hospital, a facility she says is a good example of a insitution striving for energy independence.

Baldwin says, "I had heard some time ago that this is one of the few hospitals and clinics that was really analyzing their energy usage."

The tour featured the hospital's efforts to leave a smaller carbon footprint.

Thompson says, "Some of them are really pretty simple. It's exhaust fans that are running 24 hours a day that need to be on 6 to 12 hours a day, replacing old chillers with new ones that are twice efficient."

Other examples... Gundersen Lutheran is also partnering with La Crosse City Brewery to turn its waste methane discharge into electricity for the hospital.

And has installed solar panels on Gundersen Lutheran's new parking ramp to help power the structure.

Thompson says, "There is some cost to some of these, but we think of it as an investment."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Solar carport looks to recharge plug-in hybrid vehicles

From an article by Rachel Zwirlein on Wisbusiness.com:

VERONA – Motorists have used carports for decades to shield vehicles from the ravages of weather, including paint-fading sun. Now comes an idea for using solar-collecting carports to help power vehicles.

Solar Carport Canopy is a product that can provide an innovative solution for businesses looking to economically power plug-in hybrid vehicles while reducing costs and their carbon footprints.

As a contestant in the Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest, Farhat Iqbal of Verona developed the idea for the Solar Carport and was one of 50 entrants to move to the semi-final phase of the competition.

Iqbal is the president of Silica Solar LLC in Verona. The idea for Solar Carport came from her desire to create a tangible way to use solar energy to generate electricity for plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Solar Carport would be leased to individual firms to recharge company-owned and employee plug-in hybrids throughout the Madison area and beyond.

Although it is mechanically and structurally engineered for Wisconsin winds and snow, Iqbal said, Solar Carport can be used in any location where there is a need.

Businesses are going to start looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprints and non-polluting solutions. “Solar is one of the options,” Iqbal said.

Investing in home's energy efficiency pays off now and in the future

From a news release issued by Focus on Energy:

Buying your home was probably one of the largest investments you’ve ever made. Now it’s up to you to care for that investment and enhance its performance by making home improvements that are smart for you, your family and the environment. The Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program can show you how to do this.

How the Program Works
Home Performance with ENERGY STAR is an energy efficiency program sponsored by Focus on Energy, Wisconsin’s energy efficiency and renewable energy initiative. The program has a network of partnering consultants throughout Wisconsin who have been trained to use the most advanced, state-of-the-art equipment to test homes, identify problems and recommend solutions. The program’s qualified contractors and trade partners can then implement the recommended improvements, ensuring the work is done to Home Performance with ENERGY STAR standards.

Finding a Partnering Consultant or Qualified Contractor
The first step is to schedule an in-home evaluation with a consultant or qualified contractor who partners with the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program. Every consultant and qualified contractor listed on the Focus on Energy Web site has been trained by Focus on Energy and has agreed to uphold the standards set for Home Performance with ENERGY STAR. Each consultant and qualified contractor operates independently, running their own business and setting their own fees. Focus on Energy recommends calling more than one consultant or qualified contractor to compare
prices.

Stevens Point takes small steps toward sustainability

From an article by Meredith Thorn in the Stevens Point Journal:

Environmental sustainability can be a large concept. But from grants to purchase hybrid buses to a designation of Tree City USA, Stevens Point officials say small steps must be taken when talking about environmental sustainability and saving energy.

"We've got to get our feet wet before we jump into the deep end of the pool," Mayor Andrew Halverson said.

Wednesday marked Earth Day, a day of recognition for the environment that began in 1970 and was founded by Gaylord Nelson, a then U.S. senator from Wisconsin.

With all the talk about carbon footprints, sight is often lost of the simple things that can be done for the environment, such as planting a tree, Halverson said Wednesday at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, where he spoke at a tree-planting to commemorate Earth Day.

He said it's about taking small steps that will help the city, which was declared an eco-municipality in June, achieve realistic goals. This can include the planting of trees, but also planting vines on fences, or growing in a denser way, he said. As a city, he said, we've go to start somewhere.

DOT ridesharing Web site goes statewide

A news release from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation:

Any commuter in Wisconsin who would like to find someone to “share the ride” to work, may now access the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s (WisDOT’s) interactive ride matching service online. A program that was originated several years ago for residents of the heavily populated southeastern region of the state is now available statewide.

“We are pleased to offer this interactive service to commuters across the state,” said WisDOT Secretary Frank Busalacchi. “Ridesharing saves money for commuters, reduces the number of cars on the road during the busiest hours of the day and reduces pollution from car exhaust. Now, commuters in areas that are faced with some of the longest commutes will have an equal opportunity to find carpool matches.”

Karen Schmiechen, program manager for the Wisconsin Rideshare Program, said the program is easy to use, free and without obligation. Commuters enter their commute information and immediately receive matches for carpooling, vanpooling, park and ride lots and even biking. The computer shows matches with similar commutes and work hours. Bikers are also matched by level of expertise. Users make their own contacts with matches to set up ridesharing arrangements.

The program was computerized two years ago, and has become so popular WisDOT decided to make it available to all state residents.

Wisconsin is one of many states and municipalities across the country offering this service. As gasoline prices fluctuate, and the economy remains unstable, ridesharing is a viable alternative, saving dollars and the environment.

For more information go to the state’s Rideshare Web site.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

New guide: Establishing and Managing Switchgrass

From a story on WKOW-TV:

To celebrate Earth Day and help meet the biomass demand created by the new Charter Street Power Plant, UW Extension and other agencies released a guide to Establishing and Managing Switchgrass.

Mark Renz, University of Wisconsin Extension Weed Specialist, and lead author of the guide said, "Growing switchgrass can improve farm profits by producing a good feed, produce biomass for heat and power, create habitat for people and wildlife, and reduce flooding. We wanted to summarize the best information available for Wisconsin landowners in an easy to use guide."

