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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Last-minute changes weaken state’s clean energy goals

Disregarding the pleas from RENEW and others for a veto, Doyle signed Senate Bill 273, as reported by Lisa Kaiser in the Shepherd Expess, Milwaukee:

Were the state’s renewable energy goals weakened during the final days of the legislative session?

The answer depends on how you view a new bill, signed into law by Gov. Jim Doyle last week, which expands the definition of “renewable energy source” without increasing the amount of renewable energy that must be used by the state’s utilities.

“We went backwards, not forwards,” said state Rep. Spencer Black (D-Madison), a champion of clean energy. “If you don’t increase the percentage of renewable energy that must be used, and you include the new technologies, you decrease the amount of wind and solar to be used.”

A Last-Minute Amendment without Public Debate

The bill had been proposed last year with little fanfare. A public hearing was held last September to add some new technologies to the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS)—the state’s definition of what is a renewable energy source.

That designation is very important to a “clean energy” company, because it allows the company to sell its electricity to a utility and help that utility reach the 10% goal. Without that designation, the electricity isn’t as desirable to utilities that need to decrease their reliance on fossil fuels such as coal.

Last fall, the new technologies didn’t seem to raise too many alarms—for example, it included solar light pipes manufactured by Orion Energy Systems in Manitowoc.

Besides, the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA), which would have raised the state’s renewable energy goals from 10% to 25% by 2025, was attracting far more attention than this rather innocuous bill.

But just hours before the vote on April 15, a controversial amendment was added to the bill by Sen. Majority Leader Russ Decker, Milwaukee Sen. Jeff Plale and Green Bay Sen. David Hansen to include even more technologies. Among them is “synthetic gas created by the plasma gasification of waste,” a cutting-edge technology that takes just about any kind of waste, heats it so intensely it turns into a gas, then uses that gas to create electricity that can be sold to utilities and put on the power grid.

Without public debate, the state Senate approved the amended bill 25-8 and the Assembly followed suit a week later on a voice vote with no record of who voted “aye” or “nay.”

Doyle signed it last week without revision, although he did note that it was “a difficult one to sign” since CEJA—with its higher standards—died in the state Legislature.

Wind turbines fit with farms


From an editorial in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Congratulations to the Columbia County Board for recognizing last week that wind turbines complement farmland preservation.

The board agreed Wednesday that farmers in the towns of Randolph and Scott can lease small amounts of land to We Energies for wind turbines without violating their state agreements to keep their land in agricultural production.

The board's decision is wise because the turbines will give each farmer thousands of dollars in extra income to keep their farm operations going. And the amount of land taken out of production for turbine foundations and access roads will be miniscule compared to the total size of cropland that will remain.

We Energies also has agreed to buy two homes from neighbors who were concerned about living within a quarter mile of some of the turbines.

That means this exciting wind project in northeast Columbia County can now move forward with 90 turbines scattered across some 17,000 acres of productive farmland.

We Energies started developing the site, called Glacier Hills Energy Park, last week. It's located about 50 miles northeast of Madison.

The energy company hopes to fire up the wind park by the end of next year or early 2012. It will produce enough clean energy to power 45,000 homes.

Wisconsin's wind industry is just taking off, and more clean energy is needed to reduce Wisconsin's reliance on dirty coal and gas that's imported from other states and foreign countries.

Wind turbines fit with farms


From an editorial in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Congratulations to the Columbia County Board for recognizing last week that wind turbines complement farmland preservation.

The board agreed Wednesday that farmers in the towns of Randolph and Scott can lease small amounts of land to We Energies for wind turbines without violating their state agreements to keep their land in agricultural production.

The board's decision is wise because the turbines will give each farmer thousands of dollars in extra income to keep their farm operations going. And the amount of land taken out of production for turbine foundations and access roads will be miniscule compared to the total size of cropland that will remain.

We Energies also has agreed to buy two homes from neighbors who were concerned about living within a quarter mile of some of the turbines.

That means this exciting wind project in northeast Columbia County can now move forward with 90 turbines scattered across some 17,000 acres of productive farmland.

We Energies started developing the site, called Glacier Hills Energy Park, last week. It's located about 50 miles northeast of Madison.

The energy company hopes to fire up the wind park by the end of next year or early 2012. It will produce enough clean energy to power 45,000 homes.

Wisconsin's wind industry is just taking off, and more clean energy is needed to reduce Wisconsin's reliance on dirty coal and gas that's imported from other states and foreign countries.

Wind turbines fit with farms


From an editorial in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Congratulations to the Columbia County Board for recognizing last week that wind turbines complement farmland preservation.

The board agreed Wednesday that farmers in the towns of Randolph and Scott can lease small amounts of land to We Energies for wind turbines without violating their state agreements to keep their land in agricultural production.

The board's decision is wise because the turbines will give each farmer thousands of dollars in extra income to keep their farm operations going. And the amount of land taken out of production for turbine foundations and access roads will be miniscule compared to the total size of cropland that will remain.

We Energies also has agreed to buy two homes from neighbors who were concerned about living within a quarter mile of some of the turbines.

That means this exciting wind project in northeast Columbia County can now move forward with 90 turbines scattered across some 17,000 acres of productive farmland.

We Energies started developing the site, called Glacier Hills Energy Park, last week. It's located about 50 miles northeast of Madison.

The energy company hopes to fire up the wind park by the end of next year or early 2012. It will produce enough clean energy to power 45,000 homes.

Wisconsin's wind industry is just taking off, and more clean energy is needed to reduce Wisconsin's reliance on dirty coal and gas that's imported from other states and foreign countries.

Wind turbines fit with farms


From an editorial in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Congratulations to the Columbia County Board for recognizing last week that wind turbines complement farmland preservation.

The board agreed Wednesday that farmers in the towns of Randolph and Scott can lease small amounts of land to We Energies for wind turbines without violating their state agreements to keep their land in agricultural production.

The board's decision is wise because the turbines will give each farmer thousands of dollars in extra income to keep their farm operations going. And the amount of land taken out of production for turbine foundations and access roads will be miniscule compared to the total size of cropland that will remain.

We Energies also has agreed to buy two homes from neighbors who were concerned about living within a quarter mile of some of the turbines.

That means this exciting wind project in northeast Columbia County can now move forward with 90 turbines scattered across some 17,000 acres of productive farmland.

We Energies started developing the site, called Glacier Hills Energy Park, last week. It's located about 50 miles northeast of Madison.

The energy company hopes to fire up the wind park by the end of next year or early 2012. It will produce enough clean energy to power 45,000 homes.

Wisconsin's wind industry is just taking off, and more clean energy is needed to reduce Wisconsin's reliance on dirty coal and gas that's imported from other states and foreign countries.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

UW doctor: No evidence that wind turbines cause health problems

From a presentation to the Public Service Commission Wind Siting Council by Jevon D. McFadden, MD, MPH:

General Conclusions
􀂄Evidence does not support the conclusion that wind turbines cause or are associated with adverse health outcomes
􀂄Gaps remain in our knowledge of the impact that wind energy may have on human health
􀂅Potential positive and potential negative impacts
􀂄Passionate analyses, whether by proponents or opponents of wind energy development, may be subject to significant bias, which compromises credibility

Recommendations
􀂄Encourage concerned individuals to report symptoms or illness to a healthcare provider
􀂄Encourage health officials to continue to assess new evidence as it becomes available
􀂄Recommend involving affected individuals in siting process

Shadow Flicker
􀂄Wind turbine rotor frequencies
+Average 0.6–1.0 Hz
+Max 3 Hz (at 60 rpm)
+National Research Council: “Harmless to humans”
􀂄Photosensitivity epilepsy
+1/4,000 individuals
+Sunlight, TV are common precipitants
􀂄Flickeringlight most likely to trigger seizures
+5–30 Hz

Noise & Health —Conclusions
􀂄Chronic exposure to high levels of sound
+Hearing loss
+Altered physiological processes
􀂄Long-term health effects of chronic exposure to low level sound not well characterized
􀂄Noise sensitivity is important determinate of responses to noise
􀂄Response to moderate levels of sound affected by cognitive appraisal of sound source

Dr. McFadden lists the following affiliations at the beginning of his presentation:

􀂅Centers for Disease Control and Prevention —Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer
􀂅United States Public Health Service —Lieutenant Commander
􀂅Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Division of Public Health, Bureau of Environmental and Occupational Health
􀂅University of Wisconsin, School of Medicine and Public Health, Department of Population Health Sciences —Adjunct Assistant Professor

Ladysmith pellet company helps schools heat with wood

From a news release posted on Sys-Con Media:

LADYSMITH, WI -- (Marketwire) -- 05/26/10 -- Indeck Ladysmith, LLC, the owner and operator of the Indeck Ladysmith BioFuel Center in Ladysmith, Wisconsin is moving forward in a partnership with Fuels for Schools and Communities, a program supported by the state of Wisconsin that encourages the use of wood biomass as an energy source for the heating of public buildings.

Representatives from Indeck Ladysmith have met with 11 local schools to discuss the possibility of replacing natural gas boilers used for heating with wood pellet boilers. Able to heat just as efficiently as conventional boilers, new wood pellet boilers would support the local biomass industry of Wisconsin while ultimately providing schools with some cost-savings.

