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Monday, November 30, 2009

RENEW brief supports We Energies' wind park

From RENEW Wisconsin's brief filed with the Public Service Commission in support of the Glacier Hills Wind Park:

The design of the proposed Project is in the public interest first and foremost because it will be powered by wind rather than fossil fuels. Wind energy is a locally available, self-replenishing, emission-free electricity source. Fossil fuels, on the other hand, must be imported, are available in limited quantities, and emit pollutants. Moreover, using wind energy furthers the State’s policy goal that all new installed capacity for electric generation be based on renewable energy resources to the extent cost-effective and technically feasible. Wis. Stat. § 1.12(3)(b).

In his direct testimony, RENEW Wisconsin witness Michael Vickerman outlined a number of other public policy objectives that would be advanced by the construction of Glacier Hills. These include:
1. Helping Wisconsin Electric Power Company (“WEPCO”) meet its renewable energy requirements under Wis. Stat. § 196.378(2)(a)(2)d;
2. Securing adequate supplies of energy from sustainable sources;
3. Protecting ratepayers from rising fossil fuel prices;
4. Reducing air and water emissions from generation sources;
5. Preserving working farms and pasture land;
6. Generating additional revenues for host towns and counties;
7. Reducing the flow of capital out of Wisconsin for energy purchases; and
8. Investing Wisconsin capital in a wealth-producing energy generating facility within its borders.

Geologists: Energy's future in for big change

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

"This is the age of oil, but the age of oil is about to end," said Lori Snyder of UW-Eau Claire's geology department.

In 1950, the U.S. did not import any oil. Today, we still like our cars, and we have to import 60 percent of the oil we use to support our driving habit, she said.

Vehicles may have gotten a smaller and more fuel efficient since the 1950s, but our appetite for energy - the majority of it coming from fossil fuels - is huge. Today the average American uses three times the amount of energy we used in 1950, Snyder said.

Snyder and J. Brian Mahoney, also of the geology department, discussed the future of fossil fuels and energy Tuesday night for an "Ask A Scientist" program at UW-Eau Claire.

An audience of mixed ages attended, and many asked questions of the scientists, but the answers they received painted a less-than-reassuring picture of our energy future.

Fossil fuel basically is solar energy trapped by plants and bugs - sometimes millions of years ago - that never completely decomposed. We have extracted the fuels and used it to power our cars, heat our homes and generate our electricity, but supplies are becoming scarce, the geologists said.

Oil supplies in the U.S. peaked in the 1970s, Mahoney said. World supplies of oil that is readily accessible are peaking now, he said.

There are some alternative sources of oil, such as sand tars in Alberta, Canada, which are being mined, but they require a substantial amount of energy to extract and are costly to the environment, Mahoney said.

We still have an abundance of coal in the U.S. - enough to meet our electrical needs for 200 to 250 years, Snyder said. Unfortunately, coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel for emissions. We're already altering the composition of the atmosphere, and continuing at the current rate or increasing emissions brings about more questions about climate change and what life on Earth might be like in 100 years, Mahoney said.

"It's taking us to a place we don't really understand," he said.

Geologists: Energy's future in for big change

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

"This is the age of oil, but the age of oil is about to end," said Lori Snyder of UW-Eau Claire's geology department.

In 1950, the U.S. did not import any oil. Today, we still like our cars, and we have to import 60 percent of the oil we use to support our driving habit, she said.

Vehicles may have gotten a smaller and more fuel efficient since the 1950s, but our appetite for energy - the majority of it coming from fossil fuels - is huge. Today the average American uses three times the amount of energy we used in 1950, Snyder said.

Snyder and J. Brian Mahoney, also of the geology department, discussed the future of fossil fuels and energy Tuesday night for an "Ask A Scientist" program at UW-Eau Claire.

An audience of mixed ages attended, and many asked questions of the scientists, but the answers they received painted a less-than-reassuring picture of our energy future.

Fossil fuel basically is solar energy trapped by plants and bugs - sometimes millions of years ago - that never completely decomposed. We have extracted the fuels and used it to power our cars, heat our homes and generate our electricity, but supplies are becoming scarce, the geologists said.

Oil supplies in the U.S. peaked in the 1970s, Mahoney said. World supplies of oil that is readily accessible are peaking now, he said.

There are some alternative sources of oil, such as sand tars in Alberta, Canada, which are being mined, but they require a substantial amount of energy to extract and are costly to the environment, Mahoney said.

We still have an abundance of coal in the U.S. - enough to meet our electrical needs for 200 to 250 years, Snyder said. Unfortunately, coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel for emissions. We're already altering the composition of the atmosphere, and continuing at the current rate or increasing emissions brings about more questions about climate change and what life on Earth might be like in 100 years, Mahoney said.

"It's taking us to a place we don't really understand," he said.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

PSC should approve the settlement with We Energies

From an editorial in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

The state Public Service Commission [PSC] appears to have taken a reasonable approach to We Energies' request for an increase in rates for electricity customers, granting some but not all of what the utility was asking. While any increase hurts consumers during a time of recession, the reality is that We Energies needs to cover costs related to building power plants, transmission lines costs and employee pensions.

Wisconsin needs reasonable power costs to attract and retain businesses, but it also needs reliable power. The PSC is striving to make sure the state has both.

But commissioners delayed making a decision on one aspect of the rate request. That delay could hurt Wisconsin consumers and the environment. Commissioners should reconsider, and grant the request without any delay.

At stake is a settlement We Energies reached in 2008 with environmental groups involving cooling methods for its new coal plants in Oak Creek. The settlement was a victory for all sides, allowing the utility and its partners to complete the plants in a timely manner, providing help for Lake Michigan in the form of funds for restoration initiatives and expanding renewable energy in Wisconsin.

The $105 million settlement will be paid for mostly by electric customers, but that price tag will be far less than it could have been under a protracted legal battle over the plant's cooling system. The utilities involved and the environmental groups who fought the plant worked hard to reach a compromise that serves everyone.

But that compromise could be put in jeopardy if the PSC rejects the portion of the rate hike request designed to cover the cost of the settlement. The environmental groups could decide that their work was wasted if there is a significant delay in getting the restoration money for Lake Michigan. And re-opening the lawsuit could mean more costs to ratepayers if the groups prevail.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Report: Nuclear power will set back race against climate change

From a news release issued by Wisconsin Environment:

Madison, WI - Far from a solution to global warming, nuclear power will actually set America back in the race to reduce pollution, according to a new report by Wisconsin Environment. Leading environmental organizations, consumer groups and energy experts gathered today to release the report and call on state and federal leaders to focus on energy efficiency and renewable energy instead of nuclear power as the solution to global warming. . . .

Wisconsin Environment’s new report, Generating Failure: How Building Nuclear Power Plants Would Set America Back in the Race Against Global Warming, analyzes the role, under a best-case scenario, that nuclear power could play in reducing global warming pollution. Some key findings of the report include:

• To avoid the most catastrophic impacts of global warming, America must cut power plant emissions roughly in half over the next 10 years.
• Nuclear power is too slow to contribute to this effort. No new reactors are now under construction in the United States. Building a single reactor could take 10 years or longer. As a result, it is quite possible that nuclear power could deliver no progress in the critical next decade, despite spending billions on reactor construction.
• Even if the nuclear industry somehow managed to build 100 new nuclear reactors by 2030, nuclear power could reduce total U.S. emissions of global warming pollution over the next 20 years by only 12 percent -- far too little, too late.
• In contrast, energy efficiency and renewable energy can immediately reduce global warming pollution. Energy efficiency programs are already cutting electricity consumption by 1-2 percent annually in leading states, and the U.S. wind industry is already building the equivalent of three nuclear reactors per year in wind farms. America has vast potential to do more.
• Building 100 new reactors would require an up-front investment on the order of $600 billion dollars – money which could cut at least twice as much carbon pollution by 2030 if invested in clean energy. Taking into account the ongoing costs of running the nuclear plants, clean energy could deliver 5 times more pollution-cutting progress per dollar.
• Nuclear power is not necessary to provide clean, carbon-free electricity for the long haul. The need for base-load power is exaggerated and small-scale clean energy solutions can actually enhance the reliability of the electric grid.

To address global warming, state and federal policy makers should focus on improving energy efficiency and generating electricity from clean sources that never run out – such as wind, solar, biomass and geothermal power, according to Wisconsin Environment and the coalition groups that attended today’s event.

PSC grants Alliant Energy 6.5 percent rate increase

From an article by Brian E. Clark on WisBusiness:

In an oral decision Tuesday, the state Public Service Commission approved an average rate hike of roughly $60 million, or 6.4 percent, for Alliant Energy. It will go into effect Jan. 1.

Officials said the ruling will mean average residential customers will see a monthly jump in their electric bills of about $6.10. The PSC also raised the company’s natural gas rates by about $5.5 million, amounting to a monthly increase of approximately $1.50 for gas distribution service.