The guide benefited from six field tests done last year near Platteville by Southwest Badger RC&D, UW Extension and Alliant Energy.

"Southwest Wisconsin has the potential to become a huge reservoir of biomass fuel such as switchgrass. This guide gives landowners the best information we have on how to establish and grow switchgrass, a key native prairie grass," said Steve Bertjens, NRCS Southwest Badger RC&D Coordinator.

New guide: Establishing and Managing Switchgrass

From a story on WKOW-TV:

To celebrate Earth Day and help meet the biomass demand created by the new Charter Street Power Plant, UW Extension and other agencies released a guide to Establishing and Managing Switchgrass.

Mark Renz, University of Wisconsin Extension Weed Specialist, and lead author of the guide said, "Growing switchgrass can improve farm profits by producing a good feed, produce biomass for heat and power, create habitat for people and wildlife, and reduce flooding. We wanted to summarize the best information available for Wisconsin landowners in an easy to use guide."

The guide benefited from six field tests done last year near Platteville by Southwest Badger RC&D, UW Extension and Alliant Energy.

"Southwest Wisconsin has the potential to become a huge reservoir of biomass fuel such as switchgrass. This guide gives landowners the best information we have on how to establish and grow switchgrass, a key native prairie grass," said Steve Bertjens, NRCS Southwest Badger RC&D Coordinator.

Coalition supports legislation on uniform wind-siting standards

From a news release issued by Clean, Responsible Energy for Wisconsin's Economy (CREWE):

MADISON, Wis.— CREWE supports the current legislative proposal recommending uniform standards for the siting of large and small wind energy systems to be set by the Public Service Commission (PSC).

The bill proposed by State Sen. Jeff Plale (D- South Milwaukee), chair of the Senate Energy and Utilities Committee advocates that the Public Service Commission develop uniform siting standards for wind power projects across the state. The bill is circulating in the legislature but has not yet been introduced.

The current siting rules are just not fair says Curt Pawlisch, attorney for Wind for Wisconsin, a member of CREWE. Recent disputes over municipal ordinances have had a negative impact on developing energy alternatives and a greener economy.

Wind power is a growing and maturing industry that can play a significant role in Wisconsin. Perhaps the single greatest barrier to the development of this sector of energy policy is a lack of consistent and stable policy.

“Adopting a consistent and uniform siting policy will signal to land owners, wind developers, wind turbine manufacturers and in essence, to the rest of the nation, that Wisconsin is open for business in terms of wind development and growth.” Supporters of this legislation also contend that the single biggest constraint to increasing wind generation in Wisconsin is the current permitting environment which is far more problematic in Wisconsin than other states in the region. . . .

CREWE members include Wisconsin Energy Corp., Alliant Energy, Xcel Energy, EcoEnergy LLC MillerCoors, Johnson Controls, the Forest County Potawatomi Tribe, Madison Gas & Electric, Orion Energy Systems, C5•6 Technologies, American Transmission Co., Wind for Wisconsin, WPPI Energy and Emerging Energies of Wisconsin.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Coalition supports legislation to set wind-siting standards

From a news release issued by Clean, Responsible Energy for Wisconsin's Economy (CREWE):

MADISON, Wis.— CREWE supports the current legislative proposal recommending uniform standards for the siting of large and small wind energy systems to be set by the Public Service Commission (PSC).

The bill proposed by State Sen. Jeff Plale (D- South Milwaukee), chair of the Senate Energy and Utilities Committee advocates that the Public Service Commission develop uniform siting standards for wind power projects across the state. The bill is circulating in the legislature but has not yet been introduced.

The current siting rules are just not fair says Curt Pawlisch, attorney for Wind for Wisconsin, a member of CREWE. Recent disputes over municipal ordinances have had a negative impact on developing energy alternatives and a greener economy.

Wind power is a growing and maturing industry that can play a significant role in Wisconsin. Perhaps the single greatest barrier to the development of this sector of energy policy is a lack of consistent and stable policy.

“Adopting a consistent and uniform siting policy will signal to land owners, wind developers, wind turbine manufacturers and in essence, to the rest of the nation, that Wisconsin is open for business in terms of wind development and growth.” Supporters of this legislation also contend that the single biggest constraint to increasing wind generation in Wisconsin is the current permitting environment which is far more problematic in Wisconsin than other states in the region. . . .

CREWE members include Wisconsin Energy Corp., Alliant Energy, Xcel Energy, EcoEnergy LLC MillerCoors, Johnson Controls, the Forest County Potawatomi Tribe, Madison Gas & Electric, Orion Energy Systems, C5•6 Technologies, American Transmission Co., Wind for Wisconsin, WPPI Energy and Emerging Energies of Wisconsin.

Coalition supports legislation to set uniform wind-siting standards

From a news release issued by Clean, Responsible Energy for Wisconsin's Economy (CREWE):

MADISON, Wis.— CREWE supports the current legislative proposal recommending uniform standards for the siting of large and small wind energy systems to be set by the Public Service Commission (PSC).

The bill proposed by State Sen. Jeff Plale (D- South Milwaukee), chair of the Senate Energy and Utilities Committee advocates that the Public Service Commission develop uniform siting standards for wind power projects across the state. The bill is circulating in the legislature but has not yet been introduced.

The current siting rules are just not fair says Curt Pawlisch, attorney for Wind for Wisconsin, a member of CREWE. Recent disputes over municipal ordinances have had a negative impact on developing energy alternatives and a greener economy.

Wind power is a growing and maturing industry that can play a significant role in Wisconsin. Perhaps the single greatest barrier to the development of this sector of energy policy is a lack of consistent and stable policy.