"Focus on Energy, a government funded program here in Wisconsin, has been able to provide us with pre-feasibility studies at many of these local school districts," said Mike Curci, Indeck Ladysmith BioFuel Center superintendant. "They are working with us to determine if replacing older natural gas boilers with updated wood pellet boilers is possible at a reduced upfront cost."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Obey seeks $2M for projects, including renewable energy

From an article by Nathaniel Shuda in the Stevens Point Journal:

In his last batch of funding requests before his retirement, U.S. Rep. Dave Obey, D-Wausau, is seeking almost $2 million in earmarks for Portage County.

Four of the 85 projects Obey submitted for consideration in the 2011 federal budget are specific to the county, with several focused on central Wisconsin and others on statewide projects.

Despite being a retiring congressman, the likelihood Obey's projects will get funding remains relatively high, given his seniority in the House of Representatives and position as Appropriations Committee chairman, said Ed Miller, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

"It's more difficult when you're going out of office, but given that he's the chairman of the committee, I think he's going to handle it well," Miller said.

Among the projects, which the Appropriations Committee and full House and Senate still must approve, are funds to help the UWSP Institute for Sustainable Technology, Project Learn Program, redevelopment in the city of Stevens Point and the continued reconstruction of Highway 10.

Among other projects in central Wisconsin is an expanded renewable energy center at Mid-State Technical College.

Mid-State's board of directors recently approved a $2 million renewable energy center at its Wisconsin Rapids campus, but that could more than double if Congress approves another $4.5 million Obey requested for the project.

"It will allow us to basically complete the whole project," said Al Javoroski, dean of Mid-State's technical and industrial division, who still expressed some hesitation after Congress rejected a $20 million request in 2009.

"The big picture is we're going to do what we need to (in order) to support our renewable energy initiative."

Xcel rethinking biomass project

From a blog post by Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Xcel Energy Corp. is rethinking its plans to build the largest biomass power plant in the Midwest after the projected cost rose by one-third.

The power company, which has a Wisconsin utility based in Eau Claire, was planning to build a biomass gasifier that would replace an existing coal-fired power plant on the shore of Lake Superior in Ashland.

The company initially pegged the project at $58.1 million, but after more work it was determined that it would cost $79.5 million - an increase of nearly 37%.

The company will assess whether to use a different technology to burn wood at the power plant, said Don Reck, Xcel director of regulatory and government affairs.

Costs rose during a more detailed engineering review that concluded more work would be needed to retrofit the coal boiler to gasify biomass than the company and its consultants first concluded.

"We're looking at all the options that we had included in the application, as well as at least one or two new ones that have surfaced since the application was filed," Reck said.

The Wisconsin Paper Council and Citizens' Utility Board expressed concern about the escalating price tag.

"This project was sort of a mixed bag for us," said Charlie Higley, executive director of the Wisconsin Citizens' Utility Board. "We want to see alternative projects developed using alternative fuels, but this project definitely raised some concerns regarding costs and feasibility."

Xcel's analysis follows a recent meeting of the Public Service Commission at which commissioners expressed concern about the cost of the project and said that in light of the rising price the agency would likely need to take a second look at whether to allow the development to proceed.

The PSC had attached a condition requiring the utility to come back if the cost of the project went above a commission cap of $63.9 million, or 10% higher than the utility's projection.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Canadian company’s first U.S. turbine spins plenty of power for cranberry farm

From a news release issued by RENEW Wisconsin:

MORE INFORMATION
Ry Thompson
Seventh Generation Energy Systems
608.467.0123
thompson@seventhgenergy.org

Alicia Leinberger
Seventh Generation Energy Systems
608-333-5375
alicia@seventhgenergy.org

Canadian company’s first U.S. turbine spins plenty of power for cranberry farm

Dentist Frederick Prehn, owner of Prehn Cranberry Marsh near Tomah, wanted the power that the cranberry farm paid for without having to pay the utility.

“The second order of business, I wanted a turbine that has a history of working in low wind speed,” said Prehn.

A 35-kilowatt (kW) Canadian turbine, perched on a 140-foot-tall tower, accomplishes both. The first of its model line ever manufactured by Endurance Wind Power, Prehn’s wind generator underwent five months of testing at the company’s Quebec manufacturing facility.

“Wind speeds are all relative,” Prehn said. “The wind speed in the cranberry bog isn’t as good as the Great Lakes, but I’m amazed. I’ve gone through all the data I can gather, and the turbine is producing pretty well.”

“The Endurance fits Wisconsin’s climate conditions,” according to Ry Thompson, a project manager with Seventh Generation Energy, Madison, which installed the turbine.

“We’ve been eager to install one of these,” Thompson said. “It’s a very well-designed, durable machine and the 30-foot long blades make it suitable to lower wind speed environments, as are common in Wisconsin,” Thompson said.

“This should be a very popular turbine among farmers, schools, small municipalities, and manufacturing facilities,” he added.

Canadian company’s first U.S. turbine spins plenty of power for cranberry farm

IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 24, 2010

MORE INFORMATION
Ry Thompson
Seventh Generation Energy Systems
608.467.0123
thompson@seventhgenergy.org

Alicia Leinberger
Seventh Generation Energy Systems
608-333-5375
alicia@seventhgenergy.org

Canadian company’s first U.S. turbine spins plenty of power for cranberry farm

Dentist Frederick Prehn, owner of Prehn Cranberry Marsh near Tomah, wanted the power that the cranberry farm paid for without having to pay the utility.

“The second order of business, I wanted a turbine that has a history of working in low wind speed,” said Prehn.

A 35-kilowatt (kW) Canadian turbine, perched on a 140-foot-tall tower, accomplishes both. The first of its model line ever manufactured by Endurance Wind Power, Prehn’s wind generator underwent five months of testing at the company’s Quebec manufacturing facility.

“Wind speeds are all relative,” Prehn said. “The wind speed in the cranberry bog isn’t as good as the Great Lakes, but I’m amazed. I’ve gone through all the data I can gather, and the turbine is producing pretty well.”

“The Endurance fits Wisconsin’s climate conditions,” according to Ry Thompson, a project manager with Seventh Generation Energy, Madison, which installed the turbine.

“We’ve been eager to install one of these,” Thompson said. “It’s a very well-designed, durable machine and the 30-foot long blades make it suitable to lower wind speed environments, as are common in Wisconsin,” Thompson said.

“This should be a very popular turbine among farmers, schools, small municipalities, and manufacturing facilities,” he added.

The generator begins to produce electricity when the wind blows just under 8 miles per hour (mph). With an estimated average wind speed of 12.5 mph at his location, Prehn expects to harvest as much as 85,000 kilowatt hours of electricity – more than 150 percent of the amount he needs. The turbine powers a shop, three homes, and two wells. The excess energy is sold to the Oakdale Electric Cooperative, the farm’s local utility.

In addition, Seventh Generation installed a 5 kW solar electric system at the farm. “Some days the turbine produces goose eggs, and the solar system continues to crank out the electricity, and there’s no maintenance,” Prehn said.

“This is a shining example of home-grown energy,” stated Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a nonprofit advocate for all types of renewable energy.

“Installations like these help reduce Wisconsin’s dependence on coal from Wyoming which is transported here using oil from the Gulf of Mexico,” Vickerman said.

Prehn apparently agrees. He already has a contract with Seventh Generation to install a second Endurance turbine that will be slightly larger than the first.

END

RENEW Wisconsin (http://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.

State should study impact of biomass plant

From an editorial in the Wausau Daily Herald:

The group of citizens who are working to stop a proposed biomass plant near the Domtar paper mill in Rothschild have been working to cast doubt on virtually all of the claims made about the project -- environmental claims, economic claims and so on.

Of their concerns, the questions around the plant's environmental impact are the most serious, because the air emissions have the potential to do the most harm.

Domtar and We Energies have answered them in some detail, and we have no reason to doubt their analysis of the plant's impact. Still, there's no getting around the fact that those companies have an economic incentive to spin the facts in a way that is most beneficial to their project.

That's why we all would benefit from an environmental impact statement on the project by the state and federal governments. It would provide a solid and independent expert analysis of the project.

The regulations governing these projects are arcane, but the essence of the argument is easy to understand: The state Public Service Commission, sometimes in conjunction with the Department of Natural Resources and federal agencies, has the capacity to prepare an independent assessment of the real environmental effects of the proposed project. This includes the impact of emissions, noise and other factors.

By statute, that analysis is automatically triggered for any power plant generating 100 megawatts or more. The proposed biomass plant will generate 50 megawatts, so an environmental impact statement is not required.

That doesn't mean it shouldn't be completed. Fifty megawatts of electricity still is a major power plant. An environmental impact statement would add an important expert perspective to the local discussion about the plant. This is a big project, and a relatively new technology. It bears scrutiny.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Racine Montessori adding solar panels

From an article by in the Racine Journal Times:

RACINE - Workers spent Wednesday installing new solar panels at the Racine Montessori School, the latest move by the school to go green.

