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Monday, August 31, 2009

EcoTeams in Eau Claire

From Sustainable Eau Claire's EcoTeam page:

EcoTeams are designed to help people make voluntary changes in the way they interact with the environment. If you’re like many people, you have a vague idea of what you should be doing to reduce your environmental footprint, but you don’t know where to begin. The EcoTeam resources will assist you in translating your desire to do the right thing into a program of environmental action that will make a difference.

Turbines' "health effects are likely self-induced and psychological"

From an article by Charles Brace in the Wisconsin State Journal:

TOWN OF BYRON — Retired mail carrier Gerry Meyer said he only sleeps two hours a night because of the constant swooshing sound and that his wife has started taking sleep medication.

His neighbor Nick Gonnering in South Byron, who lives just as close to the noise, said he finds the sound “relaxing.”

Either way, the sound of wind turbines is making more ears perk up as a bill moves forward in the Legislature that would empower the Public Service Commission to create statewide rules governing wind power and pre-empt local government control over their placement.

The rules would govern the distance between turbines and homes along with their noise and the flicker effects of shadows from their turbine blades. . . .

Connie Reich of the town of Byron in Fond du Lac County said she felt like she had no say in the wind project near her home. But, she said developer Invenergy does give $500 every December to her and other people in the community and that residents with turbines on their land get paid significantly more.

“If I had a choice, I’d rather have a turbine than a subdivision,” Reich said.

Byron resident Gerry Meyer said the noise has led to sleep loss and, as a result, high blood pressure.

“This wind factory has completely taken away our quality of life. We can rarely go outside without being stressed by the various sounds,” Meyer said in an e-mail.

Timothy Allen, professor of botany and environmental studies at UW-Madison and an expert on renewable energy, said any health effects are likely self-induced and psychological.

“I think it’s people who don’t want their skyline messed up,” Allen said.

Harness the wind: Turbines grow in popularity

From an article by Judy Newman in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Art and Mindy Shrader have a new conversation piece in the back yard of their log home near Reedsburg: a wind energy turbine, designed to help power their house.

“We live up on a ridge and the wind is always blowing there,” Shrader said. “We thought it would be nice to do something about that.”

Gene Frakes has had a wind turbine on his property in the town of Perry, in the southwestern corner of Dane County, for two and a half years. The 10-kilowatt turbine produces an average of 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity — or about $110 worth — a month, enough to power his home and send some extra electricity out to the grid for his utility company to use. “There’s five months a year when they owe us money,” said Frakes, who also installs wind power equipment.

In the past several months, interest in individual wind turbines has revved up in Wisconsin and beyond. Residents are signing up to buy them, and companies are springing up to sell and install them. Part of the popularity stems from new federal tax credits.

Nationwide, the number of small wind generators installed for home or commercial use grew 78 percent in 2008 over the previous year, and residential sales in early 2009 were 15 to 20 percent higher than a year ago, according to a study by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), in Washington, D.C.

In Wisconsin, about 65 small wind turbines have been installed over the past six years with commitments for 25 or 30 more, according to Focus on Energy, a public-private partnership, funded by utility ratepayers, that facilitates renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Turbines' "health effects are likely self-induced and psychological"

From an article by Charles Brace in the Wisconsin State Journal:

TOWN OF BYRON — Retired mail carrier Gerry Meyer said he only sleeps two hours a night because of the constant swooshing sound and that his wife has started taking sleep medication.

His neighbor Nick Gonnering in South Byron, who lives just as close to the noise, said he finds the sound “relaxing.”

Either way, the sound of wind turbines is making more ears perk up as a bill moves forward in the Legislature that would empower the Public Service Commission to create statewide rules governing wind power and pre-empt local government control over their placement.

The rules would govern the distance between turbines and homes along with their noise and the flicker effects of shadows from their turbine blades. . . .

Connie Reich of the town of Byron in Fond du Lac County said she felt like she had no say in the wind project near her home. But, she said developer Invenergy does give $500 every December to her and other people in the community and that residents with turbines on their land get paid significantly more.

“If I had a choice, I’d rather have a turbine than a subdivision,” Reich said.

Byron resident Gerry Meyer said the noise has led to sleep loss and, as a result, high blood pressure.

“This wind factory has completely taken away our quality of life. We can rarely go outside without being stressed by the various sounds,” Meyer said in an e-mail.

Timothy Allen, professor of botany and environmental studies at UW-Madison and an expert on renewable energy, said any health effects are likely self-induced and psychological.

“I think it’s people who don’t want their skyline messed up,” Allen said.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Presentations set for Energy Efficiency in Manufacturing, Oct. 6-8

The energy track presentations have been release for the Energy Efficiency in Manufacturing Pavilion at the Wisconisn Machine Tool Show, October 6-8, at State Fair Park:

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 6, 2009
9:00am Green and Lean
Presented by Dr. Joe Jacobsen of MATC

11:00am Controlling Your Energy Costs – An Overview Of Focus On Energy
Presented by Nate Altfeather of Focus on Energy

1:00pm Opportunities To Supply The US Wind Industry
Presented by Jeffrey Anthony of American Wind Energy Association

3:00pm Energy Efficiency In Manufacturing Facilities
Presented by Orion Energy Systems

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 7, 2009
10:00am A Case Study On Energy Efficiency
Presented by Nate Altfeather of Focus On Energy

11:30am Starve The Beast! Revolutionary Ideas On How To Save Money Operating Your Ventilation Systems
Presented by DuWayne Bohrer of iVEC™ Systems and Kevin Rohde of Hastings Air Energy Control Inc

1:00pm New Manufacturing Opportunities In Stimulus Funding
Presented by Maria Redmond of Wisconsin Office of Energy Independence

3:00pm Opportunities For Cooperation In The Renewable Supply Chain
Presented by Mark Tomkins of GermanAmerican Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 8, 2009
10:00am Sociable Responsibility In Industry
Presented by American Society for Quality

12:00pm Save Energy, Save Money
Presented by Alex Dodd of Focus on Energy

Energy track seminars sponsored by Focus on Energy.

Presentations set for Energy Efficiency in Manufacturing, Oct. 6-8

The energy track presentations have been release for the Energy Efficiency in Manufacturing Pavilion at the Wisconisn Machine Tool Show, October 6-8, at State Fair Park:

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 6, 2009
9:00am Green and Lean
Presented by Dr. Joe Jacobsen of MATC

11:00am Controlling Your Energy Costs – An Overview Of Focus On Energy
Presented by Nate Altfeather of Focus on Energy

1:00pm Opportunities To Supply The US Wind Industry
Presented by Jeffrey Anthony of American Wind Energy Association

3:00pm Energy Efficiency In Manufacturing Facilities
Presented by Orion Energy Systems

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 7, 2009
10:00am A Case Study On Energy Efficiency
Presented by Nate Altfeather of Focus On Energy

11:30am Starve The Beast! Revolutionary Ideas On How To Save Money Operating Your Ventilation Systems
Presented by DuWayne Bohrer of iVEC™ Systems and Kevin Rohde of Hastings Air Energy Control Inc

1:00pm New Manufacturing Opportunities In Stimulus Funding
Presented by Maria Redmond of Wisconsin Office of Energy Independence

3:00pm Opportunities For Cooperation In The Renewable Supply Chain
Presented by Mark Tomkins of GermanAmerican Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 8, 2009
10:00am Sociable Responsibility In Industry
Presented by American Society for Quality

12:00pm Save Energy, Save Money
Presented by Alex Dodd of Focus on Energy

Energy track seminars sponsored by Focus on Energy.

Boscobel Utilities will pay $.30 per kilowatt hour for solar electricity

Click on article to enlarge it.

If it worked for cars, why not appliances?

From a story on WQOW-TV, Eau Claire:

Menomonie (WQOW) -- Just as Cash for Clunkers comes to an end, we learn about a new government program: Cash for Appliances.

That program will provide customers with rebates to get rid of an old appliance in exchange for buying a newer, more energy-efficient one. The funds will be distributed through Focus on Energy. The owner of Denny's Appliance in Menomonie says she's excited about the program.

Deb Rogge says, "What it's going to do is it's going to help you reduce your energy bill. When you look at how much electricity something is using and you start updating the appliances and light bulbs and things like that in your home, that's just that much less energy that you're going to use, so it's going to put some money in your pocketbook."

Focus on energy says Wisconsin will receive more than $5 million for the program. That money will be released after the government reviews the state's application. Focus on Energy expects the program to begin anytime between October 15th and the end of November. The amount customers can expect per rebate hasn't been ironed out.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Governor to push renewable energy agenda

From an article by Giles Morris in The Daily News (Rhinelander):

As Governor Jim Doyle continues his northern tour, he is promoting a policy agenda that will serve as his legacy when he leaves office next year.

One of the most ambitious pieces of legislation Doyle is pushing for is a law that would create a new renewable energy benchmark for the state.

On Monday, Eric Callisto, chairperson of the Public Service Commission (PSC), spoke about how the new goals would change the way the state looks at its energy policy.