“Adopting a consistent and uniform siting policy will signal to land owners, wind developers, wind turbine manufacturers and in essence, to the rest of the nation, that Wisconsin is open for business in terms of wind development and growth.” Supporters of this legislation also contend that the single biggest constraint to increasing wind generation in Wisconsin is the current permitting environment which is far more problematic in Wisconsin than other states in the region. . . .

CREWE members include Wisconsin Energy Corp., Alliant Energy, Xcel Energy, EcoEnergy LLC MillerCoors, Johnson Controls, the Forest County Potawatomi Tribe, Madison Gas & Electric, Orion Energy Systems, C5•6 Technologies, American Transmission Co., Wind for Wisconsin, WPPI Energy and Emerging Energies of Wisconsin.

Committee approves $2 million for local transit

From a news release isssued by State Sen. Julie Lassa:

Madison—The Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee [JFC] today approved more than $2 million in federal stimulus funding to provide vehicles and support services for public transit programs in Stevens Point, Wisconsin Rapids, Marshfield and Plover, State Senator Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point) announced.

The funds were part of an overall allocation of more than $11 million in transit funding to non-urbanized areas throughout the state. The local funding includes nearly $1.6 million to provide three hybrid buses for the City of Stevens Point. Wisconsin Rapids, Marshfield and Plover will get funds for vehicles for their shared ride taxi programs.

“These stimulus funds will be put to good work for the people of Central Wisconsin,” said Lassa, a JFC member who voted to approve the funds. “Public transit not only offers individuals an economical way to get from place to place, it reduces traffic and pollution, and helps us reduce our dependence on foreign oil— especially with energy-efficient hybrid vehicles. At the same time, the purchase of the vehicles will help stimulate the economy overall. It’s a smart investment in our transportation infrastructure.”

Of the $81.4 million in stimulus funds Wisconsin will receive under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for transit, the Act requires the state to allocate just over $20 million to non-urbanized areas with populations of less than 50,000. Today’s action fulfills the ARRA’s requirement that 50 percent of those funds be allocated within 180 days of initial award. The state has nearly a year to allocate the remaining portion of transit funding under the stimulus bill.

Solar hot water—straight from the garden

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

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

Continued.

Expanding Transit Options, April 29, Racine

From an announcement by the Wisconsin Sierra Club:

Wisconsin is on the threshold of modernizing our transit system. With these new opportunities come key decisions that will affect our economy and our future. Come to a FREE discussion and learn more about this critical issue.

Wed, April 29, 2009, 6:30 p.m.
DeKoven Center, 600 21st Street, Racine

Featuring presentations and a panel discussion with:
Kevin Brubaker, Environmental Law & Policy Center
Lori Richards, SE WI Regional Transit Authority
Kerry Thomas, Transit NOW

Following the panel, attendees will hear local perspectives from minority, labor, faith & business leaders. Panelists and community leaders will also be available to answer YOUR questions on transit.

Please RSVP for this FREE event by April 27, 2009

Solar-heated pool passes the test at Osceola school

If you’re wondering if a solar hot water system can also be an effective teaching tool for students and community residents alike, look no further than Osceola Middle School. Since going online in August, 2008, Osceola’s solar installation has done double duty, quietly heating three indoor pools and the building’s domestic water while demonstrating to school children how renewable energy can be harnessed and put to productive use.

Continued.

Solar hot water systems for multifamily

Water heating can be a significant cost in the operation of multifamily residential buildings. On average, water heaters account for between 15 and 25 percent of the energy consumed by residents in multifamily dwellings, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the independent statistical agency of the U.S. Department of Energy. For some multifamily residences, a solar water heating system, which uses the sun’s energy to preheat water entering an existing gas or electric water heater, may be a cost effective means to reduce monthly heating bills.

Continued.

Solar hot water douses rising energy costs at Madison's fire stations

When Madison set out in 2004 to become what Mayor David Cieslewicz called a “green capital city,” not one municipal property had yet taken advantage of solar hot water. Four years later, each of Madison’s 11 firehouses is equipped with a solar hot water system, serving anywhere from 45 percent to 60 percent of the buildings’ collective hot water loads and offsetting 205 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions each year. It’s fair to say that no other city in the country has been as aggressive or as successful as Madison in incorporating solar water heating into its municipal buildings.

Continued.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Earth Day in Milwaukee

A list of events, ranging from poetry readings to a scrap metal drive, in and around the greater Milwaukee area.

Events include:

Earth Day for Afternoon Nappers
Earth Day Festival at Riverside Park
22nd Annual Earth Poets & Musicians Festival
In Celebration of Trees
Earth Day Festival at Washington Park
St. Sebastian Scrap Metal Drive
Party for the Planet

State should loosen red tape that restricts wind power

From an editorial in the Eau Claire Leader Telegram:

Clean Wisconsin is part of a coalition of dozens of groups - including environmentalists, labor unions, utilities such as Xcel Energy, and business representatives such as Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce - that supports a soon-to-be-introduced bill that would require the state Public Service Commission to create statewide standards for wind projects. Under current law, local governments can block these projects for health or safety reasons - but those reasons aren't well-defined, which has led to blanket restrictions such as the one in Trempealeau County.

Critics likely will charge that the bill is an attack on local control. However, it still lets local governments make wind-siting decisions, and allows those who disagree with them to appeal to the PSC and the courts.

It's understandable that potential neighbors of any large project - including a wind farm - would be concerned about how it might impact their lives. However, the hum of a windmill or the flickering shadows it may create seem greatly preferable to the sulphurous fumes of a coal-fired plant or the potential deadly contamination of a nuclear reactor. Unless we redouble our efforts to pursue clean energy, those may be our only other options to keep the lights on.