The school's solar panel project has been in the works for about two years and is finally being completed this week with the installation of 84 panels on the roof of the school's gymnasium, said Rita Lewis, administrator at the Racine Montessori School, 2317 Howe St.

The panels are being installed by Madison-based H&H Solar Energy Services. When installation is complete, the panels should generate about 40 percent of the energy the school needs. To show students when the panels are working, ceiling fans directly tied to the panels will be installed in the school's hallways. The fans' blades will rotate on sunny days when the panels are absorbing sunlight to convert to energy, Lewis said.

To mark the panels' installation, the school's elementary students had a "Solar Celebration" Wednesday where they spent time outside singing sun-themed songs like "You Are My Sunshine" and cooking s'mores in homemade aluminum foil solar ovens, Lewis said.

The solar panels and installation, which cost about $134,000 altogether, were paid for through two large grants from We Energies and two large donations from local families. Clifton and Gladys Peterson and Charles and Kathryn Heide each donated about $22,000 for the project. Gladys Peterson formerly taught at the school and the Heide family had grandchildren attend, Lewis said.

"They are the two families who really made it happen for us," she said.

The solar panels are the latest green effort under way at the school, which this week was awarded a school Green Award from the Sierra Club of southeastern Wisconsin, according to Lewis.

Alliant says no more coal plants ... for now and no nukes

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

Alliant Energy is giving up on the idea of building more coal-fired power plants "for the time being," Alliant chairman, president and chief executive Bill Harvey said Thursday.

In an interview after the Madison utility holding company's annual shareholders meeting, Harvey said Alliant subsidiary Wisconsin Power & Light will not ask for a new coal-fueled power plant to replace one proposed for Cassville that state regulators rejected in late 2008.

"I think it's politically ... too risky to think about building coal plants until climate legislation gets in place," Harvey said. "There's got to be substantial technological improvements before the country returns to building coal plants. That's certainly true for us," he said.

Thanks to adequate power available to buy on the electric transmission grid, Harvey said it will likely be two or three years before Alliant proposes building another natural-gas-fired power plant. That could happen sooner, though, if the economy recovers quickly or if climate change rules force the company to abandon its older coal-fired power plants sooner than expected.

As for nuclear power, Harvey said Alliant is not big enough to consider spending up to $10 billion to build a nuclear plant but it might buy part of a new one, if one is built. "We have to consider that. We have to consider all possibilities," he said.

Biking to work good for health, environment

From an article by Jake Miller in the Marshfield News-Herald:

Four dollars a gallon was enough inspiration for Steven Uthmeier to ditch the car.

Several years later, and in the midst of national Bike-to-Work week, the 56-year-old still bikes to work almost daily, huffing it into Marshfield on an old Schwinn that's made for a commute, not for looks.

Uthmeier cruises in from Hewitt, making a round trip of about 11 miles each day to and from home and his desk at Ministry Saint Joseph's Hospital.
Inhumane gasoline prices sparked his interest, but how Uthmeier feels after a ride has kept him going. He's refreshed and refocused.

"After I got into it, I felt better," Uthmeier said. "Then I was actually doing it for the exercise also, and I found on the way home after I finished a day of work it was very decompressing and relaxing."

Biking to work is by no means the primary mode of transportation and it isn't without inherent risks. There's the off-chance you'll be hit by a car, or you may get a flat at the most inopportune time.

Marshfield has continued to develop its network of bike trails, which for people like Uthmeier, has made the ride nearly as safe as it's going to get. He's only riding in traffic for about a mile before he reaches the path along Veterans Parkway.

"You do have cars going 45 (mph)," Uthmeier said, "but as soon as you get to the boulevard it's just beautiful."

He typically bikes to work from April to October, unless a heavy rain or snow storm hits.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Report: Coal use saps Wisconsin's economy

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

WASHINGTON -- Wisconsin is the nation's fifth most coal-dependent state for generating electricity, according to a report released this week.

Because the state has no coal supplies of its own, it spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year to import the fuel for power generation. Coal imports accounted for 68 percent of all power used in the state in 2008, research by the Union of Concerned Scientists found.
Wisconsin spent $853 million in 2008, or $152 per person, to import 25 million tons of coal from nine states, according to the report released Tuesday.

The state ranked 12th in the amount spent and in the amount of coal imported. Wyoming, which provided 40 percent of all U.S. coal in 2008, received $702 million of Wisconsin's money.

Coal-fired plants are the nation's biggest source of carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas that leading scientists say is causing global warming. Carbon dioxide emissions pose a danger to public health as well as the environment.

The Union of Concerned Scientists report, "Burning Coal, Burning Cash: Ranking the States that Import the Most Coal," covers 38 states that are net importers of domestic and foreign coal. Those states spent $27.7 billion on domestic and foreign coal imports in 2008, the latest year for which figures were available from the U.S. Energy Department.
Wyoming, West Virginia and Kentucky produce most of the domestic coal burned in U.S. plants.

The report's authors conclude that all states would be better served if the money spent on coal were diverted to the development of renewable energy and energy-efficiency programs.

Doyle signs disputed waste-to-energy bill

Disregarding the pleas from RENEW and others for a veto, Doyle signed Senate Bill 273, as reported by Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Gov. Jim Doyle on Wednesday signed into law a bill that wind power developers and environmental groups had asked him to veto.

The bill, known as the Renewable Resource Credits bill, would allow energy generation produced from waste such as garbage to be classified as renewable and qualify that electricity for the state's renewable power mandate.

The bill was drafted to grant renewable status to the Apollo light pipe, a a small glass skylight dome that, when mounted in a roof, reflects daylight inside to help cut energy use. The light pipe is a technology developed by Orion Energy Systems Inc. of Manitowoc, a maker of high-efficiency lighting systems.

Environmental and renewable energy groups had called on Doyle to veto the bill after it was amended to allow garbage-to-energy projects to be classified as renewable as well.

Doyle said he was torn on whether to sign the bill but said that, ultimately, Orion is the kind of business the state wants to see grow and succeed.

"I certainly didn't want to be in the position I was in. To me the (state) Senate's refusal to go ahead with the Clean Energy Jobs Act put everybody in a very difficult spot on this bill," he said.

Doyle conceded that there would be some effect on the wind industry from the new law but said it would be so slight as to be negligible.

A waste-to-energy process known as plasma gasification is being envisioned by Alliance Federated Energy, which announced a plan in February to build a waste-to-energy plant in Milwaukee that would create up to 250 construction jobs and 50 permanent jobs.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Time Of Use Program can cut electricity costs

From a story by Brittany Earl on WSAW-TV, Wausau:

There are ways you can cut your electricity costs.

Wisconsin Public Service offers a variety of programs to help you save money.

For example the Time Of Use Program, helps people who use their electricity between 10PM and 7AM which are off peak hours. But you should always call in and speak to a representative first to make sure your lifestyle fits the program.

Kelly Zagrzebski of Wisconsin Public Service says, "You want to make sure your flexible, that you can do your laundry if you have an electric hot water heater during the off peak hours or if you have a electric heater."

If you stick to the off peak hours time frame, you could save between 5 and 20 percent, possibly even 50 percent if you're strict.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

$45 million in bonding OK'd for Rapids wind blade factory

From a blog post by Tom Content on JSonline:

Energy Composites Corp. will receive $45 million of tax-exempt bonds to assist in the construction of its wind power blade factory in Wisconsin Rapids, Gov. Jim Doyle’s office announced.

The company is receiving Recovery Zone Facility Bonds, which the facility is eligible for under a law that passed earlier this year that allows the state to maximize federal bonds to help fund projects.

Energy Composites, which employs 67 people, projects that its expansion will create up to 600 jobs.

The company’s factory is designed to produce up to 1,500 utility-scale wind blades per year, for use in both onshore and offshore wind farms.

Energy Composites said in a statement that it has completed the purchase of land in Wisconsin Rapids for its new factory. Two different properties were acquired -- a 54-acre parcel for the 535,000-square-foot factory and a 41-acre parcel for the company’s logistics center.

The $54.4 million investment will be the first factory in North America designed to produce blades up to 65 meters long, which could position the company to deliver blades for large turbines both on land and offshore, according to the governor’s office.

Site improvements by the city of Wisconsin Rapids are under way, and the city has committed $7.5 million in development incentives toward the project.

Transit authority rolls on K-R-M commuter rail planning

From an article by Sean Ryan in The Daily Reporter:

Planners of the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter rail Monday gave up on waiting for state approval for transit taxes and chose to apply for federal planning money.

The Southeastern Regional Transit Authority will not get federal construction money for the estimated $232.7 million project without a state law letting local governments raise taxes to pay for transit. But the authority is eligible for planning money and, after delaying the application since January, chose to push ahead without the state law.

Lee Holloway, a member of the Southeastern RTA, said the approach will lead to pointless planning for the rail project.

“Why should we be moving forward if we don’t know what is going to take place?” said Holloway, who is chairman of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors.

The RTA by June 21 will apply for Federal Transit Authority approval to begin engineering the KRM project.

A change in FTA policy means the agency now will consider an application for engineering money. But the project will not get federal construction grants until the state Legislature approves new taxes, such as a sales tax, for buses in the region, said Ken Yunker, executive director of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.