“Today’s action struck a balance between a utility that needs more revenue to continue to provide reliable service, and a customer base that is working its way through hard economic times,” PSC Chairman Eric Callisto said. “At the end of the day, we cannot allow a regulated utility to fall off the cliff. Today’s decision kept the current recession in mind while keeping the lights on and keeping the utility moving forward.”

The Madison-based company had initially requested an increase of more than $100 million, or 10 percent. The PSC staff, in an audit, recommended a $73 million boost, or about 7.8 percent on average.

Part of the rate increase will cover declining sales for the utility. Since 2008, it has lost several major industrial customers, including the huge General Motors plant in Janesville. Another part of the rate increase will pay for the utility’s investment in the Bent Tree wind farm in Minnesota.

Charlie Higley, executive director of the Citizens Utility Board, said he was he was “glad the PSC was able to approve a more reasonable rate increase than that sought by the utility.

“That said, the PSC could have done more to lower rates, especially given the bad economy faced by consumers."

RENEW brief supports We Energies' wind park

From RENEW Wisconsin's brief filed with the Public Service Commission in support of the Glacier Hills Wind Park:

The design of the proposed Project is in the public interest first and foremost because it will be powered by wind rather than fossil fuels. Wind energy is a locally available, self-replenishing, emission-free electricity source. Fossil fuels, on the other hand, must be imported, are available in limited quantities, and emit pollutants. Moreover, using wind energy furthers the State’s policy goal that all new installed capacity for electric generation be based on renewable energy resources to the extent cost-effective and technically feasible. Wis. Stat. § 1.12(3)(b).

In his direct testimony, RENEW Wisconsin witness Michael Vickerman outlined a number of other public policy objectives that would be advanced by the construction of Glacier Hills. These include:
1. Helping Wisconsin Electric Power Company (“WEPCO”) meet its renewable energy requirements under Wis. Stat. § 196.378(2)(a)(2)d;
2. Securing adequate supplies of energy from sustainable sources;
3. Protecting ratepayers from rising fossil fuel prices;
4. Reducing air and water emissions from generation sources;
5. Preserving working farms and pasture land;
6. Generating additional revenues for host towns and counties;
7. Reducing the flow of capital out of Wisconsin for energy purchases; and
8. Investing Wisconsin capital in a wealth-producing energy generating facility within its borders.

WPS planning layoffs; impact unclear

From an article by Brian Reisinger in the Wausau Daily Herald:

Planned layoffs and furloughs at Wisconsin Public Service Corp. could impact the Wausau area, though it's unclear how at this point.

The utility's holding company, Integrys of Green Bay, plans an undetermined number of layoffs throughout the Midwest. In addition, about 600 administrators will take an unpaid week off in 2010, WPS spokesman Kerry Spees said.

The Wausau area has about 350 WPS workers, out of 5,100 total Integrys employees throughout the Midwest, said Jim Rosenberg, a community and governmental affairs representative for the utility. That makes local layoffs likely, said Rosenberg, who also serves on the Wausau City Council and Marathon County Board.

"The short answer is probably, but we don't know that yet," until the company weighs its options, he said.

Rosenberg said WPS will offer voluntary severance and that the number of people who accept it could affect the number of layoffs.

Spees said commercial demand for power is down nearly 9 percent compared with last year, and Rosenberg pointed to the recession as a contributing factor.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Homegrown Renewable Energy Campaign touts renewable energy buyback rates

From a fact sheet issued by the Homegrown Renewable Energy Campaign:

An innovative way to encourage more smaller-scale renewable energy systems by paying premiums to customers for wind, solar, biogas or biomass electric generation.

How are they different from standard utility buyback rates?
Unlike standard buyback rates, Renewable Energy Buyback Rates provide a fixed purchase price for the electricity produced over a period of 10 to 20 years. They are set at levels sufficient to fully recover installation costs along with a modest profit. Because the purchase price is guaranteed over a long period, Renewable Energy Buyback Rates make it easy for customers to obtain financing for their generation projects.

Why don’t utilities pursue these small-scale renewable projects themselves?
In general, the smaller the generating facility, the less likely it is owned by a utility. Utilities tend to favor bulk generation facilities that employ economies of scale to produce electricity at a lower cost. Renewable power plants owned by
utilities—such as large wind projects—are sized to serve their entire territory, not just a particular distribution area. For that reason utilities have shown little appetite for owning and operating distributed generation facilities powered with
solar, biogas, wind, and hydro.

If utilities won’t invest in small-scale renewable projects, how will they get built?
Clearly, the capital needed to build smaller-scale renewable projects has to come from independent sources—either customers or third parties. There is no shortage of investor interest in these systems, and sufficient capital is available. What’s needed to finance these projects is a predictable, long-term purchasing arrangement that assures full capital recovery if the project performs according to expectations. That’s where Renewable Energy Payments come into play.

Bio-fuel growth raises concerns about forests

From an Associated Press article by John Flesher in The Mining Journal (Marquette, Michigan):

PARK FALLS, Wis. - Forests are a treasure trove of limbs and bark that can be made into alternative fuels and some worry the increasing trend of using that logging debris will make those materials too scarce, harming the woodlands.

For centuries, forests have provided lumber to build cities, pulp for paper mills and a refuge for hunters, fishers and hikers. A flurry of new, green ventures is fueling demand for trees and the debris leftover when they are harvested, which is called waste wood or woody biomass.

''There simply is nowhere near enough waste wood for all of these biomass projects that are popping up all over the place,'' said Marvin Roberson, a forest policy specialist with the Sierra Club in Michigan.

Waste wood has become a sought-after commodity, prompting concerns that the demand might overwhelm supply and damage the ecosystem. But government officials say there's plenty available and they point to guidelines that are aimed at maintaining tree debris to give the soil nutrients.

Many biomass projects are tied to the forests that extend across Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and part of Ontario. Among them is Flambeau River Papers, a mill in Park Falls, Wis., that emerged from bankruptcy three years ago and is pinning its hopes for profitability on generating its own heat with woody biomass.

In another Wisconsin town 50 miles away, a power company is switching from burning coal to producing combustible gas from logging leftovers. And in Michigan's neighboring Upper Peninsula, a plant under development called Frontier Renewable Resources will convert timber into 40 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol a year.

Researchers led by University of Minnesota forest expert Dennis Becker reported this summer that many would-be investors are uneasy about supplies of waste wood.

They fear environmental reviews and litigation could make some public woodlands unreliable sources, particularly in the West, where most forest lands are under federal ownership and logging often raises legal tussles, the report said.

Another problem with woody biomass is that much of the supply is in protected areas, or so far from markets that removing and transporting it would be too expensive, Becker said.

He led a separate study that found a realistic estimate of biomass available in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin was 4.1 million tons a year. Annual demand soon could reach 5.7 million tons, it said.

RENEW brief supports Glacier Hills Wind Park

From RENEW Wisconsin's brief filed with the Public Service Commission in support of the Glacier Hills Wind Park:

The design of the proposed Project is in the public interest first and foremost because it will be powered by wind rather than fossil fuels. Wind energy is a locally available, self-replenishing, emission-free electricity source. Fossil fuels, on the other hand, must be imported, are available in limited quantities, and emit pollutants. Moreover, using wind energy furthers the State’s policy goal that all new installed capacity for electric generation be based on renewable energy resources to the extent cost-effective and technically feasible. Wis. Stat. § 1.12(3)(b).

In his direct testimony, RENEW Wisconsin witness Michael Vickerman outlined a number of other public policy objectives that would be advanced by the construction of Glacier Hills. These include:
1. Helping Wisconsin Electric Power Company (“WEPCO”) meet its renewable energy requirements under Wis. Stat. § 196.378(2)(a)(2)d;
2. Securing adequate supplies of energy from sustainable sources;
3. Protecting ratepayers from rising fossil fuel prices;
4. Reducing air and water emissions from generation sources;
5. Preserving working farms and pasture land;
6. Generating additional revenues for host towns and counties;
7. Reducing the flow of capital out of Wisconsin for energy purchases; and
8. Investing Wisconsin capital in a wealth-producing energy generating facility within its borders.

Port Washington OKs 'green' homes

From a post on Tom Daykin's blog at JSOnline:

A proposed nine-lot subdivision, showcasing homes with solar energy panels, geo-thermal heating and cooling systems, and other features designed to save energy, has received conceptual approval from the Port Washington Plan Commission.

Developer Mike Speas told me this morning that he plans to build homes with around 1,200 square feet, with three bedrooms and two bathrooms, and sell them at around $200,000.

The houses won't have finished basements, granite kitchen countertops and other amenities featured in comparably priced houses. But they will appeal to people looking to save a lot of money on their energy costs, Speas said.

The houses also will have a traditional arts and crafts bungalow design.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bio-fuel growth raises concerns about forests

From an Associated Press article by John Flesher in The Mining Journal (Marquette, Michigan):

PARK FALLS, Wis. - Forests are a treasure trove of limbs and bark that can be made into alternative fuels and some worry the increasing trend of using that logging debris will make those materials too scarce, harming the woodlands.

