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Thursday, December 31, 2009

A safe investment in 2010: Hot water

Though written in 2007, an analysis by RENEW's executive director Michael Vickerman may be even truer today an a few years ago, given the risk involved in "traditional" investments. The analysis shows that an investmnet in a solar hot water system generates a better rate of return than putting money in the bank:

I wrote a column which was highly critical of using payback analysis to figure out whether installing a solar hot water system on one’s house makes economic sense. In almost every example you can imagine, the payback period for today’s solar installations ranges between long and forever. For my system, which started operating in January 2006, payback will be achieved in a mere 19 years using today’s energy prices, though by the time 2025 rolls around, half of Florida might be under water and the rest of the country out of natural gas.

But there’s no reason to let payback length rule one’s ability to invest in sustainable energy for the home or business, especially if there are other approaches to valuing important economic decisions. One way to sidestep the gloomy verdicts of payback analysis is to do what most companies do when contemplating a long-term investment like solar energy -- calculate the internal rate of return (IRR) on the invested capital. The definition of IRR is the annualized effective compounded return rate which can be earned on the invested capital, i.e. the yield on the investment.

By using this familiar capital budgeting method, I’m able to calculate an IRR of 6.1%for my solar water heater if natural gas prices rise a measly 3% per annum. That yield exceeds anything that a bank will offer you today. It will likely outperform the stock market this year, which is due for a substantial downward adjustment to reflect the slow-motion implosion of the housing market now underway. And, unless you live in a gold-rush community like Fort McMurray, Alberta, your house will do well just to hold onto its current valuation, let alone appreciate by six percent.

While all investments pose some degree of risk, the return on a solar energy system is about as safe and predictable as, well, the rising sun. Fortunately for the Earth and its varied inhabitants, the center of our solar system is situated well beyond the reach of humanity’s capacity to tamper with a good thing.

A safe investment in 2010: Hot water

Though written in 2007, an analysis by RENEW's executive director Michael Vickerman may be even truer today an a few years ago, given the risk involved in "traditional" investments. The analysis shows that an investmnet in a solar hot water system generates a better rate of return than putting money in the bank:

I wrote a column which was highly critical of using payback analysis to figure out whether installing a solar hot water system on one’s house makes economic sense. In almost every example you can imagine, the payback period for today’s solar installations ranges between long and forever. For my system, which started operating in January 2006, payback will be achieved in a mere 19 years using today’s energy prices, though by the time 2025 rolls around, half of Florida might be under water and the rest of the country out of natural gas.

But there’s no reason to let payback length rule one’s ability to invest in sustainable energy for the home or business, especially if there are other approaches to valuing important economic decisions. One way to sidestep the gloomy verdicts of payback analysis is to do what most companies do when contemplating a long-term investment like solar energy -- calculate the internal rate of return (IRR) on the invested capital. The definition of IRR is the annualized effective compounded return rate which can be earned on the invested capital, i.e. the yield on the investment.

By using this familiar capital budgeting method, I’m able to calculate an IRR of 6.1%for my solar water heater if natural gas prices rise a measly 3% per annum. That yield exceeds anything that a bank will offer you today. It will likely outperform the stock market this year, which is due for a substantial downward adjustment to reflect the slow-motion implosion of the housing market now underway. And, unless you live in a gold-rush community like Fort McMurray, Alberta, your house will do well just to hold onto its current valuation, let alone appreciate by six percent.

While all investments pose some degree of risk, the return on a solar energy system is about as safe and predictable as, well, the rising sun. Fortunately for the Earth and its varied inhabitants, the center of our solar system is situated well beyond the reach of humanity’s capacity to tamper with a good thing.

NewPage eyes biofuel site in Wisconsin Rapids

From an article in the Stevens Point Journal:

WISCONSIN RAPIDS — Papermaker NewPage continues to study the feasibility of building a small-scale biorefinery in Wisconsin Rapids.

Despite previous projections they would finish the study by the end of 2009, NewPage Corp. still is examining whether the project should move forward, spokeswoman Shannon Semmerling said.

"Feasibility studies take time to conduct," she said. Semmerling did not comment further on the project, saying there was no new information to share.

In January 2008, the Miamisburg, Ohio-based company garnered a $30 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to build a small-scale biorefinery in Wisconsin Rapids. Stora Enso North America originally submitted the request for federal money, which NewPage inherited when it bought the former Wisconsin Rapids-based company in December 2007 for $2.6 billion.

Since then, company leaders have been studying the project's feasibility; once that is complete, the company has said it will work with the Energy Department to determine how to proceed.

The proposed refinery would produce 370 barrels of renewable diesel fuel a day — about 5.5 million gallons a year — from mill residue and wood chips. To get the grant, the project must be completed by 2012, according to the Energy Department.

A safe investment in 2010: Hot water

Though written in 2007, an analysis by RENEW's executive director Michael Vickerman may be even truer today an a few years ago, given the risk involved in "traditional" investments. The analysis shows that an investmnet in a solar hot water system generates a better rate of return than putting money in the bank:

I wrote a column which was highly critical of using payback analysis to figure out whether installing a solar hot water system on one’s house makes economic sense. In almost every example you can imagine, the payback period for today’s solar installations ranges between long and forever. For my system, which started operating in January 2006, payback will be achieved in a mere 19 years using today’s energy prices, though by the time 2025 rolls around, half of Florida might be under water and the rest of the country out of natural gas.

But there’s no reason to let payback length rule one’s ability to invest in sustainable energy for the home or business, especially if there are other approaches to valuing important economic decisions. One way to sidestep the gloomy verdicts of payback analysis is to do what most companies do when contemplating a long-term investment like solar energy -- calculate the internal rate of return (IRR) on the invested capital. The definition of IRR is the annualized effective compounded return rate which can be earned on the invested capital, i.e. the yield on the investment.

By using this familiar capital budgeting method, I’m able to calculate an IRR of 6.1%for my solar water heater if natural gas prices rise a measly 3% per annum. That yield exceeds anything that a bank will offer you today. It will likely outperform the stock market this year, which is due for a substantial downward adjustment to reflect the slow-motion implosion of the housing market now underway. And, unless you live in a gold-rush community like Fort McMurray, Alberta, your house will do well just to hold onto its current valuation, let alone appreciate by six percent.

While all investments pose some degree of risk, the return on a solar energy system is about as safe and predictable as, well, the rising sun. Fortunately for the Earth and its varied inhabitants, the center of our solar system is situated well beyond the reach of humanity’s capacity to tamper with a good thing.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Make a green promise or maybe several promises.

From The GreenLaCrosse.com Promise:

Every little bit together - can make a big difference. We encourage everyone to do whatever they can to make their own green choices.

My GreenLaCrosse.com Promise:
1. I will reduce my fuel consumption by carpooling, riding a bike, using public transportation, walking etc.
2. I will use more green cleaning products.
3. I will eat more local and organic foods.
4. I will write a letter to my Representatives and Senators to express my green ideas
5. I will buy more local products within a 150-mile radius from my home to support the local economy and reduce transportation overhead.
6. I will dispose of my yard waste in accordance with the law. I promise to never burn my yard waste and to compost or re-use it whenever possible.
7. I will purchase and install a programmable thermostat to save money and energy on heating and cooling.
8. I will pick up litter when I see it and dispose of it properly.
9. I will recycle as many types of materials as possible including paper, aluminum, plastic and cardboard.
10. I will dispose of hazardous wastes in accordance with the law. This includes paints, household chemicals, electronics, fluorescent light bulbs and NiCd and Li-Ion batteries.

Warming to climate action: Xcel web site promotes green power initiatives, cap-and-trade support

From an article by Bob Geiger, staff writer for Finance & Commerce:

Last week, there was a minor change to the web site of Xcel Energy – an unobtrusive box picturing a wind turbine along with the words, "Learn more about Xcel Energy’s climate action."

But the minor graphic signals a major effort at the Minneapolis-based utility – to promote its renewable energy efforts, as well as its support for a proposed federal policy aimed at limiting greenhouse gases.

The site lays out Xcel Energy’s game plan for dealing with climate change, and includes an endorsement of a uniform federal policy for a cap-and-trade system that is intended to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has started the process to cap carbon dioxide emissions as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act, established more than 30 years ago to deal with local and regional pollution.

In posting its support of a cap and trade system that charges polluters for emissions of greenhouse gases, Xcel Energy is taking the corporate position that such a system encourages technological change to lower such emissions.

In the meantime, Xcel itself is "looking to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions in Minnesota by 22 percent from 2005 levels" by 2020, said Betsy Engelking, director of resource planning for the utility.

Keep working toward energy independence

From an editorial in the Sheboygan Press:

Gov. Jim Doyle's 2006 campaign promise of having four University of Wisconsin campuses completely "off the grid" by 2012 and get their energy needs from renewable sources was an ambitious one.

Unfortunately, it has turned out to be an impossible task.

Doyle said that campuses at Oshkosh, River Falls, Green Bay and Stevens Point were to work toward energy independence as a way to show that it can be done. Doyle has pushed hard for Wisconsin to research and implement alternative energy sources, especially renewable sources — wind, solar and biomass. The goal is to reduce the reliance on fossil fuels, especially oil bought from foreign countries.