The Legislature closed its session in April without Assembly or Senate votes on an RTA bill. The Legislature is unlikely to reconvene to discuss an RTA bill until early 2011, after state elections in November, said state Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha.

Monday, May 17, 2010

We Energies to begin Glacier Hills wind farm construction

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

Crews will begin site preparation next week for the largest wind farm in Wisconsin, after state regulators finalized plans for the Glacier Hills Wind Park northeast of Madison.

We Energies of Milwaukee said it will erect 90 turbines at the wind farm, two more than it installed on its first large wind farm, near Fond du Lac, in 2008.

The cost of the Glacier Hills project came in at $367 million, utility spokesman Brian Manthey said. By comparison, the 88-turbine Blue Sky Green Field wind farm that opened two years ago cost $295 million.

The tab for We Energies' customers isn't yet known, but the company will seek to collect construction costs from ratepayers beginning in 2012, Manthey said.

Friday's announcement came after the state Public Service Commission approved the sale of two Columbia County homes to We Energies. Both homes would have had at least nine turbines within one-half mile, and the commission directed We Energies to negotiate with the two property owners.

We Energies also had to reconfigure its turbine layout after the commission established bigger setbacks from the turbines for neighboring property owners than the utility had proposed.

Those larger setbacks addressed concerns about noise and shadow flicker - a phenomenon created by wind turbines' rotating blades. The Coalition of Wisconsin Environmental Stewardship had raised concerns about the impact of turbines on property values and homeowners' qualify of life.

The project is expected to be completed by late 2011 and generate 162 megawatts of power, or enough over a year's time to supply 45,000 typical homes.

Both projects are needed to help diversify the utility's energy mix and add more renewable power to comply with the state mandate requiring 10% of Wisconsin's electricity to come from wind turbines, landfill gas projects and other types of renewable power by 2015, up from 5% this year.

Vestas Wind Systems is supplying turbines to We Energies for the Glacier Hills project, after supplying 88 turbines for the Fond du Lac County project.

Three Wisconsin firms have been hired to handle the project's construction: The Boldt Co. of Appleton; Michels Corp. of Brownsville; and Edgerton Contractors of Oak Creek.

Friday, May 14, 2010

PSC sets hearings on state-side wind siting rules

From a news release issued by the Public Service Commission:

MADISON – The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) is seeking public comment on the proposed wind siting rules, issued today by the PSC. The proposed rules will ultimately result in uniform wind siting standards for local units of government in Wisconsin and ensure consistent local procedures for regulation of wind energy systems. . . .

2009 Wisconsin Act 40 (Act 40) requires the PSC to promulgate a variety of rules that specify the conditions a city, village, town, or county (political subdivision) may impose on the installation or use of a wind energy system. If a political subdivision chooses to regulate such systems, its ordinances may not be more restrictive than the PSC’s rules. The PSC will also consider the restrictions specified in these rules when determining whether to grant a certificate of public convenience and necessity for a wind energy system over 100 megawatts.

The PSC established docket 1-AC-231 to conduct the rulemaking under Act 40. Act 40 requires the PSC to conduct this rulemaking with the advice of the Wind Siting Council. The Wind Siting Council is an advisory body created by Act 40. The Wind Siting Council members have begun to provide input to Commission staff concerning these rules during a series of meetings in early 2010. The PSC will seek comments from the Wind Siting Council on the proposed draft rules issued by the Commission.

Any person may submit written comments on these proposed rules. Comments on the proposed rules will be accepted until July 7, 2010, at noon (July 6, 2010, at noon, if filed by fax). The comments are considered when staff is drafting the rules.

The PSC will hold hearings to take testimony from the public regarding the proposed rules in the Amnicon Falls Hearing Room at the Public Service Commission Building, 610 North Whitney Way, Madison, Wisconsin, on June 30, 2010. Act 40 requires that hearings regarding these rules also be held in Monroe County and a county other than Dane or Monroe, where developers have proposed wind energy systems. The PSC will also hold public hearings on these proposed rules at City Hall, Legislative Chambers, 160 West Macy Street in Fond du Lac on June 28, 2010, and Holiday Inn, 1017 East McCoy Boulevard in Tomah on June 29, 2010.

More information on the Wind Siting Council and the wind siting rulemaking pursuant to Act 40 can be found by visiting the Commission’s website and clicking on the Electronic Regulatory Filing System (ERF) at http://psc.wi.gov. Type case numbers 1-AC-231 in the boxes provided on the ERF system. To comment on the proposed rules, click on the Public Comments button on the PSC’s homepage and scroll down to select Wind Siting Rulemaking.

PSC sets hearings on wind siting rules

From a news release issued by the Public Service Commission:

MADISON – The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) is seeking public comment on the proposed wind siting rules, issued today by the PSC. The proposed rules will ultimately result in uniform wind siting standards for local units of government in Wisconsin and ensure consistent local procedures for regulation of wind energy systems. . . .

2009 Wisconsin Act 40 (Act 40) requires the PSC to promulgate a variety of rules that specify the conditions a city, village, town, or county (political subdivision) may impose on the installation or use of a wind energy system. If a political subdivision chooses to regulate such systems, its ordinances may not be more restrictive than the PSC’s rules. The PSC will also consider the restrictions specified in these rules when determining whether to grant a certificate of public convenience and necessity for a wind energy system over 100 megawatts.

The PSC established docket 1-AC-231 to conduct the rulemaking under Act 40. Act 40 requires the PSC to conduct this rulemaking with the advice of the Wind Siting Council. The Wind Siting Council is an advisory body created by Act 40. The Wind Siting Council members have begun to provide input to Commission staff concerning these rules during a series of meetings in early 2010. The PSC will seek comments from the Wind Siting Council on the proposed draft rules issued by the Commission.

Any person may submit written comments on these proposed rules. Comments on the proposed rules will be accepted until July 7, 2010, at noon (July 6, 2010, at noon, if filed by fax). The comments are considered when staff is drafting the rules.

The PSC will hold hearings to take testimony from the public regarding the proposed rules in the Amnicon Falls Hearing Room at the Public Service Commission Building, 610 North Whitney Way, Madison, Wisconsin, on June 30, 2010. Act 40 requires that hearings regarding these rules also be held in Monroe County and a county other than Dane or Monroe, where developers have proposed wind energy systems. The PSC will also hold public hearings on these proposed rules at City Hall, Legislative Chambers, 160 West Macy Street in Fond du Lac on June 28, 2010, and Holiday Inn, 1017 East McCoy Boulevard in Tomah on June 29, 2010.

More information on the Wind Siting Council and the wind siting rulemaking pursuant to Act 40 can be found by visiting the Commission’s website and clicking on the Electronic Regulatory Filing System (ERF) at http://psc.wi.gov. Type case numbers 1-AC-231 in the boxes provided on the ERF system. To comment on the proposed rules, click on the Public Comments button on the PSC’s homepage and scroll down to select Wind Siting Rulemaking.

PSC sets Tomah hearing on wind siting rules

From a news release issued by the Public Service Commission:

MADISON – The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) is seeking public comment on the proposed wind siting rules, issued today by the PSC. The proposed rules will ultimately result in uniform wind siting standards for local units of government in Wisconsin and ensure consistent local procedures for regulation of wind energy systems. . . .

2009 Wisconsin Act 40 (Act 40) requires the PSC to promulgate a variety of rules that specify the conditions a city, village, town, or county (political subdivision) may impose on the installation or use of a wind energy system. If a political subdivision chooses to regulate such systems, its ordinances may not be more restrictive than the PSC’s rules. The PSC will also consider the restrictions specified in these rules when determining whether to grant a certificate of public convenience and necessity for a wind energy system over 100 megawatts.

The PSC established docket 1-AC-231 to conduct the rulemaking under Act 40. Act 40 requires the PSC to conduct this rulemaking with the advice of the Wind Siting Council. The Wind Siting Council is an advisory body created by Act 40. The Wind Siting Council members have begun to provide input to Commission staff concerning these rules during a series of meetings in early 2010. The PSC will seek comments from the Wind Siting Council on the proposed draft rules issued by the Commission.

Any person may submit written comments on these proposed rules. Comments on the proposed rules will be accepted until July 7, 2010, at noon (July 6, 2010, at noon, if filed by fax). The comments are considered when staff is drafting the rules.

The PSC will hold hearings to take testimony from the public regarding the proposed rules in the Amnicon Falls Hearing Room at the Public Service Commission Building, 610 North Whitney Way, Madison, Wisconsin, on June 30, 2010. Act 40 requires that hearings regarding these rules also be held in Monroe County and a county other than Dane or Monroe, where developers have proposed wind energy systems. The PSC will also hold public hearings on these proposed rules at City Hall, Legislative Chambers, 160 West Macy Street in Fond du Lac on June 28, 2010, and Holiday Inn, 1017 East McCoy Boulevard in Tomah on June 29, 2010.