For centuries, forests have provided lumber to build cities, pulp for paper mills and a refuge for hunters, fishers and hikers. A flurry of new, green ventures is fueling demand for trees and the debris leftover when they are harvested, which is called waste wood or woody biomass.

''There simply is nowhere near enough waste wood for all of these biomass projects that are popping up all over the place,'' said Marvin Roberson, a forest policy specialist with the Sierra Club in Michigan.

Waste wood has become a sought-after commodity, prompting concerns that the demand might overwhelm supply and damage the ecosystem. But government officials say there's plenty available and they point to guidelines that are aimed at maintaining tree debris to give the soil nutrients.

Many biomass projects are tied to the forests that extend across Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and part of Ontario. Among them is Flambeau River Papers, a mill in Park Falls, Wis., that emerged from bankruptcy three years ago and is pinning its hopes for profitability on generating its own heat with woody biomass.

In another Wisconsin town 50 miles away, a power company is switching from burning coal to producing combustible gas from logging leftovers. And in Michigan's neighboring Upper Peninsula, a plant under development called Frontier Renewable Resources will convert timber into 40 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol a year.

Researchers led by University of Minnesota forest expert Dennis Becker reported this summer that many would-be investors are uneasy about supplies of waste wood.

They fear environmental reviews and litigation could make some public woodlands unreliable sources, particularly in the West, where most forest lands are under federal ownership and logging often raises legal tussles, the report said.

Another problem with woody biomass is that much of the supply is in protected areas, or so far from markets that removing and transporting it would be too expensive, Becker said.

He led a separate study that found a realistic estimate of biomass available in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin was 4.1 million tons a year. Annual demand soon could reach 5.7 million tons, it said.

Sierra Club & U.S. Green Building Council laucnh Cool Cities project

From a news release issued by the Sierra Club and the Wisconsin Green Building Alliance:

Milwaukee--Wisconsin Green Building Alliance (WIGBA) and Sierra Club’s Cool Cities program today announced the launch of the Green Building for Cool Cities collaboration. The partnership will leverage Cool Cities more than 200 local campaigns and USGBCs national network of 78 chapters to encourage new and retrofitted energy-efficient buildings, a key solution to global warming and to achieving the transition to a clean energy economy.

The organizations released a step-by-step green building policy guide for communities of all sizes. The recommended policies range from basic to more advanced plans of action to address energy-efficiency and environmental sustainability through the built environment.

Highlighted policies include leadership standards for government buildings that serve as models for the community; financial and no-cost incentives to build green for the commercial and residential sectors; and improved minimum efficiency standards through energy code adoption and enforcement. The Green Building for Cool Cities policy guide is available online at www.coolcities.us and www.usgbc.org. . . .

The Wisconsin State Building Commission has already been utilizing the guidelines. The new academic building at UW-Oshkosh, designed to incorporate renewable energy sources and sustainable principals to meet a gold LEED rating, is expected to save the University more than $182,000 annually. Energy design elements include:
+ Roof-top solar collectors will provide 70 percent of domestic hot water demand.
+ Radiant concrete slab flooring for heating and cooling — the first of its kind in the Wisconsin.
+ Day-lighting of more than 90 percent of regularly occupied spaces, reducing electric energy for lighting by more than one third.
+ Heat recovery system that exchanges the heat of warm exhausted air with the fresh air intake.

Focus on Energy offers WPS customers increased incentives for home energy efficiency projects

From a news release issued by Focus on Energy:

MADISON, Wis. (Nov. 23, 2009) — Homeowners who purchase their gas from Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) have the opportunity to enhance the comfort of their homes and reduce their energy bills with the introduction of new financial incentives. The additional financial incentives are being offered by Focus on Energy, Wisconsin's statewide energy efficiency and renewable energy resource, in partnership with WPS and are meant to encourage participation in Focus on Energy's Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® Program. . . .

Home Performance with ENERGY STAR – How the Program Works
High energy bills are primarily traced to poorly performing components of a home such as air leaks and insufficient insulation. This is an important reason why homeowners should try to pinpoint the exact source of their high energy bills. Through the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program and a network of partnering consultants, homeowners can schedule a home energy evaluation which will help them find out exactly what energy efficiency improvements their home needs. The program’s qualified contractors and trade partners can then implement the recommended improvements, ensuring the work is done to Home Performance with ENERGY STAR standards.

Home Performance with ENERGY STAR – Increased Financial Incentives In addition to technical expertise, the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program offers Cash-Back Rewards to consumers who improve the energy efficiency of their omes. And for a limited time, homeowners who have an evaluation and complete at least three recommendations within six months, will be eligible for additional rewards of up to $3,000. Improvements made will pay off not only in lower energy bills, but in peace of mind knowing the home is now comfortable and less of a strain on the environment.

To find out more about the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program, including details on the increased financial incentives, program Cash-Back Rewards, eligibility requirements and names of consultants and qualified contractors who partner with the program, call (800) 762-7077 or visit focusonenergy.com/wps.

Beyond coal ... winners and losers

From an article by Chris Hubbuch in the La Crosse Tribune:

Local utilities support efforts to reduce greenhouse gases but differ on how to do it fairly

CASSVILLE, Wis. - The future of Wisconsin's energy is piled high on the south lot of the E.J. Stoneman plant.

Gone is the coal that fueled the boilers for six decades. Now 40,000 tons of wood chips and railroad ties tower over construction workers building an apparatus to grind that wood into fuel.

With its yellow tile walls and dusty turbines, Stoneman hardly looks futuristic. La Crosse-based Dairyland Power built the plant in 1950 and shuttered it in 1993 for economic reasons.

But with a push to limit carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, utilities are scrambling for new sources of renewable energy to replace fossil fuels. Stoneman again is viable.

DTE Energy Systems bought the plant in 2008, stripped out the boilers and began a two-year project to convert it to biomass. Starting this summer, they expect the turbines to spin again with steam generated primarily by construction and demolition debris.

Even with a cost in the tens of millions - they don't disclose the exact amount - DTE expects to make money because of the premium price for green energy.

On the other side of town, Alliant Energy burns wood pellets along with coal at its Nelson Dewey station as part of a yearlong test. Though Madison-based Alliant has no plans to convert the plant, the company will use the data as it examines ways to reduce its carbon footprint, spokesman Steve Schultz said.

With Congress poised for the first time to limit carbon emissions, power utilities are ramping up efforts to replace coal, a cheap and plentiful resource that long has been the major source of electricity, particularly in the Midwest.

Environmental advocates say it's a start to slowing global climate change, and even utilities favor the principle of limiting greenhouse gases.

But not all utilities are created equal. Xcel Energy, which supplies urban households and industries, has a diverse energy portfolio bolstered by investments in renewable sources and nuclear power, which produces no greenhouse gases. Dairyland Power, which through its member cooperatives provides power for most of the Coulee Region's rural and small town residents, relies almost exclusively on coal.

Both utilities support a congressional approach to cutting carbon emissions but differ on the details of how it should be done.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Homegrown Renewable Energy Campaign touts renewable energy buyback rates

From a fact sheet issued by the Homegrown Renewable Energy Campaign:

An innovative way to encourage more smaller-scale renewable energy systems by paying premiums to customers for wind, solar, biogas or biomass electric generation.

How are they different from standard utility buyback rates?
Unlike standard buyback rates, Renewable Energy Buyback Rates provide a fixed purchase price for the electricity produced over a period of 10 to 20 years. They are set at levels sufficient to fully recover installation costs along with a modest profit. Because the purchase price is guaranteed over a long period, Renewable Energy Buyback Rates make it easy for customers to obtain financing for their generation projects.

Why don’t utilities pursue these small-scale renewable projects themselves?
In general, the smaller the generating facility, the less likely it is owned by a utility. Utilities tend to favor bulk generation facilities that employ economies of scale to produce electricity at a lower cost. Renewable power plants owned by
utilities—such as large wind projects—are sized to serve their entire territory, not just a particular distribution area. For that reason utilities have shown little appetite for owning and operating distributed generation facilities powered with
solar, biogas, wind, and hydro.

If utilities won’t invest in small-scale renewable projects, how will they get built?
Clearly, the capital needed to build smaller-scale renewable projects has to come from independent sources—either customers or third parties. There is no shortage of investor interest in these systems, and sufficient capital is available. What’s needed to finance these projects is a predictable, long-term purchasing arrangement that assures full capital recovery if the project performs according to expectations. That’s where Renewable Energy Payments come into play.

The staggering cost of new nuclear power

From an article by Joseph Room on Center for American Progress:

A new study puts the generation costs for power from new nuclear plants at 25 to 30 cents per kilowatt-hour—triple current U.S. electricity rates!

This staggering price is far higher than the cost of a variety of carbon-free renewable power sources available today—and 10 times the cost of energy efficiency (see “Is 450 ppm possible? Part 5: Old coal’s out, can’t wait for new nukes, so what do we do NOW?”

