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Friday, October 30, 2009

PSC Approval of Bay Front Project Advances Wood Over Coal

IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 30, 2009

MORE INFORMATION
Michael Vickerman
RENEW Wisconsin
608.255.4044
mvickerman@renewwisconsin.org

Madison, WI (October 30, 2009) RENEW Wisconsin today hailed the decision by the Public Service Commission to approve a utility’s plan to repower an aging northern Wisconsin coal-fired plant with locally available wood fuel.

The approval allows Northern States Power Company-Wisconsin (NSPW), a subsidiary of Xcel Energy, to install the state’s first biomass gasifier. The system will produce synthetic gas from a variety of wood sources to produce electricity at the company’s Bay Front Power Plant in Ashland, Wisconsin.

“This project will yield multiple dividends to the utility’s ratepayers and the local economy in and around Ashland,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide advocacy group for renewable energy.

“Capital projects are few and far between in northern Wisconsin. Rather than closing down an inefficient plant that relies on imported fossil fuel, NSPW is extending its life and improving its environmental performance with this switch to a sustainable energy source,” Vickerman said.

“This proposal is an excellent resource fit for this part of the state. The money spent to acquire wood fuel will remain in the local area, instead of being exported to western coal states,” Vickerman said.
END

RENEW Wisconsin (www.renewwisconsin.org) 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.

PSC Approval of Bay Front Project Advances Wood Over Coal

IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 30, 2009

MORE INFORMATION
Michael Vickerman
RENEW Wisconsin
608.255.4044
mvickerman@renewwisconsin.org

Madison, WI (October 30, 2009) RENEW Wisconsin today hailed the decision by the Public Service Commission to approve a utility’s plan to repower an aging northern Wisconsin coal-fired plant with locally available wood fuel.

The approval allows Northern States Power Company-Wisconsin (NSPW), a subsidiary of Xcel Energy, to install the state’s first biomass gasifier. The system will produce synthetic gas from a variety of wood sources to produce electricity at the company’s Bay Front Power Plant in Ashland, Wisconsin.

“This project will yield multiple dividends to the utility’s ratepayers and the local economy in and around Ashland,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide advocacy group for renewable energy.

“Capital projects are few and far between in northern Wisconsin. Rather than closing down an inefficient plant that relies on imported fossil fuel, NSPW is extending its life and improving its environmental performance with this switch to a sustainable energy source,” Vickerman said.

“This proposal is an excellent resource fit for this part of the state. The money spent to acquire wood fuel will remain in the local area, instead of being exported to western coal states,” Vickerman said.
END


RENEW Wisconsin (www.renewwisconsin.org) 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.

Cow manure smells like success for potential energy production

From an article by Liz Welter in the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune:

Creating energy from methane produced in cow manure could lead the way to local farmers generating their own electricity, said Tom Drendel, the former superintendent of the Marshfield University of Wisconsin Agriculture Research Station.

A coalition of area community leaders, of which Drendel is a member, is working to establish a Rural Energy Education Center at the agriculture station's dairy farm, M605 Drake Ave., town of McMillan.

Farms may be the source for much of the nation's alternative energy. Under the right conditions area farms can produce solar, wind and geothermal energy.

"There are all these different energy sources right here. We have a location to research and demonstrate this at our new site," said Drendel, who, since retiring, is a researcher at the agriculture station.

About $3 million is needed to establish the center and equip the farm with a prototype methane digester designed for the average dairy farm of about 100 cows, said Scott Larson, executive director of the Marshfield Area Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Developing a digester feasible for average-sized dairy farms was an idea of a MACCI energy council subcommittee, Larson said.

"We know this is feasible for the very large dairy farms, but in this area, most of our farms are about 100 cows," Larson said.

Renewable energy tour, Nov. 13

A news release issued by Wisconsin Farmers Union:

Chippewa Falls, Wis. (October 30, 2009) - The Wisconsin Farmers Union and other Homegrown Renewable Energy Campaign partners will host a bus tour on Nov. 13 to highlight the benefits of four homegrown renewable energy policies promoted by the campaign and the opportunities for clean energy jobs in Wisconsin.

The four signature partners of the activities are Wisconsin Farmers Union, the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, Clean Wisconsin and RENEW Wisconsin. The Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection and the Office of Energy Independence are co-sponsors of the event.

The bus tour will begin at 9 a.m. at the Montfort Wind Farm, 254 Highway 18, Montfort, Wis. The wind farm is an example of one way to reduce carbon emissions and emphasizes the campaign's advocacy for a Low-Carbon Fuel Standard. A LCFS calls for a reduction in carbon emissions from transportation fuels, based on the carbon content of all fuels, and the transformation of the market.

The Fuels for Schools and Communities Program and the Biomass Crop Reserve Program will be addressed at the second stop on the tour - at the Meister Cheese Plant, 1160 Industrial Drive, Muscoda, Wis. The cheese plant uses a wood-chip heating system. Research at the University of Wisconsin will also be highlighted demonstrate the prospects for Wisconsin farmers to grow biomass crops.

Providing funding for schools and communities to install renewable energy projects that use biomass crops will create demand for renewable energy. The Biomass Crop Reserve Program provides incentives for farmers to meet that demand by growing biomass crops.

The third stop will be at the Cardinal Glass factory in Mazomanie, Wis. Cardinal Glass is one of the leading suppliers of glass for solar panels. The stop is an example of how homegrown renewable energy can provide jobs for Wisconsin.

Renewable energy buyback rates, the fourth component of the Homegrown Renewable Energy Campaign, will set utility payments for small renewable energy producers who want to feed energy into the electric grid. The tour will stop at a residential home in Ridgeway, Wis. using solar panels to feed electricity into the grid.

The bus will return to the Montfort Wind Farm at 5 p.m.

To register for the Homegrown Renewable Energy Campaign Bus Tour, contact Mike Stranz, WFU Government Relations Specialist, by Nov. 9 at 608-256-6661 or email mstranz@wisconsinfarmersunion.com. A $10 registration fee, payable by cash or check the day of the event, covers the cost of the tour, lunch and snacks.

CLICK HERE for more information on the Homegrown Renewable Energy Bus Tour.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wisconsin gets $97 million for heating assistance

From a news release issued by Governor Jim Doyle:

MADISON—Governor Jim Doyle [on Tuesday] announced the release to Wisconsin of over $97 million in federal funds for the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The funding released today is three quarters of the estimated $130 million in LIHEAP funding Wisconsin is expected to receive this year. . .

The funds released today will be used for the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP), which provides financial assistance to low-income residents who may struggle to pay utility bills this winter. WHEAP is part of the state’s comprehensive Home Energy Plus program which provides assistance with emergency energy needs, emergency furnace repairs, conservation service and assistance weatherizing low-income households.

Due to recent changes in program eligibility, many more households across the state may be eligible for heating assistance this winter. Effective with the beginning of the 2009-2010 heating season, the income eligibility limit for WHEAP and Weatherization has increased from 150% of the federal poverty level to 60% of the State’s Median Income. . . .

Payments under these programs depend upon household size, income level, and home energy costs. A family of four, with an annual income of $45,067 or less may be eligible for energy assistance.

To receive more information about how to apply for the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program, call the Home Energy Plus hotline at 866-432-8947, or visit www.homeenergyplus.wi.gov.

Wisconsin gets $97 million for heating assistance

From a news release issued by Governor Jim Doyle:

MADISON—Governor Jim Doyle [on Tuesday] announced the release to Wisconsin of over $97 million in federal funds for the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The funding released today is three quarters of the estimated $130 million in LIHEAP funding Wisconsin is expected to receive this year. . .

The funds released today will be used for the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP), which provides financial assistance to low-income residents who may struggle to pay utility bills this winter. WHEAP is part of the state’s comprehensive Home Energy Plus program which provides assistance with emergency energy needs, emergency furnace repairs, conservation service and assistance weatherizing low-income households.

Due to recent changes in program eligibility, many more households across the state may be eligible for heating assistance this winter. Effective with the beginning of the 2009-2010 heating season, the income eligibility limit for WHEAP and Weatherization has increased from 150% of the federal poverty level to 60% of the State’s Median Income. . . .

Payments under these programs depend upon household size, income level, and home energy costs. A family of four, with an annual income of $45,067 or less may be eligible for energy assistance.

To receive more information about how to apply for the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program, call the Home Energy Plus hotline at 866-432-8947, or visit www.homeenergyplus.wi.gov.

Glacier Hills Wind Park hearing, Nov. 4

The Public Service Commission will take public testimony on We Energies' proposed Glacier Hills Wind Park.