More information on the Wind Siting Council and the wind siting rulemaking pursuant to Act 40 can be found by visiting the Commission’s website and clicking on the Electronic Regulatory Filing System (ERF) at http://psc.wi.gov. Type case numbers 1-AC-231 in the boxes provided on the ERF system. To comment on the proposed rules, click on the Public Comments button on the PSC’s homepage and scroll down to select Wind Siting Rulemaking.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Bill McKibben leads list of Energy Fair keynote speakers, June 18-20

From the announcement of keynote speakers for the Energy Fair of the Midwest Renewable Energy Associaiton:

On Saturday, June 19, 2010, join us to hear an inspirational keynote address from noted environmentalist, activist and author, Bill McKibben. Bill is the founder of 350.org, an international climate campaign. He frequently writes about global warming, alternative energy, and the risks associated with human genetic engineering. Beginning in the summer of 2006, he led the organization of the largest demonstrations against global warming in American history.

Bill has written many books including The End of Nature and is a frequent contributor to various magazines including The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, Orion Magazine, Mother Jones, The New York Review of Books, Granta, Rolling Stone, and Outside. He is also a board member and contributor to Grist Magazine. Bill has a new book out, Eaarth, that details how we can't continue the unsustainable consumer culture and gives us hope for a more sustainable future.

Visit Bill McKibben's website to learn more.

Streetcars would improve quality of life in Milwaukee

From a post by Jeff Sherman, president of OnMilwaukee.com, on Milwaukee Biz Blog:

One of the many things I truly love about Milwaukee is its commitment to its past and its steady, although sometimes too slow and sure, movement through its innovative present and onward to its future.

Streetcars, no doubt, are a testament to a city’s past but also to its success. Look at any modern, successful city and nearly all have integrated transportation systems that involve roads, sidewalks, highways, rail, streetcars, bikes, busses and more.

Milwaukee’s lagged way behind in the past 30 years, but now it’s poised to move forward in the transportation game. I know some cry about the costs. Honestly, its infrastructure that we need. I live downtown and rarely use the Marquette Interchange, but I pay for it and see its need. Sidewalks, roads and highways – they don’t “make money” but they do provide quality-of-life that we must have in greater Milwaukee.

I also realize that we can battle back and forth on ridership. Projections, though, show that Milwaukee’s 3.6-mile modern streetcar line is estimated to generate daily ridership of 3,800 passengers, a level that exceeds the ridership of all 11 MCTS Freeway Flyer routes and 12 of the 29 MCTS regular routes.

All numbers aside, it’s time once and for all to put petty politics behind and improve transportation in Milwaukee.

Transportation isn't a Republican or Democratic issue; it's a simple, quality-of-life matter.

So, here are my 8 reasons why you should look forward to the new streetcar system in downtown Milwaukee . . .

Weston 4 power plant must cut particulate pollution

From an article in the Wausau Daily Herald:

ROTHSCHILD — The massive coal-fired power plant Weston 4 must limit the visibility of pollutants leaving its main smokestack but does not need tighter controls for other emissions, an appeals court ruled today.

A three-judge panel of the District 4 Court of Appeals agreed with the Sierra Club that the state Department of Natural Resources erred when it did not require the smokestack for the plant’s main boiler to follow a federal visibility standard for pollutants on its air pollution permit.

Limiting the visibility of emissions effectively limits the amount of harmful particulate matter that becomes airborne. The DNR and the plant’s operator, Wisconsin Public Service Corp. of Green Bay, argued the visibility standard was unnecessary because emissions of particulate matter and sulfuric acid from the boiler were controlled in other ways.

The appeals court sided with the environmental group, which argued that the visibility standard was clearly required under the Clean Air Act. The rule will require continuous monitoring to ensure the pollution leaving the smokestack meets an opacity standard — that it is much closer to invisible than a thick black cloud of dust.

The court rejected the Sierra Club’s argument that the plant needs to install different technology to further reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide. The court found the limits set by the DNR were appropriate.

The $774 million plant near Wausau opened in 2008. It is owned by WPS and Dairyland Power Cooperative of La Crosse, and they say it is one of the cleanest coal plants in the nation.

The Sierra Club says it is nonetheless one of the largest pollution sources in central Wisconsin and has fought for years to strengthen the air permit.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Since Waukesha County doesn't want it, put high-speed rail stop in Tosa

From a post by Milwaukee Alerman Robert Bauman on the Milwaukee Biz Blog:

Milwaukee County Clerk Joe Czarnezki has floated the idea of establishing a high-speed rail station in western Milwaukee County in the vicinity of the Milwaukee County Research Park. This is an excellent idea that deserves serious consideration by the state Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).

In addition to the research park, this station would serve dense commercial development along Mayfair Road and the Milwaukee County Medical Complex. Employment in this area is second only to downtown Milwaukee. Moreover, this station would serve relatively dense suburban residential communities as well as west side Milwaukee neighborhoods.

A station on the high-speed rail line in the vicinity of Watertown Plank Road and Mayfair Road would be easily accessible via major arterial roads and within one mile of I-94 and Highway 45 interchanges and within one mile of busy Mayfair Mall. This station location would also be accessible to existing Milwaukee County Transit routes and could serve as an intermodal terminal for enhanced local transit service.

In short, this station location would generate significantly higher ridership than a stop in Brookfield.

Study finds market for rail in La Crosse

From an editorial in the La Crosse Tribune:

A study by a team of business students at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse found a great deal of enthusiasm for high-speed rail among La Crosse area business people.

Megan Louwagie, Brianna Murray, Bryant Poss and Chelsey Wagner conducted the study, sponsored by the La Crosse Area High-Speed Rail Coalition, for their Business 230 class, using 545 e-mail surveys returned by area business people.

The respondents were well aware of La Crosse's position as a possible stop on a proposed high-speed rail line between Chicago and the Twin Cities (an average of 4.41 on a five-point scale, on which one is "not aware" and 5 is "very aware"), and 83 percent said they would use high-speed rail to travel to destinations along the proposed La Crosse route.

Business people are generally news-savvy, and their awareness of the high-speed rail issue wasn't surprising. But the

students' original premise was that area business people wouldn't be all that interested in actually using a passenger rail system.

The data the students compiled proved their assumption incorrect, both for business and leisure travel.

The average respondent was quite interested in using such a system (4.33 on a five-point scale), and high-frequency departures and arrivals (six trains per day in each direction) would increase their use of passenger rail (4.72 on a five-point scale).

Fourteen percent of respondents reported they presently use Amtrak.

On average, business people rated the importance of bringing a high-speed rail route through the city to be a 4.01 on a five-point scale (again one being "not important" and five being "very important").

Energy Concepts, Hudson, seeks communication intern for summer

Energy Concepts, Inc., a Hudson, WI based Renewable Energy Engineering Firm is seeking a part time summer intern.

We would like to expand and improve our social media outreach, blogs, and other electric media efforts. (facebook page, twitter, yelp, photos on flickr).

Ideal candidate has marketing and communications background, great oral and written skills and some interest or knowledge in the renewable energy field. (interest being the key).

This position also includes assisting liason staff member in our office to organize community events and support with other marketing efforts.

Please apply by Monday, May 17, 2010.

Approximately 15 hours/week, salary depends on experience, position starts immediately.

Please apply by May 17, 2010. Send resume and letter of interest to Kathy Tarr at ktarr@energyconcepts.us.

Contact Kathy at 715 808-1385 (cell) or 715 381-9977 (office)
www.energyconcepts.us

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

MATC's big solar farm will double as training center


Nick Matthes and Ed Stoll of Pieper Electric (who will be installing the PV), flank Rich Hinkelman of Solar Systems Inc (who build the racking for the system). All are MREA supporters and Energy Fair exhibitors!

From a post on Tom Content's blog on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel site:

Leaders at Milwaukee Area Technical College kicked off the construction of the largest solar project in the state with a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday afternoon north of Capitol Drive.

The solar project -- dubbed the Photovoltaic Educational Farm -- will be developed on a former landfill along the Milwaukee River, underneath the television tower for MPTV, Milwaukee Public Television.

The project will feature nearly 2,600 solar panels from four different manufacturers, in eight different configurations. It's scheduled to be completed in August.

The aim of the project is to showcase a variety of renewable energy technologies, as well as provide training in solar field to students at MATC as well as Milwaukee's three engineering schools, said Brad Bateman of Johnson Controls.

"This will be a testing and training platform unlike any other in the country," he said.

The project is projected to generate enough power to make the TV transmitter for MPTV the first of any public television station in the country to be powered with renewable energy. MPTV projects energy savings of at least $70,000 in its first year of operation.

The project will employ 150 people, said Sargent.

Johnson Controls Inc. is the technical college's partner and general contractor on the project, which includes 14 other firms -- 13 of them from Wisconsin.

Monday, May 10, 2010

City employees finding other ways to get to work

From a story on WQOW-TV, Eau Claire:

Eau Claire (WQOW) - Eau Claire rolls out a contest to get more city employees out of their cars and onto public transportation.

May is bike month. In honor of that, Eau Claire is holding a contest called Rack n' Roll for city employees.

Wednesday morning's commute to work was unusual for Colleen Shian. She took the bus.

"I hadn't ridden the bus, I did once before, but I thought it would be fun to try and see how it worked," says Colleen Shian, City of Eau Claire Risk Manager.