“The governor is not running for re-election and as he announced that he talked about some of the priorities for the state going forward,” Callisto said. “Among those are environmental protection and sustainable energy.”

Callisto, who heads the agency charged with overseeing the state’s energy utilities, said the governor’s energy plan involves a three-pronged approach consisting of strengthening the state’s standards for renewable energy consumption, expanding the state’s market share of clean energy production and ramping up clean energy research programs throughout the UW system.

The first piece of legislation that could emerge from the governor’s energy platform could reach the Legislature this fall. The bill — which would likely come through Sen. Mark Miller’s committee on the environment and Rep. Spencer Black’s natural resources committee — would entail a modification of the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS).

The current RPS requires that the state’s utility companies produce 10 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2015. Under the revamped bill, the deadline for the 10 percent renewable mark would be moved up to 2013 and two new benchmarks would be added to create a “25 by 25” agenda — 25 percent renewable by 2025 with at least 10 percent produced in Wisconsin.

“I think it’s a realistic goal,” Callisto said. “It’s a goal in which Wisconsin utilities, businesses and rate payers are all going to have to play a major role.”

MSTC training evolves with eye on diversity & employers

From an article by Adam Wise in the Marshfield News-Herald:

Mid-State Technical College continues to adjust its class lineup, as leaders attempt to provide more options to students and meet the needs of employers. . . .

College administrators have put a major emphasis on providing diverse offerings in recent years, with the school expanding into renewable energy and biorefinery technology fields.

Benjamin Nusz, a renewable thermal energy instructor, was hired by the college last school year to teach students about solar water heating systems -- which garner energy from the sun and convert it into a usable resource for households. He has been involved in the industry for years and even co-wrote a book on the topic with his father in-law, Bob Ramlow, in June 2006.

"When I entered the field, there weren't these established training courses," Nusz said. "The way to get involved was to find somebody in this industry. To get these technologies and trainings set up in the technical college system is a huge leap forward."

While the technology has been around for decades, the equipment itself still has a ton of potential and a ways to go in acceptance, said Nusz, who acknowledged there are few solar heating systems installed in Wood County.

The college will continue to focus on renewable energies but won't ignore other areas, Budjac said. Among the possibilities: Administrators are investigating a possible advanced certificate program for forensic investigation.

PSC opens door for more in-state renewable installations

A news release issued by RENEW Wisconsin:

At its open meeting today, the Public Service Commission (PSC) called for the expansion of voluntary utility programs that offer premium rates for in-state sources of renewable energy. Today’s discussion marked the first time the PSC took up the issue of premium renewable energy buyback rates since it opened a docket in January to investigate the viability of a statewide policy governing utility purchases of solar, wind and biogas energy generated by their customers.

“While we would have preferred a policy-driven approach to making homegrown renewable energy a bigger part of Wisconsin’s energy future, we are heartened that the PSC will direct utilities to produce plans for encouraging more customer investments in this market sector,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a Madison-based sustainable energy advocacy organization.

During the PSC’s investigation, RENEW Wisconsin submitted comments advocating for the establishment of fixed-rate, technology-specific payments pegged at the production cost of the facility. Where offered, these premiums—also known as Advanced Renewable Tariffs—have significantly increased private investment in distributed sources of renewable energy. Earlier this year, the State of Vermont passed a law mandating premium rates for renewable energy, the first in the nation to do so.

Several years ago, RENEW and other organizations helped We Energies design and launch a voluntary program for encouraging customer ownership of renewable energy systems, including the state’s first premium solar rate.

“We hope the state’s utilities will take advantage
of our experience in this area and work collaboratively to develop renewable energy premium plans that will work,” Vickerman said.

PSC opens door for more in-state renewable installations

IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 27, 2009

MORE INFORMATION
Michael Vickerman
Executive Director
608.255.4044
mvickerman@renewwisconsin.org

PSC opens door for more in-state renewable installations

At its open meeting today, the Public Service Commission (PSC) called for the expansion of voluntary utility programs that offer premium rates for in-state sources of renewable energy. Today’s discussion marked the first time the PSC took up the issue of premium renewable energy buyback rates since it opened a docket in January to investigate the viability of a statewide policy governing utility purchases of solar, wind and biogas energy generated by their customers.

“While we would have preferred a policy-driven approach to making homegrown renewable energy a bigger part of Wisconsin’s energy future, we are heartened that the PSC will direct utilities to produce plans for encouraging more customer investments in this market sector,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a Madison-based sustainable energy advocacy organization.

During the PSC’s investigation, RENEW Wisconsin submitted comments advocating for the establishment of fixed-rate, technology-specific payments pegged at the production cost of the facility. Where offered, these premiums—also known as Advanced Renewable Tariffs—have significantly increased private investment in distributed sources of renewable energy. Earlier this year, the State of Vermont passed a law mandating premium rates for renewable energy, the first in the nation to do so.

Several years ago, RENEW and other organizations helped We Energies design and launch a voluntary program for encouraging customer ownership of renewable energy systems, including the state’s first premium solar rate. “We hope the state’s utilities will take advantage of our experience in this area and work collaboratively to develop renewable energy premium plans that will work,” Vickerman said.

END

RENEW Wisconsin
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.

Previous press statements, newsletters, and other materials are posted at
http://renewmediacenter.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Universities, industry form Midwest energy research center

From an article in the Business Journal of Milwaukee:

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee School of Engineering, Marquette University and several regional companies have formed an energy technology and research center, it was announced Wednesday.

The Southeastern Wisconsin Energy Technology Research Center, which will be administered out of UWM, brings together regional resources to establish a national center that will develop high-potential research in the energy field, attracting large-scale funding and leading state-of-the-art technology that can foster economic growth, the institutions said in a press release.

Seven collaborative research projects centered at various locations are under way, with the support of $200,000 in federal funding and nearly $500,000 from several regional industries and foundations, including the Rockwell Automation Charitable Corp., the Wisconsin Energy Foundation, The Bradley Foundation, Eaton Corp., Kohler Co., American Transmission Co., DRS Technologies and ReGENco. . . .

Researchers from the universities and industries will collaborate on research into wind power, new materials for rechargeable batteries, algae for carbon recycling and fuel, ultra-efficient nanomaterials for cogeneration, sustainable building retrofitting, integration of renewable energy, and cutting nitrogen-oxide emissions and energy consumption.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Pursuing Sustainability Through Economic Adversity

A commentary by
by Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin
August 11, 2009

Continuing a trend that began in 2008, America’s energy appetite will continue to decline through 2009, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA). The reductions are cutting across all primary energy sources: petroleum, coal, and natural gas. These projections appear in the July edition of EIA’s Short-Term Energy Outlook.

In the same document, EIA anticipates a 2% decline in this year’s electricity use, following a 1.6% dip in 2008. The ongoing reduction in electricity demand is having a particularly pronounced effect on coal consumption, which is projected to drop by 5.2% from year-earlier totals. Between the sharp pullback in industrial demand for electricity and low natural gas prices, the current market for coal is very weak.

Needless to say, as fossil fuel consumption goes, so go carbon dioxide emissions. Given EIA’s expectations that the ongoing pullback in energy demand will persist through this year, there should be a continued slackening in greenhouse gases discharged into the atmosphere. If you add this year’s projected reductions to last year’s recorded decline, the overall drop in annual CO2 emissions from 2007 could be as much as 5%. That’s a far larger reduction than what would be accomplished under any of the various cap-and-trade proposals being debated in Congress.

While energy efficiency spending and stricter building codes are good policies for moderating demand, their effects are modest compared with the consequences of a full-blown economic downturn. The current situation raises an important question: what is the value of displacing a ton of CO2 when economic conditions are sufficiently bleak to guarantee future declines in emissions regardless of new climate change policy initiatives?

From a climate change perspective then, current economic conditions present a kind of a good news-bad news situation. On the plus side, Americans are driving less, flying less, buying fewer disposable items made in foreign countries, and building fewer energy sinks like houses, hotels, and megamalls. This slowdown provides us with an opportunity to conserve fossil fuel supplies over a longer period of time, reduce our vulnerability to traumatic events occasioned by human disturbance of the atmosphere, and deploy capital to build up more localized and less high-maintenance economic arrangements that can be sustained over the long haul.

Indeed, out of this contraction could emerge a slower-paced and more sustainable America, one less dependent on the kindness of Middle East petrostates and hail Mary legislation from Congress. A broad-based movement to invest in community-based sustainable energy would in turn have a far more positive and lasting effect on our energy economy than would a Green New Deal that extends the presumption that the American way of life is non-negotiable, as former Vice President Dick Cheney would have us believe. Energy sustainability is an easier goal to achieve when everyone takes part in the project.

But there’s no denying the substantial loss of investment capital available for sustainable energy development. As spending is curtailed and debt is paid down, dollars that could underwrite wind, solar and bioenergy installations are bring taken out of circulation. Moreover, the prices of competing fuels like coal, natural gas and liquid propane have fallen substantially from their 2008 highs, as has the wholesale price of electricity. Many of the renewable energy proposals that looked good on paper 12 months ago are now in hiatus, waiting for the economic headwinds to subside.