Wednesday, November 4
3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Randolph Town Hall
109 S. Madison St. – Friesland

Those opposed to wind projects will likely make arguments like the one below from letter-to-the-editor of the Manitowoc Times Herald. The writere offered this outrageous explanation for why the Legislature passed and the govenor signed the bill on wind siting reform:

Blinded by a feel-good solution for a problem that never existed [global warming], legislators are being misled into a belief that something like wind turbines will not have a negative effect on those who are left to live around
them . . .

To understand the problem you needed to be at the hearing in Mandison on May 12, held by the Senate and Assembly Energy Committee. . . .

It was obvious that the pro-wind lobby, paid with your tax money from RENEW Wisconsin, had the minds of legislators on their side long before the hearing.


Read more wild assertions from the letter.

Glacier Hills Wind Park hearing, Nov. 4

The Public Service Commission will take public testimony on We Energies' proposed Glacier Hills Wind Park.

Wednesday, November 4
3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Randolph Town Hall
109 S. Madison St. – Friesland

Those opposed to wind projects will likely make arguments like the one below from letter-to-the-editor of the Manitowoc Times Herald. The writere offered this outrageous explanation for why the Legislature passed and the govenor signed the bill on wind siting reform:
Blinded by a feel-good solution for a problem that never existed [global warming], legislators are being misled into a belief that something like wind turbines will not have a negative effect on those who are left to live around them . . .

To understand the problem you needed to be at the hearing in Mandison on May 12, held by the Senate and Assembly Energy Committee. . . .

It was obvious that the pro-wind lobby, paid with your tax money from RENEW Wisconsin, had the minds of legislators on their side long before the hearing.
Read more wild assertions from the letter.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Doyle announces $500,000 for communities to plan for clean energy future

From a news release issued by Governor Jim Doyle:

MADISON – Governor Doyle announced today that $500,000 in funds from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) program are available to communities working toward energy independence. The grants are part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and will help communities create a plan to reach the Governor’s “25x25” goal of generating 25 percent of the state’s electricity and transportation fuels from renewable resources by the year 2025.

“Local communities are critical leaders in the state’s efforts to work toward energy independence,” Governor Doyle said. “The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants will build on local leadership and invest in a clean energy future that will clean our air and water, create jobs, and save money for our citizens.”

The “25x25” Plan will help Energy Independent Communities understand their community’s overall energy consumption and create a plan to address opportunities in energy conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy sources.

The Wisconsin Energy Independent (EI) Community Partnership is the first of its kind in the nation and is an integral part of Clean Energy Wisconsin, Governor Doyle’s plan to move Wisconsin toward energy independence. The partnership includes counties, cities, villages, towns, tribes, and schools in the state that have committed to Governor Doyle’s “25x25” challenge. Currently, there are over 100 EI Communities, with 10 EI Pilots working on the inaugural “25x25” Plan.

Governor Doyle and the Wisconsin Office of Energy Independence encourage communities to apply for the “25x25” Plan Grant. Communities that join the EI Community Partnership before the December 15, 2009 deadline are eligible to apply. To access the application go to: http://energyindependence.wi.gov/docview.asp?docid=18164&locid=160

Doyle announces $500,000 for communities to plan for clean energy future

From a news release issued by Governor Jim Doyle:

MADISON – Governor Doyle announced today that $500,000 in funds from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) program are available to communities working toward energy independence. The grants are part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and will help communities create a plan to reach the Governor’s “25x25” goal of generating 25 percent of the state’s electricity and transportation fuels from renewable resources by the year 2025.

“Local communities are critical leaders in the state’s efforts to work toward energy independence,” Governor Doyle said. “The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants will build on local leadership and invest in a clean energy future that will clean our air and water, create jobs, and save money for our citizens.”

The “25x25” Plan will help Energy Independent Communities understand their community’s overall energy consumption and create a plan to address opportunities in energy conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy sources.

The Wisconsin Energy Independent (EI) Community Partnership is the first of its kind in the nation and is an integral part of Clean Energy Wisconsin, Governor Doyle’s plan to move Wisconsin toward energy independence. The partnership includes counties, cities, villages, towns, tribes, and schools in the state that have committed to Governor Doyle’s “25x25” challenge. Currently, there are over 100 EI Communities, with 10 EI Pilots working on the inaugural “25x25” Plan.

Governor Doyle and the Wisconsin Office of Energy Independence encourage communities to apply for the “25x25” Plan Grant. Communities that join the EI Community Partnership before the December 15, 2009 deadline are eligible to apply. To access the application go to: http://energyindependence.wi.gov/docview.asp?docid=18164&locid=160

Doyle announces grants to fund solar training

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

CUSTER -- The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers will use $270,000 in grant money to train its members in advanced photovoltaic technologies.

Gov. Jim Doyle said Tuesday at the Midwest Renewable Energy Association in Custer that the money is part of $2.6 million being distributed statewide for training in alternative energies.

Last week, MREA received a $3.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to create a regional solar training network.

Combined, the programs will fund training for hundreds of instructors, who can then take what they learn back to classrooms and workshops and train a new work force for a growing industry.

"We're already seeing major new investment in solar operations," Doyle said. "We want to make sure we have workers, skilled workers, who are trained in the technical skills needed for the installation of solar systems."

Much of the renewable energy technology, while not exactly new, has not been widely available. Although many of the skills are similar to that of all electricians, additional training is needed.

"We have a lot of great skilled people, but for many of them, they came up as electrical workers or carpenters at a time when there was no renewable energy industry," Doyle said. "Those are all skills that need to be taught."

The IBEW grant will train 24 electricians, who will then train up to 180 students during the next three years.

Milwaukee, Madison awarded $1 million for solar expansion

From a blog post by Tom Content on JSonline:

Milwaukee will receive $650,000 and Madison will receive $370,000 from the federal stimulus package to advance their programs to develop solar energy. Milwaukee established the Milwaukee Shines program several years ago after it won funding for

The city will use the grant to establish a Solar Hot Water Business Council, with an eye toward linking its own solar initiative with the work of the Milwaukee 7 Water Council.

The Milwaukee Shines’ goal is to increase the number of solar installers and install more than 100 solar-electric and 50 solar thermal systems by 2012.

“What’s going to happen is we are going to be able to use less energy, at a time that that’s very, very important,” said Barrett during a news conference at the Milwaukee Public Library. The central library building is incorporating solar into a green roof that is now under construction.

The aim of the council is educate and enable local water technology manufacturers to shift into the growing solar industry, leading to the creation of a solar manufacturing cluster in the region.

Milwaukee Shines is particularly interested in helping manufacturers re-tool their facilities to start producing solar energy components, said Erick Shambarger of the city’s Office of Environmental Sustainability. “We believe this could become a niche market for Milwaukee.”

The proposed business council helped set Milwaukee’s application apart from others received by the Department of Energy. DOE received applications for funding from 25 different cities but granted funding to 16 cities, said Steve Palmeri, project officer with the U.D. Department of Energy in Golden, Colo.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Renewable energy policies would benefit farmers

From a column by Margaret Krome in The Capital Times:

President Obama toured renewable energy research facilities recently at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He wanted to drive home the point that homegrown, low-carbon energy sources and energy conservation strategies are crucial to steer the planet toward a safer climate and the nation toward greater energy security. In addition, policy based on renewable energy and conservation creates jobs.

The president could just as well have toured Wisconsin to make his point. Wisconsin's researchers are forging ahead on many fronts, such as ways to grow biomass crops in a sustainable manner; economically viable processes to convert biomass into transportation fuels; and the siting, processing, and transportation protocols associated with using biomass for heat and power. Given the state's large biomass capacity in forests and crops like switchgrass, researchers are making an investment in the state's future.

But more is happening. The Legislature will soon consider recommendations from the Governor's Global Warming Task Force, some of which offer opportunities for new jobs across the state, in small towns as well as cities. Inevitably, vested interests always fight even obviously necessary change. So it should surprise nobody when coal companies and others who depend on fossil fuels mount campaigns to oppose renewable energy policies. But many objections are borne of fear and misinformation.

For example, some farm groups express concerns about the low carbon fuel standard, a policy that is actually likely to benefit Wisconsin's farmers. This policy uses a market mechanism to require fuel providers to reduce the total carbon content of fuels sold in the state. Rather than deprive farmers of fuels currently available, it would diversify farmers' fuel options and reduce volatility. And because the state does not produce fossil fuels but does produce biomass-based energy, this policy plays to the state's agricultural strengths.

Another policy being considered that supports farmers and rural communities as well as municipalities is the renewable energy buyback program. To meet demand for renewable energy, Wisconsin needs many people to become small-scale renewable energy producers. Some have already done so by installing wind turbines, methane digesters, or solar panels and selling the extra energy back into the grid. But the amount these small-scale producers get paid varies greatly, often making that energy unprofitable to produce.