Reedsburg Hardwoods lumber mill process now powered by renewable energy

From a news release issued by Alliant Energy:

MADISON, WI – April 17, 2009 – In the middle of 2008, Reedsburg Hardwoods decided it wanted to reduce its energy cost by taking advantage of a plentiful by-product of its own manufacturing process: wood waste. At the time, the company was using two natural gas-fired boilers and one wood waste boiler to process steam for its kilns, steamers and dryers. While the lumber mill was already powering about two-thirds of its processing operation with the wood waste boiler, it had more wood waste available to do more and wanted to effectively eliminate the use of natural gas for its wood processing energy demands.

“We really saw a great opportunity for our company to move toward completely using a renewable resource to power our lumber mill process,” said Doug Hilber, Reedsburg Hardwoods Facility Manager. “With the excess wood waste we generate and had available on and off-site, it made sense to look at purchasing a larger capacity wood waste boiler that could handle processing steam for all of our lumber mill process now and into the future.”

As with any business, cash is important and paying for the new wood waste boiler and the other upgrades needed to support it, would take upfront dollars before the long-term energy-efficiency gains could be realized. That’s where Wisconsin Power and Light’s (WPL’s) Shared Savings program stepped in to assist the company.

The Shared Savings program is an initiative that assists industrial, commercial and agricultural customers with identification and implementation of energy efficiency projects - and invests the capital to finance them. The program’s low-interest financing, and ability to repay the loan using the energy savings, is attractive to many businesses.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

State should loosen red tape that restricts wind power

Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, April 19, 2009

Windmills were once a frequent sight in the Wisconsin countryside, pumping water on countless family farms before the use of electricity became widespread.

Now, windmills could again become common as the state tries to meet its goal of generating 10 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2015. In the coming weeks, the state Legislature will have a chance to make it easier for clean-energy creating wind turbines to proliferate in Wisconsin.

These windmills are larger and more powerful than their ancestors. For example, turbines at a wind farm in Fond du Lac County reach nearly 400 feet in the air (counting their blades) and can generate up to 1.65 megawatts of power. (One megawatt is enough for 800 to 1,000 homes.)

Last year's spike in the price of dwindling fossil fuels should be enough reason for our society to begin shifting to cleaner, more renewable sources. Add to that the growing evidence of global climate change caused by excessive amounts of carbon dioxide released by the burning of those fossil fuels, and the need for renewable energy becomes even more critical.

Today, Wisconsin gets just 3 percent of its energy from renewable sources (mostly wind), far below the 10 percent target looming in six years. Ryan Schryver, a clean energy advocate for Clean Wisconsin, a statewide environmental group, says an additional 600 megawatts of wind power are ensnared in red tape. The state isn't to blame, however; instead, some local governments have adopted ordinances that restrict the development of wind power. Among them is the Trempealeau County Board, which voted in 2007 that wind turbines taller than 150 feet must be one mile or more from residences, schools, hospitals or businesses. The ordinance essentially prohibits wind power in the county.

Clean Wisconsin is part of a coalition of dozens of groups - including environmentalists, labor unions, utilities such as Xcel Energy, and business representatives such as Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce - that supports a soon-to-be-introduced bill that would require the state Public Service Commission to create statewide standards for wind projects. Under current law, local governments can block these projects for health or safety reasons - but those reasons aren't well-defined, which has led to blanket restrictions such as the one in Trempealeau County.

Critics likely will charge that the bill is an attack on local control. However, it still lets local governments make wind-siting decisions, and allows those who disagree with them to appeal to the PSC and the courts.

It's understandable that potential neighbors of any large project - including a wind farm - would be concerned about how it might impact their lives. However, the hum of a windmill or the flickering shadows it may create seem greatly preferable to the sulphurous fumes of a coal-fired plant or the potential deadly contamination of a nuclear reactor. Unless we redouble our efforts to pursue clean energy, those may be our only other options to keep the lights on.

- Tom Giffey, editorial page editor

Installation profiles

Solar hot water
+ Energizing Fort Atkinson’s Schools with the Sun and Earth, Fort Atkinson, WI
+ Sun Harvest Farm: Solar hot water and more, Ridgeway, WI
+ Sock maker steps up to solar hot water - Wigwam Socks, Sheboygan, WI
+ Solar hot water douses rising energy costs at Madison Fire stations - Fire stations, Madison, WI
+ Solar hot water systems for multifamily buildings - Park Central Apartments, Madison, WI
+ Solar-heated pool passes the test at Osceola school - Osceloa High School, Osceola, WI
+ Solar hot water—straight from the garden - Private residence, Platteville, WI

Need more green in the mainstream

From an article by Jeff Starck in the Wausau Daily Herald:

Central Wisconsin environmentalists say "green" is not as mainstream as it should be, but the movement has evolved from a rallying cry on the first Earth Day 39 years ago to a common practice today.

It's hard to miss the push for green and environmentally friendly practices in the Wausau area. Downtown Grocery opened in July 2006, focusing on locally grown, organic foods. Virtually every grocery store and many other shops promote the use of cloth bags instead of plastic bags. Wausau residents recycled 1,959 tons of glass, plastic, aluminum and other items in 2008, an amount barely imagined in 1970 -- two decades before the state enacted a mandatory recycling law.

Local government bodies have looked at ways to be more eco-friendly and explore alternative energy and conservation techniques. In November, Wausau School Board members voted in favor of installing two wind turbines on Wausau East High School property.

Much has changed in the decades since the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970, but longtime activists are concerned that some people still don't take environmental concerns seriously.

"Many people are 'green' on the surface, and do things that make them look good," said Wausau business owner and resident Kari Bender-Burke. "They need 'greenness' throughout."