These headwinds notwithstanding, there remain a few businesses that are pressing forward with projects that will enable them to reduce their energy overhead and/or diversify their revenue sources. One of the more intrepid of these companies is Organic Valley Family of Farms, which recently installed three pole-mounted photovoltaic arrays in front of their $4 million headquarters building in LaFarge.

For this farmer-owned cooperative, the idea of capturing renewable energy on-site to serve its main building was a logical extension of their commitment to organic agriculture and environmental stewardship. The 8.4 kilowatt installation is expected to produce about 14,200 kilowatt-hours a year, which is about one-and-a-half times the electricity that a typical Wisconsin residence uses per year.

But Organic Valley’s sustainable energy agenda does not stop there. The cooperative is investigating the feasibility of a solar hot water system to serve its cheese-packing facility, also in LaFarge. Even more ambitious is the community wind energy project that Organic Valley and two La Crosse-area partners--Western Technical College and Gundersen Lutheran--have been working to get off the ground. These three entities have formed a for-profit limited liability corporation for the purpose of owning and operating a two-turbine project near Organic Valley’s distribution center in Cashton.

Measurements taken so far indicate that the Cashton location is one of the windiest areas in western Wisconsin.

Even though Organic Valley is a profitable enterprise, it is doubtful that any of these investments in sustainable energy would be going forward without state and federal incentives. As a for-profit cooperative in a rural area, Organic Valley is uniquely positioned to tap into two sources of federal funds: the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Renewable Energy in America Program and the solar Investment Tax Credit. Complementing these funding sources is Focus on Energy, which is co-funding a portion of Organic Valley’s solar electric array and its wind monitoring expenses.

The combination of these funding sources enables businesses like Organic Valley to pursue a proactive approach towards sustainability and invest in systems that will pay off over the long haul. As long as these public policy initiatives remain in effect, rural Wisconsin businesses can grow while conserving fossil fuel use and reducing their impact on the atmosphere, even in these trying times.

Michael Vickerman is the executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a sustainable energy advocacy organization headquartered in Madison. For more information on what Wisconsin is doing to advance sustainable energy, visit RENEW’s web site at: www.renewwisconsin.org and RENEW’s blog at: http://renewwisconsinblog.org.

WPPI member utilities join EPA recycling program

From a news release issued by WPPI Energy:

SUN PRAIRIE, WIS., August 25 – WPPI Energy has joined the U.S Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) Program. The new partnership recognizes the longstanding efforts of WPPI Energy and its member utilities to recycle and responsibly dispose of appliances based on EPA standards.

Established in 2001, WPPI Energy’s Responsible Appliance Recycling Program provides
participating members a way to responsibly reduce landfill use through the recycling of useful refrigerator and freezer parts and recovery of dangerous polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and ozone depleting substances. By partnering with the EPA, 21 participating WPPI Energy members now receive recognition as EPA program partners meeting the highest standards for disposal and recycling appliances that contain harmful refrigerants. . . .

WPPI Energy established the program as part of its ongoing effort to encourage
public and community support for energy conservation and energy efficiency. Select program participants in WPPI Energy’s Responsible Appliance Recycling Program are eligible to receive incentives for their appliances based on utility participation guidelines. Appliances eligible for turn-in incentives must meet utility guidelines and include refrigerators, freezers, dehumidifiers and room air conditioners in working order. The Appliance Recycling Centers of America, Inc. (ARCA) provides
WPPI Energy members with appliance recycling services. . . .

For more information on WPPI Energy’s Responsible Appliance Recycling Program, contact Cheri Tessmann, program coordinator, at (608) 834-4537.

Member utilities of WPPI:
Alger Delta Cooperative Electric Association
Algoma Utilities
Baraga Electric Utility
Black River Falls Municipal Utilities
Boscobel Utilities
Brodhead Water & Light
Cedarburg Light & Water Utility
Columbus Water & Light
Crystal Falls Electric Department
Cuba City Light & Water
Eagle River Light & Water Utility
Evansville Water & Light
Florence Utilities
Gladstone Power & Light
Hartford Electric
Hustisford Utilities
Independence Light & Power, Telecommunications
Jefferson Utilities
Juneau Utilities
Kaukauna Utilities
L'Anse Electric Utility
Lake Mills Light & Water
Lodi Utilities
Maquoketa Municipal Electric Utility
Menasha Utilities
Mount Horeb Utilities
Muscoda Utilities
Negaunee Electric Department
New Glarus Utilities
New Holstein Utilities
New London Utilities
New Richmond Utilities
Norway Power & Light
Oconomowoc Utilities
Oconto Falls Municipal Utilities
Plymouth Utilities
Prairie du Sac Utilities
Preston Municipal Electric Utility
Reedsburg Utility Commission
Richland Center, City Utilities of
River Falls Municipal Utilities
Slinger Utilities
Stoughton Utilities
Sturgeon Bay Utilities
Sun Prairie Water & Light
Two Rivers Water & Light
Waterloo Utilities
Waunakee Utilities
Waupun Utilities
Westby Utilities
Whitehall Electric Utility

Marathon County trash becomes electricity

From a story by Jonalee Merkel on WSAW-TV, Wausau:

If you have ever wondered how much waste you actually produce, you probably don’t want to know.

"Wisconsin put over 10 million tons of garbage in landfills in 2008,” said Meleesa Johnson, the Marathon County Solid Waste Department director. "With 10 million tons of garbage in Wisconsin for just one year, if every family does one thing different, makes on different choice, we can reduce the amount of waste going into landfills."

And the changes we all can make to help are fairly simple, like just changing the way we shop.

"When you go to the grocery store, you're always so enticed to buy that little convenient package,” Johnson said. "Let's say the juice boxes. Juice boxes are great if you're on the go, but when you're at home, probably not the best choice. Why not have a big half gallon of juice you can pour it into a regular cup? [The] cup can be washed and reduce the amount of waste you have."

And when it comes to those things you no longer use, you should consider if your potential trash could be someone else’s treasure. Johnson says she sees a number of items, ranging from toys to clothing, that come into the landfill in great shape and could really be taken to a resale shop.

"Don't throw them in the landfill because there's much better uses for these things,” she said.

But until we all start cutting down on our waste, rest assured the Marathon County Solid Waste Department has found a good use for all our garbage.

"We extract the gases that are accumulating and we take those gases and burn those off to produce electricity,” Johnson said. “That's a very positive thing. We have something that we don't like, garbage, but we're actually finding a very beneficial way to use the waste."

Festival aims to educate people about local food, artists

From an article by Heidi Clausen in the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram:

TURTLE LAKE - Mike Brenna wants to bring people back to farms.

That's the main reason he has agreed to host Soupstock III on Saturday, Sept. 19, at his 50-acre Little Footprint Farm.

Brenna hopes at least 500 people will turn out to learn more about sustainable agriculture and ways they can support local growers and artisans.

"We want to get the public coming to farms and getting connected to farmers and making us part of the community again," he said.

Brenna's Polk County farm has been a hub of activity in recent weeks. In-between weeding and harvesting, he and his crew rush to finish a new building that will be the heart of the farm's outreach activities.

Soupstock III will be the first event there, said Brenna, a founding member of the Northwest Wisconsin Food Network.

The first two Soupstocks, hosted by Hunt Hill Audubon Sanctuary and Nature Center near Sarona, each drew 250 to 300 people.

"We really wanted to get it back on a farm," Brenna said.

Soupstock is a collaboration of the Northwest Wisconsin Regional Food Network, the Farm to Community Alliance and Hunt Hill.

The fall festival's purpose is to educate people about local food, art and music and foster an interest in sustainability.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Energy Composites reports revenue increase, second quarter net loss

From an article by in the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune:

Energy Composites Corp. had an 18.1 percent increase in revenue during the second quarter from the same period in 2008, the Wisconsin Rapids-based company announced today.

Despite the increase and a 7.5 percent increase in gross profit, the manufacturer had a net loss of $579,781, about 45 percent higher than the second quarter of 2008, according to the company’s quarterly financial results.

Company leaders attributed the loss to continued investments in its planned 350,000-square-foot manufacturing plant it expects to build in the Rapids East Commerce Center. Announced March 31, the new plant will construct industrial wind-turbine blades and create more than 400 local jobs.

Energy Composites Chief Executive Officer Sam Fairchild said the company also continues to diversify its product line and soon will have several significant contractual and personnel announcements as a result of those efforts.