Renewable energy policies would benefit farmers

From a column by Margaret Krome in The Capital Times:

President Obama toured renewable energy research facilities recently at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He wanted to drive home the point that homegrown, low-carbon energy sources and energy conservation strategies are crucial to steer the planet toward a safer climate and the nation toward greater energy security. In addition, policy based on renewable energy and conservation creates jobs.

The president could just as well have toured Wisconsin to make his point. Wisconsin's researchers are forging ahead on many fronts, such as ways to grow biomass crops in a sustainable manner; economically viable processes to convert biomass into transportation fuels; and the siting, processing, and transportation protocols associated with using biomass for heat and power. Given the state's large biomass capacity in forests and crops like switchgrass, researchers are making an investment in the state's future.

But more is happening. The Legislature will soon consider recommendations from the Governor's Global Warming Task Force, some of which offer opportunities for new jobs across the state, in small towns as well as cities. Inevitably, vested interests always fight even obviously necessary change. So it should surprise nobody when coal companies and others who depend on fossil fuels mount campaigns to oppose renewable energy policies. But many objections are borne of fear and misinformation.

For example, some farm groups express concerns about the low carbon fuel standard, a policy that is actually likely to benefit Wisconsin's farmers. This policy uses a market mechanism to require fuel providers to reduce the total carbon content of fuels sold in the state. Rather than deprive farmers of fuels currently available, it would diversify farmers' fuel options and reduce volatility. And because the state does not produce fossil fuels but does produce biomass-based energy, this policy plays to the state's agricultural strengths.

Another policy being considered that supports farmers and rural communities as well as municipalities is the renewable energy buyback program. To meet demand for renewable energy, Wisconsin needs many people to become small-scale renewable energy producers. Some have already done so by installing wind turbines, methane digesters, or solar panels and selling the extra energy back into the grid. But the amount these small-scale producers get paid varies greatly, often making that energy unprofitable to produce.

Renewable energy policies would benefit farmers

From a column by Margaret Krome in The Capital Times:

President Obama toured renewable energy research facilities recently at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He wanted to drive home the point that homegrown, low-carbon energy sources and energy conservation strategies are crucial to steer the planet toward a safer climate and the nation toward greater energy security. In addition, policy based on renewable energy and conservation creates jobs.

The president could just as well have toured Wisconsin to make his point. Wisconsin's researchers are forging ahead on many fronts, such as ways to grow biomass crops in a sustainable manner; economically viable processes to convert biomass into transportation fuels; and the siting, processing, and transportation protocols associated with using biomass for heat and power. Given the state's large biomass capacity in forests and crops like switchgrass, researchers are making an investment in the state's future.

But more is happening. The Legislature will soon consider recommendations from the Governor's Global Warming Task Force, some of which offer opportunities for new jobs across the state, in small towns as well as cities. Inevitably, vested interests always fight even obviously necessary change. So it should surprise nobody when coal companies and others who depend on fossil fuels mount campaigns to oppose renewable energy policies. But many objections are borne of fear and misinformation.

For example, some farm groups express concerns about the low carbon fuel standard, a policy that is actually likely to benefit Wisconsin's farmers. This policy uses a market mechanism to require fuel providers to reduce the total carbon content of fuels sold in the state. Rather than deprive farmers of fuels currently available, it would diversify farmers' fuel options and reduce volatility. And because the state does not produce fossil fuels but does produce biomass-based energy, this policy plays to the state's agricultural strengths.

Another policy being considered that supports farmers and rural communities as well as municipalities is the renewable energy buyback program. To meet demand for renewable energy, Wisconsin needs many people to become small-scale renewable energy producers. Some have already done so by installing wind turbines, methane digesters, or solar panels and selling the extra energy back into the grid. But the amount these small-scale producers get paid varies greatly, often making that energy unprofitable to produce.

Planners seek input on Racine County transit needs

From the Southeastern Wisconsin Regionial Planning Commission:

The public is invited to attend one of three upcoming public informational meetings for the Racine County Public Transit Plan. At the meetings, you can learn more about the plan, discuss it with Commission staff, and comment on the work performed to date. The meetings will be in an “open house” format, allowing you to attend at any time during the two-hour timeframe:

+ Tuesday, October 27, 2009, 4:30-6:30 p.m.
Racine Railroad Depot
1409 State Street
Racine

+Wednesday, October 28, 2009, 4:30-6:30 p.m.
Burlington Town Hall
32288 Bushnell Road
Burlington

+Wednesday, November 4, 2009, 5:00-7:00 p.m.
Auditorium, Ives Grove Office Complex
14200 Washington Avenue
Sturtevant

More details here.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Conservation Lobby Day set for Jan. 26, 2010

From the announcement of the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters:

Each year citizens from across Wisconsin descend on the Capitol to share their conservation values with their Legislators. Since the first Conservation Lobby Day in 2005, it has grown from just 100 citizens to more than 600! As we head into the 6th annual Conservation Lobby Day, there is one thing we can guarantee-when citizens come together to make their conservation values known, legislators listen, and conservation victories soon follow!

The reauthorization of the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund and the passage of the Strong Great Lakes Compact are two great examples of how citizen lobbying resulted in ground-breaking conservation laws.

Conservation Lobby Day is a unique opportunity to share your conservation stories and experiences with legislators and have a huge impact on conservation policies affecting all of Wisconsin.

This Conservation Lobby Day, you can help to:
Preserve Groundwater: Wisconsin's Buried Treasure: manage Wisconsin's groundwater resources to preserve lakes, streams, wetlands and drinking water supplies.
Stop Global Warming in Wisconsin: address the threats of global warming in Wisconsin through clean, renewable energy jobs and energy conservation.
Restore Conservation Integrity: return Wisconsin to an Independent DNR Secretary and a timely appointment of Natural Resource Board members.
Protect Wisconsin's Drinking Water: protect Wisconsin's drinking water supplies by making sure we safely spread agricultural, municipal, and industrial waste.

For a 1-page brief on each of these issues, click on their title above. To read even more, check out the Conservation Priorities 2009-2010.

State continues to rank among leaders in energy efficiency

From an article by Larry Bivins in the Stevens Point Journal:

WASHINGTON — Wisconsin has lost a little ground in energy efficiency, but it still ranks among the top states, according to a new report released today.

The Badger State fell from ninth to 11th on a 2009 scorecard compiled by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. The group rated states’ energy policies and programs in six categories — utilities and public benefits; transportation; building energy codes; combined heat and power; government initiatives; and appliance efficiency standards.

Wisconsin totaled 24 out of a possible 50 points. The national average was 17.

Wisconsin’s best showing was in combined heat and power, on which it scored four out of five total points. Its worst showing was on appliance efficiency standard, where it scored zero.

The state’s slippage in the rankings was more a result of other states having made substantial improvements rather than Wisconsin not doing as much as it had in the past, said Maggie Eldridge, the ACEEE report’s lead author. Maine, for example, moved from 19th to the 10th spot.

Wisconsin, she said, has “a very long and strong track record of offering energy efficiency programs.”

Dan Kohler, director of Wisconsin Environment, said while the state has a good ratepayer-funded energy efficiency program, it could do a lot more. He said his organization has called on the state to require a 2 percent reduction in energy use per year and to use federal money to retrofit homes and businesses.

“Energy efficiency is the fastest and cheapest way to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and reduce carbon pollution,” Kohler said. “Plus, it can save consumers and businesses hundreds of dollars each year on their bills.”

The dirty fight over cleaner power

From an article by Dee J. Hall in the La Crosse Tribune:

When state Department of Natural Resources Secretary Scott Hassett resigned suddenly in the summer of 2007, Gov. Jim Doyle's office announced that Hassett was leaving to "write, travel and consult on environmental and regulatory issues."

Privately, however, Hassett told a different story: That Doyle, a fellow Democrat, had forced him out of the top spot at the DNR because of the agency's insistence that the state clean up UW-Madison's coal-burning Charter Street heating plant - a move now expected to cost Wisconsin more than $200 million.

Hassett has told at least two former top DNR officials that he was forced to resign and one

of the reasons was the Charter Street enforcement action, which pitted two state agencies against one another in a conflict that hit close to the governor's office.

"There was no doubt in my mind that he (Hassett) was forced out," said George Meyer, DNR secretary from 1993 to 2001, recounting a conversation he had with Hassett at Hassett's Lake Mills-area home in March. Meyer said Hassett told him he believed the enforcement action against the plant was a key reason for his ouster.

Tom Thoresen, retired deputy chief conservation warden for the DNR, said Hassett told him a similar story in a phone conversation earlier this month.

