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Friday, October 29, 2010

Top 10 things a Wisconsin voter should know for Election Day

From a news release issued by the Government Accountability Board:

MADISON, WI – The Government Accountability Board today released its list of the top 10 things a Wisconsin voter should know for Election Day, Tuesday, November 2.

The number one thing voters should know is that they can register at the polling place on Election Day.

“Election Day registration ensures that everyone who is qualified to vote will get to vote,” said Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel of the G.A.B. “Unlike many other states, Wisconsin has registration at the polls, so very few voters will likely be forced to vote on a provisional ballot.”

To register on Election Day, Wisconsin voters must provide proof of residence, which includes a current utility bill, lease, university ID card or other official document showing the voter’s name and current address. Voters who have a valid Wisconsin driver’s license or state ID card will be required to use their license number to complete the registration form. Otherwise, they may use the last four digits of their Social Security number.

Number two on the list is that voters can check their registration status with their municipal clerk, or on the state’s Voter Public Access website: https://vpa.wi.gov.

Top 10 things a Wisconsin voter should know for Election Day

From a news release issued by the Government Accountability Board:

MADISON, WI – The Government Accountability Board today released its list of the top 10 things a Wisconsin voter should know for Election Day, Tuesday, November 2.

The number one thing voters should know is that they can register at the polling place on Election Day.

“Election Day registration ensures that everyone who is qualified to vote will get to vote,” said Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel of the G.A.B. “Unlike many other states, Wisconsin has registration at the polls, so very few voters will likely be forced to vote on a provisional ballot.”

To register on Election Day, Wisconsin voters must provide proof of residence, which includes a current utility bill, lease, university ID card or other official document showing the voter’s name and current address. Voters who have a valid Wisconsin driver’s license or state ID card will be required to use their license number to complete the registration form. Otherwise, they may use the last four digits of their Social Security number.

Number two on the list is that voters can check their registration status with their municipal clerk, or on the state’s Voter Public Access website: https://vpa.wi.gov.

Top 10 things a Wisconsin voter should know for Election Day

From a news release issued by the Government Accountability Board:

MADISON, WI – The Government Accountability Board today released its list of the top 10 things a Wisconsin voter should know for Election Day, Tuesday, November 2.

The number one thing voters should know is that they can register at the polling place on Election Day.

“Election Day registration ensures that everyone who is qualified to vote will get to vote,” said Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel of the G.A.B. “Unlike many other states, Wisconsin has registration at the polls, so very few voters will likely be forced to vote on a provisional ballot.”

To register on Election Day, Wisconsin voters must provide proof of residence, which includes a current utility bill, lease, university ID card or other official document showing the voter’s name and current address. Voters who have a valid Wisconsin driver’s license or state ID card will be required to use their license number to complete the registration form. Otherwise, they may use the last four digits of their Social Security number.

Number two on the list is that voters can check their registration status with their municipal clerk, or on the state’s Voter Public Access website: https://vpa.wi.gov.

Top 10 things a Wisconsin voter should know for Election Day

From a news release issued by the Government Accountability Board:

MADISON, WI – The Government Accountability Board today released its list of the top 10 things a Wisconsin voter should know for Election Day, Tuesday, November 2.

The number one thing voters should know is that they can register at the polling place on Election Day.

“Election Day registration ensures that everyone who is qualified to vote will get to vote,” said Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel of the G.A.B. “Unlike many other states, Wisconsin has registration at the polls, so very few voters will likely be forced to vote on a provisional ballot.”

To register on Election Day, Wisconsin voters must provide proof of residence, which includes a current utility bill, lease, university ID card or other official document showing the voter’s name and current address. Voters who have a valid Wisconsin driver’s license or state ID card will be required to use their license number to complete the registration form. Otherwise, they may use the last four digits of their Social Security number.

Number two on the list is that voters can check their registration status with their municipal clerk, or on the state’s Voter Public Access website: https://vpa.wi.gov.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Feds allocate more dollars for Chicago-to-Twin Cites rail

From an article in BizTimes:

The federal government is allocating another $2.4 billion for high-speed rail projects across the country, on top of the $8 billion for high speed rail that was previously announced as part of the federal stimulus act, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced today.

The additional high-speed rail funds will include $44 million for the Chicago-to-Twin Cities corridor, on top of the $822 million that was allocated for the corridor earlier this year, including $810 million for the controversial Milwaukee to Madison line.

The additional $44 million for the Chicago-to-Twin Cities corridor includes $3.7 million to replace two rail bridges between Chicago and Milwaukee that will allow for higher-speed trains to travel between the two cities. The Department of Transportation announcement did not say where the bridges are located, but a recent Chicago Tribune report said the bridges are in Wadsworth, Ill.