The four schools were to start producing their own electricity or buy it from utilities using the renewable sources of energy, Doyle said in 2006. The challenge also would spark energy conservation on the four campuses.

But with just two years to go, the promise far outshines the reality.

Still, there has been significant progress.

UW-Green Bay, which specializes in environmental education, has reduced its energy use by 26 percent since 2005.

UW-River Falls is studying the use of wind turbines on the campus farm to generate electricity. . . .

If the governor deserves any criticism for his promise, it is that he set an unrealistic timetable and did not ensure that there was adequate funding.

But Wisconsin must continue to do the research and find the technology that will not only reduce reliance on fossil fuels, but also ensure that energy in the future will be less costly.

Warming to climate action: Xcel web site promotes green power initiatives, cap-and-trade support

From an article by Bob Geiger, staff writer for Finance & Commerce:

Last week, there was a minor change to the web site of Xcel Energy – an unobtrusive box picturing a wind turbine along with the words, "Learn more about Xcel Energy’s climate action."

But the minor graphic signals a major effort at the Minneapolis-based utility – to promote its renewable energy efforts, as well as its support for a proposed federal policy aimed at limiting greenhouse gases.

The site lays out Xcel Energy’s game plan for dealing with climate change, and includes an endorsement of a uniform federal policy for a cap-and-trade system that is intended to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has started the process to cap carbon dioxide emissions as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act, established more than 30 years ago to deal with local and regional pollution.

In posting its support of a cap and trade system that charges polluters for emissions of greenhouse gases, Xcel Energy is taking the corporate position that such a system encourages technological change to lower such emissions.

In the meantime, Xcel itself is "looking to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions in Minnesota by 22 percent from 2005 levels" by 2020, said Betsy Engelking, director of resource planning for the utility.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Doyle Announces $190,000 to Roundy's for energy projects

From a news release issued by Governor Jim Doyle:

OCONOMOWOC – Governor Jim Doyle announced today a $190,570 grant for Roundy’s Supermarkets to help complete energy efficient lighting projects at its facility in Oconomowoc. The funding through the state’s Focus on Energy program builds on Governor Doyle’s efforts to make Wisconsin a national leader in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

“Wisconsin has a tremendous opportunity to be a leader in clean energy,” Governor Doyle said. “With this funding, we will be able to help Roundy’s become more energy efficient, so they can retain their competitive edge, reduce energy costs and carbon emissions, and create jobs.”

The project will save Roundy’s nearly $400,000 annually in energy costs and conserve enough energy to power 450 homes each year. It will also significantly reduce carbon emissions. Roundy’s recently replaced nearly 2,000 metal halide fixtures with high bay fluorescent fixtures. Nearly 1,600 of them have occupancy sensor controls to dim when the area is not in use.

Warming to climate action: Xcel web site promotes green power initiatives, cap-and-trade support

From an article by Bob Geiger, staff writer for Finance & Commerce:

Last week, there was a minor change to the web site of Xcel Energy – an unobtrusive box picturing a wind turbine along with the words, "Learn more about Xcel Energy’s climate action."

But the minor graphic signals a major effort at the Minneapolis-based utility – to promote its renewable energy efforts, as well as its support for a proposed federal policy aimed at limiting greenhouse gases.

The site lays out Xcel Energy’s game plan for dealing with climate change, and includes an endorsement of a uniform federal policy for a cap-and-trade system that is intended to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has started the process to cap carbon dioxide emissions as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act, established more than 30 years ago to deal with local and regional pollution.

In posting its support of a cap and trade system that charges polluters for emissions of greenhouse gases, Xcel Energy is taking the corporate position that such a system encourages technological change to lower such emissions.

In the meantime, Xcel itself is "looking to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions in Minnesota by 22 percent from 2005 levels" by 2020, said Betsy Engelking, director of resource planning for the utility.

Keep working toward energy independence

From an editorial in the Sheboygan Press:

Gov. Jim Doyle's 2006 campaign promise of having four University of Wisconsin campuses completely "off the grid" by 2012 and get their energy needs from renewable sources was an ambitious one.

Unfortunately, it has turned out to be an impossible task.

Doyle said that campuses at Oshkosh, River Falls, Green Bay and Stevens Point were to work toward energy independence as a way to show that it can be done. Doyle has pushed hard for Wisconsin to research and implement alternative energy sources, especially renewable sources — wind, solar and biomass. The goal is to reduce the reliance on fossil fuels, especially oil bought from foreign countries.

The four schools were to start producing their own electricity or buy it from utilities using the renewable sources of energy, Doyle said in 2006. The challenge also would spark energy conservation on the four campuses.
But with just two years to go, the promise far outshines the reality.

Still, there has been significant progress.

UW-Green Bay, which specializes in environmental education, has reduced its energy use by 26 percent since 2005.

UW-River Falls is studying the use of wind turbines on the campus farm to generate electricity. . . .

If the governor deserves any criticism for his promise, it is that he set an unrealistic timetable and did not ensure that there was adequate funding.

But Wisconsin must continue to do the research and find the technology that will not only reduce reliance on fossil fuels, but also ensure that energy in the future will be less costly.

Rapids to host 2010 geothermal conference

From the conference announcement issued by the Energy Center of Wisconsin:

The Wisconsin Geothermal Association (WGA) conference will benefit anyone in the geothermal industry including engineers, designers, equipment dealers, and well drillers. With increasing public interest in geothermal technology, it is more important than ever that everyone in the industry maintain the highest standards possible. . . .

The WGA is a non-profit organization advocating for the usage of geothermal heating and cooling systems in Wisconsin. The WGA is a source of information for anyone interested in utilizing a geothermal system for a home, business, or school.
Geothermal systems have been proven to deliver excellent occupant comfort in this region, while saving energy and reducing emissions. The systems take advantage of the earth's constant year-round ground temperature to provide heating, cooling and hot water in a variety of applications.

Conference registration.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Residents have new tool to "Live Efficiently with Focus"

From Focus on Energy:

Wisconsin residents who would like to learn how energy efficient their home is compared to similar homes in their area - and what they can do to increase that efficiency - now have a new online resource to help them do just that. By visiting LiveEfficientlyWithFocus.com, residents can walk through a simple assessment of their home's current energy use, receive a ranking of its efficiency, get energy saving tips, and even create an account if they'd like to email results to their Home Performance consultant or log in at another time to change responses after improvements have been made.

Residents have new tool to "Live Efficiently with Focus"

From Focus on Energy:

Wisconsin residents who would like to learn how energy efficient their home is compared to similar homes in their area - and what they can do to increase that efficiency - now have a new online resource to help them do just that. By visiting LiveEfficientlyWithFocus.com, residents can walk through a simple assessment of their home's current energy use, receive a ranking of its efficiency, get energy saving tips, and even create an account if they'd like to email results to their Home Performance consultant or log in at another time to change responses after improvements have been made.

Muskego company saves $95,000 annually from green building measures

From a news release issued by Focus on Energy:

(December 21, 2009) — Focus on Energy, Wisconsin's statewide resource for energy efficiency and renewable energy, in partnership with We Energies, awarded Ace Industrial Properties $77,300 after it completed several major green building initiatives at its new 484,000 square-foot Muskego warehouse.

Together the projects will save more than 1.2 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually compared to a conventional building of its size – saving enough energy to power 125 Wisconsin homes for a year. Ace Industrial Properties will also benefit from saving approximately $95,000 on its energy bills at the warehouse each year. . . .

The cash incentives from Focus were used to install major energy savers including:
· More than 1,000 high-performance T8 electronic fixtures, which can save up to 40 percent more energy, last 4,000 hours longer, and provide a better light quality than standard systems.
· Motion-controlled occupancy sensors installed on all light fixtures, which can reduce the lighting system operating time by up to 50 percent.
· High-efficiency cooling was also installed in a few areas throughout the building.

Not only do these upgrades save the property management company money, but they are also environmentally-friendly. The annual environmental benefits are equivalent to offsetting more than 2,400 barrels of oil from being burned – eliminating 2 million pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) from being released into the atmosphere.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

'Energy squads’ find and stop waste

From an article by Kristin Tillotson in the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

As the biggest storm of the season so far descends on the Twin Cities, some lucky homeowners are getting expert help battening down the hatches and lowering their utility bills. The bonus? It's costing them peanuts.

The Center for Energy and the Environment (CEE) in Minneapolis and Neighborhood Energy Connection (NEC) in St. Paul, both nonprofits dedicated to energy efficiency, began pilot programs in the fall in select neighborhoods. Their crews replace light bulbs, wrap fiberglass blankets around water heaters and weatherstrip doors. All the homeowners receiving these customized services had to do was attend a free workshop, then pay $30. Besides the installed products, they get utility-bill savings averaging $127 a year.

Xcel Energy Inc. and CenterPoint Energy pay both programs' labor costs as part of their efforts to meet state-mandated conservation goals. But in January the two utilities will begin offering Home Energy Squad, their own joint program, to other customers in the seven-county metro area. It will be a limited version of the neighborhood-focused visits offered by NEC and CEE, and will expand over the next three years. You must be a customer of Xcel electric and either Xcel gas or CenterPoint gas to be eligible. This is the first time the utilities have collaborated on such a broad scale, said Todd Berreman, who oversees CenterPoint's conservation programs.