Thoresen said he called Hassett to thank him for helping push for a bill that would take away the power of the governor to appoint the DNR secretary and return that authority to the Natural Resources Board. Four former DNR secretaries, including Hassett and Meyer, signed a letter last month backing Assembly Bill 138.

"I did talk to Scott Hassett ... thanking him for his signing on to the DNR letter to legislators," Thoresen said. "Scott told me that yes, Charter Street was part of the reason for his being let go."

Doyle spokesman Lee Sensenbrenner declined to answer directly whether Hassett, and his deputy, Mary Schlaefer, were forced out. He pointed to a July 20, 2007, news release that implied Hassett was resigning because of overwork after four and a half years on the job.

"Anyone who claims that Charter Street is the reason for Scott Hassett's departure is a liar," Sensenbrenner said in a statement.

Experts rip anti-wind claims

Even though the quotes below from pre-filed statements take the form of rebuttal testimony in the PSC proceedings on We Energies' Glacier Hills Wind Park, they can stand on their own. You need not read the filings they rebut in order to make sense out of what they're saying.

The pre-filed testimony stands among the strongest redupiation of anti-wind arguments.

These filings will be formally entered into the record when the technical hearings begin on November 2nd, but they (and all other filings) are available online at the Web site of the Public Service Commission and link directlyi to case 6630-CE-302.

Richard Larkin, a state certified real estate appraiser, rebuts a “study” of property values paid for by the Coaliton for Wisconsin Environmental Stewardship (CWESt), a group opposing the Glacier Hills project:

I am responding to testimony submitted by Kurt Kielisch on behalf of CWESt, in 1 which he claims that paired sales analyses at the Blue Sky Green Field and Forward wind projects shows that proximity to wind turbines results in a significant negative impact on residential real estate values. There are significant (and probably fatal) problems with his analysis, which I will explain in my testimony. . . .

. . .it is my opinion that Appraisal One’s Wind Turbine Impact Study is significantly flawed, and in my opinion, likely meaningless.
Read all of Larkin’s testimony here.

William Roberts, PhD in Epidemiology, former faculty member with the Medical College of Wisconsin (Dept. of Preventative Medicine), former Oklahoma State Epidemiologist dissects Dr. Nina Pierpont's "research" and rebuts CWESt's acoustical consultant. He summarized his testimony as follows:

+ “Wind Turbine Syndrome” is not a medical diagnosis supported by peer reviewed, published, scientific literature;
+ The materials presented to support “Wind Turbine Syndrome” are not of sufficient scientific quality nor have they received the rigorous scientific review and vetting that is customarily part of the peer review and publishing process;
+ The tried and true scientific method of developing a hypothesis, testing that hypothesis, publishing the results and having others attempt to repeat the research has not been done to test the existence of a health condition called “Wind Turbine Syndrome;”
+ An accumulation of anecdotal interviews with self-selected persons living near a wind turbine does not constitute an epidemiological study and is not sufficient to determine causation;
+ The bases for claimed adverse health effects due to wind turbines cited by Mr. James either cannot withstand scientific scrutiny or have nothing to do with wind turbines; and
+ Siting a wind turbine within view of a residence and the operation of that turbine could be a source of annoyance to those living in the residence.
Read all of Roberts’ testimony here.

Geoff Leventhall, acoustical consultant, PhD in acoustics, presented testimony to rebut CWESt's acoustical consultant.

Based on my experience of infrasound and low frequency noise, it is my belief that the infrasound from wind turbines is of no consequence. Attempts to claim that illnesses result from inaudible wind turbine noise do not stand up to simple analyses of the very low forces and pressures produced by the sound from wind turbines. Additionally, the body is full of sound and vibration at infrasonic and low frequencies, originating in natural body processes. As an example, the beating heart is an obvious source of infrasound within the body. Other sources of background low frequency noise and vibration are blood flows, muscle vibrations, breathing, fluids in the gut and so on. The result is that any effect from wind turbine noise, or any other low level of noise, which might be produced within the body is “lost” in the existing background noise and vibration. This is considered in more detail in my Appraisal of Wind Turbine Syndrome, which is submitted as Exhibit 18.

More broadly, my testimony establishes that the claims of health effects from the low levels of infrasound and low frequency noise from wind turbines, as described in the Wind Turbine Syndrome and Vibroacoustic Disease hypotheses, fail. However, higher frequency noise from wind turbines, if it is audible, can cause disturbance to some residents, but this effect is no different from that of noise from another source.
Read all of Leventhall’s testimony here.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Solar outlook set to dim in 2010

A news release issued by RENEW Wisconsin:

Utilities’ voluntary incentives hit limits

(Madison, WI – October 23, 2009) In contrast to the rapid growth experienced in the last three years, a leading state renewable energy advocacy group expects a sharp decline in installed solar electric capacity in 2010.

In statements directed to the Public Service Commission (PSC), three utilities – Wisconsin Electric Power (WE), Wisconsin Power and Light (WPL), and Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) – acknowledged yesterday that their voluntary solar incentive programs will be discontinued for new customers. All three had offered, on a limited basis, a special buyback rate for the generated electricity, which effectively cut in half the payback period for the systems.

“These three incentive programs spurred homeowners and businesses to install nearly 2.5 megawatts of solar electric capacity,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin. “But for those incentives, we wouldn’t not have reached the milestone that PSC Chair Eric Callisto recently celebrated at the installation of a system serving the Town of Menasha.”

“Though voluntary initiatives are certainly welcome, they cannot by themselves sustain a vibrant solar marketplace. By far the most effective way to maintain solar’s momentum is for the Legislature to require utilities to purchase a set amount of renewable energy from their own customers at a reasonable price,” said Vickerman.

Going into 2010, the only investor-owned utility that has a special buyback rate is Madison Gas and Electric (MG&E), which pays its customers 25 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity generated from their solar systems. MG&E’s voluntary program still has room for another 600 kilowatts of customer-owned solar.

Until their voluntary initiatives had reached capacity, both WPS and WPL had been paying the same rate as MG&E, while WE had offered a 22.5 cents for each kilowatt-hour generated.

“If renewable energy is to drive job growth in Wisconsin, lawmakers must create favorable marketplace conditions to support new installations going forward. No policy will accomplish that goal more effectively than a state initiative to establish higher buyback rates,” Vickerman said.

Experts rip anti-wind arguments

Even though the quotes below from pre-filed statements take the form of rebuttal testimony in the PSC proceedings on We Energies Glacier Hills Wind Park, they can stand on their own. You need not read the filings they rebut in order to make sense out of what they're saying.

The pre-filed testimony stands among the strongest redupiation of anti-wind arguments.

These filings will be formally entered into the record when the technical hearings begin on November 2nd, but they (and all other filings) are available online at the Web site of the Public Service Commission and link directlyi to case 6630-CE-302.

Richard Larkin, a state certified real estate appraiser, rebuts a “study” of property values paid for by the Coaliton for Wisconsin Environmental Stewardship (CWESt), a group opposing the Glacier Hills project:

I am responding to testimony submitted by Kurt Kielisch on behalf of CWESt, in 1 which he claims that paired sales analyses at the Blue Sky Green Field and Forward wind projects shows that proximity to wind turbines results in a significant negative impact on residential real estate values. There are significant (and probably fatal) problems with his analysis, which I will explain in my testimony. . . .

. . .it is my opinion that Appraisal One’s Wind Turbine Impact Study is significantly flawed, and in my opinion, likely meaningless.
Read all of Larkin’s testimony here.

William Roberts, PhD in Epidemiology, former faculty member with the Medical College of Wisconsin (Dept. of Preventative Medicine), former Oklahoma State Epidemiologist dissects Dr. Nina Pierpont's "research" and rebuts CWESt's acoustical consultant. He summarized his testimony as follows:

+ “Wind Turbine Syndrome” is not a medical diagnosis supported by peer reviewed, published, scientific literature;
+ The materials presented to support “Wind Turbine Syndrome” are not of sufficient scientific quality nor have they received the rigorous scientific review and vetting that is customarily part of the peer review and publishing process;
+ The tried and true scientific method of developing a hypothesis, testing that hypothesis, publishing the results and having others attempt to repeat the research has not been done to test the existence of a health condition called “Wind Turbine Syndrome;”
+ An accumulation of anecdotal interviews with self-selected persons living near a wind turbine does not constitute an epidemiological study and is not sufficient to determine causation;
+ The bases for claimed adverse health effects due to wind turbines cited by Mr. James either cannot withstand scientific scrutiny or have nothing to do with wind turbines; and
+ Siting a wind turbine within view of a residence and the operation of that turbine could be a source of annoyance to those living in the residence.
Read all of Roberts’ testimony here.