Bender-Burke, 50, who owns The Needle Workshop and The Quilting Workshop, replaced 40traditional light bulbs with fluorescent bulbs when she moved the stores several years ago to the present location on First Avenue. The switch has saved her about $40a month on her electric bill. At home, Bender-Burke prides herself on collecting rainwater in a barrel for her large garden and compost pile.

Stevens Point architect Tom Brown, who specializes in environmentally sensitive and energy-conserving designs, said the green building boom in recent years is a direct response to consumer demand. As energy prices increased, businesses and homeowners wanted to find ways to reduce their energy use.

"It's nothing new. These are old, basic design concepts and rediscovering basic principles that work," said Brown, who participated in the first Earth Day. "This is more of a reaction to poor design than a new design concept."

Friday, April 17, 2009

River Falls utility recognized for one of nation’s best green power programs

From RENEW Wisconsin's Michael Vickerman:

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory today released its annual assessment of leading utility renewable energy subscription programs across the nation. Several programs offered by Wisconsin utilities finished in the Top 10 in four categories of performance. Deserving of kudos are We Energies, Madison Gas & Electric and two municipal utilities--River Falls and Lake Mills--served by WPPI Energy. Congratulations on a fine performance last year!

Individual program rankings are as follows:

* We Energies' Energy for Tomorrow program came in 8th in total renewable energy sales and 10th in total number of customer participants.
* Madison Gas & Electric's Green Power Tomorrow program posted the 4th highest customer participation rate and ranked 6th in terms of program sales as a percentage of overall retail electricity sales.
* The River Falls municipal utility posted the 9th highest customer participation rate and ranked 3rd in terms of program sales as a percentage of overall retail electricity sales.
* The Lake Mills municipal utility posted the 10th highest customer participation rate.

Though NREL does not keep track of solar capacity that were supported by renewable energy subscribers, it's worth mentioning that from 2006 to 2008 We Energies leveraged the installation of 1 MW of customer-owned solar capacity through its Energy for Tomorrow program. Alliant and MGE also offers a 25 cent/kWh solar rate that is also supported by program subscribers.

For more information about NREL's 2008 assessment, go to:
http://www.nrel.gov/news/press/2009/679.html

Building a new home that's ready for renewable installations

From a fact sheet published by Focus on Energy:

Rising energy costs and concern for energy security and the environment are driving forces in a growing trend to incorporate renewable energy technology into residential housing. Focus on Energy and the Wisconsin ENERGY STAR® Homes Program recognize this as an opportunity for builders. The following checklist of building details is a first step to promote and market the construction of new homes that are built "ready" for future renewable energy installations.

PLANNING AHEAD IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO
To maximize the potential benefit of any future solar renewable energy system, the following should be considered when planning and building a home.

1. Reduce loads
Reduce or minimize energy loads where possible through the home's heating, cooling, water heating and electrical systems. At a minimum the home should satisfy the Wisconsin ENERGY STAR Homes Program building performance standards and, where possible, incorporate ENERGY STAR qualified lighting, appliances and HVAC systems.

2. Maximize solar access
To maximize solar access, face the roof surface and pitch within 30 degrees of due south. The roof should be unobstructed from both the winter and summer sun and have a slope of between 30 degrees and 60 degrees. For more information on solar access, see the Passive Solar Design fact sheet or contact the Focus on Energy Renewable Energy Program at 800.762.7077 for solar site assessment information.

3. Follow zoning laws and applicable codes
Wisconsin State law does not allow zoning or covenants that restrict the use of a solar energy system except for reasons of health and safety. Also investigate applicable Uniform Dwelling Code and the National Electric Code as they pertain to any pre-installation requirements.

Have uniform rules for siting wind turbines

Sheboygan Press, April 17, 2009
Wisconsin should move ahead with uniform rules and regulations for siting power-generating wind turbines that could be applied statewide.

State Sen. Jeff Plale of South Milwaukee is circulating a bill to that effect in hopes of getting bipartisan support before it is introduced in the Legislature. A similar plan was proposed late in the last legislative session and was wisely shelved because there wasn't enough time to fully explore the idea and hold public hearings.

Since this measure will take away some local control that planning and zoning rules would cover, input from local government officials, as well as the public, is critical to coming up with a workable plan.

Current state law gives the Public Service Commission the responsibility for review and approval of large wind power proposals, but smaller projects are left for local governments to decide.

Wind power is not a passing fad. It has to be a part of the solution to weaning the U.S. from fossil fuels. Until the recession hit, wind power generation was among the fastest growing industries in the nation. And, Wisconsin has chosen to be a leader, not a follower in the use of renewable sources of energy. By 2015, the goal is to have 20 percent of the electricity produced in the state come from sources other than coal- or gas-fired power plants.

It would still be best for wind turbine siting decisions to remain solely with local governments.

Neighboring Fond du Lac County is an example where it can work. Leaders in several towns have done a good job of balancing the concerns of neighboring residents with the need for renewable sources of energy in developing regulations on setbacks and noise.

But it is quite apparent that the desire to come up with reasonable rules is not universal. Some towns have written siting rules in such a way to ban wind turbine projects entirely.

There is time to conduct hearings and gather information, and a uniform set of rules on wind turbines will help Wisconsin reach a cleaner energy future sooner, rather than later.

Iowa farmers comment on wind farm: Wow! Cool. Beautiful. They take my breath away!

Reedsburg Hardwoods lumber mill process now powered by renewable energy

From a news release issued by Alliant Energy:

MADISON, WI – April 17, 2009 – In the middle of 2008, Reedsburg Hardwoods decided it wanted to reduce its energy cost by taking advantage of a plentiful by-product of its own manufacturing process: wood waste. At the time, the company was using two natural gas-fired boilers and one wood waste boiler to process steam for its kilns, steamers and dryers. While the lumber mill was already powering about two-thirds of its processing operation with the wood waste boiler, it had more wood waste available to do more and wanted to effectively eliminate the use of natural gas for its wood processing energy demands.