The new study, “Business Risks and Costs of New Nuclear Power,” is one of the most detailed cost analyses publically available on the current generation of nuclear power plants being considered in this country. It is by a leading expert in power plant costs, Craig A. Severance. A practicing CPA, Severance is co-author of The Economics of Nuclear and Coal Power (Praeger 1976), and former assistant to the chairman and to commerce counsel, Iowa State Commerce Commission.

This important new analysis is being published by Climate Progress because it fills a critical gap in the current debate over nuclear power—transparency. Severance explains:

All assumptions, and methods of calculation are clearly stated. The piece is a deliberate effort to demystify the entire process, so that anyone reading it (including non-technical readers) can develop a clear understanding of how total generation costs per kWh come together.
As stunning as this new, detailed cost estimate is, it should not come as a total surprise. I detailed the escalating capital costs of nuclear power in my May 2008 report, “The Self-Limiting Future of Nuclear Power.” And in a story last week on nuclear power’s supposed comeback, Time magazine notes that nuclear plants’ capital costs are “out of control,” concluding:

Most efficiency improvements have been priced at 1¢ to 3¢ per kilowatt-hour, while new nuclear energy is on track to cost 15¢ to 20¢ per kilowatt-hour. And no nuclear plant has ever been completed on budget.
Time buried that in the penultimate paragraph of the story!

Fact sheet: Renewable energy buyback rates

From a fact sheet issued by the Homegrown Renewable Energy Campaign:

An innovative way to encourage more smaller-scale renewable energy systems by paying premiums to customers for wind, solar, biogas or biomass electric generation.

How are they different from standard utility buyback rates?
Unlike standard buyback rates, Renewable Energy Buyback Rates provide a fixed purchase price for the electricity produced over a period of 10 to 20 years. They are set at levels sufficient to fully recover installation costs along with a modest profit. Because the purchase price is guaranteed over a long period, Renewable Energy Buyback Rates make it easy for customers to obtain financing for their generation projects.

Why don’t utilities pursue these small-scale renewable projects themselves?
In general, the smaller the generating facility, the less likely it is owned by a utility. Utilities tend to favor bulk generation facilities that employ economies of scale to produce electricity at a lower cost. Renewable power plants owned by
utilities—such as large wind projects—are sized to serve their entire territory, not just a particular distribution area. For that reason utilities have shown little appetite for owning and operating distributed generation facilities powered with
solar, biogas, wind, and hydro.

If utilities won’t invest in small-scale renewable projects, how will they get built?
Clearly, the capital needed to build smaller-scale renewable projects has to come from independent sources—either customers or third parties. There is no shortage of investor interest in these systems, and sufficient capital is available. What’s needed to finance these projects is a predictable, long-term purchasing arrangement that assures full capital recovery if the project performs according to expectations. That’s where Renewable Energy Payments come into play.

Homegrown Renewable Energy Campaign touts renewable energy buyback rates

From a fact sheet issued by the Homegrown Renewable Energy Campaign:

An innovative way to encourage more smaller-scale renewable energy systems by paying premiums to customers for wind, solar, biogas or biomass electric generation.

How are they different from standard utility buyback rates?
Unlike standard buyback rates, Renewable Energy Buyback Rates provide a fixed purchase price for the electricity produced over a period of 10 to 20 years. They are set at levels sufficient to fully recover installation costs along with a modest profit. Because the purchase price is guaranteed over a long period, Renewable Energy Buyback Rates make it easy for customers to obtain financing for their generation projects.

Why don’t utilities pursue these small-scale renewable projects themselves?
In general, the smaller the generating facility, the less likely it is owned by a utility. Utilities tend to favor bulk generation facilities that employ economies of scale to produce electricity at a lower cost. Renewable power plants owned by
utilities—such as large wind projects—are sized to serve their entire territory, not just a particular distribution area. For that reason utilities have shown little appetite for owning and operating distributed generation facilities powered with
solar, biogas, wind, and hydro.

If utilities won’t invest in small-scale renewable projects, how will they get built?
Clearly, the capital needed to build smaller-scale renewable projects has to come from independent sources—either customers or third parties. There is no shortage of investor interest in these systems, and sufficient capital is available. What’s needed to finance these projects is a predictable, long-term purchasing arrangement that assures full capital recovery if the project performs according to expectations. That’s where Renewable Energy Payments come into play.

Energy pilot project one of first steps in 25 X 25 plan

From an article by Chad Dally in The Daily Press (Ashland):

Six municipalities, one transit system and more than seven million kilowatt hours of electricity consumed.

That is one of many initial discoveries of local government officials, the Alliance for Sustainability and others through a Wisconsin Energy Independent Communities pilot project.

The Chequamegon Bay region was one of 10 communities — and the largest of the 10 — that took part in the pilot project, which in the first phase attempted to pin down a baseline assessment on energy and fuel consumption for the past three years. The initiative is one of the first steps in Wisconsin's 25 x 25 Plan, which set a goal of generating 25 percent of the state's energy and transportation fuel from renewable sources by 2025. Also included is the goal of securing 10 percent of the nation's emerging bio-industry jobs within Wisconsin. Generating more alternative and renewable energy and fuel within the state and especially within the Chequamegon Bay region has huge implications, since Wisconsin spent more than $21 billion on energy in 2007.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Transition Wisconsin seeks board members

From an announcement from Transition Wisconsin:

Transition Wisconsin is looking for individuals who would like to serve on the board or be a director for the Incorporation of "Transition Wisconsin" as a non-profit in the State of Wisconsin.

Transition Wisconsin is currently a part of the Transition Movement looking to formalize it's involvement. It is currently involved, through its web presence, in providing people information on Peak Oil and Climate Change as well as opportunities for people to help make a positive transition to a world in which petroleum will become terminally in decline. Similarly, providing as much factual information concerning Climate Change is another priority. It is hoped that the infrastructure created would allow Wisconsin neighborhood, Town, Village or City communities as Transition initiatives with the benefits of tax exempt financial benefits working as an umbrella organization.

Anyone interested or have questions should email Rees Roberts.

Individuals have until December 31, 2009 to respond. It is hoped a diverse cross section of Wisconsin be represented.

This message will be repeated and shared widely.

DOT undecided between La Crosse, Eau Claire high-speed rail routes

From an article by Steve Cahalan in the La Crosse Tribune:

The final version of a Wisconsin Department of Transportation long-range plan still has alternate routes through Eau Claire and La Crosse for high-speed passenger rail service between Tomah and the Twin Cities.

The DOT soon will study which route might be best.

The agency said Wednesday it has formally adopted its new Connections 2030 long-range plan, available online at www.wiconnections2030.gov.

Local business and government leaders argued at an Aug. 26 public hearing on the plan in La Crosse that studies years ago already had determined Amtrak's Empire Builder route is the most ideal in the region for planned high-speed passenger rail service between Chicago and St. Paul. That route goes through Tomah and La Crosse, as well as Winona and Red Wing in Minnesota.

Backers of that route announced last week they have formed the Empire Builder High Speed Rail Coalition.

Coalition members remain convinced that is the best route, said the group's coordinator, James Hill, who also is executive director of the La Crosse Area Development Corp.

DOT undecided between La Crosse, Eau Claire high-speed rail routes

From an article by Steve Cahalan in the La Crosse Tribune:

The final version of a Wisconsin Department of Transportation long-range plan still has alternate routes through Eau Claire and La Crosse for high-speed passenger rail service between Tomah and the Twin Cities.

The DOT soon will study which route might be best.

The agency said Wednesday it has formally adopted its new Connections 2030 long-range plan, available online at www.wiconnections2030.gov.

Local business and government leaders argued at an Aug. 26 public hearing on the plan in La Crosse that studies years ago already had determined Amtrak's Empire Builder route is the most ideal in the region for planned high-speed passenger rail service between Chicago and St. Paul. That route goes through Tomah and La Crosse, as well as Winona and Red Wing in Minnesota.

Backers of that route announced last week they have formed the Empire Builder High Speed Rail Coalition.

Coalition members remain convinced that is the best route, said the group's coordinator, James Hill, who also is executive director of the La Crosse Area Development Corp.

Lawmakers outline plan to aid industry, create jobs, boost biofuels

From an article by Joel Costanza in the News of the North:

RHINELANDER – Hoping for bipartisan support and action by next April, a group of northern Wisconsin Republican lawmakers outlined plans on Monday (Nov. 16) to make or save jobs in the state, and promote the growth of biofuels as an alternative energy source.

Rep. Dan Meyer (R-Eagle River), Rep. Don Friske (R-Merrill) and Rep. Jeff Mursau (R-Crivitz) were joined by business and education officials at an hour-long news conference Monday afternoon held at Ponsse North America headquarters in Rhinelander.

Aimed mainly to help agribusiness and the forest products industry – “the two largest engines of the state’s economy” in Friske’s words – Meyer and his colleagues said they would sponsor nine bills and a resolution over the coming months to provide tax breaks and other incentives to spur economic growth.

The lawmakers said the tax relief would be modeled after $1.3 million in dairy modernization tax credits passed earlier this year.