Wisconsin clean energy bill moves ahead

From an article by Lisa Kaiser in the Shepard Express (Milwaukee):

Supporters of a proposed clean energy bill promise that not only will the new green energy standards help the environment, but that they will also help the state’s bottom line.

If passed by the state Legislature, the proposed Clean Energy Jobs Act would increase the amount of electricity to be generated by renewable energy, change building codes, implement new energy standards for appliances and cars sold in the state, revise the state’s requirements for new nuclear power plants, and require the state Department of Transportation (DOT) to consider greenhouse gas emissions when planning a new transportation project.

The bill, built on recommendations from the Governor’s Task Force on Global Warming, would require 25% of the state’s energy to be produced from renewable sources by 2025 and encourage businesses and residents to conserve energy and increase energy efficiency measures.

Taken together, the bill’s provisions would cut the state’s greenhouse gas emissions 22% by 2022 and 75% by 2050.

The bill will be introduced in the state Legislature after the winter break, and supporters would like to deliver it to the governor’s desk by April 22, 2010, the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.

Teachers' publication features Jenny Heinzen

An article on RENEW's president Jenny Heinzen from the Wisconsin Education Association:

Jenny Heinzen’s job isn’t a breeze – though it does rely on it. As a Wind Energy Technology instructor at Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland, Wis., Heinzen not only teaches about harnessing an alternative form of energy, she’s been part of the push for new wind farms in Wisconsin.

In September, Governor Jim Doyle signed into law a bill calling for uniform standards for wind farms. The bill will create a set of rules overruling any local ordinances on wind farms, potentially setting up a boon for wind projects in the state. Heinzen is part of a group called Wind for Wisconsin, which spurred the legislation. Heinzen said she wants to create wind farms to move Wisconsin forward and keep wind energy technology students in the state.

“The bill, and consequently the new law, was absolutely necessary in order to move forward,” Heinzen said. “The last thing I want is to ship all of my graduates to other states. I want them to have jobs available here at home. And I want Wisconsin to start using more renewable energy, as we have no coal, gas, oil or uranium. But we’ve got wind, sun, water and agricultural wastes that can be used to produce electricity. . . .”


Heinzen is also the president of nonprofit clean energy organization RENEW Wisconsin, and said a state set of standards for wind farms is crucial for their development.

“This has been one of our main topics for the past two years,” she said. “The bill was created in response to a plethora of local ordinances that ultimately restricted, and sometimes killed, wind power projects in this state.”

Heinzen said the best part of her job is watching her students learn and climb, as well as setting them up for success later in life.

“Even better is when they get their job as a technician after, and sometimes before, graduation,” she added.

Grumpy Troll brew pub will generate solar power

From an article by Gena Kittner in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Photovoltaic panels installed last week on the roof of Mount Horeb's Grumpy Troll will soon enable the bar and restaurant to harness solar power to fuel everything from beer-brewing to pizza-making.

"A lot of the energy will be used for the brewery, as well as everything else that we do," said owner Doug Welshinger, adding the beer mash itself will still be boiled using natural gas.

Once the switch is flipped , probably by the end of the month, Welshinger said the business will use about 95 percent of the electricity generated by the solar panels. "We do consume a lot of energy, there's no question about it," he said.

The Mount Horeb Utilities will purchase all of the energy generated by the 38 solar electric panels - most at 30 cents a kilowatt hour - about three times the rate that a business customer would pay for the same electricity.

The Grumpy Troll, at 105 S. Second St., will continue to purchase all of its electricity from the local utility at the normal rate, but will receive a monthly bill credit for the green power generated by the panels, helping to offset its total energy costs.

The higher rate for sending electricity to the utility is part of an incentive program offered by Sun Prairie-based WPPI Energy, which includes Mount Horeb Utilities as a member. The higher rate will last about 10 years, said Ann Rodriguez, spokeswoman with WPPI Energy.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Manitowoc council approves Orion wind turbine

From an article by Steve Prestegard on Marketplace Magazine:

The Manitowoc Common Council Monday [December 21] approved Orion Energy Systems’ request to build a wind turbine at the power technology enterprises’ Woodland Drive world headquarters.

Orion’s wind turbine is expected to generate 20 kilowatts of electricity that will be used to help power the company’s technology center and manufacturing facility. The electricity generated by the wind turbine is enough to regularly power the equivalent of four to five homes a year. The turbine, manufactured by Oshkosh-based Renewegy LLC, will be 115 feet tall.

“We’re excited to be bringing the first urban wind project to Manitowoc County,” said Orion CEO Neal Verfuerth. “By installing this technology adjacent to our facility where the electricity will be used, we are demonstrating how renewable generating sources can be connected directly to the customer load.

“At the same time, we’re supporting a Wisconsin-based company — investing in Wisconsin workers and investing in our state’s economy.” The wind turbine will be erected in early spring 2010 just north of Orion’s technology center.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Think tank flunks renewable energy analysis

From a news release issued by RENEW Wisconsin:

An Examination of Wisconsin Policy Research Institute’s Bogus Methodology

Madison, WI (December 22, 2009) In response to a recent report from the Wisconsin Public Research Institute (WPRI) concluding that policies to increase renewable energy production would be prohibitively expensive, RENEW Wisconsin, a leading sustainable energy advocacy organization, today issued a critique documenting the faulty assumptions and methodological errors that undermine the credibility of that finding.

WPRI’s report, titled “The Economics of Climate Change Proposals in Wisconsin,” reviewed the proposal in the Governor’s Global Warming Task Force to increase the state’s renewable energy requirements on electric utilities to 25% by 2025, and estimated a total cost in excess $16 billion. RENEW’s analysis uncovered a disturbing pattern of “methodological sleight-of-hand, assumptions from outer space, and selective ignoring of facts” that render WPRI’s cost estimate to be completely unreliable.

“It appears that WPRI’s $16 billion number was pulled out of thin air, and that its analysis is nothing more than a tortured effort at reverse-engineering the numbers to fit the preordained conclusion,” said Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin executive director.

Specifically, RENEW identified four significant errors in WPRI’s analytical approach. The critique says:

+ It relies on a grossly inflated electricity sales forecast that is completely detached from current realities.
+ The final cost estimate includes all the generation built to comply with the current renewable energy standard, a clear-cut case of double-counting.
+ The authors fail to account for existing renewable generation capacity that is not currently being applied to a state renewable energy standard.
+ There is a high likelihood that the savings from the renewable energy standard are undervalued, because the authors fail to model plant retirements in their analysis.

Think tank fails renewable energy analysis

From a news release issued by RENEW Wisconsin:

An Examination of Wisconsin Policy Research Institute’s Bogus Methodology

Madison, WI (December 22, 2009) In response to a recent report from the Wisconsin Public Research Institute (WPRI) concluding that policies to increase renewable energy production would be prohibitively expensive, RENEW Wisconsin, a leading sustainable energy advocacy organization, today issued a critique documenting the faulty assumptions and methodological errors that undermine the credibility of that finding.

WPRI’s report, titled “The Economics of Climate Change Proposals in Wisconsin,” reviewed the proposal in the Governor’s Global Warming Task Force to increase the state’s renewable energy requirements on electric utilities to 25% by 2025, and estimated a total cost in excess $16 billion. RENEW’s analysis uncovered a disturbing pattern of “methodological sleight-of-hand, assumptions from outer space, and selective ignoring of facts” that render WPRI’s cost estimate to be completely unreliable.

“It appears that WPRI’s $16 billion number was pulled out of thin air, and that its analysis is nothing more than a tortured effort at reverse-engineering the numbers to fit the preordained conclusion,” said Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin executive director.

Specifically, RENEW identified four significant errors in WPRI’s analytical approach. The critique says:

+ It relies on a grossly inflated electricity sales forecast that is completely detached from current realities.
+ The final cost estimate includes all the generation built to comply with the current renewable energy standard, a clear-cut case of double-counting.
+ The authors fail to account for existing renewable generation capacity that is not currently being applied to a state renewable energy standard.
+ There is a high likelihood that the savings from the renewable energy standard are undervalued, because the authors fail to model plant retirements in their analysis.

Think Tank Flunks Renewable Energy Analysis

IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 22, 2009

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

Madison, WI (December 22, 2009) In response to a recent report from the Wisconsin Public Research Institute (WPRI) concluding that policies to increase renewable energy production would be prohibitively expensive, RENEW Wisconsin, a leading sustainable energy advocacy organization, today issued a critique documenting the faulty assumptions and methodological errors that undermine the credibility of that finding.

WPRI’s report, titled “The Economics of Climate Change Proposals in Wisconsin,” reviewed the proposal in the Governor’s Global Warming Task Force to increase the state’s renewable energy requirements on electric utilities to 25% by 2025, and estimated a total cost in excess $16 billion. RENEW’s analysis, which is online, uncovered a disturbing pattern of “methodological sleight-of-hand, assumptions from outer space, and selective ignoring of facts” that render WPRI’s cost estimate to be completely unreliable.