Switchgrass Establishment & Maintenance Practices for Biomass Production Field-Day

From an announcement distributed by Southwest Badger RC & D Council:

September 3, 2009
1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
1291 Rawson Lane, Platteville, Wisconsin

Southwest Badger Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Council is in the second year of a project to determine the best management practices for maximizing switchgrass yields in Southwest Wisconsin. The field day will provide a tour of demonstration plots planted in 2008 at the Jim and Terry Schaefer farm. NRCS and Southwest Badger staff will provide an overview of the project and discuss the various field trials being conducted. Researchers from UW Madison will provide information on weed pressure resulting from the various herbicide treatments and how that corresponds to yield. Fertility trials implemented in 2009 will be viewed and discussed. A side-by-side comparison of pure switchgrass plantings and a nine species prairie mix will be observed. A representative of Alliant Energy will discuss their plans to perform a test burn of switchgrass at the Cassville plant this fall.

Homegrown renewable energy bus tour slated for Eau Claire area on September 8

From an article on Wisconsin Ag Connection:

Several groups are joining forces to hold a homegrown renewable energy bus tour around Northern Wisconsin next month. The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Office of Energy Independence, Wisconsin Farmers Union, [RENEW Wisconsin], and other partners are sponsoring the daylong tour on September 8.

Organizers say stops will be made at four locations where exciting developments in renewable energy production are being made.

The tour includes visits at Cadott School District, where the district uses buses that run on natural gas and and has examples of electric and alternative fuel vehicles; Five Star Dairy near Elk Mound, uses a manure to energy digester system to generate electricity; Barron High School, which produced wood chips, instead of fossil fuels, to provide heat for the school; and Bioenergy Crop Research Site, where attendees can meet the people behind the cutting edge research into bioenergy crops.

The stops on the tour coincide with each policy item of the Homegrown Renewable Energy Campaign. All four policies will come before the state legislature this fall.

Registration starts at 8:30 a.m. at the Cadott Junior/Senior High School. The tour will conclude at approximately 5 p.m. Lunch and snacks will be provided and the cost of the tour is $10.

For more information or to sign-up, call 715-723-5561.

New interactive Milwaukee maps shows solar installations

From Milwaukee Shines:

The . . . map features 65 of the estimated 175 homes and businesses with solar energy installations in the 7-county Milwaukee metro area.

The City of Milwaukee, through the Solar America Cities program, has a goal of installing at least 100 solar electric systems and 50 solar hot water systems with a combined production of one megawatt of solar energy in Milwaukee by 2012.

Using data from Focus on Energy, Milwaukee Shines estimates that the City of Milwaukee currently has approximately 30 solar electric systems and 20 solar hot water systems in operation that produce a combined 350 kW of energy.

Help us reach our goal! Solar is a viable energy source in southeastern Wisconsin. Contact Milwaukee Shines, Focus on Energy, or We Energies to find out if you qualify for a solar installation incentive.

Finally, if you have a solar energy system on your home or business and would like to be featured on our map, please contact Andrea Luecke at 414-286-5593 or aluecke@milwaukee.gov.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Wisconsin Renewable Quarterly, Summer 2009

The Wisconsin Renewable Quarterly includes these article in the summer edition:

It's Time to Bring Renewable Energy Home
In Memoriam: Bob Gilbertson
Board Member Brings Green Home
Renewables Profile: Jenny Heinzen
Manure Digesters Good Fit
Solar Innovator: Craig Tarr
Calendar

Wisconsin Renewable Quarterly

The Wisconsin Renewable Quarterly includes these article in the summer edition:

It's Time to Bring Renewable Energy Home
In Memoriam: Bob Gilbertson
Board Member Brings Green Home
Renewables Profile: Jenny Heinzen
Manure Digesters Good Fit
Solar Innovator: Craig Tarr
Calendar

Wisconsin Renewable Quarterly, Summer 2009

The Wisconsin Renewable Quarterly includes these article in the summer edition:

It's Time to Bring Renewable Energy Home
In Memoriam: Bob Gilbertson
Board Member Brings Green Home
Renewables Profile: Jenny Heinzen
Manure Digesters Good Fit
Solar Innovator: Craig Tarr
Calendar

Solar innovator featured in Renewable Quarterly



From an article in the newsletter of RENEW Wisconsin:

A start-up in 2006, Hudson-based Energy Concepts because the latest Wisconsin renewable energy company to earn Focus on Energy’s coveted Market Provider of the Year award.

The award was presented to founder Craig Tarr at the Midwest Renewable Energy Association’s 20th annual Energy Fair.

The Market Provider of the Year award recognizes renewable energy contractors who exemplify the goals and expectations of the Focus on Energy Program. The award highlights a contractor’s commitment and dedication to excellent customer service and high-quality renewable energy systems installation. Contractors who receive the honor demonstrate exceptional passion, intelligence, and dedication when providing renewable energy services.

“Craig’s 20 years of experience in the engineering industry has contributed greatly to his highly successful growth in the renewable energy industry,” said Emily Hickey, market provider program coordinator for Focus on Energy. “Wisconsin truly benefits from having well-qualified businesses like Energy Concepts grow our renewable energy markets.”

Tarr returned the praise from Focus on Energy, saying, “Without Focus on Energy, I quite frankly wouldn’t be where I am today. Since 2006 when we began, Energy Concepts has grown to a $2 million business. We want to reach $5 million a year in the next three years.”

Other articles in the newsletter:
In Memoriam: Bob Gilbertson
Board Member Brings Green Home
Renewables Profile: Jenny Heinzen
Manure Digesters Good Fit
Calendar

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Clunkers program nears end

From an Associated Press article by Dan Strumpf and Ken Thomas in The Capital Times:

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration is developing plans to wind down the popular Cash for Clunkers program and could announce by Friday when the incentives will no longer be available.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Wednesday the department would announce within 48 hours how it intends to discontinue the program that offers car buyers rebates of $3,500 or $4,500 for trading in older vehicles for new, more fuel-efficient models. Department officials met with car dealer trade groups on Wednesday to discuss how the program will eventually end and respond to complaints over a backlog of rebate payments to dealers.

Through early Wednesday, auto dealers have made deals worth $1.81 billion and are on pace to exhaust the program's $3 billion in funds in early September. The incentives have generated more than 435,000 vehicle sales but dealers want a clear plan on when the rebates will no longer be available so they don't end up on the hook for any of the incentives.

"We want to make sure that dealers know when we're getting close" to running out of the money that was allocated for the program, LaHood told reporters. LaHood said he recognized that "dealers are frustrated. They're going to get their money."

Clunkers program nears end

From an Associated Press article by Dan Strumpf and Ken Thomas in The Capital Times:

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration is developing plans to wind down the popular Cash for Clunkers program and could announce by Friday when the incentives will no longer be available.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Wednesday the department would announce within 48 hours how it intends to discontinue the program that offers car buyers rebates of $3,500 or $4,500 for trading in older vehicles for new, more fuel-efficient models. Department officials met with car dealer trade groups on Wednesday to discuss how the program will eventually end and respond to complaints over a backlog of rebate payments to dealers.

Through early Wednesday, auto dealers have made deals worth $1.81 billion and are on pace to exhaust the program's $3 billion in funds in early September. The incentives have generated more than 435,000 vehicle sales but dealers want a clear plan on when the rebates will no longer be available so they don't end up on the hook for any of the incentives.

"We want to make sure that dealers know when we're getting close" to running out of the money that was allocated for the program, LaHood told reporters. LaHood said he recognized that "dealers are frustrated. They're going to get their money."

Clunkers program nears end

From an Associated Press article by Dan Strumpf and Ken Thomas in The Capital Times:

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration is developing plans to wind down the popular Cash for Clunkers program and could announce by Friday when the incentives will no longer be available.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Wednesday the department would announce within 48 hours how it intends to discontinue the program that offers car buyers rebates of $3,500 or $4,500 for trading in older vehicles for new, more fuel-efficient models. Department officials met with car dealer trade groups on Wednesday to discuss how the program will eventually end and respond to complaints over a backlog of rebate payments to dealers.

Through early Wednesday, auto dealers have made deals worth $1.81 billion and are on pace to exhaust the program's $3 billion in funds in early September. The incentives have generated more than 435,000 vehicle sales but dealers want a clear plan on when the rebates will no longer be available so they don't end up on the hook for any of the incentives.

"We want to make sure that dealers know when we're getting close" to running out of the money that was allocated for the program, LaHood told reporters. LaHood said he recognized that "dealers are frustrated. They're going to get their money."

Energy Efficiency in Manufacturing, Oct. 6-8, Milwaukee

The Wisconsin Machine Tool Show (WMTS) features an Energy Efficiency in Manufacturing Pavilion to introduce show participants to energy efficient, lean, green, and sustainable manufacturing processes.

The American Wind Energy Association will have a presentation on the wind industry supply chain.

Dave Jenkins from the Office of Energy Independence will update show attendees on ARRA programs and funds.

The German-American Chamber of Commerce will make two presentations:
+ Energy Efficiency in Germany: How U.S. Manufacturers Can Benefit;
+ Supply Chain Opportunities in Renewable Energy.

Focus on Energy will be the Gold Sponsor of the Energy Efficiency in Manufacturing Pavilion. They plan to make a presentation each day of the show:
+ Controlling your Energy Costs - An overview of Focus on Energy;
+ A Case Study on Energy Efficiency;
+ Save Energy, Save Money - Getting started with energy self-assessments for small-mid size industrial facilities.