“We’re looking to do the same thing for loggers and sawmills, for example, to help them upgrade their equipment and expand their facilities to create new jobs,” Meyer said.

Mursau said, “The same great idea for agriculture will work for our aging sawmills around Wisconsin by providing tax incentives.”

Friske conceded that the job creation plan faces an uphill fight in the Democratically-controlled legislature, but said he’s optimistic that the effort will garner support from both sides of the aisle.

“We have a common enemy, which is the slumping economy,” Friske said.

In addition to tax exemptions for businesses, the proposals are aimed at streamlining government permitting, helping educators spread the word about bio-energy, and easing worker compensation costs, which officials said put Wisconsin at a competitive disadvantage in luring new industry compared to neighboring states such as Michigan, Minnesota and many others where the business climate is friendlier.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Minnesota regulators allow increased nuclear waste

A report from WQOW-TV:

Eau Claire (WQOW) - Minnesota regulators have approved a measure to allow Xcel Energy to increase the amount of radioactive waste.

Excel Energy requested to expand its nuclear waste plant near the Western Wisconsin border at Red Wing. The utility will spend roughly $600 million to upgrade the plant to handle higher pressures and temperatures and increase its output. The plan also calls for storage of 98 casks on a concrete pad next to the plant. The plant is located on an island in the middle of the Mississippi River.

Red Wing's mayor is disappointed with the decision. Now the measure goes to legislators for final approval.

Milwaukee to get $5.8M in energy efficiency grants

From a news release issued by U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore:

(Washington, DC)— Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-Wisc.) today announced that Milwaukee will receive $5,839,100 in Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) funding awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy as part of the Recovery Act. These funds are intended to create local green jobs and help improve energy efficiency in communities across the country by reducing energy use and fossil fuel emissions.

“This funding will make improvements in homes, businesses and municipal buildings that will help keep energy costs down,” Congresswoman Moore said. “Not only are these improvements important for personal, business and city finances, they also move Milwaukee toward better overall energy efficiency, create green jobs, reduce our environmental impact, and demonstrate that our city can keep up with energy innovation.”

The city of Milwaukee will use these funds to make energy efficiency improvements in municipal buildings including retrofits that will update older lighting systems. The city will also actively seek additional opportunities to make energy efficiency improvements in municipal buildings.

A residential retrofit program will provide a revolving loan fund for homeowners to complete energy retrofits, and a similar program will offer the same type of revolving loan fund to businesses.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Discounted LED holiday lights help consumers trim their trees, not their wallets

From a news release issued by Focus on Energy:

(Nov. 16, 2009) - LED (light emitting diode) holiday lights are a proven way to help consumers trim energy costs while trimming their trees. How? This technology saves energy, while helping to preserve the environment. What’s more, Focus on Energy, Wisconsin's statewide energy efficiency and renewable energy resource, is offering financial incentives toward the purchase of ENERGY STAR® qualified LED holiday light strings.

Now through Dec. 31, 2009, or until supplies last, Focus on Energy is offering a $3Instant Reward, taken at the register, on the purchase of ENERGY STAR qualified LED holiday light strings at participating locations including Ace Hardware, Costco, Do it Best, Hardware Hank, Menards, Mills Fleet Farm, Shopko, Stein Gardens & Gifts and True Value Hardware locations. Limit twelve (12) light sets per customer.

Discounted LED holiday lights help consumers trim their trees, not their wallets

From a news release issued by Focus on Energy:

(Nov. 16, 2009) - LED (light emitting diode) holiday lights are a proven way to help consumers trim energy costs while trimming their trees. How? This technology saves energy, while helping to preserve the environment. What’s more, Focus on Energy, Wisconsin's statewide energy efficiency and renewable energy resource, is offering financial incentives toward the purchase of ENERGY STAR® qualified LED holiday light strings.

Now through Dec. 31, 2009, or until supplies last, Focus on Energy is offering a $3Instant Reward, taken at the register, on the purchase of ENERGY STAR qualified LED holiday light strings at participating locations including Ace Hardware, Costco, Do it Best, Hardware Hank, Menards, Mills Fleet Farm, Shopko, Stein Gardens & Gifts and True Value Hardware locations. Limit twelve (12) light sets per customer.

Green Drinks on Wednesday, November 18

From Green Drinks - Eau Claire:

Green Drinks will be November 18th at 6:30PM at Dooley's Pub on Water Street, in Eau Claire.

We'll start with introductions and then a quick presentation by Meg Marshall of Sustainable Eau Claire. Meg will be discussing Sustainable Eau Claire and Eco-Teams - a way to make your home, business, and community "greener"!

Buy a drink and stay for the "Conservation-Conversation" and find out what "green" issues and events are happening in the Chippewa Valley!

Invite your friends to JOIN OUR FACEBOOK GROUP!

Eau Claire Green Drinks
6:30PM
Wednesday, November 18
Dooley's Pub on Water Street (Upstairs Room)

PS - December 16th's featured presenter will be Erin O'Brien of Erin Designs - discussing green design and eco-friendly products!

Solar energy field remains strong in Wisconsin

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

Given our climate, Wisconsin would never be mistaken for the best solar state in the country.

But among non-Sun Belt states, the state is staking a claim in providing power from the sun.

Except for California and Texas, Wisconsin is the only state with two cities - Milwaukee and Madison - in the national Solar America Cities program.

A $19.6 million project for Roundy's Corp. in Oconomowoc would become the largest solar power project in the Midwest, if it gets $8.8 million in federal stimulus funding.

And the state has more certified solar installers per capita than nearly every state in the country, according to Tehri Parker, executive director of the Midwest Renewable Energy Association. Even with the recession, the number of solar installations is expanding - and so is training for solar-contracting jobs, Parker said.

On a recent weekend in Milwaukee, trainees from Wyoming, Virginia and Missouri were on a rooftop in Milwaukee's central city installing solar panels on a Habitat for Humanity home.

Habitat is partnering with We Energies and the Midwest Renewable Energy Association to provide much-needed training for solar technicians - a job that's expected to be in high demand given the growth trajectory that solar enjoys.

John Price, a firefighter with the Brookfield Fire Department, is looking to switch careers into a greener line of work.

He's getting trained in solar installation, working on installing solar panels at Habitat for Humanity homes in Milwaukee, and forming a Waukesha business, Access Solar, with his sons.

He was leading an installation at a Habitat house a few weeks back and learned his students hailed from across the country.

"It's people who've been laid off, or are people who are in their 40s who are changing careers or laid off and looking for something else," said Price, 50.

Small fraction
Solar represents a fraction of the energy supply puzzle. If the state's energy supply in 2007 were a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle, coal would account for more than 300 pieces, and renewable energy would account for about 20 pieces. All the solar power in the state wouldn't add up to a piece.

But the growth rate for solar has been something to behold, even as advocates concede the numbers are small in total.

"It's been a remarkable year," said Niels Wolter, who heads solar programs at the state Focus on Energy program. "We're projecting out 73% growth over last year. Before that it was growing at about 80% per year since 2002. So it's slowed down a little bit in the growth rate, but it's still a booming market. . . ."

Even with all these projects and announcements, some renewable energy advocates say the growth rate will slow considerably in 2010 because electric utilities no longer are offering extra incentives to give the solar market a boost.

We Energies had a generous solar buyback rate in place two years ago, and replaced it with a different program this year. That program is fully subscribed, and no more applications are being accepted.

Michael Vickerman, executive director of the advocacy group Renew Wisconsin, said the expiration of those incentives is unfortunate. He's urging the state to move aggressively to require utilities to offer generous buyback rates.

"We are clearly the leading state in the Midwest, but that momentum is in danger of dissipating," said Vickerman. "Because what really attracts customers and would-be system owners is the buyback rate."

And developers of large solar projects aren't coming to Wisconsin, said green-energy consultant Brett Hulsey, because Wisconsin hasn't followed states such as California and New Jersey in adopting tax credits to bring down the price of solar projects.

Utilities say that the incentives are being subsidized by other utility customers. Other incentives are still available, including a 30% federal tax credit and rebates from Focus on Energy, said We Energies spokesman Brian Manthey.

In addition, the prices for solar panels themselves have dropped by 15% in recent months, shortening the number of years it would take to pay back the investment in solar from about 23 years to about 20 years, depending on the project.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Discounted LED holiday lights help consumers trim their trees, not their wallets

From a news release issued by Focus on Energy:

(Nov. 16, 2009) - LED (light emitting diode) holiday lights are a proven way to help consumers trim energy costs while trimming their trees. How? This technology saves energy, while helping to preserve the environment. What’s more, Focus on Energy, Wisconsin's statewide energy efficiency and renewable energy resource, is offering financial incentives toward the purchase of ENERGY STAR® qualified LED holiday light strings.

Now through Dec. 31, 2009, or until supplies last, Focus on Energy is offering a $3Instant Reward, taken at the register, on the purchase of ENERGY STAR qualified LED holiday light strings at participating locations including Ace Hardware, Costco, Do it Best, Hardware Hank, Menards, Mills Fleet Farm, Shopko, Stein Gardens & Gifts and True Value Hardware locations. Limit twelve (12) light sets per customer.