Shian often thought about taking the bus to work, but never made it part of her daily routine. The three week Rack n' Roll contest gave her the extra incentive to try it out.

"The Rack n' Roll event is a great way to tie not only sustainability, but active living, physical fitness together in a fun way to come to work using maybe your bike or bus or combination there of or carpooling," says Ned Noel, City of Eau Claire Associate Planner.

Employees are given a ‘trekker card' with eight activities on it. Those eight activities are:

-Participate in a City wellness program
-Walk for 20 minutes, 5 days in a row
-Use City trail system
-Bike to work
-Use bike and bus to reach a destination
-Use City bus
-Take bus to work
-Carpool

Employees have until May 20th to do five of the eight activities. If they complete them, they are entered to win prizes such as golf lessons or passes to Fairfax Pool.

County takes steps toward energy efficiency

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

Hoping to reduce Portage County's carbon footprint and save a little money in the process, county leaders will start work this month on a strategic energy plan.

The Smart Energy Team, led by Portage County Executive Patty Dreier and County Board Chairman O. Philip Idsvoog, has a goal of having a plan in place by Dec. 1. Toward that end, the group has received $12,000 in capital improvement dollars, along with a $4,500 grant, which may be used to hire a consultant.

Jennifer Stewart, community development educator with the University of Wisconsin-Extension in Whiting, said the first phase of the planning process will largely consist of taking a snapshot of how much energy the county consumes and in what ways.

"What we have talked about doing at the first meeting is reviewing the scope of the committee's charge and start identifying first steps," Stewart said.

From there, the team will draw on the knowledge of experts and its members, including Planning and Zoning Director Jeff Schuler, Facilities Director Todd Neuenfeldt and the chairs of the finance and space and properties committee, to establish a set of goals for consumption, alternative energy use and conservation.

Options for achieving such goals could include retrofitting buildings, altering building operations, purchasing energy-efficient equipment, using alternative energy sources and educating employees.

Weatherization program will help to save homeowners money

From an story by on WXOW-TV, La Crosse:

Onalaska, Wisconsin (WXOW)- How would you like to save three hundred dollars on your home energy bill?

That's how much one Onalaska man is saving after having his home weatherized for free, thanks to Couleecap.

The private, nonprofit agency will be spending between 6500 dollars and 8500 dollars to weatherize homes that meet eligibility requirements.

With the assistance, the Burkhardt's were able to re-insulate their home, replace their water heater, and put in a new furnace for free.

In turn, he is able to save money on his energy bills.

In total, Burkhardt is now saving about three hundred dollars.

Burkhardt isn't the only that stands to see savings.

More than a thousand other homes will also be weatherized like Burkhardt's was under the Couleecap program.

Executive Director Grace Jones says, "It's part of the overall energy conservation movement trying to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and non-renewable.

Which also means less dependence on foreign fuel.

Although the program is free for the recipients, the money is coming from somewhere.

Couleecap has a little more than 8.3 million dollars in its budget for the weatherization program thanks to state and federal dollars, including about 3.6 million dollars coming from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act or stimulus package. . . .

If you think you might be eligible for the weatherization program, go to Couleecap.org.

Or call, Couleecap their in La Crosse in 608-782-4877 or 1-866-717-9490.

Milwaukee Public Library installs green roof

From an article by Don Behm of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

The roof of Milwaukee's Central Library sprang to life, and went to work, in Friday's steady rain.

Thousands of sedum, a ground-covering plant, and clumps of chive and ornamental grasses - all perennials - were planted Friday in a six-inch layer of small gravel and soil spread across 30,000 square feet - nearly seven-tenths of an acre - to create a green roof atop the historic building, said Taj Schoening, business operations manager for the Milwaukee Public Library.

Its job is to mimic nature. The living roof will collect and store thousands of gallons of rainwater during a downpour, rather than allowing the clean water to drain immediately to a street sewer, Schoening said.

Each gallon of fresh water kept out of the pipes decreases the risk of sewer overflows, according to Kevin Shafer, executive director of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District.

Combined sanitary and storm sewers on Wisconsin Ave. in front of the library quickly fill with rain in a deluge and begin spilling into the district's deep tunnels. Pipes draining street sewers into the tunnels are closed as the underground caverns fill, causing street sewers to overflow to local rivers and Lake Michigan.

Green roofs can become saturated after hours of heavy rainfall, and additional rain would slowly begin to drain to a street sewer. But that delay in draining to a sewer buys time for the district's system of tunnels and sewage plants to treat earlier flows.

An added benefit for taxpayers is the durability of the library's green roof, Schoening said.

"This will double the life expectancy of our flat roof," she said. "We won't have to do this again for 40 years."

Friday, May 7, 2010

Impressions of the Wind Siting Council’s Tour of Wind Developments

The Wind Siting Advisory Committee, created to advise the Public Service Commission on statewide wind siting standards, toured Blue Sky Green Field Wind Energy Center and Forward Wind Center on May 4, 2010, to gain first hand knowledge of turbine impacts.

Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin's executive director, prepared the following commentary on his impressions of the tour:


Impressions of the Wind Siting Council’s Tour of Wind Development in Fond du Lac County

Stop 1 – Home of Larry Wunsch, council member, pilot, and wind project opponent

A member of the Wind Siting Council and a critic of windpower, Larry lives on a 60-acre parcel located on the northern edge of the Forward project along Hwy F. On his 60 acres you’ll find a six-year-old 2,200 square-foot house, a hangar, a airplane, an airstrip, and 50 acres of rentable ag land, all zoned agricultural. The property is for sale; the asking price is $600,000. You can take a digital tour of his property by visiting http://www.fdlairstrip.com. Observe that not a single turbine shows up in any of the images on his web site. As you will appreciate later on in this document, editing out the wind turbines was not an easy feat to pull off.

Fourteen of the 15 council members were present at Larry Wunsch’s house. Also gathering there were PSC staff, a film crew from WI Public Television, Bill Rakocy’s partners at Emerging Energies (Tim Osterberg and Jay Mundinger) a smattering of local wind critics (Gerry Meyer and Curt Kindschuh), two WINDCOWS representatives from Manitowoc County (Dave and Lynn Korinek), Lynda Barry from Rock County, furiously taking notes, and a few others whom I didn’t recognize.

I came a few minutes late, and missed some of Larry’s opening remarks. From what I gleaned from others, Larry mentioned that he poured much if not all of his personal savings into acquiring this property some 11 years ago. Between the appearance of his property and the tidbits of information he provided yesterday, I would characterize Larry’s parcel as investment property on which he built his dream house, which is set back about 100 yards from the road. The property tax levy on his 60-acre parcel is quite modest -- $5,400 per year. At some point in the future, his plan was to subdivide the ag land into residential properties.

The wind was blowing from the west-southwest. My educated guess is that the winds were clocking in about 10 – 14 miles/hour.

The closest turbine to Larry’s house is located practically due west at a distance of 1,100 feet. I honestly could not hear the wind turbine from where I stood, about 50 feet east of the house. I was surprised by this, because I had stopped at the Blue Sky Green Field operations center on the way to Larry’s house, and there I could clearly hear the Vestas V-82 turbine that is 1,100 feet away from the building entrance.

There was no shadow flicker to experience, due to the generally cloudy conditions at Forward as well as the time of day. There was no missing the visual impact of the Forward project looking south from where we gathered, which was in front of Larry’s hangar. There were easily 50 turbines viewable from that vantage point. Moreover, off in the eastern horizon, the Cedar Ridge turbines were plainly visible, although their visual impact was slight compared to the panorama of Forward turbines from east to west. Since he owned the property before the wind turbines were constructed, the change in his south-facing viewshed must have been dramatic, to say the least.

No one had any difficulty hearing Larry or any other speaker during the tour stop. Maybe others were able to perceive sound coming from the turbines, but I certainly wasn’t. We were able to make out a plethora of other sounds while we were there, including a very loud plane flying overhead, occasional bird chatter, random mooing of cows and, at one point, a helicopter buzzing over the turbines. The bucolic sounds of the countryside were in no way disturbed or distorted by whooshing noise. . . .

Stop 2 – Blue Sky Green Field Operations Center

On the way to the operations center, the clouds broke up and the sun shone through. We assembled at the operations center, where We Energies’ Andy Hesselbach delivered a brief presentation on WE’s generation profile and the construction of the Blue Sky Green Field in 2007-2008, and its performance since. The turbines were achieving availability ratings of 99% or better. According to Andy, wind farm production was tracking close to preconstruction estimates, and that April had been a good month for wind. (An aside: it was a hell of a good month for solar too. . . .)

The overall impression conveyed by the We Energies-Vestas team is that Blue Sky Green Field is a well-managed project and that We Energies is a responsible project owner, effectively balancing the objective of maximizing facility output with the obligation to be a good neighbor to area residents.

After the presentations were concluded, the group walked to the turbine closest to the operations center. As we approached the turbine we spotted two red-tailed hawks wheeling above the turbine, looking not the least bit alarmed. The wind started to pick up then.