Feds allocate more dollars for Chicago-to-Twin Cites rail

From an article in BizTimes:

The federal government is allocating another $2.4 billion for high-speed rail projects across the country, on top of the $8 billion for high speed rail that was previously announced as part of the federal stimulus act, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced today.

The additional high-speed rail funds will include $44 million for the Chicago-to-Twin Cities corridor, on top of the $822 million that was allocated for the corridor earlier this year, including $810 million for the controversial Milwaukee to Madison line.

The additional $44 million for the Chicago-to-Twin Cities corridor includes $3.7 million to replace two rail bridges between Chicago and Milwaukee that will allow for higher-speed trains to travel between the two cities. The Department of Transportation announcement did not say where the bridges are located, but a recent Chicago Tribune report said the bridges are in Wadsworth, Ill.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Deep Down: Mountain top-removal coal mining

A free film showing by MPTV, November 4 at 6:30 p.m. at Discovery World, 500 N. Harbor Dr., Milwaukee:

Deep in the Appalachian mountains of eastern Kentucky, Beverly May and Terry Ratliff find themselves at the center of a contentious community battle over a proposed mountaintop removal coal mine.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Another coal plant converts to wood

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

Efforts to add more renewable energy in Wisconsin from burning wood waste moved ahead Monday with the completion of one biomass power plant and the start of construction on another.

A 40-megawatt biomass power plant has opened in southwestern Wisconsin.

The power plant, the E.J. Stoneman Station in Cassville, is producing electricity by burning wood waste including residue from forestry and tree trimming work as well as railroad ties, demolition waste and sawdust.

Ann Arbor, Mich.-based DTE Energy Service Inc. owns and operates the plant and sells the power to Dairyland Power Cooperative of La Crosse.

"DTE Energy Services is proud to be able to give the Stoneman plant new life as a generator of renewable energy," David Ruud, president of DTE Energy Services, said in a statement. "We also are pleased that the plant will provide employment for 32 members of the Cassville community and support the local economy through our relationships with fuel suppliers and other local businesses."

Dairyland built the former coal-fired power plant in 1951 and operated it for more than 40 years.

"We are pleased to see this major renewable energy resource come online for our cooperative membership," said Dale Pohlman, Dairyland vice president of strategic planning. "Our 'green' partnership with DTE Energy Services will supply the energy needs to power 28,000 homes across our system by utilizing a natural resource - wood waste - as fuel."

Monday, October 25, 2010

Governor Doyle breaks ground on coal plant conversion to biomass

From a news release issued by Governor Doyle:

MADISON – Governor Jim Doyle today broke ground on the Charter Street Biomass Heating Plant project. The $251 million project is one of the largest biomass projects in the nation and will create construction and clean energy jobs. The project follows Governor Doyle’s 2008 announcement that Wisconsin would stop burning coal at state-owned heating plants on Madison’s Isthmus.

“In 2008, I announced plans to stop burning coal at state-owned heating plants on Madison’s Isthmus,” Governor Doyle said. “Today, we are breaking ground on the Charter Street biomass plant and taking a major step forward to make this goal a reality. The Charter Street plant will turn a waste stream into clean energy, it will keep energy dollars in our communities, and it will help clean our air and water. This project will create great jobs in Wisconsin and will develop a new biomass market from our great fields and farms.”

The Governor’s 2009-2011 capital budget included $251 million for the Charter Street project and $25 million to convert the Capitol Heat and Power Plant to natural gas. The Charter Street plant will support local biomass providers and eliminate over 108,000 tons of coal burned every year. In March, the state stopped burning coal at the Capitol Heat and Power Plant – eliminating 4,500 tons of coal burned by the state each year. When the Charter Street project is completed in 2013, the Doyle Administration will have reduced State of Wisconsin coal use by 65 percent.

The Charter Street project is a joint effort between AMEC and Boldt Construction. The plant’s coal boilers will first be replaced by natural gas and biomass fuel. The plant will run completely on biomass by late 2013, with the capacity to burn wood chips, corn stalks and switch grass pellets and power 300 local buildings.

Eurostar offers a glimpse at why Wisconsin needs intercity rail

From a commentary by Michael Flaherty on BizOpinion.com:

PARIS – The train starts to pick up speed, almost imperceptibly, and within 20 minutes the Eurostar high-speed train has left Paris behind, quietly slicing through the French countryside at 185 miles per hour on its way to London.

Just over two hours later, the five-football-field-long train – one of 20 trains that day – deposits 500 passengers at the St. Pancras International station in central London.

The high-speed Eurostar announced last year it has now transported more than 100 million passengers. That’s 100 million business people, tourists, educators, students, 100 million generators of economic activity among nations that fought each other almost constantly for centuries.