Geoff Leventhall, acoustical consultant, PhD in acoustics, presented testimony to rebut CWESt's acoustical consultant.

Based on my experience of infrasound and low frequency noise, it is my belief that the infrasound from wind turbines is of no consequence. Attempts to claim that illnesses result from inaudible wind turbine noise do not stand up to simple analyses of the very low forces and pressures produced by the sound from wind turbines. Additionally, the body is full of sound and vibration at infrasonic and low frequencies, originating in natural body processes. As an example, the beating heart is an obvious source of infrasound within the body. Other sources of background low frequency noise and vibration are blood flows, muscle vibrations, breathing, fluids in the gut and so on. The result is that any effect from wind turbine noise, or any other low level of noise, which might be produced within the body is “lost” in the existing background noise and vibration. This is considered in more detail in my Appraisal of Wind Turbine Syndrome, which is submitted as Exhibit 18.

More broadly, my testimony establishes that the claims of health effects from the low levels of infrasound and low frequency noise from wind turbines, as described in the Wind Turbine Syndrome and Vibroacoustic Disease hypotheses, fail. However, higher frequency noise from wind turbines, if it is audible, can cause disturbance to some residents, but this effect is no different from that of noise from another source.
Read all of Leventhall’s testimony here.

Solar outlook set to dim in 2010

IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 23, 2009

MORE INFORMATION
Michael Vickerman
RENEW Wisconsin
608.255.4044
mvickerman@renewwisconsin.org

Utilities’ voluntary incentives hit limits

(Madison, WI – October 23, 2009) In contrast to the rapid growth experienced in the last three years, a leading state renewable energy advocacy group expects a sharp decline in installed solar electric capacity in 2010.

In statements directed to the Public Service Commission (PSC), three utilities – Wisconsin Electric Power (WE), Wisconsin Power and Light (WPL), and Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) – acknowledged yesterday that their voluntary solar incentive programs will be discontinued for new customers. All three had offered, on a limited basis, a special buyback rate for the generated electricity, which effectively cut in half the payback period for the systems.

“These three incentive programs spurred homeowners and businesses to install nearly 2.5 megawatts of solar electric capacity,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin. “But for those incentives, we wouldn’t not have reached the milestone that PSC Chair Eric Callisto recently celebrated at the installation of a system serving the Town of Menasha.”

“Though voluntary initiatives are certainly welcome, they cannot by themselves sustain a vibrant solar marketplace. By far the most effective way to maintain solar’s momentum is for the Legislature to require utilities to purchase a set amount of renewable energy from their own customers at a reasonable price,” said Vickerman.

Going into 2010, the only investor-owned utility that has a special buyback rate is Madison Gas and Electric (MG&E), which pays its customers 25 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity generated from their solar systems. MG&E’s voluntary program still has room for another 600 kilowatts of customer-owned solar.

Until their voluntary initiatives had reached capacity, both WPS and WPL had been paying the same rate as MG&E, while WE had offered a 22.5 cents for each kilowatt-hour generated.

“If renewable energy is to drive job growth in Wisconsin, lawmakers must create favorable marketplace conditions to support new installations going forward. No policy will accomplish that goal more effectively than a state initiative to establish higher buyback rates,” Vickerman said.
END

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Over 100 communities support “25x25” clean energy goal

From a news release issued by Govenor Jim Doyle:

MADISON - Governor Jim Doyle today announced over 100 communities have joined the Wisconsin Energy Independent Community Partnership. The communities, which come from every region of Wisconsin, have pledged to work toward Governor Doyle’s “25x25” goal of generating 25 percent of the state’s electricity and transportation fuels from renewable resources by the year 2025.

“I’m pleased that communities across Wisconsin have accepted my clean energy challenges head on,” Governor Doyle said. “Together we are making great strides toward energy policies that create jobs, clean our air and water, and save us money. I look forward to working with Energy Independent Communities as we continue Wisconsin’s clean energy leadership.”

The Wisconsin Energy Independent (EI) Community Partnership is the first of its kind in the nation and is an integral part of Clean Energy Wisconsin, Governor Doyle’s plan to move Wisconsin toward energy independence. The plan details strategies to move Wisconsin forward to promote renewable energy, create new jobs, increase energy security, and improve the environment.

The community partnership, which is led by the Wisconsin Office of Energy Independence, helps individual communities take advantage of their unique resources and develop new strategies to foster innovative clean energy solutions.

New members of the Energy Independent Community Partnership include: City of Two Rivers in Manitowoc County, City of West Allis in Milwaukee County, City of New London in Outagamie County, Village of Stratford in Marathon County, City of Whitewater in Walworth County, City of Jefferson in Jefferson County, Village of Oxford in Marquette County and Iowa County.

Over 100 communities support “25x25” clean energy goal

From a news release issued by Govenor Jim Doyle:

MADISON - Governor Jim Doyle today announced over 100 communities have joined the Wisconsin Energy Independent Community Partnership. The communities, which come from every region of Wisconsin, have pledged to work toward Governor Doyle’s “25x25” goal of generating 25 percent of the state’s electricity and transportation fuels from renewable resources by the year 2025.

“I’m pleased that communities across Wisconsin have accepted my clean energy challenges head on,” Governor Doyle said. “Together we are making great strides toward energy policies that create jobs, clean our air and water, and save us money. I look forward to working with Energy Independent Communities as we continue Wisconsin’s clean energy leadership.”

The Wisconsin Energy Independent (EI) Community Partnership is the first of its kind in the nation and is an integral part of Clean Energy Wisconsin, Governor Doyle’s plan to move Wisconsin toward energy independence. The plan details strategies to move Wisconsin forward to promote renewable energy, create new jobs, increase energy security, and improve the environment.

The community partnership, which is led by the Wisconsin Office of Energy Independence, helps individual communities take advantage of their unique resources and develop new strategies to foster innovative clean energy solutions.

New members of the Energy Independent Community Partnership include: City of Two Rivers in Manitowoc County, City of West Allis in Milwaukee County, City of New London in Outagamie County, Village of Stratford in Marathon County, City of Whitewater in Walworth County, City of Jefferson in Jefferson County, Village of Oxford in Marquette County and Iowa County.

Over 100 communities support “25x25” clean energy goal

From a news release issued by Govenor Jim Doyle:

MADISON - Governor Jim Doyle today announced over 100 communities have joined the Wisconsin Energy Independent Community Partnership. The communities, which come from every region of Wisconsin, have pledged to work toward Governor Doyle’s “25x25” goal of generating 25 percent of the state’s electricity and transportation fuels from renewable resources by the year 2025.

“I’m pleased that communities across Wisconsin have accepted my clean energy challenges head on,” Governor Doyle said. “Together we are making great strides toward energy policies that create jobs, clean our air and water, and save us money. I look forward to working with Energy Independent Communities as we continue Wisconsin’s clean energy leadership.”

The Wisconsin Energy Independent (EI) Community Partnership is the first of its kind in the nation and is an integral part of Clean Energy Wisconsin, Governor Doyle’s plan to move Wisconsin toward energy independence. The plan details strategies to move Wisconsin forward to promote renewable energy, create new jobs, increase energy security, and improve the environment.

The community partnership, which is led by the Wisconsin Office of Energy Independence, helps individual communities take advantage of their unique resources and develop new strategies to foster innovative clean energy solutions.

New members of the Energy Independent Community Partnership include: City of Two Rivers in Manitowoc County, City of West Allis in Milwaukee County, City of New London in Outagamie County, Village of Stratford in Marathon County, City of Whitewater in Walworth County, City of Jefferson in Jefferson County, Village of Oxford in Marquette County and Iowa County.

Magnetek receives order for large wind power inverters

From a news release issued by Magnetek:

Menomonee Falls, Wis. - Magnetek, Inc. (NYSE: MAG) today announced that it has received a follow-on production order for wind power inverters valued at $11 million. Magnetek's modular utility-scale wind power inverters regulate and transform DC power generated by wind turbines into utility-grade AC power, which is distributed to the power transmission grid. Magnetek’s E-Force Wind Inverters are to be delivered to its customer beginning in December 2009 through November 2010.

Wind power has been one of the fastest growing sources of power generation globally. In the United States, which has surpassed Germany as the largest wind power market, the five-year average (2004-2008) annual growth rate for wind power installations was 32%, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). With an installed base of 25,369 MW in operation at the end of 2008, the U. S. was also the 2008 world leader in new wind installations. While AWEA estimates a slower growth rate in 2009, wind power installations are still projected to grow by 5,000 MW (20%) or more this year. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 extended the production tax credit for the wind industry to 2012, with an alternate option to secure a grant from the Treasury Department in the amount of a 30% investment tax credit.