“It appears that WPRI’s $16 billion number was pulled out of thin air, and that its analysis is nothing more than a tortured effort at reverse-engineering the numbers to fit the preordained conclusion,” said Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin executive director.

Specifically, RENEW identified four significant errors in WPRI’s analytical approach. The critique says:

+ It relies on a grossly inflated electricity sales forecast that is completely detached from current realities.
+ The final cost estimate includes all the generation built to comply with the current renewable energy standard, a clear-cut case of double-counting.
+ The authors fail to account for existing renewable generation capacity that is not currently being applied to a state renewable energy standard.
+ There is a high likelihood that the savings from the renewable energy standard are undervalued, because the authors fail to model plant retirements in their analysis.

“In the final analysis, it would be too generous to describe the analytical approach taken here as incompetent or slipshod,” Vickerman said. “What we have here instead is disinformation, pure and simple, and it should be called out as such, especially as the Legislature begins consideration of arguably the most important economic development and environmental protection initiative in many years.”
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.

Telkonet, Inc. restructures, including relocation of headquarters to Milwaukee

From a news release issued by Telkonet:

GERMANTOWN, MD--(Marketwire - December 21, 2009) - Telkonet, Inc. (OTCBB: TKOI), a Clean Technology company that develops and manufactures proprietary energy management and SmartGrid networking technology, is conducting a restructuring which includes the relocation of its offices from Germantown, Maryland to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This transition is part of an ongoing focus to competitively position the company within the $50 billion SmartGrid and Clean Technology industries while achieving favorable cost reductions. . . .

Jason Tienor, President and CEO, commented, “The decision to consolidate Telkonet’s operations demonstrates our continued commitment to realign our business and operations, helping us achieve our growth and expansion goals. With this relocation strategy, we’re able to optimize our resources, positioning the Company to more effectively address the needs of the growing Clean Technology market. In addition, we look forward to becoming a significant part of the Clean Technology landscape in Wisconsin. This transition demonstrates our dedication to Wisconsin and further meets the conditions of our funding with the State to increase employment within
Wisconsin.

Brewery digester powers healthcare network

An article by Diane Greer in BioCycle gives a detailed description of the biodigester at Gunderson Lutheran:

Gundersen Lutheran Health Systems and City Brewing Company, both based in La Crosse, Wisconsin, are partnering on an innovative cogeneration project fueled by biogas from the brewery’s waste treatment process. The system, which started operating in October, is expected to generate 3 million kilowatt hours (kWh) per year of electricity, equivalent to 8 to 10 percent of the power used on Gundersen Lutheran’s La Crosse and Onlaska campuses. City Brewing will employ waste heat from the system, estimated at 17,000 mmBtus/year, to warm its anaerobic digesters producing the biogas. . . .

Think Tank Flunks Renewable Energy Analysis

An Examination of Wisconsin Policy Research Institute’s Bogus Methodology

Michael Vickerman
RENEW Wisconsin
December 22, 2009

A report put out in November by the Wisconsin Public Research Institute contains a number of specious assertions intended to advance the proposition that a number of proposals endorsed by the Governor’s Global Warming Task Force in 2008 would be exorbitantly expensive. One particularly dubious finding in the report1, titled “The Economics of Climate Change Proposals in Wisconsin,” is its estimate of the net cost of the 25% Renewable Energy Standard (RES) proposed in the climate change bill. The “trained economists”—WPRI’s term, not mine--who worked on the report contend that the capital and operating costs of the capacity needed to meet the proposed RES would exceed $16 billion by 2025. Mindful that this estimate could become a “headline” number in the coming months, I thought it might be useful to dive into WPRI’s economic analysis and verify the methodology and assumptions that were used to reach this conclusion.

Having done this, I would like to take this opportunity to catalog the faulty forecasts, transparent double-counting and other methodological errors that enabled WPRI to arrive at this absurdly inflated cost estimate. What I’ve documented below leads me to conclude that WPRI’s $16 billion number was pulled out of thin air, and that its analysis is nothing more than a tortured effort at reverse-engineering the numbers to fit the preordained conclusion.

1. The electric sales forecast is grossly inflated. The report authors assume that annual electricity sales in Wisconsin will climb from its current level (70 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) in 2008) to 92 billion kilowatt-hours in 2025. Right now, electric load is shrinking, not growing, and 2009 sales will come in somewhere at about four billion kWh below the all-time high set in 2007. So, if we’re headed into 2010 with an electric load somewhere between 67 - 68 billion kWh/year, clearly a miracle must occur in order to lift that that number by 26% to reach the 92 billion level in 2025, especially if this climate change bill passes, which it must in order to set the new RES at 25% by 2025. My view is that the state’s electric sales will remain flat for the foreseeable future, due to a combination of continued improvements in energy efficiency coupled with subpar economic performance. So if electricity sales remain stable over the next 15 years, then the total supply of renewable energy needed to satisfy the 2025 target would be 17.5 billion kWh/year. This is considerably less than the 28.3 billion kWh of renewable generation which the report writers claim will be occasioned by the RES (See Table 4 in the report).2

The table below presents the cumulative impact of current and proposed renewable energy policy requirements using more realistic sales forecasts and
capacity requirement estimates. When the sales forecast is adjusted to mirror today’s load numbers, the capacity cost falls to $13.5 billion, using the rest of the WPRI methodology, which is clearly flawed, as we shall see.


Cumulative impact of Proposed RE standard in climate change bill

Category 2004 Baseline 2013/2015 2025
RE Percentage 3.3% 10% 25%
Total kWh Sales 68 billion/year 70 billion/year 70 billion/year
Total RE kWh supply (gross) 2.5 billion kWh/year 7 billion kWh/year 17.5 billion kWh/year
New RE kWh supply (net of 2004) -- 4.5 billion/year 15 billion/year
New RE capacity (net of 2004) -- 1,650 MW* 5,400 MW*

* Assumes 90% wind/10% biomass mix; combined capacity factor 32%


2. WPRI’s cost estimate inexplicably incorporates the cost of the current Renewable Energy Standard into the total price tag. The WPRI report purports to characterize the incremental cost of increasing the RES above current levels. However, the cost estimates used by WPRI lump in the renewable capacity that will be added to comply with the existing requirements under Act 141. It would appear that WPRI decided to include these costs because the bill would move the compliance date of Act 141’s requirement forward to 2013. This is sophistry of the highest order. The 10% renewable content target that Wisconsin utilities must attain is embedded in current law. To avoid the double-counting we see here, the authors of this report should have treated all Act 141-compliant projects as sunk costs, not as new costs. As evidenced by the table below, treating all Act 141 renewable energy acquisitions as sunk costs reduces the incremental addition of renewable generating capacity down to 3,750 MW, compared with the 6,480 MW figure that WPRI cites.



Incremental Impact of Proposed RE standard (net of Act 141)


Net RE increase 15%
New RE supply 10.5 billion kWh /year
New RE capacity 3,750 MW

When the double-counting of Act 141 generation is eliminated, the capacity costs associated with a successor RES decline to a range between $9 and $9.5 billion, compared with the $16 billion figure cited by WPRI. Implicit in that cost range is the assumption that the every kilowatt-hour that is applied toward a successor RES will be generated from a facility that hasn’t been built yet. As we shall see in the next section, that is a faulty assumption.

3. WPRI’s analysis ignores currently available renewable generating capacity that can be used to meet an RES. WPRI’s analysis assumes that all of the renewable capacity needed to meet the 2025 target will be built some time in the future. That assumption fails to account for all the existing wind capacity in the Upper Midwest that is not generating RES-compliant electricity, whether for Wisconsin or another state. Wisconsin one has one such facility--Butler Ridge in Dodge County--that has uncommitted capacity. Though it has a capacity rating of 54 MW, only 20 MW is dedicated under a long-term contract to a Wisconsin electric provider (WPPI Energy). The remaining portion of the project produces energy that is sold into the wholesale market and renewable energy credits (RECs) that the facility owner will sell to anyone wishing to acquire them. There is nothing to stop a Wisconsin utility from acquiring the REC’s from Butler Ridge’s 34 MW of uncommitted capacity and applying them to its Act 141 requirements and any successor RES.

An REC corresponds to a megawatt-hour (MWH) of electric generation, or 1,000 kWh. How is an REC worth? Over the last two years, REC’s have averaged between $5 and $10 per MWH, or from half a penny to a penny per kWh. Assuming a 30% capacity factor for Butler Ridge, the cost to a Wisconsin utility of acquiring that facility’s annual output of REC’s would range from $45,000 (at a half a penny per kWh) to $90,000 (at one penny per kWh).

As the table below indicates, Iowa is far and way the regional leader in wind generating capacity. Yet Iowa’s renewable energy standard is very modest compared with other state RES percentages, including that of Wisconsin. A significant portion of that capacity falls into one of two categories: (1) owned by an Iowa utility but not committed to that state’s RES or (2) owned by an independent power producer (e.g., NextEra Energy, Horizon Wind Energy, berdrola USA, etc.) that does not have a long-term contract with an electric provider). Furthermore, most of the wind turbines in those categories were placed in service after January 1, 2004, and as such are eligible for complying with Wisconsin’s RES. My conservative estimate of existing Iowa wind capacity that could be applied to Wisconsin’s RES, over and above those turbines that are either owned by Wisconsin utilities or producing power for Wisconsin utilities, is 750 MW. This quantity of “spare” wind capacity could significantly reduce the quantity of generation needed to be constructed to meet a 25% standard need to manufacture and install produce As with the example of Butler Ridge, any Wisconsin utility can elect to acquire the REC’s from these Iowa installations and apply them to current and future RES requirements.