First stop on Homegrown Renewable tour

Standing behind an electrical vehicle charger at the beginning of the Homegrown Renewable Energy tour, Tom Shee, Honda Motorwerks, La Crosse, explains that the electricity from the turbines at the Monfort Wind Farm could provide the power for the plug-in hybrid behind him. Photo by Laura Stoesz.

Milwaukee a finalist for Spanish wind energy company

From a post by Tom Content on his blog at JSOnline:

Milwaukee and one other city are in the running for a Spanish wind energy supplier as it considers its first manufacturing plant in the United States.

The name of the firm and the name of the city competing against Milwaukee haven't been disclosed, but Tim Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, said the company was in the alternative energy business.

State and city economic development leaders were in Spain this week for meetings with the Spanish firm. Brian Manthey, a spokesman for We Energies, said the team that headed to Spain brought along a representative of the utility who has expertise about wind energy.

The company would be expected to create 100 to 200 jobs here, Sheehy said.

Milwaukee is a finalist for the investment, after earlier competing against more than a dozen cities that the firm was considering.

Representatives of the company have been to the city twice to evaluate potential suppliers and the availability of skilled manufacturing workers, he said.

Representatives of the state at the meeting this week were state Commerce Secretary Dick Leinenkugel, city development director Rocky Marcoux, and Pat O'Brien and Jim Paetsch from the Milwaukee 7 economic development group.

"It's fair to call this a significant investment," Sheehy said. "We've got a lot of manpower on the ground over there - not that we're not going to chase every possible job out there - but I think the manpower is appropriate to the potential in this deal."

Wastewater treatment plant an energy-saving success

From an article by Cara Spoto in the Stevens Point Journal:

Efforts to reduce the amount of energy at its new wastewater treatment facility have paid off for the village of Whiting.

A representative from Focus on Energy -- Wisconsin's statewide energy efficiency program -- was at the plant Friday to hand village officials a $34,000 check to help it pay for some of the many energy-efficient components that make up the $4.8 million plant.

Touring the facility with Joe Cantwell, Focus on Energy's industrial energy adviser, and Mike Resch, an account executive with Wisconsin Public Service, Whiting Utilities manager Matt Saloun and Kim Hoppenrath, chairman of the village's utilities committee, rattled off a list of energy-saving elements that went into the design and construction of the facility.

Some of the major elements include solar panels that heat the building and generate power, skylights, solar thermal heating, carbon dioxide monitoring and several variable frequency drive, or VFD, motors, used in nearly all elements of the wastewater reclamation process. The facility even has a white roof, which reflects sunlight, reducing cooling costs.
"These are our blowers over here. They provide aeration for our aerobic digesters. The VFDs are much more energy-efficient, compared to our old ones that just wailed away," Saloun explained.

Because of all the energy efficiencies, the plant should consume about one-fifth of the energy consumed by similar-sized wastewater treatment plants, Saloun said.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Use solar for radiant heat in your home

From an article in Solar Today by Bob Ramlow, Amherst, a solar consultant for Focus on Energy:

For its comfort and economy, radiant heating is growing in popularity. Pairing a radiant heat-delivery system with solar energy as the heat source is an excellent choice for several reasons. Above all, these systems and operate efficiency and effectively at the relatively low temperatures common with solar energy systems. They‘re relatively easy to retrofit into an existing building and can be easily incorporated into new construction.

Renewable Energy Quarterly, Fall 2009, now online

RENEW Wisconsin's newsletter features these articles:

+ Doyle Signs Wind Siting Reform Bill into Law
+ Solar Outlook Set to Dim in 2010
+ PSC Approves Coal to Wood Conversion
+ Producer Profile: Rick Adamski
+ Educating Schools on Solar Air Heating
+ RENEW Slams Anti-Wind Article
+ Calendar

Renewable Energy Quarterly, Fall 2009, now online

RENEW Wisconsin's newsletter features these articles:

+ Doyle Signs Wind Siting Reform Bill into Law
+ Solar Outlook Set to Dim in 2010
+ PSC Approves Coal to Wood Conversion
+ Producer Profile: Rick Adamski
+ Educating Schools on Solar Air Heating
+ RENEW Slams Anti-Wind Article
+ Calendar

Renewable Energy Quarterly, Fall 2009, now online

RENEW Wisconsin's newsletter features these articles:

+ Doyle Signs Wind Siting Reform Bill into Law
+ Solar Outlook Set to Dim in 2010
+ PSC Approves Coal to Wood Conversion
+ Producer Profile: Rick Adamski
+ Educating Schools on Solar Air Heating
+ RENEW Slams Anti-Wind Article
+ Calendar

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Renewable Energy Quarterly, Fall 2008, now online

RENEW Wisconsin's newsletter features these articles:

+ Doyle Signs Wind Siting Reform Bill into Law
+ Solar Outlook Set to Dim in 2010
+ PSC Approves Coal to Wood Conversion
+ Producer Profile: Rick Adamski
+ Educating Schools on Solar Air Heating
+ RENEW Slams Anti-Wind Article
+ Calendar

Sun Harvest Farm: Solar hot water and more

From a description by Jerry and Penny Kroener of Sun Harvest Farm, Ridgeway, WI, one stop on the Renewable Energy Tour, November 13, 2009:

In 2005 we embarked on major renovations and additions to our old farmhouse. This included working with Focus on Energy to have site assessments performed for Solar Photovoltaic, Solar Thermal and Wind Turbine Systems. We also investigated wood burning systems because we have substantial quantities of firewood on our property. Our decisions included the following:
1. Add additional insulation, all new windows and new doors.
2. Replace our old oil burning furnace with a high efficiency propane boiler (our little Munchkin).
3. Install a Solar Photovoltaic grid-connected system to produce electricity.
4. Install a Solar Thermal (hot water) system to preheat domestic hot water and provide some house heat.
5. Install a counter-flow masonry heater fireplace using our own limestone for the masonry cladding.
6. In 2008 we built and installed a hot air collector to provide some heat in our barn workshop.
7. In 2009 we installed our 2nd Photovoltaic grid-connected system.
8. In 2009 we also upgraded our solar hot water storage tank.

Sun Harvest Farm: Solar hot water and more

The Koerner's installed the domestic hot water system (right)in March 2006. It also provides a portion of the heat for the house.

Sun Harvest Farm, owned by Jerry and Penny Kroener, Ridgeway, WI
Renewable Energy Projects
September 2009 Update

General:
In 2005 we embarked on major renovations and additions to our old farmhouse. This included working with Focus on Energy to have site assessments performed for Solar Photovoltaic, Solar Thermal and Wind Turbine Systems. We also investigated wood burning systems because we have substantial quantities of firewood on our property. Our decisions included the following:
1. Add additional insulation, all new windows and new doors.
2. Replace our old oil burning furnace with a high efficiency propane boiler (our little Munchkin).
3. Install a Solar Photovoltaic grid-connected system to produce electricity.
4. Install a Solar Thermal (hot water) system to preheat domestic hot water and provide some house heat.
5. Install a counter-flow masonry heater fireplace using our own limestone for the masonry cladding.
6. In 2008 we built and installed a hot air collector to provide some heat in our barn workshop.
7. In 2009 we installed our 2nd Photovoltaic grid-connected system.
8. In 2009 we also upgraded our solar hot water storage tank.

Improving Efficiency
Our first goal was to improve the efficiency of the areas in the old part of the farmhouse, and to include very high efficiency within the new addition. We installed new Pella windows and doors throughout. Additional insulation was added where possible and a moisture/air barrier under new fiber cement siding, which was installed on the entire house. The new construction included R-21 insulation in the walls and blown-in R-50 in the ceiling. We removed the old oil-fired hot water heater and the oil burner from the warm air furnace. A high efficiency propane gas boiler (Munchkin T-50) was installed to be our back up for heating and the new domestic hot water tank. We also installed radiant under floor heating in the new great room area and plan to install additional radiant heating in certain of the old house areas. The existing warm air furnace was retained, with the addition of a water-to-air heat exchanger, which allowed us keep the central AC unit and also to provide warm air heating to the upstairs area. We have also installed compact fluorescent light bulbs throughout the entire house and in the barn workshop area.

Solar Thermal Hot Water System
Our system as designed to provide domestic hot water and a portion of the house heating and was put into operation in March 2006. It includes:
+ Eight 4 ft x 10 ft Heliodyne Gobi 410 collectors, ground-mounted at a 60 degree tilt angle
+ 1000 gallon concrete hot water storage tank, with EPDM rubber liner
+ Approximately 600 ft of 1 inch copper tubing made into coils for heat exchangers
+ Pump, valves, expansion tanks, controller, copper piping, propylene glycol, insulation, etc.