Comments in opposition to PSC staff recommendation to raise rates in MGE's Energy for Tomorrow program

COMMENTS FILED ELECTRONICALLY IN

Application of Madison Gas and Electric Company for Authority to Change Electric and Natural Gas Rates 3270-UR-116

Commentor Information:
Name: Michael Vickerman
Address: 509 Elmside Blvd.
City: Madison State:WI Zip:53704
E-mail: mvickerman@renewwisconsin.org

To the Commission:

I would like to comment on the recommendations from PSC staff (witnesses John Feit and Jerry Albrecht) to increase the premium charged to Green Power Tomorrow subscribers. I approach this issue from a multiple of perspectives: (1) as a professional renewable energy advocate; (2) as a 100% program subscriber (since 1999); and (3) as a proud owner of a 1.7 kW solar electric system that was installed after Madison Gas and Electric launched its Clean Power Partners program in 2008.

All of MGE's Clean Power Partners, (including me) sell the output from our solar systems to Green Power Tomorrow program subscribers through a 25 cents/kWh buyback rate. Among these customer-producers of clean energy are TDS Custom Construction, Goodman Community Center, City of Madison, Dane County Regional Airport, Madison No Fear Dentistry, and Isthmus Engineering.

The solar buyback rate is supported through voluntary purchases of renewable electricity. When the Clean Power Partners program was announced, MGE envisioned a 300 kilowatt ceiling on solar energy purchases through the special tariff. All Clean Power Partners must subscribe to Green Power Tomorrow. At the same time Clean Power Partners was launched, MGE reduced the subscription premium to a penny per kWh. The declining premium sparked a significant upsurge in subscribership, which enabled MGE to carve out a larger space for solar electric production supported by the program. The ceiling on the Clean Power Partners program is now one megawatt.

I mention Clean Power Partners to highlight the link between subscription volume and solar electric production. The larger the volume of electricity flowing through Green Power Tomorrow, the greater the amount of solar generation that the program can support. The reverse, however, is also true.

The participation rate of these programs is very sensitive to premium amounts. According to research compiled by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the median premium price of voluntary programs nationwide is about a penny per kWh. Programs with higher premiums have a significantly smaller participation rates than Green Power Tomorrow. Forcing MGE to increase its renewable energy premium would trigger a falloff in participation, which in turn would very likely result in higher rates to nonparticipating ratepayers. Moreover, a contraction in subscribership may very well force MGE to curtail its Clean Power Partners program due to insufficient program revenues.

Clearly, the special buyback rates offered by MGE, Wisconsin Power & Light and We Energies have delivered a positive jolt to Wisconsin's solar electric marketplace. Wisconsin is actually a regional leader in solar electric capacity. No other Midwestern state comes close to where Wisconsin is right now. Given the significant progress made in the last three years, how does it benefit the state to choke off the one enabling policy that makes solar generation a reasonable value proposition to responsible energy users?

Shifting gears somewhat, there is an implicit understanding among program subscribers that they are committing to energy resources whose costs are fixed through long-term contracts. Many of these subscribers are likely to react negatively to a higher premium, because they know that the renewable resources leveraged through Green Power Tomorrow are not going up in price. They are likely to interpret an increased premium as expressing a public policy preference for burning more fossil fuel to take advantage of temporary dips in coal and gas prices. Is that really the message the PSC wishes to convey?

Let's summarize the consequences of a higher premium:

1) Decline in program participation rate, due to a combination of economic impacts and negative reinforcement.
2) Decline in program revenues, forcing MGE to compensate through higher rates on all customers.
3) Premature seizing up of the solar electric marketplace in the Madison area.

It is highly ironic that the PSC would consider inflicting such a cascading sequence of perverse outcomes to a nationally recognized renewable energy program like Green Power Tomorrow. Just last month, MGE's renewable energy program received the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Utility Green Power Program of the Year Award. The award was announced at the Green Power Leadership Awards banquet in Atlanta, Georgia. The honor bestowed to MGE was well-deserved, as evidenced by the letter I wrote in support of its program (see below).

Let's not wreck a good thing. Please refrain from forcing MGE to raise its premium on current and future renewable energy subscribers. Thank you.

Michael Vickerman
RENEW Wisconsin
222 S. Hamilton Street
Madison, WI 53703

Home address:
509 Elmside Blvd.
Madison, WI 53704
+++++++++++++++++

June 5, 2009

Mr. Courtney Welch
Green Power Leadership Awards
Navarro Research & Engineering for
U.S. DOE Golden Field Office
1617 Cole Blvd, MS 1501
Golden, CO 80401

Dear Mr. Welch:

It is with great pleasure that I submit this letter of support on behalf of Green Power Tomorrow, the highly popular renewable energy subscription program offered by Madison Gas & Electric. I offer this letter of support not only in my capacity as a professional renewable energy advocate, but also as a customer purchasing 100% of household electrical use through this program.

By any objective standard, MG&E's program is a hit with its customers. As reported in NREL's annual assessment of leading green power programs, Green Power Tomorrow has the second-highest customer participation rate (9.7%) among investor-owned utilities in the United States. The program ranks sixth among all utilities in sales as a percentage of total retail electricity sold (3.8%). Through a judicious blend of wind projects from the region, MG&E was able to lower its premium to one cent/kWh, which set the stage for the upsurge in customer participation in 2008. Many a Madison landmark, from the State Capitol to Monona Terrace Convention Center, is powered in part through Green Power Tomorrow.

Notwithstanding its modest premium, the program also supports customer-owned photovoltaic systems through a special buyback rate fixed at $0.25/kWh for 10 years. Called Clean Power Partners, this initiative has motivated dozens of customers to install PV on the residence or business. Last August, I became a Clean Power Partner, when the electricity from the newly installed 1.7 kW system on our house began flowing into the grid. With this installation we now produce nearly emission-free 2,000 kWh/year on top of the 4,000 kWh/yr of emission-free electricity we buy from MG&E. In the 18 months since Clean Power Partners was launched, customer participation has surpassed MG&E's initial expectations, prompting the utility to increase the ceiling on this initiative from 300 kW to one megawatt.

More than a renewable energy program, Green Power Tomorrow is a community-based sustainability initiative that supports about 50 MW of windpower that otherwise would not have been part of MGEĆ¢€™s resource portfolio. Instead of settling for small, incremental growth for its program, MGE elected to pursue a more ambitious path that would be appealing and affordable to a broad cross-section of its customer base, and the results are impressive. In my estimation, it is an outstanding candidate for this year's Utility Green Power Program of the Year.

Sincerely,

Michael Vickerman
RENEW Wisconsin

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cranberry Growers Association gets grant to study wind and solar

From an article by in the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune:

MADISON — The Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association will receive a $16,500 grant to conduct energy audits on cranberry marshes, the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection announced Friday.

The Wisconsin Rapids-based association will partner with Focus on Energy to assess the feasibility of cranberry marshes as sites for wind and solar energy production. The study is one of 12 projects and eight state-facilitated programs to collectively garner nearly $750,000 awarded to make specialty crops more competitive.

Cranberry Growers Association gets grant to study wind and solar

From an article by in the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune:

MADISON — The Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association will receive a $16,500 grant to conduct energy audits on cranberry marshes, the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection announced Friday.

The Wisconsin Rapids-based association will partner with Focus on Energy to assess the feasibility of cranberry marshes as sites for wind and solar energy production. The study is one of 12 projects and eight state-facilitated programs to collectively garner nearly $750,000 awarded to make specialty crops more competitive.

Team Germany tops Solar Decathlon competition; UW-M lags

Visitors stand in line to learn about Team Germany's solar-powered house, which won the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Sunday, Oct. 18, 2009. (Photo by Stefano Paltera/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

From a news release issued by the U.S. Department of Energy:

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Department of Energy Deputy Secretary Daniel Poneman today announced the winners of the 2009 Department of Energy Solar Competition on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Team Germany, the student team from Darmstadt, Germany, won top honors by designing, building, and operating the most attractive and efficient solar-powered home. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign took second place followed by Team California in third place.

The active competition lasted for a week, with the prototype home designs open to the public through Sunday. Team Germany’s winning “Cube House” design produced a surplus of power even during three days of rain. This is the team’s second-straight Solar Decathlon victory, after winning the previous competition in 2007. . . .

Over the past two weeks, the 2009 Solar Decathlon challenged 20 university-led teams from the United States and as far away as Spain, Germany, and Canada to compete in 10 contests, ranging from subjective elements such as architecture, market viability, communications, lighting design, and engineering, to technical measurements of how well the homes provided energy for space heating and cooling, hot water, home entertainment, appliances, and net metering.