MATC’s Center for Energy Conservation and Advanced Manufacturing and RENEW are also sponsors.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Registration opens for Solar Decade Conference, Oct. 2, Milwaukee

From the Web page of the Solar Decade:

Join renowned industry experts as they discuss the benefits of solar energy for your home, business and career!

Now in its fifth year, the Wisconsin Solar Decade Conference is your opportunity to see firsthand the latest developments in the world of solar energy. Register today to hear from top industry experts and attend dozens of exhibits, workshops and panel discussions as you discover the state of the technology, the state of the market and where both will be tomorrow!

•Learn about the latest solar energy applications for your home and business
•Discover opportunities to tap the renewable energy market and expand your business
•Network with fellow builders, contractors, homeowners and business owners

Keynote speakers
Dr. Lawrence L. Kazmerski
Executive Director of Science and Technology Partnerships, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Dr. Lawrence L. Kazmerski, executive director of science and technology partnerships at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, is a solar-energy industry veteran who has authored hundreds of journal papers and several books on solar photovoltaics. For his years of research and work, "Kaz" has received recognition both nationally and internationally.

Travis Bradford
Founder and President - Prometheus Institute for Sustainable Development

Travis Bradford is founder and president of the Prometheus Institute for Sustainable Development, a nonprofit organization focused on harnessing the power of the business sector to develop cost-effective and sustainable solutions in technology. In his most recent book, Solar Revolution, Bradford argues that solar energy will become the best and cheapest choice for energy over the next 20 years.

Register here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Energy Efficiency in Manufacturing,Oct. 6-8, Milwaukee

The Wisconsin Machine Tool Show (WMTS) features an Energy Efficiency in Manufacturing Pavilion to introduce show participants to energy efficient, lean, green, and sustainable manufacturing processes.

The American Wind Energy Association will have a presentation on the wind industry supply chain.

Dave Jenkins from the Office of Energy Independence will update show attendees on ARRA programs and funds.

The German-American Chamber of Commerce will make two presentations:
+ Energy Efficiency in Germany: How U.S. Manufacturers Can Benefit;
+ Supply Chain Opportunities in Renewable Energy.

Focus on Energy will be the Gold Sponsor of the Energy Efficiency in Manufacturing Pavilion. They plan to make a presentation each day of the show:
+ Controlling your Energy Costs - An overview of Focus on Energy;
+ A Case Study on Energy Efficiency;
+ Save Energy, Save Money - Getting started with energy self-assessments for small-mid size industrial facilities.

MATC’s Center for Energy Conservation and Advanced Manufacturing and RENEW are also sponsors.

Rapids turbine blade maker gets $100,000 training boost

From a news release issued by the Department of Workforce Development:

WISCONSIN RAPIDS – On behalf of Governor Jim Doyle, Department of Workforce Development (DWD) Secretary Roberta Gassman today awarded a $100,000 workforce training grant to prepare the first of 400 workers for green jobs when a new Wisconsin Rapids business starts manufacturing wind turbine blades. . . .

The $100,000 grant awarded to the North Central Wisconsin Workforce Development Board will be matched by more than $60,000 locally. Among the goals of the Renewable Electric Power project is to train 35 individuals, including dislocated workers, for the first openings at the Energy Composites Corporation. Earlier this year, the firm announced its plans to construct of a 350,000-square-foot, composites fabrication plant to manufacture wind turbine blades.

As part of the project, Mid-State Technical College is creating a 12-credit Composite Certificate, intensive , short-term, customized training in turbine blade fabrication. The 35 trainees are to complete six-months of instruction in June, allowing others to enter the pipeline for employment opportunities at the plant. In the process, the project will develop a green job career pathway for the emerging renewable energy sector in the north central region.

“This is our future,” Secretary Gassman said, “seizing green opportunities that will create good jobs for our citizens and fuel economic growth in the emerging industries of renewable energy, biotechnology and advanced manufacturing.”

Monday, August 17, 2009

Energy Efficiency in Manufacturing, Oct. 6-8, Milwaukee

The Wisconsin Machine Tool Show (WMTS) features an Energy Efficiency in Manufacturing Pavilion to introduce show participants to energy efficient, lean, green, and sustainable manufacturing processes.

The American Wind Energy Association will have a presentation on the wind industry supply chain.

Dave Jenkins from the Office of Energy Independence will update show attendees on ARRA programs and funds.

The German-American Chamber of Commerce will make two presentations:
+ Energy Efficiency in Germany: How U.S. Manufacturers Can Benefit;
+ Supply Chain Opportunities in Renewable Energy.

Focus on Energy will be the Gold Sponsor of the Energy Efficiency in Manufacturing Pavilion. They plan to make a presentation each day of the show:
+ Controlling your Energy Costs - An overview of Focus on Energy;
+ A Case Study on Energy Efficiency;
+ Save Energy, Save Money - Getting started with energy self-assessments for small-mid size industrial facilities.

MATC’s Center for Energy Conservation and Advanced Manufacturing and RENEW are also sponsors.

Makeover home goes green and energy efficient

From an article by Peter Passi in the Superior Telegram:

When most viewers think of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” visions of lavish over-the-top houses spring to mind.

But the dwelling now being built for the Howard and Jessica Huber family in Wisconsin’s Oakland Township breaks the mold.

“This is going to be the greenest show they’ve ever done,” said Thad Whitesel, president of Builders Commonwealth, the Duluth cooperative overseeing the first “Extreme Makeover” project ever tackled in the Northland. “This also is the smallest house they’ve ever built, by quite a bit,” he said.

At 2,300 square feet, the Hubers’ new home won’t be small by most people’s standards, but the majority of residences built during other episodes of the show would dwarf it.

The home’s modest size will make it less expensive to heat. But the energy-efficient design of the residence also will have much to do with keeping its heating bills in check. The home is being built upon a super-insulated concrete slab and will incorporate high-efficiency 8-inch thick panel walls and triple-glazed windows.

Although Whitesel said there wasn’t sufficient lead time to procure solar panels for the home, Builders Commonwealth was able to incorporate passive solar heating into the design. The home will be heated with a combination of fuels, including wood, propane and electricity, allowing it to operate with off-peak electrical heat.

To help the home retain heat, it will feature a 6,000-pound heat sink and a thermal-storage wall behind its wood burner, according to Arno Kahn project manager and co-founder of Builders Commonwealth.

Plans also call for a wind turbine which should meet most of the home’s daytime electrical needs. Kahn explained that building in a fuel efficient manner is key to ensuring the longevity of the home, which he fully expects to exceed a century.

“Fuel is expensive now, but think of what it could cost in 40 or 50 years from now,” he said.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Rapids turbine blade maker gets $100,000 training boost

From a news release issued by the Department of Workforce Development:

WISCONSIN RAPIDS – On behalf of Governor Jim Doyle, Department of Workforce Development (DWD) Secretary Roberta Gassman today awarded a $100,000 workforce training grant to prepare the first of 400 workers for green jobs when a new Wisconsin Rapids business starts manufacturing wind turbine blades. . . .

The $100,000 grant awarded to the North Central Wisconsin Workforce Development Board will be matched by more than $60,000 locally. Among the goals of the Renewable Electric Power project is to train 35 individuals, including dislocated workers, for the first openings at the Energy Composites Corporation. Earlier this year, the firm announced its plans to construct of a 350,000-square-foot, composites fabrication plant to manufacture wind turbine blades.

As part of the project, Mid-State Technical College is creating a 12-credit Composite Certificate, intensive , short-term, customized training in turbine blade fabrication. The 35 trainees are to complete six-months of instruction in June, allowing others to enter the pipeline for employment opportunities at the plant. In the process, the project will develop a green job career pathway for the emerging renewable energy sector in the north central region.

“This is our future,” Secretary Gassman said, “seizing green opportunities that will create good jobs for our citizens and fuel economic growth in the emerging industries of renewable energy, biotechnology and advanced manufacturing.”

Friday, August 14, 2009

Governor gives out green for local green business

From a story on WQOW-TV:

Menomonie (WQOW) - One local business got some green Wednesday for going green.

Governor Doyle is giving out $600,000 under his emerging industries skills partnership initiative for businesses in green industries. . . .

Specialty Pallet and Crate is one local company that will be receiving some of this grant money. The Menomonie business recycles old pallets and turns them into new products.

"Our business takes a wood pallet that is damaged, repairs it, if it can't be repaired, the wood is cut off, and that wood is used to make custom or fix other pallets. And then if it can't be used for anything else, it comes out here and is ground into either animal bedding or landscape mulch and then colored, and sold locally to landscapers around the Menomonie area and Dunn County and Eau Claire County," says Wendell Noble, vice-president of Specialty Pallet and Crate.

They will be receiving some of the money, in part, because of a new business they created called Bioensertech. That company will make biofuel beginning this winter.