We performed a considerable amount of the work to install the system including:
+ Installing the concrete tank and liner
+ Bending the tubing into coils and installing them in the tank
+ Installing 14 concrete pillars
+ Digging trenches and installing piping from collectors into basement
+ Erecting the framework and the collectors

We worked with Light Energy Systems of Madison (now Full Spectrum Solar) to design the system and to provide the parts and some of the labor. The total system cost was approximately $20,000, but we received a Focus on Energy grant of $3,000 and a Federal Tax Credit of $2,000 so our out-of-pocket costs were about $15,000.

During 2009 we decided to replace the concrete tank due to excessive moisture problems in the basement area. We demolished the tank piece by piece and carried it out of the basement. We replaced it with a tank made by STSS Co. Inc from Mechanicsburg PA. The new tank is collapsible so it can be moved through regular sized doorways. When in place it will be 80 round and 4 high with all penetrations installed at the factory according to our heat exchanger specifications. It is sealed, insulated and with hold up to 822 gallons of water. We reused the copper heat exchangers that we had made for the old tank. We also installed a heat dump under the solar collectors, which was made of 24 ft of Slant Fin baseboard hydronic registers. The purpose of the heat dump is to dissipate excess heat produced during the summer when we only use the hot water for pre-heating the domestic hot water. The total costs for the new tank, including demolishing the old tank, were about $3,500.

Masonry Heater Fireplace
We investigated wood-burning systems and decided to build a masonry heater fireplace in order to take advantage of renewable resources on our property. We have an ample supply of trees on our property that we harvest by cutting dead trees. We constructed a woodshed that dries and stores about 10 cords of split firewood.

The fireplace is specially designed to be efficient and environmentally friendly because the combustion chamber burns at between 1500-2000 degrees F. The fire burns for 2-3 hours but the large amount of masonry mass stores and radiates the heat for 12-24 hours. Our fireplace is centrally located so it radiates heat over a large area of our kitchen and great room. Two stainless steel U-Tube heat exchangers are also built into the core to capture some heat, which is circulated to the solar storage tank in the basement.

The core of our heater was designed by Heat-Kit of Canada, but originated centuries ago from designs in Europe and Russia. Gimme Shelter Construction of Amherst, WI constructed the core.

We decided to use natural limestone and sandstone from our property for the masonry cladding. Some of the stones were recovered from the foundation of our old summer kitchen. We performed the masonry work ourselves, which saved us $20,000+ in labor costs. Our cost for the core, chimney materials and mortar for the limestone was approximately $12,000.

Solar Photovoltaic Electric System # 1
This system was designed to produce about half of our annual electricity needs and was put into operation in April 2006. We chose a grid-tied system that sends excess electricity to the Alliant Energy power grid. We have a net-metering agreement where we are compensated for the power we produce at the same rate as we pay for electricity. During the first full year of operation our PV system produced 4,700 kilowatt-hours, which was 43% of our total usage of 11,100 kWh.

The PV system includes the following components:
+ 16 Kyocera 170 watt modules for a total output of 2.7 kW
+ Wattsun dual axis tracker system (the system follows the sun morning until night)
+ SMA Sunny Boy 2500 inverter/controller (converts DC voltage to AC for the grid)
+ Concrete foundation (5 yds with rebar), steel post & framework
+ Disconnect switches, wires, conduit, and other miscellaneous electrical items

Our system produces between 200-600 volts (DC current) when the sun shines. It is facing east when the sun rises and follows the sun all day so it is facing west when the sun goes down. The DC current comes into the basement, goes through a disconnect switch and into the Sunny Boy inverter/controller. This device changes the DC current into AC current and controls how the power goes out into the grid. The current goes outside through a disconnect switch, back through our main breaker panel, and then out through the meter to the grid. The best days are when we are not using much power and the meter is actually going backward!

We worked with Light Energy Systems of Madison (now Full Spectrum Solar) to design the system and to provide the parts and some of the labor.

The total cost of the system was about $25,000, but we received a Focus on Energy grant of $8,700 and a Federal Tax Credit of $2,000, so out out-of-pocket costs were about $14,000.

Solar Photovoltaic Electric System # 2
In 2009 we installed our second PV system. We took advantage of a special program from Alliant Energy where we have contracted for 10 years to sell all of the power produced by the system for 25 cents per kWh. It did require us to install a new meter pedestal, at a cost of $1,100 so that the electricity from the new system could be metered separately. We also have to pay about 41 cents/day for the new meter charge, as well as sign up for the Alliant Second Nature program (where we pay a small premium for our energy purchased, which will be from renewable sources). Our total cost for the system was $31,168, and we did some of the work ourselves (digging, concrete, trenching, wire, etc). We will get a 25% Focus on Energy grant of about $7,800 and a 30% Federal tax credit in 2010 of about $9,300. Therefore, our out of pocket costs will be about $14,000. This system has the potential to produce about an 11% annual rate of return.

We purchased the main part of the system from DH Solar. Their system uses a tracking system that they adapted from their experience with commercial satellite tracking systems. The system has 16 Suncast PV panels, each of which is rated at 210 watts, or a total of 3.36 kW. The inverter is a SMA Sunny Boy 3000US.

Barn Workshop Hot Air Collector System
In 2008 we designed, built and installed a hot air collector system on the south side of the old milkhouse. The collector was made from tempered glass, aluminum expandable tubes, painted black, and solid foil-faced insulation. The 6 outlet and inlet piping contains a bi-metallic sensor/control relay and a small in-duct fan to pipe the heat into the barn workshop. The total cost of this system was about $600. A woodstove in the milk house provides backup heat on cloudy days, which is piped with the same piping system into the barn. This is a trial and error system. It looks like we might have to reposition the system to more directly face south to maximize the heat output.

Women of Wind to meet, November 19

Wisconsin Chapter of Women of Wind Energy Please join us for a November happy hour in Milwaukee!

Thursday, November 19, 2009
5:00 - 7:00pm
Sugar Maple
441 E Lincoln Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53207-1756
414) 481-2393

Come meet and network with others interested in the engagement, professional development and advancement of women in the wind industry.

Please RSVP for the Milwaukee happy hour to amy@the-mrea.org

Feel free to invite others you think might be interested!

And watch for information coming soon on a December event in Madison!

Website: www.womenofwindenergy.org
email: wisconsinwowe@gmail.com

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Rick Adamski: A Not-so-Typical Dairy Farmer

Rick Adamski (left) began researching wind turbine options at the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair in 2005, where he talked with turbine installer Dave Blecker of Seventh Generation, the company that installed Adamski's turbine.

From an article and interview with Rick Adamski in RENEW Wisconsin's newsletter:

Though he modestly calls him self a typical dairy farmer, Rick Adamski’s Full Circle Farm in Shawano County belies that description. Adamski runs an all-organic operation with grass-fed cattle, free-ranging chickens, a solar hot water system on the farmhouse, and a 35- kW wind turbine standing tall in the pasture.

Adamski farms the 240 acres across the road from the house where he was born and where his 86-year-old parents still live. Wife Valerie, son Andrew, 18, and daughter Jenna, 13, help out with the work.

He inherited his land use ethic from his parents, who were the model of “conservative use of resources – not a scrap was wasted.” This approach was a matter of survival for them growing up during the Great Depression.

As a student at University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point, Adamski became acutely aware of modern agricultures complete dependence on fossil fuels. Though he would eventually earn a degree in soil science and resource management, Adamski began thinking about a more sustainable approach to farming, with an emphasis on natural grazing and renewable resources.

In 1984 Adamski decided to strike out on his own as a farmer. Though he wanted to go organic from the get-go, the process took time. Now he sells everything he produces to Organic Valley Cooperative.

Rick and Valerie hosted a pasture walk this summer, which drew several hundred people. Along the way the crowd stopped at the foot of Adamski’s 110-ft.-tall wind turbine, the newest sustainability feature at Full Circle Farm, where they heard Rick highlight two key factors that made this installation possible: Focus on Energy incentives for small wind systems and We Energies expanded net energy billing program for wind generators under 100 kW.

Q. Is your dairy farm typical of those in your community?

It is typical because it is what used to be representative of this community. This area has a strong history of dairy farms owned and operated by families. Our farm is certified organic since 2003. There are three organic dairy farms in the township.

Q. How does owning a 35 kW wind generation system add value to your farm?

I think it diversifies the source of income for us. At current conditions the cost effectiveness is marginal. However, as climate change, diminishing fossil fuels, competition for these limited fossil fuels, and an ever-growing world population put more upward pressure on these traditional nonrenewable resources, the energy generated by our wind turbine will only increase in value.

Second bus added to renewable energy tour, Nov. 13

The response to the announcement of the tour easily filled one bus. The tour organizers added a second one today. Here's the news release issued by Wisconsin Farmers Union about the tour:

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.

We Energies coal plant hits milestone, generates power

From a Tom Content post on JSOnline:

We Energies’ newest coal-fired plant is generating power, after “significant progress” in construction over the past three months, the company’s chairman said Thursday.