It should be mentioned that more than 100 MW of existing Iowa wind capacity (e.g., Barton, Endeavor 2, Top of Iowa 2) supply Wisconsin utilities with REC’s that are dedicated to their voluntary renewable energy programs, an example being Madison Gas & Electric’s Green Power Tomorrow. Because these REC’s are being resold to a subset of utility customers at a premium, they cannot be applied to their RES requirements. However, there may come a day when these utilities decide that it would be more cost-effective to apply those REC’s to any additional RES requirement rather than build new capacity specifically for RES compliance purposes.

If we were to subtract 750 MW from our running total, the net increase would come to 3,000 MW, which would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $7.5 billion, less than half of WPRI’s estimate.

Snapshot - Midwest Windpower Development Activity
December 2009

State Operating capacity
(in MW) Under construction (in MW)
Iowa 3253+ 199
Minnesota 1805 60
Illinois 1123 979
Indiana 730† 404
Wisconsin 449 --
Michigan 129 16

+ Total includes Alliant Energy’s 200 MW Whispering Willow project
† Total includes Horizon Wind’s 200 MW Meadow Lake project

Sources: American Wind Energy Association, Alliant Energy


4. WPRI uses the wrong metric to calculate savings from the proposed successor RES. In Table 3 of the WPRI report, the authors present the gross capacity costs of the new renewable generation and subtract the cost of avoided conventional generation to arrive at a net cost. In this case, the authors assumed that the new renewable generation would offset the construction of natural gas-fired peaking units. This formulation is reasonable in places where loads are growing and the need to build new generating capacity is well-established. However, those circumstances are no longer operative in Wisconsin, which, as noted above, has experienced a decline in retail sales, due principally to significant consumption cutbacks in the industrial sector. According to the Energy Information Agency’s latest Electric Power Monthly report, in-state generation output is running more than 2 billion kWh below last year’s totals (through August 2009). Moreover, in consideration of additional efforts by high demand customers to curb electricity usage3, a near-term rebound in overall electricity consumption is simply not in the cards. With a capacity reserve margin that is likely to approach 25% in 2010, the likelihood of a Wisconsin utility proposing to build a gas-fired peaker in the next 10 years is nil.

In light of the growing capacity overhang in Wisconsin, I believe that a more appropriate candidate for measuring savings from the proposed RES would be plant retirements. There are a number of older fossil steam generating units that require the installation of scrubbers and other pollution control technology to bring them into compliance with federal Clean Air Act regulations. There are likely to be instances where a retrofit would not be cost-effective. In those situations, the utility can either sell the generating unit to another entity, as We Energies is attempting to do with its share of Edgewater 5, or retire it.4 The savings that would accrue with retiring less efficient fossil steam units would come in two forms: an avoided capital expenditure and a reduction in operating expenses. A utility that times its renewable energy acquisitions to correspond with planned fossil plant shutdowns would accomplish two objectives. The first would be to maximize the reliability value of the renewable generation it acquires. The second would be to stabilize the asset value of its generation portfolio even as it removes an older unit off its system. Moreover, such a strategy would result in a more efficient accumulation of CO2 offsets, which, one need hardly add, is the ultimate goal of this legislation.


Other Problems

The report makes a number of other assertions that fly in the face of reality. One is that all of the new renewable generating capacity will be located in Wisconsin. No support is provided for that patently ludicrous claim. The authors are clearly oblivious of the many out-of-state wind projects that are either owned by Wisconsin utilities or are generating electricity under contract to Wisconsin utilities. As is indicated in the table below, Wisconsin utilities have not been reticent about building--or taking power from—wind energy installations located in other states.

The RES cost analysis also assumes that Wisconsin utilities will be the sole owners and operators of all post-2013 renewable generating facilities. How the report authors came to that conclusion is utterly mystifying, given the existence of such nonutility-owned installations as Butler Ridge, Forward Energy Center and Montfort in Wisconsin, not to mention the projects owned by NextEra Energy and Iberdrola Renewables listed above.



Out-of-State Windpower Projects Owned by or Under Contract to Wisconsin Utilities
(In-service dates 2004 and later)



County (State) Project Owner MW Utility Offtaker Name
(In-service date)
Worth (IA) Iberdrola Renewables 80 WPPI (50 MW)
MGE (30 MW) Top of Iowa 2 (2007)
Worth (IA) MGE 30 MGE Top of Iowa 3 (2008)
Osceola (IA) NextEra Energy 50 MGE Endeavor 2 (2008)
Hancock (IA) NextEra Energy 150 Alliant-WPL (100 MW) Crystal Lake (2008)
Worth (IA) Iberdrola Renewables 30 WPPI
Barton 1 (2009)
Howard (IA) WPS 99 WPS Crane Creek (2009 est.)
Freeborn (MN) Alliant-WP&L 200 Alliant-WP&L Bent Tree (2010 est.)


Summary

The report’s attempt to characterize the incremental cost impacts of a successor 25% renewable energy standard is fatally flawed in the following ways:

 It relies on a grossly inflated electricity sales forecast that is completely detached from current realities.
 The final cost estimate includes all the generation built to comply with the current renewable energy standard, a clear-cut case of double-counting.
 The authors fail to account for existing renewable generation capacity that is not currently being applied to a state renewable energy standard.
 There is a high likelihood that the savings from the renewable energy standard are undervalued, because the authors fail to model plant retirements in their analysis.

In the final analysis, the convergence of methodological sleight of hand, unsupportable assumptions, and computational errors in this section is telling. The attempt to double-count existing renewable generation toward the incremental costs of a successor RES is especially egregious, and plainly gives away the authors’ real intent here, which is to portray the policy in the most negative light they could conjure. It would be too generous to describe the analytical approach taken here as incompetent or slipshod. What we have here instead is disinformation, pure and simple, and it should be called out as such, especially as the Legislature begins consideration of arguably the most important economic development and environmental protection initiative in many years.

Notes:

1 http://www.wpri.org/Reports/Volume22/Vol22No7/Vol22No7.html

2 There seems to be computational error in Table 4 of the WPRI report. If the estimate of total electricity sales in 2025 is 94.116 billion kWh, then 25% of that number is 23.529 billion kWh, not 28.235 billion kWh as indicated in the table.

3 http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/business/78527027.html, “Nine state factories pledge to cut energy use,” Dec. 4, 2009.

4 http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/business/78724417.html, “We Energies may sell stake in Sheboygan coal plant,” Dec. 8, 2009.

Monday, December 21, 2009

RTA votes to stop rental car fee to pay for planning KRM

From an article by Joe Potente in the Kenosha News:

A fee on rental car transactions in southeastern Wisconsin is going away — at least for a while.

The Southeastern Regional Transit Authority voted Friday not to reinstate a $2 fee that had been charged to help pay for planning of the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter rail proposal.

That was after the new board voted narrowly to appoint Kenosha County designee Karl Ostby as its chairman.

Created by the Legislature as part of the 2009-11 state budget, the authority is enabled to levy up to $18 per rental transaction to support the local costs of KRM’s development.

Debate over fee

Maintaining the $2 fee for now was discussed, but a majority of the board favored holding off on any fee until a KRM grant plan is finalized, Antaramian said in a phone interview Friday. Antaramian said nobody on the board has shown an interest in levying the full $18.

“I think certain members of the board felt that there wasn’t a need until we actually saw a proposal,” said Antaramian, who supported continuing the $2 charge.

However, Ostby said the question of the fee is likely to arise again next month, after the authority has a clearer idea of KRM’s costs.

Join lobby effort at Conservation Lobby Day, January 26

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 and more information about Conservation Lobby Day 2010, go to: http://www.conservationvoters.org/Public/index.php?custID=110

Registration starts at 9:00am on the day of the event, but you MUST REGISTER BEFORE JANUARY 19th by visiting http://www.conservationvoters.org/Public/index.php?custID=110 and signing up. There you can learn more about the issues in order to better prepare you for the day's events.

Angelo dam could produce power again

From an article in The Tomah Journal:

SPARTA - A dam that hasn’t produced power in about 40 years could be fired up again to provide alternative electricity and education for Western Technical College.

“It is a diamond in the rough that has been overlooked for a long time,” said Stephen Doret, a hydroelectric consultant and chief engineer for Mill Road Engineering in Westborough, Mass.

Doret detailed plans for the Angelo Pond dam on the La Crosse River at a public hearing Monday at Western’s Sparta campus.

The dam would generate electricity for the Sparta campus and help train students about emerging technology fields, said Mike Pieper, Western’s vice president of finance and operations.

The re-powered dam is expected to crank out about 1 million kilowatt hours a year, far more than the 250,000 kilowatt hours the Sparta campus annually uses, said Doret.