New to this year’s competition, the Net Metering Contest was worth 150 points towards the final results and was the most heavily weighted contest. It challenged teams to generate surplus energy, above and beyond the power needed to run a house, which they fed into a power grid.

Team Germany earned 908.29 points out of a possible 1,000 to win the competition, followed by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with 897.30 points, and Team California with 863.08 points.

The UW-Milwaukee team brought up the rear with 524.074 points, largely due to delays in getting the home to Washington. The University of Minnesota Team finished fifth with 838.544 point.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Three simple steps can save homeowners energy all year long

From a news release issued by Alliant Energy:

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – October 20, 2009 – October is Energy Awareness Month and Alliant Energy has three easy ways consumers can save energy, and best of all, they require little to no investment. Homeowners can lower their energy bills in three simple steps - turn down the thermostat, trade out traditional light bulbs for compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), and complete an energy audit.

“A cleaner environment and more sustainable future are important to many homeowners, and Energy Awareness Month is just another reminder that each of us can contribute to a global energy solution by using energy more efficiently,” said Linda Mattes, Director of Energy Efficiency and Renewables at Alliant Energy. “An added benefit is the money homeowners can save on their energy bill.”

Consumers can save approximately ten percent on their annual heating costs by taking the “10 Degree Challenge.” Simply turn the thermostat down by ten degrees for eight hours each day – and save money while working or sleeping.

After turning the thermostat down a few degrees, another easy and effective place to start saving is with lighting. Lighting accounts for 20 percent of the average home's electric bill. Using just one ENERGY STAR® qualified CFL can save an average of $30 or more in electricity costs over its lifetime and prevent more than 450 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions.

CFLs save money by using 75 percent less energy and last up to 10 times longer than their old-fashioned counterparts. Because they produce more light than the traditional incandescent light bulbs, customers should purchase a CFL with a lower wattage to get the same amount of light.

Once a homeowner has looked at their thermostat settings and lighting, they can address the rest of the home with an energy audit. My Home Comfort Check Up, a free online audit, helps customers identify where their energy dollars are going. Homeowners can complete the online survey by visiting www.alliantenergy.com/mhcc.

Green Drinks Eau Claire, Wednesday, Oct. 21

From Tom Stolp:

Quick reminder: Green Drinks is on Wednesday at Dooley's Pub! Join us for a quick presentation and then discussion about upcoming issues and events. Green Drinks Eau Claire. Dooley's Pub on Water St., 6:30-8:00PM

Competitive industrial grants available for energy efficiency efforts

From a news release issued by Focus on Energy:

MADISON, Wis. (October 19, 2009) - Focus on Energy, Wisconsin's statewide resource for energy efficiency and renewable energy, announced competitive grants today to help industrial businesses and manufacturers throughout the state to complete energy efficiency projects.

"In today's economy, many companies are severely capital constrained," said Ken Williams, Focus on Energy's business programs director. "Focus on Energy is committed to providing the financial incentives needed to get large projects off the shelf and on the table."

These grants will fund up to $500,000 or 50 percent of project costs per company for large energy efficiency projects that have been stalled due to lack of available internal capital. Applicants must document a need for funding to overcome the financial barrier to be selected. Approved projects must be completed December 15, 2010 and offer savings of 200,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity or 20,000 therms of natural gas annually.

"Focus offered a similar program in 2007 that was very popular," Williams explained. "We are pleased to offer an expanded version of the program for 2010 and give companies the opportunity to complete stalled projects."

Interested businesses should visit focusonenergy.com/competitive_incentives for more information. Applications must include a list of potential projects as funding is based on the energy savings from those projects and is paid when projects are completed. Applications must be received by December 4, 2009. For more information about large industrial grants call Craig Schepp at (608) 277-2948

We Energies public hearing rescheduled

A news release from the Public Service Commission:

MADISON – The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) has rescheduled a 2nd public hearing for Wednesday, October 21 in Milwaukee on We Energies’ (Wisconsin Electric Power Company (WEPCO) and Wisconsin Gas, LLC) request to adjust electric, steam and natural gas rates.

Administrative Law Judge Michael Newmark will be present to receive comments from the public at the hearing site in Serb Hall, Wisconsin South Hall, 5101 West Oklahoma Avenue in Milwaukee beginning at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.

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

Public comments on We Energies’ application will be included in the record the Commission will review to make a decision. The PSC has the authority to approve, deny or modify the application.

Citizens are encouraged to attend. The hearing location is accessible to people in wheelchairs. Anyone requiring accommodations to participate should contact the PSC at 608-266-5481.

Documents associated with We Energies’ application can be viewed on the PSC’s Electronic Regulatory Filing System at http://psc.wi.gov. Type case numbers 5-UR-104in the boxes provided on the PSC homepage, or click on the Electronic Regulatory Filing System button.

Phillips Plastics saves $750,000 through energy efficiency efforts

From an article by in the Dunn County News:

A company-wide commitment to environmental stewardship from the shop floor to top management has led Phillips Plastics Corporation — with facilities in Phillips, Eau Claire, Hudson, New Richmond, Medford, Men-omonie and Prescott — to save more than $750,000 on its energy bills each year. This will not only help the manufacturer save money, but protect the environment and keep jobs in Wisconsin.

Phillips Plastics Corporation received $400,000 in financial incentives from Focus on Energy, Wisconsin’s statewide resource for energy efficiency and renewable energy, to complete energy saving projects that will save more than 8.5 million kilowatt-hours of electricity and 78,000 therms of natural gas annually-enough energy to power 940 Wisconsin homes for a year.

Multiple projects
Since 2002, Phillips Plastics has completed energy assessments at all 15 of its buildings to find cost-effective ways to save energy including traditional applications, innovative technologies, energy management plans and high-performance equipment upgrades.

Major projects include:
• Numerous plant-wide lighting upgrades, including advanced controls where appropriate
• Adding variable speed drives on heating, cooling and ventilation equipment at multiple sites
• Installing energy efficient compressed air equipment
• Upgrading ventilation equipment in multiple sites
• Installing cutting edge chilled water technology at two sites
• Completing numerous feasibility studies to determine which projects to pursue

Michigan school to test Lake Michigan's wind

From an article by Dave Alexander in the Meskegon Chronicle:

Grand Valley State University’s wind turbine testing project for Muskegon Lake is shifting in a new direction.

Instead of a wind turbine at the east end of Muskegon Lake, GVSU’s Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center now is planning to move a wind test platform to Lake Michigan, where data can be collected on the pros and cons of turbines on a major lake.

The university has received $1.4 million in an “earmark” from U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Holland, to advance wind turbine generation on the Great Lakes.

The idea of testing a turbine on Muskegon Lake is cost prohibitive with the federal dollars available, according to Arn Boezaart, interim director of the Muskegon-based MAREC. Efforts to partner with L-3 Communications in Muskegon have not been successful.

Discussions with officials from the U.S. Department of Energy and those interested in advancing a Great Lakes wind industry in West Michigan led to the idea of a floating, data-collection platform in Lake Michigan.

The platform would hold a anemometer that gauges wind speed. . . .

A data-collection platform established from 6-10 miles off the Muskegon shoreline would be left on the lake for two or three years. It would provide year-round wind data.

The floating platform also could test anchoring systems and show how Lake Michigan ice movements in the winter would affect an eventual lake-based turbine installation, Boezaart said.

Monday, October 19, 2009

How does the everyday Joe benefit from Green Power?



From Ask Bob, a feature on the Web site of Madison Gas and Electric.

Excerpts from the Glacier Hills Wind Park EIS

The Public Service Commission issued the final environmental impact statement (EIS) on the Glacier Hills Wind Park, and it includes these items:

Medical Impacts (page 68)
UW Med Flight is the responding air ambulance service closest to the Glacier Hills project area. UW Med Flight and the other reswponding agencies plan to develop safe landing sites or locations within the project area to which medical helicopters could be dispatched. Establishing alternative landing zones in an area is a common tool employed by medical helicopter services where terrain, vegetation, or
structures restrict landing sites....

In some instances, alternate landing sites may not be required; a medical helicopter can land in proximity to a wind turbine if it is safe and prudent to do so. There do not seem to be any UW Med Flight rulers or policies that would preclude landing within a project area if it is safe to do so. The decision about where to land is the pilot's and is based on a variety of site factcors that present themselves upon arrival at an emergency scene. For example, closer landins to a turbine might be possible if the winds are calm and the wind turbine rotors are not rotating.

Sound Impacts (Page 82)
The studies done to date suggest that there is a wide variability in how peopole react to wind turbine noise and that many people do no appear to be affected. The studies do, however, support the concern that some people do react negatively to wind turbine noise, primarily through annoyance and sleep disturbance. It is widely accepted that disruption of sleep can lead to other physiological and psychological problems.