Says Noble, "The biofuel, that is going to be a wood pellet, about that size, and hopefully it will replace coal. It burns 95 percent cleaner than coal and the waste can be used for fertilizer instead of trying to sell it to somebody to discard it. This is made from wood waste, all wood waste, so it's all 100 percent recyclable material."

With this new product, Bioensertech hopes to work with the department of workforce development to train current employees and gain new ones.

Concordia installing solar power system

From an article in The Business Journal of Milwaukee:

Concordia University Wisconsin is installing a $250,000 solar electric system on its Mequon campus.

The system is expected to generate more than 30,000 kilowatt hours of power and will be mounted on Coburg Residence Hall. The project is part of the school’s “green” efforts.

About $170,000 of the project cost will be covered by incentives and grants including a $100,000 contribution from We Energies along with with $23,000 as part of a We Energies buy down program and a $47,000 Focus on Energy 2009 Solar Electric Implementation Grant.

Focus on Energy programs now available to Adams-Columbia Electric customers

From a news release issued by Focus on Energy:

MADISON, Wis. (August 13, 2009) – Focus on Energy, Wisconsin’s energy efficiency and renewable energy initiative, announced today that Adams-Columbia Electric Cooperative (ACEC) officially became a program member beginning August 1, 2009. The utility serves approximately 36,000 customers in 12 Central Wisconsin counties.

ACEC will participate in the Business, Residential and Renewable Energy offerings under the Focus on Energy umbrella. The benefits of participating include:

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

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Onalaska HS get energy-testing equiment from Focus on Energy grant

From a story on WKBT:

Students at Onalaska High School will get the chance to see their carbon footprint. Onalaska High School was awarded a "Focus on Energy in Wisconsin" grant.

Teachers were able to buy six digital thermometers and energy watt meters with the grant money. The digital thermometers measure energy efficiency, for example, they can be used to test for air leaks around windows.

And the energy watt meters can be plugged into an appliance or gadget, like an iPod or a cell phone, to show how much electricity that appliance is using.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Local food guide now available

An article in the West Coulee News:

Get Sustainable of Trempealeau County has released the 2009 edition of its local food brochure for Trempealeau County and outlying regions.

Get Sustainable, which was founded in 2007, is a diverse group of concerned western Wisconsin citizens who meet to discuss what to do in their communities to highlight the need for sustainable living. This food guide is one project which came out of this collaboration.

Eating local means seeking out food grown and raised as close as possible to where one lives. Buying local food also means eating foods that are seasonally available and unique to the region.

The Get Sustainable booklet contains tips on eating wisely, Web sites to explore, and includes Wisconsin and Minnesota community-supported agriculture sites, area farms, orchards and farmers’ markets.

For more information about the food guide or Get Sustainable, contact Mary Graziano at (608) 582-2975 or getsustainablewi @gmail.com.

New program aims to start local EcoTeams

From a story on WQOW-TV, Eau Claire:

Eau Claire (WQOW) - A new program aims to teach area residents all about sustainable living.

The UW-Extension was recently awarded a $7,500 grant by the Wisconsin Environmental Education Board to help start eco-teams. Eco-teams are small groups of individuals or businesses that work together to lessen their impact on the environment.

When it comes to going green the options are endless.

"Hanging out your laundry, starting a compost bin, installing low-flow shower heads," says Erin LaFaive, UW-Extension horticulture educator.

But figuring out what those options are might not always be easy. That's why the UW-Extension is stepping in with a new program called EcoTeams.

"EcoTeams is a way to have an evironmentally sustainable lifestyle in a fun way. You get groups of people together at work or in your neighborhood or your faith organization and go through a workbook called the green living handbook," adds LaFaive.

After completing each chapter you meet with your EcoTeam to discuss what you learned and ways to apply that to your everyday life. Topics in each chapter include things like water, electricity and garbage.

"In the workbook, it asks you what actions are you willing to take and you check those off, then when you're done with the workbook it asks which ones you really did," says LaFaive.

The book even helps you calculate things like energy bill savings and how much garbage you go through. And with cities going green, LaFaive says now is the perfect time for everyone to jump on board.

Oak Creek company transitions from small shop to major energy saver

From a news release issued by Focus on Energy:

(August 12, 2009) - Like many Wisconsin businesses, Columbia Grinding, Inc. started out with a dream, a lot of hard work and limited resources. In 1953 the business opened as a 1,800-square-foot one-man shop in South Milwaukee. By 1978, the production workload grew and the first employee was hired. Today, Columbia Grinding has grown to 35 employees and a 43,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in the Oak Creek Industrial Park.

Although the company's values remain the same, over the years Columbia Grinding has enhanced its energy efficiency and high-performance standards to power its state-of-the-art equipment, processes and services.

With the help of Focus on Energy, Wisconsin's energy efficiency and renewable energy initiative, Columbia Grinding's Oak Creek, Wis. plant has reduced energy consumption by more than 230,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity and 14,000 therms of natural gas - enough energy to power 40 houses for a year. The company will also save $33,500 on its energy bills each year.

Since 2008, Columbia Grinding has received $13,500 in cash incentives from Focus on Energy to boost its efforts toward becoming more energy efficient. The biggest energy saver was an innovative air filtration system installed last month that will significantly reduce the facility's heating and air conditioning loads. The system connects with the existing energy management system to provide automated control of the make-up air and exhaust in the main production area.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Highlights of the 20th Annual Energy Fair


Madison Gas & Electric followed Madison residences from when they boarded the bus in the capital city to the fair and back again.

Program restarts: Badgers love 'Clunkers' cash

From an article by Mike Ivey in The Capital Times:

The experts continue to debate the pros and cons of the "Cash for Clunkers" rebate program, but Wisconsin car buyers have already given it a big thumbs-up.

Wisconsin is 10th in the amount of cash requested from the program based on figures from the U.S. Department of Transportation released this week.

Of the nearly $775 million in clunker cash requests so far, more than $24 million came from Wisconsin. Michigan, California and Ohio were the top three states.

The U.S. Senate has approved another $2 billion for the program, which was initially funded with $1 billion.

Officially known as the Car Allowance Rebate System Act, the measure provides up to $4,500 in taxpayer subsidy for those who trade in an old vehicle for a more efficient model. To qualify, the old car needs to get 18 miles per gallon or less while the new one must get at least 22 mpg.

Area really needs to focus on energy

From a story on WQOW-TV, Eau Claire:

Eau Claire (WQOW) -- A new report shows our area really needs to focus on energy.

The report from the West Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission shows how energy consumption has risen 35% in our area over the past three decades. Over the same time our population has only increased about half that.

The new report focuses on Barron, Chippewa, Clark, Dunn, Eau Claire, Polk, and St. Croix counties. It includes several areas that those counties need to work on.

The report showed in 2005, only 4.5% of Wisconsin's energy came from renewable resources. The commission feels like the region can do better than that. It says the options for conservation exist, but many communities aren't making that a priority.

There were several issues found by the commission regarding resources. The report shows more farmland is being taken out of production and converted to other uses. From 1990 to 2007, the region lost half a million acres of farmland. From 1987 to 2007, the region lost 58% of its dairy farms.

Water consumption increased 50 million gallons a day between 1979 and 2005. The report found that there is an increase in organic farms and that there is an opportunity for our region to become an organic food and feedstock supplier to the twin cities.

Doyle encourages Rapids residents to sign up for free energy audits

From a news release issued by Governor Jim Doyle:

Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. (August 11, 2009) - Governor Jim Doyle today urged Wisconsin Rapids homeowners to take advantage of Recovery-funded projects and sign up for free energy inspections by young workers in an Energy Advocate project led by the Department of Workforce Development (DWD).

"These young workers can help you save on your utility bills and conserve energy," Governor Doyle said. "During their visit, they can install free energy saving devices such as a low-flow showerhead. Wisconsin is receiving more than $141 million for weatherization under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Our energy advocates can help you take an important, first step to big savings."

The project is one of many ARRA-funded efforts that will employ approximately 4,000 Wisconsin young adults statewide through June 2011. With federal ARRA funds, Governor Doyle provided 25 individuals, 18 to 24 years of age, employment in "green jobs," while also helping homeowners cut utility bills, save money and conserve energy.

Focus on Energy, Wisconsin's energy efficiency and renewable energy initiative, has partnered with the DWD and the Northcentral WI Workforce Development Board, to offer Together We Save-a summer program dedicated to helping residents in select communities save energy and money at home.

Wisconsin Rapids is one of five cities chosen for the Energy Advocate project. These five cities were selected based on high unemployment, predominantly older homes and many young people seeking jobs. The ARRA-funded project provides for five energy advocates in each community for the Together We Save effort. . . .

Participation is limited
Together We Save presents homeowners a limited-time opportunity to save energy and money with energy efficient improvements that are good for them, their families, and the environment. Interested residents are encouraged to learn more about the program and schedule their home energy audits by calling (715) 459-2547.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Program restarts: Badgers love 'Clunkers' cash

From an article by Mike Ivey in The Capital Times:

The experts continue to debate the pros and cons of the "Cash for Clunkers" rebate program, but Wisconsin car buyers have already given it a big thumbs-up.