The coal plant consists of two coal-fired boilers next to an older coal plant on Lake Michigan in Oak Creek. The first new boiler began burning coal earlier this month and has been running at 25% of maximum power in recent days, said Gale Klappa, We Energies chairman and chief executive.

Bechtel Power Corp., the contractor on the project, also has made progress on building the second boiler, which is now 74% complete, Klappa said.

The $2.3 billion project is the most expensive construction project in state history, as it’s roughly double the combined cost of building Miller Park and rebuilding the Marquette Interchange.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Milwaukee company selected to build Dane County digester

From an article by Matthew DeFour in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Dane County's first community manure digester, the first cooperative project of its kind in Wisconsin, will be built and operated by a Milwaukee-based company that plans to finance most of the project itself.

By letting Clear Horizons, in partnership with SCC Americas, a global developer of greenhouse gas emission reduction projects, operate the Waunakee community digester, the county is avoiding the financial risks and rewards.

"That was important to the farmers (who wanted) a separate company operating the digester," Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk said of the county's decision. "We've chosen this model because Clear Horizons brings significant private dollars."

Clear Horizons plans to privately finance everything except a $3.3 million state earmark. The state included $6.6 million in its latest budget for the Waunakee digester and another being planned near Middleton. The county planned to borrow $1.4 million for the project, but now won't have to spend anything to build the first digester.

Clear Horizons general manager Dan Nemke said construction is expected to cost about $11 million. After designs are finalized and a site is selected on one of three participating farms, the company expects to break ground in the spring and begin processing manure by the fall.

A manure digester is essentially a mini power plant that uses bacteria to convert cow manure into mostly methane gas, a fiber material and a liquid fertilizer. The methane is burned to generate electricity and the fiber can be used as cow bedding.

The Waunakee digester is expected to generate $2 million worth of electricity every year, and Clear Horizons plans to sell the fiber material.

Dane County's 400 dairy farms and 50,000 dairy cows - a $700 million industry - produce more than 2 billion pounds of manure each year. Much of that is spread on fields in the winter and the resulting runoff into creeks and rivers has killed thousands of fish in the past.

Showing set for Coal Country documentary video

An announcement from the Sierra Club's campaign Moving Wisconsin Beyond Coal:

Eau Claire, WI
Host: Richard S.
When: 3:00 PM, November 14, 2009
We will share refreshments, snacks, and conversation while watching Coal Country, a documentary about mountaintop removal mining in the Appalachia. Click here for more details.

Coal Country is a stunning new documentary that reveals the devastation of mountaintop-removal coal mining to the forests, streams, and communities of Appalachia. Produced by Mari-Lynn Evans and Phylis Geller, Coal Country brings us inside the lives of Appalachian residents who are directly threatened by mountaintop-removal, a destructive mining practice where mountaintops are blasted away to expose the coal; the waste is then dumped in the waterways of nearby communities. As it takes us through each stage of coal mining and processing, Coal Country reveals the shocking true cost of America's over-reliance on coal.

The State of Wisconsin owns 15 coal plants across Wisconsin - including eight UW campuses and three health facilities. Governor Doyle agreed to clean up two in Madison.

Wisconsin's State-Owned Coal Plants
1.Capitol Heat & Power (Madison)*
2.Hill Farms (Madison)
3.Mendota Health Institute (Madison)
4.Northern Wisconsin Center (Chippewa Falls)
5.UW-Eau Claire
6.UW-LaCrosse
7.UW-Madison*
8.UW-Oshkosh
9.UW-Platteville
10.UW-River Falls
11.UW-Stevens Point
12.UW-Stout
13.UW-Superior
14.Waupun Correctional Institution
15.Winnebago Mental Health Institute (Oshkosh)
*Governor Doyle committed these facilities to burn biomass and natural gas instead of coal.

Two showings set for Coal Country documentary video

An announcement from the Sierra Club's campaign Moving Wisconsin Beyond Coal:

Coal Country is a stunning new documentary that reveals the devastation of mountaintop-removal coal mining to the forests, streams, and communities of Appalachia. Produced by Mari-Lynn Evans and Phylis Geller, Coal Country brings us inside the lives of Appalachian residents who are directly threatened by mountaintop-removal, a destructive mining practice where mountaintops are blasted away to expose the coal; the waste is then dumped in the waterways of nearby communities. As it takes us through each stage of coal mining and processing, Coal Country reveals the shocking true cost of America's over-reliance on coal.

Holmen, WI
Host: Marilyn P.
When: 8:00 PM, November 11, 2009
Please call Marilyn to confirm attendance and get directions: 608-317-9698.

La Crosse, WI
Host: Elizabeth W.
When: 5:00 PM, November 13, 2009
Sign up here.

The State of Wisconsin owns 15 coal plants across Wisconsin - including eight UW campuses and three health facilities. Governor Doyle agreed to clean up two in Madison.

Wisconsin's State-Owned Coal Plants
1.Capitol Heat & Power (Madison)*
2.Hill Farms (Madison)
3.Mendota Health Institute (Madison)
4.Northern Wisconsin Center (Chippewa Falls)
5.UW-Eau Claire
6.UW-LaCrosse
7.UW-Madison*
8.UW-Oshkosh
9.UW-Platteville
10.UW-River Falls
11.UW-Stevens Point
12.UW-Stout
13.UW-Superior
14.Waupun Correctional Institution
15.Winnebago Mental Health Institute (Oshkosh)
*Governor Doyle committed these facilities to burn biomass and natural gas instead of coal.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Solar thermal expo and conference, Dec. 3-4

From the Midwest Renewable Energy Association:

SOLAR THERMAL '09 is a national conference and expo for the solar thermal professional. The Midwest Renewable Energy Association invites you to the only professional level conference devoted to solar heating and cooling.

Installers, manufacturers, site assessors, dealers, distributors, state agency representatives, and policy makers will not want to miss this one-of-a-kind conference.

TOPICS INCLUDE:
•Solar hot water, solar hot air, and solar space heating sessions
•Manufacturer and dealer updates
•Best practices on residential and commercial applications
•New control and balance of system options
•Structural considerations
•State policy and incentive updates

Register here.

Solar thermal expo and conference,December 3-4

From the Midwest Renewable Energy Association:

SOLAR THERMAL '09 is a national conference and expo for the solar thermal professional. The Midwest Renewable Energy Association invites you to the only professional level conference devoted to solar heating and cooling.

Installers, manufacturers, site assessors, dealers, distributors, state agency representatives, and policy makers will not want to miss this one-of-a-kind conference.

TOPICS INCLUDE:
•Solar hot water, solar hot air, and solar space heating sessions
•Manufacturer and dealer updates
•Best practices on residential and commercial applications
•New control and balance of system options
•Structural considerations
•State policy and incentive updates

Register here.

Economic forum speakers review U.S. cap-and-trade legislation

From an article by Steve Cahalan in the La Crosse Tribune:

"Cap and trade" legislation that the U.S. House of Representatives passed in June and a similar version pending in the Senate were praised Tuesday at a La Crosse forum by Peter Taglia, staff scientist with the Clean Wisconsin environmental group.

Federal legislation is needed, agreed Brian Rude, a vice president with La Crosse-based Dairyland Power Cooperative. But the House and Senate bills have major flaws, Rude argued at The Economic Forum at the Radisson Center.

Legislation sponsored by Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and John Kerry, D-Mass., calls for imposing mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and industrial facilities and cutting emissions by 20 percent by 2020. Polluters would be given emission allowances they could trade among themselves to ease the transition from fossil fuels.

Real-time figures for renewable energy production

From the page of Active Installation Date on the Web site of We Energies:

We Energies Renewable Energy Development Program partners with Fat Spaniel Technologies to show real-time production data from solar photovoltaic, solar hot water and wind renewable energy generation systems in the We Energies service territory.

The Web page has links to the data on renewable energy production at the following installations:

Solar Electric Photovoltaic
Ascension Lutheran Church
Cooper School
Energy Producing Home
GE Healthcare
GE Research Park
HOPE Christian School
Johnson Foundation
Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School
Milwaukee Area Tech College - Oak Creek
Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewer District
MSOE: Fat Spaniel Tech MSOE Monitor
North Shore Presbyterian Church
Our Savior Lutheran Church
Outpost Natural Foods
Racine City Hall Annex
Racine Eco Justice Center
St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church
Shoreland Lutheran High School
Shorewood School District
Still Point Zen Center
The Order of Julian Norwich
Town of Menasha
Unitarian Universalist Church West
United Community Center
University of Wisconsin Milwaukee
University of Wisconsin - Parkside
Urban Ecology Center
Village of Wind Point
Walden III Middle and Senior High School
Waukesha Area Technical College
Wisconsin State Fair Park


Solar Water Heating
Fort Atkinson High School Solar Thermal
Fort Atkinson Middle School Solar Thermal
Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity SHW 1
Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity SHW 2
We Energies HQ: Fat Spaniel Tech Wired Solar

Solar Electric Photovoltaic and Wind
Discovery World
Lakeshore Technical College
Milwaukee Area Tech College - Mequon