Don't weaken state's nuke law

From a commentary by Jennifer Nordstrom, coordinator of the Carbon-Free, Nuclear-Free campaign for the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research and a member of Carbon-Free, Nuclear-Free Wisconsin, in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Weakening Wisconsin laws regulating new nuclear reactors should not be part of a climate change bill. The Clean Energy Jobs Act, unveiled in the state Legislature recently, is a significant step toward addressing global warming while strengthening our state economy. Although much of the bill is a positive step to addressing global warming, it weakens Wisconsin's current law on building new nuclear reactors.

Wisconsin's current law is common sense and protects citizens and the environment from radioactive nuclear waste, which poses considerable risks for tens thousands of years and contains plutonium, which can be used to make nuclear weapons if separated. Available renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies are faster, cheaper, safer and cleaner strategies for reducing greenhouse emissions than nuclear power.

Nuclear energy is also expensive and financially risky. Nuclear projects are large, take a long time to plan and build (eight years at a minimum and often more) and require a great deal of capital. This means a lot of money gets locked up in a single project - sometimes more than the companies seeking to build the reactors are worth. Wall Street has refused to provide capital for new nuclear reactors.

The nuclear industry wants either taxpayers or ratepayers to subsidize these projects, via taxpayer loan guarantees and/or ratepayer interest-free advance cash. Even before the current financial crisis, the CEO of General Electric said if he were a utility CEO, he would not build nuclear but natural gas or wind power plants because "I don't have to bet my company on any of this (wind or gas) stuff."

Wisconsin's law was partially designed to protect its citizens from the financial risk and expense of new reactors. It was also put it in place because of the serious, unsolved problem of nuclear waste.

Every reactor produces radioactive nuclear waste, which contains elements that last for hundreds of generations. No country in the world (including France and the United States) has a repository for storing this radioactive waste. The problems with Yucca Mountain, the proposed site in the United States, are technical as well as political; the Obama administration has rightly declared it unsuitable. Wisconsin residents should remember that in the last round of looking for a national nuclear waste dump, Wisconsin was high on the list.

Doyle backs off vow to take UWSP 'off the grid'

From an Associated Press article by Ryan J. Foley in the Green Bay Press Gazette:

MADISON — Gov. Jim Doyle has backed off a campaign promise that the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and three other UW campuses will be energy independent by 2012 after determining it was not practical as proposed.

Weeks before he was re-elected in 2006, Doyle said campuses would “go off the grid” by becoming the first state agencies to purchase or produce as much energy from renewable sources as they consume. He said they would achieve that by replacing fossil fuels with cleaner energy sources like solar, wind and biomass.

The goal has since been changed to require the campuses to sharply reduce their carbon dioxide emissions, instead of ending them altogether or going off the grid entirely, by 2012. The change came into public view this month during a Board of Regents meeting.

Some university officials say the original plan never made much sense because “going off the grid” would have required them to start producing their own electricity instead of buying it from utilities, which was not feasible or cost-effective.

At the same time, they credit the challenge with spurring them to conserve energy, study alternative fuels, and purchase more renewable sources from the utilities that provide their electricity.

Doyle told reporters Wednesday his original vision may have been unrealistic because of the challenges associated with producing energy on campuses, but the program would still motivate students and university employees to reduce pollution.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Energizing Fort Atkinson’s Schools from the Sun and Earth

By Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin

As a result of educating themselves on the connection between energy use and atmospheric pollution, several school districts in Wisconsin are taking increasingly aggressive steps to conserve energy as well as produce a portion of what they use on-site. Some have embraced ground source heat pump systems (Fond du Lac High School), while others have installed solar hot water systems (Osceola Middle School) and solar electric systems (Paul Olson elementary school in Madison). Not to be outdone, Wausau East High School recently installed a 100 kilowatt (kW) Northwind turbine, which is now the largest wind generator attached to a school building in Wisconsin.

Yet if one measures success by substantial reductions in energy expenditures and emissions reductions, there is one school district in Wisconsin that stands head and shoulders above its peers: Fort Atkinson. Serving 2,700 school-age children in a community of 12,000, the Fort Atkinson School District operates six buildings: four elementary schools, one middle school and a high school. School officials have made no secret of their aspiration to make Fort Atkinson the most energy-efficient and self-sufficient K-12 district in the state.

Since 2005, Fort Atkinson has rigorously pursued a sustainable energy agenda that integrates, in a systematic and complementary fashion, continuous monitoring of consumption, aggressive building efficiency measures, and renewable energy capture. As articulated in its 2009 energy plan, the district’s principal goals for 2010 are nothing if not ambitious:
 Pare energy costs by 20% from 2005 levels;
 Lower carbon emissions by 25% from 2005 levels;
 Obtain EnergyStar certification for all six schools; and
 Install on-site renewable production at all six schools.

Virtually every renewable energy technology or efficiency measure available to a Wisconsin K-12 district has already been or is about to be deployed somewhere in Fort Atkinson. This lengthy list includes ground source heat pumps, solar hot water systems, lighting retrofits, tankless water heaters, retro-commissioning, occupancy sensors, window replacement, and roof insulation. On the district’s 2010 installation list are a 50 kW wind generator at the high school and a 20 kW solar electric system at Purdy elementary school.

The integrated approach pursued by Fort Atkinson leads to lower operating expenses, which in turn frees up capital for renewable technologies that have higher up-front costs but will deliver energy to the school buildings long after the initial investment is paid off. At the same time, converting sunlight and wind into useful energy sources enable building owners to reduce the variability of their utility costs. For a school district, that means not having to worry about the effect of a colder-than-normal winter on next year’s budget for textbooks.


The solar water heating systems serving the high school and the middle school neatly illustrate this benefit. The radiant energy striking the rooftop panels year-round is efficiently collected and taken inside to preheat the swimming pools in each building. Except during the winter months, the incoming solar energy is sufficient to maintain pool temperatures at 84°F. Even in January, however, the savings that a solar hot water system yields simply by preheating a pool to 70°F is substantial when multiplied over several decades.

The capital required to heat a swimming pool with solar energy is not trivial. For the 48-panel system atop the high school, the installed cost totaled $192,000, while the 32-panel installation serving the middle school came in at $115,000. Dennis Kuchenmeister, who manages the district’s buildings and grounds, estimates a 5% return on investment (ROI) for the high school’s system and an 11% ROI on the middle school’s system. According to Kuchenmeister, the hot water systems will supply about 60% of the heat going into the pools, displacing the equivalent of nearly 9,000 therms a year. The district expects to save $18,000 in avoided fuel costs per year.

Kuchenmeister’s economic estimates factor in incentives from Focus on Energy covering up to 35% of the total installed cost and matching incentives from We Energies, the local utility serving the school district. By taking full advantage of available incentive dollars, the school district was able to reduce the out-of-pocket portion of installation costs by more than 50%.

Because the annual harvest of solar energy striking a particular spot rarely fluctuates by more than 10%, a building owner can be reasonably confident of how much conventional energy an installation will displace. In contrast, the cost of heating a pool with natural gas can easily triple during a 12-month period even when usage remains constant. This in fact happened to Fort Atkinson in the 12 months preceding the installation of its two solar hot water systems in the fall of 2008.

Thus, the real value of Fort Atkinson’s solar hot water installations is in minimizing the district’s exposure to the price volatility associated with unregulated fossil fuels like natural gas. And while it’s true that natural gas prices are presently at five-year lows, they could easily bounce back to 2008 levels in a year or two, depending on events over which end-users have no control. However, by installing a renewable technology that preheats their swimming pools, Fort Atkinson has effectively insured itself against a repeat appearance of the fossil fuel rollercoaster ride that most school districts would just as soon forget.

There are two other reasons why school buildings are well-matched for solar energy installations. First, the buildings themselves are dedicated to a public function that is expected to last for several generations. In such settings it is easier to justify the additional up-fronts costs, especially if the installation also communicates a valuable lesson in sustainability to the entire community. Second, most schools, especially newer ones, have an abundance of flat, unshaded roof space that can support large arrays, irrespective of building orientation.

Real-time production data from both installations can be accessed online by visiting www.fatspaniel.net and searching for the live sites listed under We Energies. The district also uses Energy Watchdog, a web-based program provided by Focus on Energy to track energy usage. This program enables Fort Atkinson to document the energy and cost reductions from measures specified in its energy plan.

The middle school is also one of four schools in Fort Atkinson equipped with ground source heat pump systems that heat and cool the buildings year-round using the nearly constant temperatures in the ground. These systems heat buildings in the winter and cool them in the summer. Ground source heat pump systems are electrically powered; no heating fuel like natural gas or propane is needed to heat the four schools.

“We essentially cut the gas line to our schools,” said Kuchenmeister during a presentation on his district’s sustainable energy initiative last November in Milwaukee.

The operational costs of ground source heat pumps are substantially lower than the HVAC systems they replace. As a result of their renovation, the three elementary schools have seen their energy intensity drop by more than one-half, even though they now have air-conditioning in the classrooms. School officials estimate that all four ground source heat pump systems will save the district $90,000 annually in fuel costs.