“We really saw a great opportunity for our company to move toward completely using a renewable resource to power our lumber mill process,” said Doug Hilber, Reedsburg Hardwoods Facility Manager. “With the excess wood waste we generate and had available on and off-site, it made sense to look at purchasing a larger capacity wood waste boiler that could handle processing steam for all of our lumber mill process now and into the future.”

As with any business, cash is important and paying for the new wood waste boiler and the other upgrades needed to support it, would take upfront dollars before the long-term energy-efficiency gains could be realized. That’s where Wisconsin Power and Light’s (WPL’s) Shared Savings program stepped in to assist the company.

The Shared Savings program is an initiative that assists industrial, commercial and agricultural customers with identification and implementation of energy efficiency projects - and invests the capital to finance them. The program’s low-interest financing, and ability to repay the loan using the energy savings, is attractive to many businesses.

“I met with Doug several times and we looked at what type of boiler and other equipment would be needed to improve the natural gas energy efficiency of their lumber mill process,” said Mary Eiler-Radl, Alliant Energy Strategic Account Manager. “It turned out that the purchase of a new, higher-capacity wood waste boiler and other related equipment could accomplish that goal. The project was a perfect fit for our Shared Savings program and we were able to quickly pull the financing together.”

We Energies recognized for one of nation’s best green power programs

From RENEW Wisconsin's Michael Vickerman:

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory today released its annual assessment of leading utility renewable energy subscription programs across the nation. Several programs offered by Wisconsin utilities finished in the Top 10 in four categories of performance. Deserving of kudos are We Energies, Madison Gas & Electric and two municipal utilities--River Falls and Lake Mills--served by WPPI Energy. Congratulations on a fine performance last year!

Individual program rankings are as follows:

* We Energies' Energy for Tomorrow program came in 8th in total renewable energy sales and 10th in total number of customer participants.
* Madison Gas & Electric's Green Power Tomorrow program posted the 4th highest customer participation rate and ranked 6th in terms of program sales as a percentage of overall retail electricity sales.
* The River Falls municipal utility posted the 9th highest customer participation rate and ranked 3rd in terms of program sales as a percentage of overall retail electricity sales.
* The Lake Mills municipal utility posted the 10th highest customer participation rate.

Though NREL does not keep track of solar capacity that were supported by renewable energy subscribers, it's worth mentioning that from 2006 to 2008 We Energies leveraged the installation of 1 MW of customer-owned solar capacity through its Energy for Tomorrow program. Alliant and MGE also offers a 25 cent/kWh solar rate that is also supported by program subscribers.

For more information about NREL's 2008 assessment, go to: http://www.nrel.gov/news/press/2009/679.html

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Flying a solar flag: Pole-mounted solar panels for businesses and non-profits

From a fact sheet pubilshed by Focus on Energy:

Pole-mounted solar electric systems offer an excellent opportunity for businesses to display a commitment to renewable energy. Also called solar flags, these systems are economical because they tend to be small. Today, solar flags are seen outside business establishments, in parking lots and in city parks. Not only do solar flags generate electricity, they also promote clean energy technology in a highly visible way.

When most people think of solar panels, they think of roof-mounted systems. However, roof-mounted systems are often hidden from view, partially shaded by trees, or not facing the best direction to capture solar energy. Solar flags can be installed in highly visible locations and positioned optimally to capture sunlight. Installing a solar flag does not involve attaching anything to your building, and the occasional maintenance requirements will not include a trip to the roof. Also, unlike roofmounted systems, pole-mounted solar flags do not need to be removed and reinstalled when the roof is replaced.

Solar electric flags can offer great economics and a relatively low cost. They are available in different sizes and prices (see Table 1). Costs tend to be significantly lower for business owners who pay federal taxes. If your electric utility offers a solar buyback rate, your solar flag can pay for itself in less than ten years. What’s more, some utilities offer additional incentives to nonprofit organizations and government agencies.

Bill could change wind industry in Wisconsin

From a story by Colby Robertson on WAOW-TV:

CUSTER (WAOW) -- Wisconsin Lawmakers are discussing a bill that would increase wind production and jobs throughout the state.

The bill would determine where wind power projects in Wisconsin could be built.

Currently, smaller wind projects are regulated by municipal or local rules, making it difficult to develop small and medium sized wind farms.

A spokesperson for the environmental group Clean Wisconsin says this bill is an easy way for lawmakers to create jobs in our state at almost no expense to the taxpayer.

According to the American Wind Energy Association, Wisconsin is 15th in the Country when it comes to installing wind projects, but some local wind experts hope this legislation will push Wisconsin to the top.

Supporters say this bill would not only change the wind industry, but it could bring hundreds of thousands of jobs to the area.

RENEW Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Farmers Union, along with Clean Wisconsin, launched a campaign in December of 2008 to support the proposal and other renewable energy initiatives.

High speed rail in Minneapolis, Midwest on Obama's top 10 list

From an article in The Capital Times:

A high speed rail project that includes Madison is in President Obama's strategic plan of a "top 10" list of rail projects that have been identified to jump-start a potential world-class passenger rail system in America.

The president released his strategic plan for high speed rail Thursday morning -- a plan that would spend $8 billion in stimulus funds and another $1 billion a year for five years as a down payment to revitalizing the country's passenger rail system.