The turbine door was opened and a few Council members and PSC staff stepped inside. Others gathered about 200 feet from the turbine to talk. Even though everyone was quite conscious of the whooshing blades (and an audible chirping sound with each revolution), we were able to converse with each other without having to raise our voices or cup our ears. Not far away, one of the Council members, a wind opponent, was listening to messages on his mobile. No one, including the opponents, seemed troubled by our proximity to the turbine. Given how quick they are to misrepresent the contents of the Vestas safety manual, they seemed not at all worried about what harm might befall them being only 200 feet from a spinning industrial monster. The two WINDCOWS representatives were tagging along and they didn’t seem the least bit fazed either.

Impressions of the Wind Siting Council’s Tour of Wind Development

The Wind Siting Advisory Committee, created to advise the Public Service Commission on statewide wind siting standards, toured Blue Sky Green Field Wind Energy Center and Forward Wind Center on May 4, 2010, to gain first hand knowledge of turbine impacts.

Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin's executive director, prepared the following commentary on his impressions of the tour:


Impressions of the Wind Siting Council’s Tour of Wind Development in Fond du Lac County

Stop 1 – Home of Larry Wunsch, council member, pilot, and wind project opponent

A member of the Wind Siting Council and a critic of windpower, Larry lives on a 60-acre parcel located on the northern edge of the Forward project along Hwy F. On his 60 acres you’ll find a six-year-old 2,200 square-foot house, a hangar, a airplane, an airstrip, and 50 acres of rentable ag land, all zoned agricultural. The property is for sale; the asking price is $600,000. You can take a digital tour of his property by visiting http://www.fdlairstrip.com. Observe that not a single turbine shows up in any of the images on his web site. As you will appreciate later on in this document, editing out the wind turbines was not an easy feat to pull off.

Fourteen of the 15 council members were present at Larry Wunsch’s house. Also gathering there were PSC staff, a film crew from WI Public Television, Bill Rakocy’s partners at Emerging Energies (Tim Osterberg and Jay Mundinger) a smattering of local wind critics (Gerry Meyer and Curt Kindschuh), two WINDCOWS representatives from Manitowoc County (Dave and Lynn Korinek), Lynda Barry from Rock County, furiously taking notes, and a few others whom I didn’t recognize.

I came a few minutes late, and missed some of Larry’s opening remarks. From what I gleaned from others, Larry mentioned that he poured much if not all of his personal savings into acquiring this property some 11 years ago. Between the appearance of his property and the tidbits of information he provided yesterday, I would characterize Larry’s parcel as investment property on which he built his dream house, which is set back about 100 yards from the road. The property tax levy on his 60-acre parcel is quite modest -- $5,400 per year. At some point in the future, his plan was to subdivide the ag land into residential properties.

The wind was blowing from the west-southwest. My educated guess is that the winds were clocking in about 10 – 14 miles/hour.

The closest turbine to Larry’s house is located practically due west at a distance of 1,100 feet. I honestly could not hear the wind turbine from where I stood, about 50 feet east of the house. I was surprised by this, because I had stopped at the Blue Sky Green Field operations center on the way to Larry’s house, and there I could clearly hear the Vestas V-82 turbine that is 1,100 feet away from the building entrance.

There was no shadow flicker to experience, due to the generally cloudy conditions at Forward as well as the time of day. There was no missing the visual impact of the Forward project looking south from where we gathered, which was in front of Larry’s hangar. There were easily 50 turbines viewable from that vantage point. Moreover, off in the eastern horizon, the Cedar Ridge turbines were plainly visible, although their visual impact was slight compared to the panorama of Forward turbines from east to west. Since he owned the property before the wind turbines were constructed, the change in his south-facing viewshed must have been dramatic, to say the least.

No one had any difficulty hearing Larry or any other speaker during the tour stop. Maybe others were able to perceive sound coming from the turbines, but I certainly wasn’t. We were able to make out a plethora of other sounds while we were there, including a very loud plane flying overhead, occasional bird chatter, random mooing of cows and, at one point, a helicopter buzzing over the turbines. The bucolic sounds of the countryside were in no way disturbed or distorted by whooshing noise. . . .

Stop 2 – Blue Sky Green Field Operations Center

On the way to the operations center, the clouds broke up and the sun shone through. We assembled at the operations center, where We Energies’ Andy Hesselbach delivered a brief presentation on WE’s generation profile and the construction of the Blue Sky Green Field in 2007-2008, and its performance since. The turbines were achieving availability ratings of 99% or better. According to Andy, wind farm production was tracking close to preconstruction estimates, and that April had been a good month for wind. (An aside: it was a hell of a good month for solar too. . . .)

The overall impression conveyed by the We Energies-Vestas team is that Blue Sky Green Field is a well-managed project and that We Energies is a responsible project owner, effectively balancing the objective of maximizing facility output with the obligation to be a good neighbor to area residents.

After the presentations were concluded, the group walked to the turbine closest to the operations center. As we approached the turbine we spotted two red-tailed hawks wheeling above the turbine, looking not the least bit alarmed. The wind started to pick up then.

The turbine door was opened and a few Council members and PSC staff stepped inside. Others gathered about 200 feet from the turbine to talk. Even though everyone was quite conscious of the whooshing blades (and an audible chirping sound with each revolution), we were able to converse with each other without having to raise our voices or cup our ears. Not far away, one of the Council members, a wind opponent, was listening to messages on his mobile. No one, including the opponents, seemed troubled by our proximity to the turbine. Given how quick they are to misrepresent the contents of the Vestas safety manual, they seemed not at all worried about what harm might befall them being only 200 feet from a spinning industrial monster. The two WINDCOWS representatives were tagging along and they didn’t seem the least bit fazed either.

Impressions of the Wind Siting Council’s Tour of Wind Development in Fond du Lac County

The Wind Siting Advisory Committee, created to advise the Public Service Commission on statewide wind siting standards, toured Blue Sky Green Field Wind Energy Center and Forward Wind Center on May 4, 2010, to gain first hand knowledge of turbine impacts.

Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin's executive director, prepared the following commentary on his impressions of the tour:


Impressions of the Wind Siting Council’s Tour of Wind Development in Fond du Lac County

Stop 1 – Home of Larry Wunsch, council member, pilot, and wind project opponent

A member of the Wind Siting Council and a critic of windpower, Larry lives on a 60-acre parcel located on the northern edge of the Forward project along Hwy F. On his 60 acres you’ll find a six-year-old 2,200 square-foot house, a hangar, a airplane, an airstrip, and 50 acres of rentable ag land, all zoned agricultural. The property is for sale; the asking price is $600,000. You can take a digital tour of his property by visiting http://www.fdlairstrip.com. Observe that not a single turbine shows up in any of the images on his web site. As you will appreciate later on in this document, editing out the wind turbines was not an easy feat to pull off.

Fourteen of the 15 council members were present at Larry Wunsch’s house. Also gathering there were PSC staff, a film crew from WI Public Television, Bill Rakocy’s partners at Emerging Energies (Tim Osterberg and Jay Mundinger) a smattering of local wind critics (Gerry Meyer and Curt Kindschuh), two WINDCOWS representatives from Manitowoc County (Dave and Lynn Korinek), Lynda Barry from Rock County, furiously taking notes, and a few others whom I didn’t recognize.

I came a few minutes late, and missed some of Larry’s opening remarks. From what I gleaned from others, Larry mentioned that he poured much if not all of his personal savings into acquiring this property some 11 years ago. Between the appearance of his property and the tidbits of information he provided yesterday, I would characterize Larry’s parcel as investment property on which he built his dream house, which is set back about 100 yards from the road. The property tax levy on his 60-acre parcel is quite modest -- $5,400 per year. At some point in the future, his plan was to subdivide the ag land into residential properties.

The wind was blowing from the west-southwest. My educated guess is that the winds were clocking in about 10 – 14 miles/hour.

The closest turbine to Larry’s house is located practically due west at a distance of 1,100 feet. I honestly could not hear the wind turbine from where I stood, about 50 feet east of the house. I was surprised by this, because I had stopped at the Blue Sky Green Field operations center on the way to Larry’s house, and there I could clearly hear the Vestas V-82 turbine that is 1,100 feet away from the building entrance.

There was no shadow flicker to experience, due to the generally cloudy conditions at Forward as well as the time of day. There was no missing the visual impact of the Forward project looking south from where we gathered, which was in front of Larry’s hangar. There were easily 50 turbines viewable from that vantage point. Moreover, off in the eastern horizon, the Cedar Ridge turbines were plainly visible, although their visual impact was slight compared to the panorama of Forward turbines from east to west. Since he owned the property before the wind turbines were constructed, the change in his south-facing viewshed must have been dramatic, to say the least.

No one had any difficulty hearing Larry or any other speaker during the tour stop. Maybe others were able to perceive sound coming from the turbines, but I certainly wasn’t. We were able to make out a plethora of other sounds while we were there, including a very loud plane flying overhead, occasional bird chatter, random mooing of cows and, at one point, a helicopter buzzing over the turbines. The bucolic sounds of the countryside were in no way disturbed or distorted by whooshing noise. . . .