As with solar hot water systems, Focus on Energy provides incentives for ground source heat pumps to schools, businesses and residences. The program awarded more than $96,000 towards the four systems installed in Fort Atkinson.

According to a Focus on Energy fact sheet, “a ground source heat pump system is arguably the most efficient technology for heating and cooling Wisconsin homes and businesses.” Given its embrace of that technology and others deployed in its buildings, Fort Atkinson has become, in terms of energy sustainability, arguably the most forward-thinking school district in the state.

RENEW Wisconsin (www.renewwisconsin.org) is an independent, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization based in Madison that acts as a catalyst to advance a sustainable energy future through public policy and private sector initiatives. Michael Vickerman has been the organization’s executive director since 1991.

Solar Hot Water Systems - Fact Sheet
Fort Atkinson School District

Full Service Installers
Andy DeRocher
Mark O’Neal
Full Spectrum Solar
100 South Baldwin Street, Suite 101
Madison, WI 53703
Phone: 608.284.9495
info@fullspectrumsolar.com
www.fullspectrumsolar.com

Types of system installations:
Solar hot water, solar electric

Service Territory:
150 miles

At-A-Glance – High School SHW System
Collector space: 1,920 sq. ft (48 4'x10' panels)
Panel manufacturer: Heliodyne Gobi
Tilt angle: 45 degrees
Annual fuel savings: 8,539 therms assuming 80% efficient gas boilers
Avoided CO2 emissions: 47 tons/year
Pool Size: 4,200 sq. ft.
Preheated water volume: 188,227 gallons
Pool operating temperature: 80°F
Incoming water temperature: 55°F
Installation cost: $192,000
Focus on Energy Incentive: $50,000
We Energies match: $50,000
System payback: 10 ¾ years
Installation date: Fall 2008

At-A-Glance – Middle School SHW System
Collector space: 1,280 sq. ft (32 4'x10' panels)
Panel manufacturer: Heliodyne Gobi
Tilt angle: 45 degrees
Annual fuel savings: 8,763 therms assuming 60% efficient gas boiler
Avoided CO2 emissions: 49 tons/year
Pool Size: 2,635 sq. ft.
Preheated water volume: 96,921 gallons
Pool operating temperature: 84°F
Incoming water temperature: 55°F
Installation cost: $115,000
Focus on Energy Incentive: $40,400
We Energies match: $40,400
System payback: 4 years
Installation date: Fall 2008

Join lobby effort at Conservation Lobby Day, January 26

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 and more information about Conservation Lobby Day 2010, go to: http://www.conservationvoters.org/Public/index.php?custID=110

Registration starts at 9:00am on the day of the event, but you MUST REGISTER BEFORE JANUARY 19th by visiting http://www.conservationvoters.org/Public/index.php?custID=110 and signing up. There you can learn more about the issues in order to better prepare you for the day's events.

Cash for Appliances starts January 1st

From a story on WQOW-TV:

Menomonie (WQOW) - The Cash for Appliances program is set to begin in Wisconsin. It will work similar to cash for clunkers, but only with large household appliances: freezers, washers, dishwashers will bank a discount.

By going green, you could end up saving some green in more ways than one.

"I think that what they want to do is tune up the energy efficiency of the appliances that are out there and if we're saving energy and not burning electricity that makes everything green," says Deb Rogge, owner of Denny's Appliance in Menomonie.

Cash for appliances works like this: if you purchase a new energy star appliance after January 1st, you could get rebates of up to $200. But the program does have some restrictions.

"Not all appliance dealers are registered Focus on Energy or Energy Star dealers. It has to be for replacement appliances only because new construction will not qualify," says Rogge.

And not all appliances qualify either.

"So if you are looking at replacing your washing machine, your refrigerator, your freezer or your dishwasher, those are the household appliances that it applies to," she says.

So how much can you save?

Energy star refrigerators will qualify for a $75 rebate.

Select dishwashers: $25.

Energy star freezers: $50.

Certain energy star washers: $100.

Water heaters with certain energy efficiency levels will qualify for $150.

But just like the cash for clunkers program, the money may not last that long.

State DA surcharge now hitting We Energies bills

From a Tom Content blog post on JSonline:

The state-authorized surcharge on electric bills to pay for district attorney salaries is now hitting utility bills of We Energies customers.

The Milwaukee utility is the last of the investor-owned utilities in the state to begin collecting the surcharge. The increase took effect with bills processed on Thursday, utility spokesman Brian Manthey said.

For residential customers, the fee amounts to 47 cents a month. The fee will drop to 26 cents a month for the fiscal year that starts in July.

Small businesses will be assessed $1.07 a month beginning now and 57 cents a week beginning in July. Factories can expect to pay $29.53 a month starting this week, and $15.83 a month beginning in July, the utility said.

Wisconsin legislators included the surcharge among a host of fee increases aimed at helping balance the state budget. Other fee increases adopted as part of the state budget include surcharges imposed on cell-phone bills.

We Energies will end up collecting about $8 million for the state from its customers across the state over the next 19 months, Manthey said.

Prosecutors are being paid from a fund originally designed to help poor people pay their utility bills and weatherize their homes. The extra fee is the latest in a series of budget maneuvers that have sent a total of $166 million from electricity ratepayers to non-energy-related state government purposes since 2002.

Doyle advocates quick action on climate-change legislation

From an article by Larry Bivins in the Wausau Daily Herald:

WASHINGTON -- Despite concerns over whether China and other nations will allow emissions inspections, Congress should pass legislation to reduce the release of greenhouse gases in the United States, Gov. Jim Doyle said Wednesday.

In a conference call from Copenhagen, Denmark, where he is attending an international climate change summit, Doyle said legislation to reduce emissions was too critical to the nation's economic growth to let die in the Senate.
"We better seize the moment," Doyle said.

Since arriving in Copenhagen on Monday, Doyle said he has met with dozens of government officials from around the world.

On Wednesday, Doyle announced that he and Manitoba, Canada, Premier Greg Selinger have agreed to host bilateral workshops on building a green economy, following up on a memorandum of understanding signed in October.

The United Nations Climate Change Conference began Dec. 8 and is scheduled to end today. World leaders hope to agree on a plan for reducing emissions.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Doyle focusing on green jobs at summit in Copenhagen

An Associated Press article published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

MADISON, Wis. - Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle says he is focusing on developing jobs in clean energy fields at the U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen.

Doyle told reporters in a conference call Wednesday he has been meeting with other leaders and company executives to discuss "building a good strong new economy in green energy and energy conservation."

Doyle said Wisconsin has a tremendous opportunity to create a significant part of its economy around jobs in water, wind energy, and sustainable forestry.

He said the state must not resist transitioning away from the dirty fuel sources like coal that have historically powered the state. Doing so, he said, would put the state at an economic disadvantage.

Rebates still available to Alliant customers

From an article in the Fond du Lac Reporter:

MADISON, WI – December 16, 2009 – If you are considering replacing the older appliances in your home, 2010 may be the year to do it. Alliant Energy is encouraging its Wisconsin customers to take advantage of the new State Energy Efficient Appliance Rebate Program (SEEARP) next year to receive Cash-Back Rewards to purchase new ENERGY STAR® qualified or high efficiency appliances and equipment when they replace their used ones.

Starting January 1, 2010, as part of funding awarded to the state under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – widely known as the federal stimulus package - all Wisconsin residents will have the opportunity to become more energy efficient while saving money through the State Energy Efficient Appliance Rebate Program. The initiative is being administered by Focus on Energy, Wisconsin’s statewide resource for energy efficiency and renewable energy.

“If homeowners have been considering purchasing new appliances at some point, it’s an ideal time to do so in 2010 under this program,” said Linda Mattes, Alliant Energy Director of Energy Efficiency and Renewables. “Appliances, water heaters, and heating and cooling equipment are among the largest energy users in a home and replacing them with newer, more efficient models will save families money in the long run.”

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Litany of errors mars analysis of bill to enact recommendations of global warming task force

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

(MADISON, Wis.)—The coalition for Clean, Responsible Energy for Wisconsin’s Economy (CREWE) on Tuesday released a fact sheet detailing the errors with the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute’s (WPRI) November 12th report on the adverse economic effects of the Governor’s Task Force on Global Warming recommendations.

“The WPRI report is so wildly flawed that it has no place in any legislative debate on the task force recommendations,” said Thad Nation, executive director of CREWE. “Not only does the report analyze many policies that aren’t even included in the Clean Energy Jobs Act, but it takes a piecemeal approach, failing to analyze the cumulative effect the policies will have on our state.”

Among the errors included in the report, titled “The Economics of Climate Change Proposals in Wisconsin”:
• 8 of the 13 policies analyzed aren’t included in the Clean Energy Jobs Act
• Models policies that would impact the state’s general fund, despite the fact that the Clean Energy Jobs Act includes no tax increases
• Ignores the fact that low carbon fuels will be produced in Wisconsin and other
Midwestern states, while conventional gasoline is largely imported from overseas
• Fails to take into account decreased electricity demand due to energy efficiency and conservation investments outlined in the recommendations.

In addition, the authors of the report used a “black box” economic model to come to their conclusions – meaning the reader is only given the inputs and outputs, without any knowledge of how the statistical analysis was done. In order to allow others to properly analyze the report’s conclusions, the model that was used should be made publicly available for review.