The 10 corridors identified in the plan include the Chicago Hub Network, which would link Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison and Minneapolis/St. Paul, and also would have high-speed lines serving St. Louis, Kansas City, Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Louisville.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Building a new home that's ready for renewable installations

From a fact sheet published by Focus on Energy:

Rising energy costs and concern for energy security and the environment are driving forces in a growing trend to incorporate renewable energy technology into residential housing. Focus on Energy and the Wisconsin ENERGY STAR® Homes Program recognize this as an opportunity for builders. The following checklist of building details is a first step to promote and market the construction of new homes that are built "ready" for future renewable energy installations.

PLANNING AHEAD IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO
To maximize the potential benefit of any future solar renewable energy system, the following should be considered when planning and building a home.

1. Reduce loads
Reduce or minimize energy loads where possible through the home's heating, cooling, water heating and electrical systems. At a minimum the home should satisfy the Wisconsin ENERGY STAR Homes Program building performance standards and, where possible, incorporate ENERGY STAR qualified lighting, appliances and HVAC systems.

2. Maximize solar access
To maximize solar access, face the roof surface and pitch within 30 degrees of due south. The roof should be unobstructed from both the winter and summer sun and have a slope of between 30 degrees and 60 degrees. For more information on solar access, see the Passive Solar Design fact sheet or contact the Focus on Energy Renewable Energy Program at 800.762.7077 for solar site assessment information.

3. Follow zoning laws and applicable codes
Wisconsin State law does not allow zoning or covenants that restrict the use of a solar energy system except for reasons of health and safety. Also investigate applicable Uniform Dwelling Code and the National Electric Code as they pertain to any pre-installation requirements.

Flying a solar flag: Pole-mounted solar panels for businesses and non-profits

From a fact sheet pubilshed by Focus on Energy:

Pole-mounted solar electric systems offer an excellent opportunity for businesses to display a commitment to renewable energy. Also called solar flags, these systems are economical because they tend to be small. Today, solar flags are seen outside business establishments, in parking lots and in city parks. Not only do solar flags generate electricity, they also promote clean energy technology in a highly visible way.

When most people think of solar panels, they think of roof-mounted systems. However, roof-mounted systems are often hidden from view, partially shaded by trees, or not facing the best direction to capture solar energy. Solar flags can be installed in highly visible locations and positioned optimally to capture sunlight. Installing a solar flag does not involve attaching anything to your building, and the occasional maintenance requirements will not include a trip to the roof. Also, unlike roofmounted systems, pole-mounted solar flags do not need to be removed and reinstalled when the roof is replaced.

Solar electric flags can offer great economics and a relatively low cost. They are available in different sizes and prices (see Table 1). Costs tend to be significantly lower for business owners who pay federal taxes. If your electric utility offers a solar buyback rate, your solar flag can pay for itself in less than ten years. What’s more, some utilities offer additional incentives to nonprofit organizations and government agencies.

Go green, save green

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

Ixonia - Zero is the latest buzzword for green building - as in houses that generate as much power as they use. Although going green often is seen as more expensive than conventional construction, some homebuilders are trying to change that. Instead of granite countertops and fancy playrooms, the homes have solar panels and heat pumps.

Tom and Verona Chambers of Black River Falls recently moved into a new home that includes solar panels on the roof, a ground source heat pump and a gizmo that reuses shower water to preheat water coming in from the city.

"We don't have a gas line into the house - zero cost for gas. We have an electric line, but the goal is to produce as much as we use so we don't have any electric bill," Tom Chambers said.

There's a higher upfront cost to having a completely green home. But federal tax credits and grants from the energy conservation group Focus on Energy and a local utility, WPPI Energy, helped bring down that extra cost.

"The other side of the coin is the ongoing utility costs that we will not have," Chambers said.

Closer to Milwaukee, developer Mark Neumann wants to take zero-energy construction a step further.

After touring a green home last summer, Neumann and his son began designing a house that would go beyond zero-energy.

The result: a home now under construction in Ixonia that will produce all the energy that would be consumed in the house - as well as the electricity that a plug-in hybrid vehicle would need for a daily commute.

Forward on renewables

From an editorial in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

No one should consider the radar problems posed by a Dodge County wind farm as a reason to slow the push for more wind-generated power in Wisconsin. While the issue needs to be explored, it isn't significant enough to warrant slowing down the move toward more renewable energy.

The state needs more wind farms and other renewable sources if it's going to move away from fossil fuels that help contribute to pollution and climate change.

According to the National Weather Service, the wind farm's turbines are sending false storm signals to the government's weather radar system. Weather service officials say they see no significant public safety threat, although they say the wind farm could confuse some storm watchers.

Meteorologist Marc Kavinsky told the Journal Sentinel's Scott Williams that the approaching summer storm season will be the federal agency's first opportunity to gauge the wind farm's full impact.

Just outside the Dodge County community of Iron Ridge, the wind farm includes 36 turbines that began operating over the past few months, generating electricity for several surrounding communities.

A spokesman for the owner of the wind farm, Babcock and Brown Ltd., said the company has not encountered a similar problem with any of its other 24 wind farms operating throughout the country.

Stevens Point hangar uses "green" technology for heat

From an article by Meredith Thorn in the Stevens Point Journal:

It looks like a large black box clinging to the side of the new airport hangar, but it is really a one-of-a-kind energy savings tool for the Stevens Point Municipal Airport.

The wall collects the sun's heat and fills with warmth. The warmed air then is pulled into the hangar, said Joe Wheeler, the airport manager.

Because it's so new, the actual energy savings have yet to be calculated. But, Wheeler said, in two months, savings have been "pretty significant."

"Utilities on the hangar (are) going to be very cheap," Wheeler said.

The hangar will be a "community" hangar, meaning pilots can rent an unspecified hangar space in the building, and airport employees will take care of the rest, Wheeler said. Rental rates have yet to be determined for the hangar, which can fit eight single-engine planes.