Stop 2 – Blue Sky Green Field Operations Center

On the way to the operations center, the clouds broke up and the sun shone through. We assembled at the operations center, where We Energies’ Andy Hesselbach delivered a brief presentation on WE’s generation profile and the construction of the Blue Sky Green Field in 2007-2008, and its performance since. The turbines were achieving availability ratings of 99% or better. According to Andy, wind farm production was tracking close to preconstruction estimates, and that April had been a good month for wind. (An aside: it was a hell of a good month for solar too. . . .)

The overall impression conveyed by the We Energies-Vestas team is that Blue Sky Green Field is a well-managed project and that We Energies is a responsible project owner, effectively balancing the objective of maximizing facility output with the obligation to be a good neighbor to area residents.

After the presentations were concluded, the group walked to the turbine closest to the operations center. As we approached the turbine we spotted two red-tailed hawks wheeling above the turbine, looking not the least bit alarmed. The wind started to pick up then.

The turbine door was opened and a few Council members and PSC staff stepped inside. Others gathered about 200 feet from the turbine to talk. Even though everyone was quite conscious of the whooshing blades (and an audible chirping sound with each revolution), we were able to converse with each other without having to raise our voices or cup our ears. Not far away, one of the Council members, a wind opponent, was listening to messages on his mobile. No one, including the opponents, seemed troubled by our proximity to the turbine. Given how quick they are to misrepresent the contents of the Vestas safety manual, they seemed not at all worried about what harm might befall them being only 200 feet from a spinning industrial monster. The two WINDCOWS representatives were tagging along and they didn’t seem the least bit fazed either.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Cruel Month for Renewable Energy

A commentary
by Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin
May 4, 2010

Renewable energy businesses and activists entered the month of April with high hopes of seeing the State Legislature pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA), a comprehensive bill designed to propel Wisconsin toward energy independence, along the way creating thousands of new jobs and strengthening the sustainable energy marketplace. This comprehensive bill would have raised the renewable energy content of electricity sold in Wisconsin, while stepping up ratepayer support for smaller-scale renewable energy installations throughout the state.

Unfortunately, on April 22, the State Senate adjourned for the year without taking action on the Clean Energy Jobs Act bill, effectively killing the measure and leaving hundreds of businesses and individuals who campaigned for the bill empty-handed.

If life imitates poetry, then the line that opens T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land—“April is the cruelest month”—aptly encapsulates the evolution of a campaign that overcame many obstacles in the final weeks only to be undermined by the unwillingness of Senate leaders to schedule a vote on the bill. The sense of anticipation that began the month was swept away by a combination of personal feuds, extreme partisanship, and increasingly polarized public attitudes toward climate change. That the bill’s demise coincided with the 40th anniversary of Earth Day was seen by supporters as an especially cruel twist of fate.

It certainly didn’t help matters that the some of the state’s most politically entrenched constituencies banded together to fight CEJA at every stage of the process. Among the hard-core opponents were Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the Paper Council and the Farm Bureau. Their vociferous opposition scuttled bipartisanship, eliminating the possibility that a Republican legislator would vote for the bill.

Working hand-in-glove with vitriolic right-wing radio talk show hosts, the opposition supplied their grassroots faithful with a smorgasbord of exaggerated claims, hyperbole, outright fantasy, and pseudoscience. Though the analysis purporting to document the opposition’s assertions set a new low in academic rigor, it succeeded in its aim, which was to plant the seeds of fear among certain legislators about the ultimate cost of this legislation before the bill was even introduced.

Working just as vigorously for the Clean Energy Jobs Act, a broad spectrum of interests answered the requests for help. Whether they were one-person solar installation businesses or Fortune 500 corporations like Milwaukee-based Johnson Controls, CEJA supporters wrote letters, made phone calls, and corralled their legislators at the Capitol on several days during March and April.

In dozens of face-to-face meetings with their representatives, CEJA supporters made the case for this bill by bringing out their own experiences as business owners, farmers, educators, builders, and skilled tradesmen. They presented a local and highly personal angle to the clean energy policy debate that many legislators had not appreciated before. Their passion and energy were instrumental in giving this bill a fighting chance for passage at the end of the session. Unfortunately, the campaign could not overcome the pique of the Senate Democrats.

One legislator who kept pushing this ambitious bill up the legislative hill until the very last day was Assembly representative Spencer Black, who was one of the four principal authors of the measure. CEJA supporters are indebted to Rep. Black for his vigorous leadership and his determined efforts to round up support among his compatriots for passing this bill.

Two rays of sunlight did manage to pierce through the heavy clouds at the close of April, prompted by the dedication of the two largest wind turbines owned by Wisconsin schools. In each case, the school erected a 100-kilowatt Northwind turbine manufactured by Vermont-based Northern Power Systems. One serves Wausau East High School while the other feeds power to the Madison Area Technical College’s Fort Atkinson branch. The turbines will offset a significant fraction of the electricity consumed at each school.

Located well within the city limits of Wausau and Fort Atkinson, these 155-foot-tall wind generators eloquently testify to the breadth and depth of public support for renewable energy across Wisconsin. Next January, the Legislature will witness the return of clean energy supporters with similar legislation for strengthening Wisconsin’s renewable energy marketplace. In the meantime, we will be working hard to achieve a very different outcome.
END

Michael Vickerman is the executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a sustainable energy advocacy organization headquartered in Madison. For more information on Wisconsin renewable energy policy, visit RENEW’s web site at: www.renewwisconsin.org.

Cruel Month for Renewable Energy

A commentary
by Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin
May 4, 2010

Renewable energy businesses and activists entered the month of April with high hopes of seeing the State Legislature pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA), a comprehensive bill designed to propel Wisconsin toward energy independence, along the way creating thousands of new jobs and strengthening the sustainable energy marketplace. This comprehensive bill would have raised the renewable energy content of electricity sold in Wisconsin, while stepping up ratepayer support for smaller-scale renewable energy installations throughout the state.

Unfortunately, on April 22, the State Senate adjourned for the year without taking action on the Clean Energy Jobs Act bill, effectively killing the measure and leaving hundreds of businesses and individuals who campaigned for the bill empty-handed.

If life imitates poetry, then the line that opens T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land—“April is the cruelest month”—aptly encapsulates the evolution of a campaign that overcame many obstacles in the final weeks only to be undermined by the unwillingness of Senate leaders to schedule a vote on the bill. The sense of anticipation that began the month was swept away by a combination of personal feuds, extreme partisanship, and increasingly polarized public attitudes toward climate change. That the bill’s demise coincided with the 40th anniversary of Earth Day was seen by supporters as an especially cruel twist of fate.

It certainly didn’t help matters that the some of the state’s most politically entrenched constituencies banded together to fight CEJA at every stage of the process. Among the hard-core opponents were Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the Paper Council and the Farm Bureau. Their vociferous opposition scuttled bipartisanship, eliminating the possibility that a Republican legislator would vote for the bill.

Working hand-in-glove with vitriolic right-wing radio talk show hosts, the opposition supplied their grassroots faithful with a smorgasbord of exaggerated claims, hyperbole, outright fantasy, and pseudoscience. Though the analysis purporting to document the opposition’s assertions set a new low in academic rigor, it succeeded in its aim, which was to plant the seeds of fear among certain legislators about the ultimate cost of this legislation before the bill was even introduced.

Working just as vigorously for the Clean Energy Jobs Act, a broad spectrum of interests answered the requests for help. Whether they were one-person solar installation businesses or Fortune 500 corporations like Milwaukee-based Johnson Controls, CEJA supporters wrote letters, made phone calls, and corralled their legislators at the Capitol on several days during March and April.

In dozens of face-to-face meetings with their representatives, CEJA supporters made the case for this bill by bringing out their own experiences as business owners, farmers, educators, builders, and skilled tradesmen. They presented a local and highly personal angle to the clean energy policy debate that many legislators had not appreciated before. Their passion and energy were instrumental in giving this bill a fighting chance for passage at the end of the session. Unfortunately, the campaign could not overcome the pique of the Senate Democrats.

One legislator who kept pushing this ambitious bill up the legislative hill until the very last day was Assembly representative Spencer Black, who was one of the four principal authors of the measure. CEJA supporters are indebted to Rep. Black for his vigorous leadership and his determined efforts to round up support among his compatriots for passing this bill.

Two rays of sunlight did manage to pierce through the heavy clouds at the close of April, prompted by the dedication of the two largest wind turbines owned by Wisconsin schools. In each case, the school erected a 100-kilowatt Northwind turbine manufactured by Vermont-based Northern Power Systems. One serves Wausau East High School while the other feeds power to the Madison Area Technical College’s Fort Atkinson branch. The turbines will offset a significant fraction of the electricity consumed at each school.

Located well within the city limits of Wausau and Fort Atkinson, these 155-foot-tall wind generators eloquently testify to the breadth and depth of public support for renewable energy across Wisconsin. Next January, the Legislature will witness the return of clean energy supporters with similar legislation for strengthening Wisconsin’s renewable energy marketplace. In the meantime, we will be working hard to achieve a very different outcome.
END

Michael Vickerman is the executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a sustainable energy advocacy organization headquartered in Madison. For more information on Wisconsin renewable energy policy, visit RENEW’s web site at: www.renewwisconsin.org.