Wisconsin is 10th in the amount of cash requested from the program based on figures from the U.S. Department of Transportation released this week.

Of the nearly $775 million in clunker cash requests so far, more than $24 million came from Wisconsin. Michigan, California and Ohio were the top three states.

The U.S. Senate has approved another $2 billion for the program, which was initially funded with $1 billion.

Officially known as the Car Allowance Rebate System Act, the measure provides up to $4,500 in taxpayer subsidy for those who trade in an old vehicle for a more efficient model. To qualify, the old car needs to get 18 miles per gallon or less while the new one must get at least 22 mpg.

Program restarts: Badgers love 'Clunkers' cash

From an article by Mike Ivey in The Capital Times:

The experts continue to debate the pros and cons of the "Cash for Clunkers" rebate program, but Wisconsin car buyers have already given it a big thumbs-up.

Wisconsin is 10th in the amount of cash requested from the program based on figures from the U.S. Department of Transportation released this week.

Of the nearly $775 million in clunker cash requests so far, more than $24 million came from Wisconsin. Michigan, California and Ohio were the top three states.

The U.S. Senate has approved another $2 billion for the program, which was initially funded with $1 billion.

Officially known as the Car Allowance Rebate System Act, the measure provides up to $4,500 in taxpayer subsidy for those who trade in an old vehicle for a more efficient model. To qualify, the old car needs to get 18 miles per gallon or less while the new one must get at least 22 mpg.

Program restarts: Badgers love 'Clunkers' cash

From an article by Mike Ivey in The Capital Times:

The experts continue to debate the pros and cons of the "Cash for Clunkers" rebate program, but Wisconsin car buyers have already given it a big thumbs-up.

Wisconsin is 10th in the amount of cash requested from the program based on figures from the U.S. Department of Transportation released this week.

Of the nearly $775 million in clunker cash requests so far, more than $24 million came from Wisconsin. Michigan, California and Ohio were the top three states.

The U.S. Senate has approved another $2 billion for the program, which was initially funded with $1 billion.

Officially known as the Car Allowance Rebate System Act, the measure provides up to $4,500 in taxpayer subsidy for those who trade in an old vehicle for a more efficient model. To qualify, the old car needs to get 18 miles per gallon or less while the new one must get at least 22 mpg.

Support We Energies' wind project!

Wind energy needs vocal support in Wisconsin!

The need for renewable energy in Wisconsin continues to grow.

In October 2008, We Energies proposed the Glacier Hills Wind Park in the towns of Randolph and Scott in Columbia County – approximate 45 miles northeast of Madison. The Glacier Hills Wind Park would consist of 90 turbines and generate 162 megawatts of electricity - enough capacity to power approximately 45,000 homes.

Comments are due regarding the Environmental Impact of the project by September 4, 2009. Now is the time for those of us who believe that wind power is good for the environment and good for Wisconsin to speak out and be heard. If opponents are successful in their quest, the future of wind energy in Wisconsin will be seriously called into question.

Please encourage the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) to approve the construction of the Glacier Hills Wind Park and the need for more wind energy in Wisconsin by submitting comments to the PSC– click here.

If you would rather submit comments in writing or by email:

All comments should reference the PSC docket number: 6630-CE-302

Written comments can be sent to:

Jim Lepinski – Docket Coordinator
Public Service Commission
P.O. Box 7854
Madison, WI 53707-7854

Friday, August 7, 2009

Registration opens for Solar Decade Conference, Oct. 2, Milwaukee

From the Web page of the Solar Decade:

Join renowned industry experts as they discuss the benefits of solar energy for your home, business and career!

Now in its fifth year, the Wisconsin Solar Decade Conference is your opportunity to see firsthand the latest developments in the world of solar energy. Register today to hear from top industry experts and attend dozens of exhibits, workshops and panel discussions as you discover the state of the technology, the state of the market and where both will be tomorrow!

•Learn about the latest solar energy applications for your home and business
•Discover opportunities to tap the renewable energy market and expand your business
•Network with fellow builders, contractors, homeowners and business owners

Keynote speakers
Dr. Lawrence L. Kazmerski
Executive Director of Science and Technology Partnerships, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Dr. Lawrence L. Kazmerski, executive director of science and technology partnerships at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, is a solar-energy industry veteran who has authored hundreds of journal papers and several books on solar photovoltaics. For his years of research and work, "Kaz" has received recognition both nationally and internationally.

Travis Bradford
Founder and President - Prometheus Institute for Sustainable Development

Travis Bradford is founder and president of the Prometheus Institute for Sustainable Development, a nonprofit organization focused on harnessing the power of the business sector to develop cost-effective and sustainable solutions in technology. In his most recent book, Solar Revolution, Bradford argues that solar energy will become the best and cheapest choice for energy over the next 20 years.

Register here.

Registration opens for Solar Decade Conference, Oct. 2, Milwaukee

From the Web page of the Solar Decade:

Join renowned industry experts as they discuss the benefits of solar energy for your home, business and career!

Now in its fifth year, the Wisconsin Solar Decade Conference is your opportunity to see firsthand the latest developments in the world of solar energy. Register today to hear from top industry experts and attend dozens of exhibits, workshops and panel discussions as you discover the state of the technology, the state of the market and where both will be tomorrow!

•Learn about the latest solar energy applications for your home and business
•Discover opportunities to tap the renewable energy market and expand your business
•Network with fellow builders, contractors, homeowners and business owners

Keynote speakers
Dr. Lawrence L. Kazmerski
Executive Director of Science and Technology Partnerships, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Dr. Lawrence L. Kazmerski, executive director of science and technology partnerships at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, is a solar-energy industry veteran who has authored hundreds of journal papers and several books on solar photovoltaics. For his years of research and work, "Kaz" has received recognition both nationally and internationally.

Travis Bradford
Founder and President - Prometheus Institute for Sustainable Development

Travis Bradford is founder and president of the Prometheus Institute for Sustainable Development, a nonprofit organization focused on harnessing the power of the business sector to develop cost-effective and sustainable solutions in technology. In his most recent book, Solar Revolution, Bradford argues that solar energy will become the best and cheapest choice for energy over the next 20 years.

Register here.

Registration opens for Solar Decade Conference, Oct. 2, Milwaukee

From the Web page of the Solar Decade:

Join renowned industry experts as they discuss the benefits of solar energy for your home, business and career!

Now in its fifth year, the Wisconsin Solar Decade Conference is your opportunity to see firsthand the latest developments in the world of solar energy. Register today to hear from top industry experts and attend dozens of exhibits, workshops and panel discussions as you discover the state of the technology, the state of the market and where both will be tomorrow!

•Learn about the latest solar energy applications for your home and business
•Discover opportunities to tap the renewable energy market and expand your business
•Network with fellow builders, contractors, homeowners and business owners

Keynote speakers
Dr. Lawrence L. Kazmerski
Executive Director of Science and Technology Partnerships, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Dr. Lawrence L. Kazmerski, executive director of science and technology partnerships at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, is a solar-energy industry veteran who has authored hundreds of journal papers and several books on solar photovoltaics. For his years of research and work, "Kaz" has received recognition both nationally and internationally.

Travis Bradford
Founder and President - Prometheus Institute for Sustainable Development

Travis Bradford is founder and president of the Prometheus Institute for Sustainable Development, a nonprofit organization focused on harnessing the power of the business sector to develop cost-effective and sustainable solutions in technology. In his most recent book, Solar Revolution, Bradford argues that solar energy will become the best and cheapest choice for energy over the next 20 years.

Register here.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Visit Focus on Energy and WE Energies at the State Fair

From an article on the Milwaukee Consumer:

The Wisconsin State Fair kicks off tomorrow, August 6th, and runs through August 16th. If you do visit the Fair, you might want to consider stopping by the WE Energies Energy Park to learn more about electricity, natural gas, and energy efficiency. The Park is located along the West side of the fairgrounds (along 84th street) and is just North of Gate 4.

Focus on Energy has a game show called “Watt’s it to Ya” at the WE Energies Energy Park at 6:30pm each evening. The game show pits contestants against each other to identify the greatest energy users in a home. If you beat your competitor and move on to the showcase, you have a chance to prove your skills and learn how much you can save by using energy efficiency in your home. To review the complete list of activities at the WE Energies Energy Park, visit the WE Energies website.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Click below to find documents from Wind for Wisconsin.

Fact sheets
News releases
Legislative testimony
News stories
PSC testimony and filings
Editorials
Letters to the editor
Supporters
Other

High-speed rail should go through La Crosse

From an editorial in The Capital Times:

Wisconsin is closer than ever to gaining the high-speed rail service that is needed to put this state on the regional and national transportation map.

In fact, the likelihood that a Chicago-Twin Cities route will make stops across the state is now so real that communities are fighting to be on it.

It was long thought that the service would go from Chicago to Milwaukee to Madison to La Crosse and then across the Mississippi River and up toward Minneapolis and St. Paul.