Wheeler didn't say how much the project cost, but said the wall was completed by Sunny Solutions, a Berlin, Wis.-based company.

It's the first solar transpired wall in Wisconsin, said Stevens Point Mayor Andrew Halverson.

"We want to be a leader in sustainability issues," he said, and the project was a way for the city to put "its money where its mouth is" on energy-saving and environmentally friendly projects.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Wind siting bill back after stalling in '08

From a post on Tom Content's blog on JSOnline:

A bill to create uniform siting standards for wind power projects across Wisconsin is being introduced again after stalling a year ago.

Sen. Jeff Plale (D-South Milwaukee), chair of the Senate Energy and Utilities Committee, is circulating a bill that would call on the state Public Service Commission to develop uniform siting standards for wind power projects across the state.

Wisconsin state law requires large wind power proposals to be reviewed and approved by the state Public Service Commission, but leaves smaller projects in the hands of local governments.

Several counties and communities around the state have enacted ordinances that amount to bans on wind power, however. His bill would call on the state Public Service Commission to engage with counties, towns, utilities and others on developing a comprehensive set of standards that wind projects would have to follow.

“We made it a priority in this state to harness wind, and if we’re going to do that we can’t have one township or one village dictating energy policy for the rest of the state,” Plale said. “We have to have a comprehensive look at it. That’s what we’re getting at.”

Plale said the bill is expected to fare better this year because it is being handled earlier in the legislative session and there is less confusion about what the bill would do.

Expert: Eau Claire on a green path

From an article by Joe Knight in the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram:

A national expert on sustainability who has met with Eau Claire city officials, UW-Eau Claire staff and Luther Midelfort staff says Eau Claire is taking the first steps toward being more efficient and environmentally friendly.

"I think there's a real interest and excitement in Eau Claire ... the hospital has been doing some great things, and the city and university," Gips said.

Gips, president of Minnesota-based Sustainability Associates, will speak Monday at UW-Eau Claire to kick off a series of events the university and community groups are planning to commemorate Earth Day (April 22), which they have expanded to Earth Month.

"I'm going to share about this very exciting movement going on around the country, actually around the world, but especially in Wisconsin," he said.

Wisconsin has more cities designated as "eco-municipalities", which have agreed to use sustainable principals, he said. Washburn and Ashland were the first two. Madison, La Crosse, Menomonie, Dunn County and the city of Eau Claire are among more than 20 communities in the state that are either "eco-municipalities" already or are taking steps in that direction.

Gips advocates what he calls the "natural-step framework" for making companies, cities - even churches - more efficient and sustainable. The framework was developed in Sweden. IKEA was the first business to use it, but now many U.S. companies have adopted it, he said. The U.S. Army and Navy are also using the "natural-step framework."

Over the past year, various Eau Claire city departments have been assessing sustainability, said city manager Mike Huggins.

"Specifically, they're looking at energy, reducing waste streams and looking at the concept of sustainability through the 'natural step' process," Huggins said.

Energy Composites (Wisconsin Rapids) announces new wind industry product

From a news release on Yahoo! Finance:

WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wis.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Energy Composites Corporation (OTCBB:ENCC - News) announced the launch of its comprehensive WindFiber™ composites-in-wind-energy program. WindFiber™ is the strategic umbrella under which we carry out our wind-related innovation, engineering, customer proposition, production and services planning, and logistics activities to drive value for the sector.

Sam Fairchild, ECC’s CEO, stated that “Our comprehensive strategy platform -- which we have named WindFiber™ -- brings us full square into delivering value across all three channels:

+ manufacturing the advanced composite structures for wind energy systems,
+ servicing the composite components of wind energy systems as a composites Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) contractor to integrators and wind farm operators, and
+ supplying composites-related raw materials and material and technology innovations to the wind energy sector.

“We believe that composites play an increasingly important role in driving financial success to wind farm development, and our integrated WindFiber™ approach will accelerate greater and more innovative use of composites in wind energy systems throughout North America. With WindFiber™, we are upping the game.”

Monday, April 13, 2009

Johnson Controls installs state's largest ground-mounted solar electric system





















From a news release issued by Venture Electronics:

Venture recently finished the installation of a 250 kW solar array at the Johnson Controls Headquarters in Glendale, WI. This massive solar array is currently the largest ground mounted solar field in Wisconsin. The largest roof mount array at the GE Waukesha facility also was installed by Venture Electric.

“The Johnson Controls job was quite a project. It took a total team effort to get this array built on time. It proves that solar energy isn’t just for the Sun Belt,” said Venture Electric’s project manager Jim Seefeldt. Venture’s crew battled sub-zero temperatures to erect an intricate maze of piping that created the framework to support the 1452 solar panels. “Each panel had to be at exactly 30 degree for optimal collection of solar energy. It’s like a massive erector set that makes electricity,” said Electrician Foreman Marty Schultz.

A single solar panel generates approximately 33 volts DC (direct current). Each panel is combined with other panels until it reaches 480 volts DC. This DC voltage is then converted to AC (alternating current) thru an inverter. AC is used in virtually all homes in the United States. The inverter takes this converted voltage and places it back on the power grid for use by Johnson Controls and its neighbors.

The installation of these solar arrays requires a new skill set for traditional electrical contractors. “It requires electricians to abide by codes a lot of electrical contractors don’t use every day. I took it as a personal challenge (to learn the codes). It’s a lot of fun to be part of a new industry,” said Schultz

Venture Electric is excited about the growth of photovoltaic in Wisconsin. “It (PV) is the future of electrical generation and we are proud to be part of it,” said Jeffrey Robertson President of Venture Electric. “With the current administration’s commitment to “green technology” I see this as a real growth area. Photovoltaic and wind power are definitely here to stay.”