Legislature releases bill to enact global warming task force recommendations

With little fanfare, legislative leaders releases a copy of the bill to implement the recommendations of the Task Force on Global Warming. Use these links to access:

+ Bill draft
+ Index to the bill
+ Short overview
+ Detailed summary

Burnstad’s Tomah European Market certified as a ‘Green Grocer’

From a news release issued by Better Environmental Solutions and the Wisconsin Grocers Association:

Tomah, WI – With state and world leaders gathered in Copenhagen to talk about climate change, Burnstad’s European Market is one of the first grocery stores in the state to achieve the ‘Green Grocer’ certification, which assists grocery stores in achieving energy savings, sustainability and environmental standards.

“Burnstad’s Tomah European Market and the WGA’s Green Grocer Program show that businesses can reduce their costs, emissions and improve service with energy efficiency,” said Governor Jim Doyle. “This shows one concrete way for Wisconsin to be a leader to create green jobs and a green economy.”

The WGA Green Grocer Program recently won the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Energy Efficiency.

Burnstad’s Market upgraded their lighting and refrigerator compressor efficiency saving $17,703 and 228,446 kilowatt hours of electricity annually. This is enough electricity to power 21 homes and the equivalent to taking 31 cars off the road. They will reduce CO2 emissions by 408,795 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions next year. Burnstad’s received a DOE Rebuild Grant to help upgrade food service equipment with Energy Star appliances.

“We are pleased to be one of the first grocery stores in the Wisconsin to be Green Grocer certified,” said Kent Burnstad, chair of Burnstad’s Markets. “We took many steps like more efficient refrigerators, lights, and motors to save energy and reduce our energy bills and carbon emissions. We save money that we can pass onto our customers and pass a better community onto our children.”

Offered by the Wisconsin Grocers Association (WGA) to its members, the program is administered by Better Environmental Solutions, a Madison, Wisconsin-based environmental consulting firm. ‘Green Grocers’ also received energy efficiency and conservation programming support from Wisconsin Power and Light (WPL), an Alliant Energy company. The seven Green Grocer stores taking action will reduce 3,986,000 pounds of CO2 emissions and save 2,389,010 kilowatt hours of electricity next year, equal to taking 328 cars off the road.

State gets $5 million toward appliance rebates

From an article by Mary Spicuzza in the Wisconsin State Journal:

For months, people have been asking store manager Rick Simler of Grand Appliance and TV about a new stimulus program that will provide rebates for energy-efficient appliances.

And for months, Simler has been hoping to get answers from state officials so he knows what to tell his customers.

"Almost everybody knows it's coming, and people are asking," Simler said, standing near a row of energy-efficient dishwashers. "And a lot of people are reluctant to make their purchases now because they're waiting for the rebate to come out."

But the wait for answers may be over soon. On Tuesday, Wisconsin was awarded $5.4 million through a federal stimulus program overseen by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Wisconsin's program is expected to start in early January and will offer mail-in rebates ranging from $25 to $200 on some energy-efficient appliances bought by residential customers. Select energy-saving, or "Energy Star," appliances would qualify for rebates. Oil and gas furnaces, boilers, water heaters, air conditioners, clothes washers, dishwashers, refrigerators, freezers and heat pumps likely will be included in the program.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Report: Wind Turbines Cause No Human Harm

From a news release issued by RENEW Wisconsin:

IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 15, 2009

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

Report: Wind Turbines Cause No Human Harm

Consistent with 10-plus years of commercial wind generation operations in Wisconsin, a national report issued today concluded that the sounds produced by wind turbines are not harmful to human health, according to the state’s leading renewable energy advocacy group.

Comprised of medical doctors, audiologists, and acoustical professionals from the United States, Canada, Denmark, and the United Kingdom, the panel of reviewers undertook extensive analysis and discussion of the large body of peer-reviewed literature, specifically with regard to sound coming from wind turbines.

The panel was established by the American Wind Energy Association and the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA).

“This report corroborates testimony that RENEW presented in the ongoing Glacier Hills Wind Park hearings at the Wisconsin Public Service Commission,” according to Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin. In that proceeding, We Energies is seeking approval to construct a 90-turbine 162 megawatt wind park in northeast Columbia County.

Report: Wind Turbines Cause No Human Harm

From a news release issued by RENEW Wisconsin:

IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 15, 2009

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

Report: Wind Turbines Cause No Human Harm

Consistent with 10-plus years of commercial wind generation operations in Wisconsin, a national report issued today concluded that the sounds produced by wind turbines are not harmful to human health, according to the state’s leading renewable energy advocacy group.

Comprised of medical doctors, audiologists, and acoustical professionals from the United States, Canada, Denmark, and the United Kingdom, the panel of reviewers undertook extensive analysis and discussion of the large body of peer-reviewed literature, specifically with regard to sound coming from wind turbines.

The panel was established by the American Wind Energy Association and the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA).

“This report corroborates testimony that RENEW presented in the ongoing Glacier Hills Wind Park hearings at the Wisconsin Public Service Commission,” according to Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin. In that proceeding, We Energies is seeking approval to construct a 90-turbine 162 megawatt wind park in northeast Columbia County.

Report: Wind Turbines Cause No Human Harm

IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 15, 2009

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

Report: Wind Turbines Cause No Human Harm

Consistent with 10-plus years of commercial wind generation operations in Wisconsin, a national report issued today concluded that the sounds produced by wind turbines are not harmful to human health, according to the state’s leading renewable energy advocacy group.

Comprised of medical doctors, audiologists, and acoustical professionals from the United States, Canada, Denmark, and the United Kingdom, the panel of reviewers undertook extensive analysis and discussion of the large body of peer-reviewed literature, specifically with regard to sound coming from wind turbines.

The panel was established by the American Wind Energy Association and the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA).

“This report corroborates testimony that RENEW presented in the ongoing Glacier Hills Wind Park hearings at the Wisconsin Public Service Commission,” according to Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin. In that proceeding, We Energies is seeking approval to construct a 90-turbine 162 megawatt wind park in northeast Columbia County.

“If there were a human health impact with wind generation, why are communities such as Rosiere in Kewaunee County and Montfort in Iowa County so supportive of the wind installations nearby?” commented Vickerman.

“The experience suggests that nearby residents gradually overcome any initial misgivings and accept the turbines for what they are: clean, visible, and environmentally benign producers of renewable energy,” he continued.

According to Dr. Robert J. McCunney, one of the authors of the national multi-disciplinary study and an occupational/environmental medicine physician and research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), "There is no evidence that the sounds, nor the sub-audible vibrations, emitted by wind turbines have any direct adverse physiological effects on humans."

Another member of the panel, Dr. Geoff Leventhall, an acoustical consultant on sound and health for more than 40 years, testified during recent regulatory proceedings on the proposed 162 megawatt Glacier Hills Wind Park in Columbia County.

“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,” said Leventhall in sworn testimony.

The national study’s top findings include:
• "The sounds emitted by wind turbines are not unique. There is no reason to believe, based on the levels and frequencies of the sounds, that they could plausibly have direct adverse physiological effects."
• If sound levels from wind turbines were harmful, it would be impossible to live in a city given the sound levels normally present in urban environments.
• "Sub-audible, low frequency sound and infrasound from wind turbines do not present a risk to human health."
• "Some people may be annoyed at the presence of sound from wind turbines. Annoyance is not a pathological entity."

An executive summary of the report can be accessed here (PDF, 81KB). The full report can be accessed here (PDF, 440KB).

Renewable electricity programs starting at Indianhead Tech - Ashland and Northland College

From an article by in Business North:

A new Renewable Electricity certificate is starting in January at the Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College [WITC] Ashland campus. The certificate provides an individual with the opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to plan, install and maintain solar (photovoltaic) and wind renewable electrical energy systems. . . .

Ted May, Academic Dean at WITC, and Rick Fairbanks from Northland College, have been meeting monthly for more than a year as part of an Ashland-area collaboration of educators. This certificate is one of the outcomes from these meetings, and it is also being offered to Northland College students as a technical minor. . . .

WITC's Renewable Electricity certificate is ideal for individuals who have experience working as an electrical contractor/electrician and desire training with renewable energy systems; have a background in environmental issues and desire to supplement or update their renewable energy skills; or would like to begin work installing or maintaining in the growing fields of wind or solar photovoltaic energy systems.

The first two courses in the certificate start in January. One is Alternative Energy Overview, which will be offered on-line, and the other, Renewable Electricity, will run one evening per week through the winter/spring semester. For more information or to register within WITC's Renewable Electricity certificate, contact Admissions Advisor Karen Hoglund at 715.682.4591, ext. 3195, or Ted May, at ext. 3252. The Introduction to PV Systems course will be taught the last two weeks of May 2010.

WITC serves the educational and career needs of more than 30,000 residents of northwestern Wisconsin each year. As one of four campuses in the district, WITC-Ashland offers career-focused associate degree programs, technical diplomas, customized training, and a wide array of courses for personal or career enrichment. WITC is a member of Wisconsin Technical College System. For more information, call 800.243.WITC or log onto witc.edu.