The "phase one" connector between Madison and Milwaukee is still on target -- despite the efforts of the anti-rail naysayers to try to slow things down. All that is needed is for the project to get a piece of $8 billion in stimulus money that is being made available under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act -- a prospect that seems entirely possible now that Midwestern governors are uniting to push for the plan.

But there is suddenly a debate about whether the service will go through La Crosse or Eau Claire.

A final version of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation's Connections 2030 plan, which identifies the design, construction and operation of the Madison-Twin Cities corridor, now suggests that the choice of which Wisconsin city will get the service is open to question.

The WisDOT plan refers to the La Crosse and Eau Claire routes as "project alternatives … to be determined during environmental and engineering studies."

That introduces an uncertainty to the process, which is to some extent understandable.

The return of real rail service to Wisconsin is an exciting prospect, especially as gas prices spike. And cities have every right to compete for the service.

But our sense is that Bob Fisher, a member of the Wisconsin Association of Rail Passengers, is right when he says that La Crosse's claim is well settled. The city already has Amtrak service. It's rail infrastructure is in place and there's strong local support for the project.

Johnson Controls gets $299 million for hybrid automotive battery work

From a news release issued by Johnson Controls:

DETROIT, Aug. 5 /PRNewswire/ -- Johnson Controls, Inc. (NYSE: JCI) today announced that it has been awarded a $299 million grant by the United States Department of Energy under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to build domestic manufacturing capacity for advanced batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles. This award represents approximately half of the company's total planned investment of $600 million in domestic advanced battery manufacturing capacity and infrastructure development.

"This investment is an important step toward creating and building an industry in the United States that addresses market requirements and long-term opportunities for growth and new jobs in this country," said Alex Molinaroli, president of Power Solutions for Johnson Controls. "We have assembled a world-class team of suppliers and automotive manufacturers, and we believe this comprehensive approach will enable the United States to establish a domestic industry that is competitive, economically viable and sustainable."

In April, Johnson Controls and its joint venture partner Saft announced that Johnson Controls-Saft was awarded incentives for $148.5 million from the State of Michigan for the establishment of a U.S. manufacturing facility for lithium-ion cells and complete hybrid battery systems in Holland, Michigan. The Holland, Michigan facility will serve the company's global customers, including Ford, for its first plug-in hybrid vehicle for 2012, Azure Dynamics, for its 2010 launch of the next generation Balance™ Hybrid Electric commercial vehicle, Daimler AG and BMW.

Scholarships available for Sustainable Management degree

From an article by Richard Thomas in Business North:

At least $100,000 in scholarships is available per year for students who enroll in the University of Wisconsin’s Sustainable Management bachelor program, the nation’s first such degree available online, Dean David Schejbal said July 29.

The program is using faculty and financial aid offices at UW campuses: Parkside, River Falls, Stout and Superior.

The Wisconsin Board of Commissioners of Public Lands provides the scholarship money. Proceeds from sale and forestry on these lands go to K-12 library systems, loans to municipalities, teaching colleges in Wisconsin, commonly referred to as the Normal Schools, and others.

Recently the Normal School fund began showing positive financial returns. The state constitution directed this money to go to the UW general fund.

The board asked Sen. Mark Miller (D-Monona) for an amendment to direct these monies to three areas: a full-time position for Environmental Studies K-12 curriculum development, the Nelson Institute for need-based scholarships, and the Sustainable Management degree program.

Schejbel expects the scholarship fund to grow each year.

The two-year, 21-course (63 credits) degree aims to turn the theories of sustainability into tangible business strategies. The program teaches the fundamentals of “triple bottom line” — ecological, social and financial performance. . . .

For more information, go to sustain.wisconsin.edu.

Wind siting reform gains strong bipartisan vote in committee

On a 6-1 vote, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Utilities, Energy, and Rail passes SB185, wind siting reform

Date: August 4, 2009
Contact: Noah Seligman, 608-310-3338

The 7-member Senate Committee on Commerce, Utilities, Energy, and Rail voted 6-1 to advance SB 185 (Assembly companion AB 256), wind siting reform, to the full Senate.

The vote was bipartisan, with four Democrats and two Republicans on the committee voting in favor of the bill.

Wind siting reform has 20 cosponsors in the Assembly and 11 in the Senate, with support from both parties.

A substitute amendment was added on a unanimous vote that would require the PSC to hold two public hearings outside of Dane County as part of its rule-making. The amendment also provided additional wildlife protections, technical changes, and responsible consideration of Smart Growth planning in regulating wind energy projects.

“The bipartisan committee approval demonstrates strong consensus on the need for wind siting reform,” said Curt Pawlisch, spokesman for Wind for Wisconsin. “Wind siting reform will be an engine for economic activity in Wisconsin, attract new investment opportunities, and support current state energy policy.”

Wind for Wisconsin is optimistic that a floor vote in the Senate would garner the same strong bipartisan support demonstrated in committee and among cosponsors.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

State senate panel passes wind siting reform bill

A story by Shawn Johnson of Wisconsin Public Radio and posted on KQDS-TV:

MADISON (WPR) A state senate panel is scheduled to vote Tuesday (8/4) on a plan that would establish statewide standards for siting wind farms in Wisconsin.

One of the most sensitive questions this plan would ultimately address is how close to peoples homes wind turbines can be built. The plan would leave it up to the Public Service Commission (PSC) to decide that setback. In the past, the PSC has settled on a 1,000-ft. barrier.

But some rural residents who live near the turbines say that's too close. Lynda Barry, head of the group "Better Plan, Wisconsin" says when turbines are only a thousand feet from a home, the noise they create keeps people from sleeping and the strobing shadow they cast drive people away from their windows. She says it would be wrong to ignore the health and safety aspects in the plan.

Barry cites a Minnesota Department of Public Health report, that suggests noise and shadow issues generally go away when turbines are a half mile from homes.

But the bill has widespread support from business, farm, labor groups, and several environmental groups as well. Ed Blume with Renew Wisconsin says it's a necessary step to end the “hodge podge” of local regulations that have restricted wind development. He says in the long-term, it’ll mean cleaner air and economic development for the state. Blume says noise issues have been overblown by wind farm opponents, and the shadow flicker cast by these turbines can be solved by closing blinds or planting trees in front of windows.

On Tuesday, August 4, the senate committee voted 6 to 1 to recommend passage of the bill.

State senate panel passes wind siting reform bill

A story by Shawn Johnson of Wisconsin Public Radio and posted on KQDS-TV:

MADISON (WPR) A state senate panel is scheduled to vote Tuesday (8/4) on a plan that would establish statewide standards for siting wind farms in Wisconsin.

One of the most sensitive questions this plan would ultimately address is how close to peoples homes wind turbines can be built. The plan would leave it up to the Public Service Commission (PSC) to decide that setback. In the past, the PSC has settled on a 1,000-ft. barrier.

But some rural residents who live near the turbines say that's too close. Lynda Barry, head of the group "Better Plan, Wisconsin" says when turbines are only a thousand feet from a home, the noise they create keeps people from sleeping and the strobing shadow they cast drive people away from their windows. She says it would be wrong to ignore the health and safety aspects in the plan.

Barry cites a Minnesota Department of Public Health report, that suggests noise and shadow issues generally go away when turbines are a half mile from homes.

But the bill has widespread support from business, farm, labor groups, and several environmental groups as well. Ed Blume with Renew Wisconsin says it's a necessary step to end the “hodge podge” of local regulations that have restricted wind development. He says in the long-term, it’ll mean cleaner air and economic development for the state. Blume says noise issues have been overblown by wind farm opponents, and the shadow flicker cast by these turbines can be solved by closing blinds or planting trees in front of windows.

On Tuesday, August 4, the senate committee voted 6 to 1 to recommend passage of the bill.

Sustainability changes pay off for Gundersen Lutheran

From an article posted on Envrionmental Leader:

When it comes to investing in energy efficiency, hospitals and health care facilities should not sit on the sidelines, because some of the low-hanging fruits offer savings that pay for themselves in as little as two to three years. . . .

Gundersen Lutheran, in La Crosse, Wis., last year conducted an audit to look for quick fixes, said Jerry Arndt, Senior Vice President of Business Services.

“The most responsible thing you can do is reduce the amount of energy you need,” Arndt said. “So we looked in-house for improvements before we looked at renewables.”

Jeff Rich, Executive Director of Gundersen Lutheran, said the best time to do an audit is on the weekend.

“We found all sorts of things that were on or running that didn’t need to be running,” Rich said. “We had 300 exhaust fans around the building, many of which can be turned off for 12 hours a day. But they were running all the time.”

As another area of improvement, the audit found that 60 percent of the hospital’s energy went toward producing steam. So the hospital replaced and repaired steam traps to improve efficiency.

The hospital also applied for grants to replace light bulbs, a move that helps achieve $280,000 in annualized saving. Grants were provided by Focus on Energy, a Wisconsin government effort, through utilities.