Dr. Nina Pierpont has hypothesized that in addition to annoyance and disturbance, wind turbine noise can result in direct activation of the vestibular and autonomic system leading to other health problems. The validity of this suggestion has been questioned. The Minnesota Department of Health concluded that "evidence is scant" for this hypothesis.

In summary, it is important to recognize that turbine noise can be problematic for some people. Although specific sound levels or distances from turbines cannot be directly correlated with these disturbance or annoyance problems, project design and siting should take potential impactcs of turbine noise into account.

Property Values (page 84)
A more recent study of two recently completed Wisconsin wind farms was completed by Appraisal Group One. This study contained similar problems of small sample size and weak statistical analyses. While the study was limited to residential vacany land sales, other potential factors that might influence sales prices were not analyzed. The study did not verify that all properties sold within the wind farm areas actually had views of wind turbines, whether the properties were sold prior to the proposal of a wind facility versus after the facilities were constructed and operating, and it did not differentiate between vacant lots with infrastructure potential such as streets, sewer, and water as opposed to farmland with no infrastructure.

Closed duck farm may reopen as renewable energy site in Racine

From an article by Rick Barrett in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

A group of local businessmen have proposed using a waste treatment facility at the former Maple Leaf Farms in Yorkville to process food waste into electricity.

Maple Leaf was one of the nation's largest duck farms. It closed in 2008, resulting in the shutdown of its manure-to-energy methane digester.

DF-1 Associates is a group of Racine-area businessmen involved in restaurant grease recycling. They're hoping to reopen the methane digester and fuel it with restaurant garbage and waste from food-processing plants. The company would make money by hauling away the waste from restaurants and food processors and selling electricity generated from the digester.

Educating Schools on Solar Air Heating

by Michael Vickerman
RENEW Wisconsin
October 2009

After reviewing several proposals, Focus on Energy selected two locations for showcasing this particular solar energy application.

One of the Focus on Energy-funded demonstration sites is the Cooperative Educational Service Agency, located in Chippewa Falls.

Better known as CESA 10, this agency provides energy management services to 30 school districts in northwest Wisconsin. A low-rise building with plenty of unshaded roof space, the CESA 10 office presents an ideal setting to test a solar application that could very well be a good technology fi t for the schools served by this agency.
“We hope this installation will enable us to practice what we preach,” said Todd Wanous, an energy manager at CESA 10 and the driving force behind this demonstration. Placed in service in August 2009, CESA 10’s innovative installation features Wisconsin’s first example of a modular rooftop air heating system called SolarDuct®.

On the roof are three banks of corrugated collector panels, each connected to the building’s air handling system. The dark-colored panels are covered with ventilation holes that draw in outside air. Sunlight striking the panels warms the air passing through the holes. Through the ducts running behind the arrays, ventilation fans draw the preheated air into the building’s air handling system.

CESA 10’s SolarDuct® unit is designed to supplement, not replace, the natural gas furnaces that used to be the sole source of space heat.

However, this system does not necessitate additional fans or blowers to move the preheated air throughout the building. As a result, there is no parasitic energy loss to factor in.

Continued.

This article first appeared in Sustainable Times, October 2009

Educating schools on solar air heating

From an article in Sustainable Times:

After reviewing several proposals, Focus on Energy selected two locations for showcasing this particular solar energy application.

One of the Focus on Energy-funded demonstration sites is the Cooperative Educational Service Agency, located in Chippewa Falls.

Better known as CESA 10, this agency provides energy management services to 30 school districts in northwest Wisconsin. A low-rise building with plenty of unshaded roof space, the CESA 10 office presents an ideal setting to test a solar application that could very well be a good technology fi t for the schools served by this agency.

“We hope this installation will enable us to practice what we preach,” said Todd Wanous, an energy manager at CESA 10 and the driving force behind this demonstration. Placed in service in August 2009, CESA 10’s innovative installation features Wisconsin’s first example of a modular rooftop air heating system called SolarDuct®.

On the roof are three banks of corrugated collector panels, each connected to the building’s air handling system. The dark-colored panels are covered with ventilation holes that draw in outside air. Sunlight striking the panels warms the air passing through the holes. Through the ducts running behind the arrays, ventilation fans draw the preheated air into the building’s air handling system.

CESA 10’s SolarDuct® unit is designed to supplement, not replace, the natural gas furnaces that used to be the sole source of space heat.

However, this system does not necessitate additional fans or blowers to move the preheated air throughout the building. As a result, there is no parasitic energy loss to factor in.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Alliant Energy: More money available for energy assistance

From a story in The Capital Times:

With winter approaching, Alliant Energy is urging qualified utility customers to apply for energy assistance.

The company says more households are eligible for assistance due to the economic downturn, so people are urged to apply as soon as possible through the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP). Residents can apply with their local county office through May 15, 2010, or until funds are exhausted.

The dollar amount of the payment varies, but the program will help households with incomes at or below 60 percent of the state median income. This means a family of four that makes about $45,000 or less per year, or a two-person household making $30,600 or less, may qualify for assistance.

Frank Galle, Alliant Energy senior manager of customer support, recommends that customers who think they may qualify apply right away.

"In these challenging economic times, it's important that people know that they do not have to wait until they are behind on their utility bills to receive energy assistance," said Galle. "We encourage customers to check their eligibility now and apply as soon as possible if they qualify for funds."

Customers can find their nearest county agency by calling 1-866-432-8947 or by visiting http://www.homeenergyplus.wi.gov.

Alliant Energy: More money available for energy assistance

From a story in The Capital Times:

With winter approaching, Alliant Energy is urging qualified utility customers to apply for energy assistance.

The company says more households are eligible for assistance due to the economic downturn, so people are urged to apply as soon as possible through the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP). Residents can apply with their local county office through May 15, 2010, or until funds are exhausted.

The dollar amount of the payment varies, but the program will help households with incomes at or below 60 percent of the state median income. This means a family of four that makes about $45,000 or less per year, or a two-person household making $30,600 or less, may qualify for assistance.

Frank Galle, Alliant Energy senior manager of customer support, recommends that customers who think they may qualify apply right away.

"In these challenging economic times, it's important that people know that they do not have to wait until they are behind on their utility bills to receive energy assistance," said Galle. "We encourage customers to check their eligibility now and apply as soon as possible if they qualify for funds."

Customers can find their nearest county agency by calling 1-866-432-8947 or by visiting http://www.homeenergyplus.wi.gov.

Iraq war veteran from Wis. hits road for clean energy

From an article by Larry Bivins in the Marshfield News Herald:

WASHINGTON -- As a member of the U.S. Army's 1st Armored Division's main support battalion in 2003, Robin Eckstein hauled fuel and water for the military in Iraq.

Through that experience, she said, she began to think about how dangerously dependent America was on foreign oil and the need for an alternative energy source.

"I ran missions every day, if not twice a day," Eckstein said. "It was just apparent that having only one source of energy to refuel our trucks was a problem because it meant more runs, and that meant more risks."

For Eckstein, a policy addressing clean energy and climate change became a national security issue, just as it has for scores of other current and former military personnel. But that's not the only reason the 32-year-old Appleton native is on the road in support of energy policy legislation Congress is considering.

Eckstein also is jobless and says she believes the bill the House has passed and a Senate bill would create jobs.

"We have the manufacturing base in Wisconsin," she said, "where I think we could really use these clean-energy jobs."

Last weekend, Eckstein was in Washington to help make a commercial for Operation FREE, a coalition of veterans and national security organizations, on climate change and national security.

Rumors fly about offline wind turbines

From an article by Colleen Kottke in the Fond du Lac Reporter:

BROWNSVILLE — As the blades of the 86 turbines on the Forward Wind Energy Center remain still, rumors have been circulating faster than the wind as to why the wind farm has been offline since Sept. 29.

Invenergy LLC officials attributed the shutdown to scheduled maintenance of the wind farm's substation. However, the latest buzz that a major utility pulled out of its power purchase contract and has left Invenergy without a new customer to fill the void simply isn't true, said Laura Miner, asset manager for Invenergy.

"There was a delay in getting parts for the transformer at the plant, and now we have completed testing of the equipment and will begin bringing the unit back online," Miner said. "This is a very time-consuming process as we have to manually prepare the unit. We expect the plant to be back online sometime early next week."

Calls to the Forward Wind Center's four major power purchasers confirmed that all contracts negotiated with the Chicago-based firm remain in place. Invenergy currently has contracts with Madison Gas & Electric, 40 megawatts; Wisconsin Public Power Inc., 40 megawatts; Wisconsin Public Service, 70 megawatts; and Alliant Energy, 50 megawatts.