When a Wisconsinite rides the Eurostar, it’s difficult not to reflect on Europe’s success and the debate we’re having over rail in Wisconsin. Or, more succinctly, the debate we’re not having – but ought to.

Wisconsin’s proposed rail system will be nothing like the Eurostar, of course. It will be relatively slow. The trains will be emptier and less efficient, at least at first. They won’t bring nations together or link destinations as world-famous as Paris and London.

But a trip on the Eurostar is a slap on the forehead. It’s a vivid example of what an investment in high-speed rail can do to accelerate growth and economic activity. It’s a window into the future for those willing to invest in a regional economy such as the “I-Q Corridor,” the intellectually rich route connecting Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison and the Twin Cities.

For Wisconsin “conservatives” opposed to rail (note the quotes), the Eurostar is a stark reminder that this debate isn’t about a train or the growth of government. It’s about economic growth, economic efficiency and the development of urban and rural areas alike.

Dining services feature meatless Mondays

From an article by Nate Enwald in The Pointer, Stevens Point, WI:

Students at the University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point are in for a few changes in their dining routines at DeBot Dining Center; some may have noticed a change in the Oct. 11 Monday menu and what it served, or lack thereof.

The University Dining Services department has taken to the “Meatless Monday” movement that has been a spreading trend in other schools across the country. The new meatless menu that began on Oct. 11 is scheduled to take effect for the Mondays of Nov. 8, Feb. 7, and April 11.

The Monday Campaigns originally started the “Meatless Monday” movement in association with the Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health, with the goal of reducing the consumption of meat by 15 percent. This movement hopes to ultimately better public health and reduce the carbon footprint left by the production, transportation and cooking of meats.

“We are doing this [Meatless Monday] to raise awareness about the program and the benefits of lowering meat consumption,” said Kathleen Gould, the Public Relations representative and Marketing Coordinator of University Dining Services.

At meatlessmonday.com, the organization promotes going meatless at least once a week to aid in efforts of reducing the public health issues of cancer, diabetes and obesity along with the inevitable ecological benefits that go with a meatless diet.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fighting for the 'Right to Dry'

From a story on WDIO-TV, Duluth, Minnesota:

It may surprise you but 44 states--including Minnesota and Wisconsin---don't guarantee their residents the right to line dry their laundry. But a Superior lawmaker is making sure his clothesline-using constituents aren't hung out to dry.

There's a million different ways Northland residents can enjoy a Sunny sunday, but at Jan Conley's household perfect weekend weather is reserved for hanging the laundry.

"There's something iconic about hanging clothes out," said Jan Conley of Lake Nebagamon. "I think there's something really nice about it you know you feel good you're outside you're hanging clothes you've accomplished something and then when you're done great I washed these clothes and they're hanging out."

A movement, dubbed the "Right to Dry" revolution by followers, began some years ago in Oregon, when homeowners' associations began banning residents from line drying their laundry. Although none of those communities exist here, Representative Nick Milroy wants to protect those rights for his Wisconsin residents before they're taken away.

"People really cherish their freedom in this country and I think taking away something as simple as allowing people to line dry their clothes is save money save energy it just doesn't make send to me," said Wisconsin State Representative, Nick Milroy of Superior.

Conley joined the "Right to Dry" movement a few years ago. She said using a dryer is a waste of energy and she wishes more of her neighbors would let the wind to handle the job.

"It's a part of America. Its part of who we are," said Conley.

Turbine-blade manufacturer shifts course on new plant

From an article by Nathaniel Shuda in the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune:

A Wisconsin Rapids-based manufacturer recently revised its plan for a wind-turbine blade manufacturing plant, making it a three-phase project, instead of a one-phase project, the company's top executive said.

At one time, Energy Composites officials hoped to break ground on a 535,000-square-foot facility about a year ago, but a difficult bond market led to project downsizing, President Jamie Mancl said.
"Now we're talking about ... a smaller portion of that plan to get the shovel in the ground and started with something," Mancl said Tuesday evening during a presentation to the Wisconsin Rapids Common Council. "We're taking a more prudent approach to get this thing off the ground."

The company, which includes the former Advanced Fiberglass Technologies, already retained Stern Brothers & Co., a private financing firm, to help secure $25 million from investors for the first phase, Mancl said.

"With the financing issues we're experiencing in the country, it's hard to put a timeline on it, but ... within six months or less, they're hopeful they'll be able to secure (investors)," he said, declining to say how much money the company has raised.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

More energy efficiency could create 9,000 jobs in Wisconsin

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

WASHINGTON — In the absence of a national policy that puts a cap on carbon emissions, some environmental activists see an opportunity to place more emphasis on efficiency as part of the solution to climate change.

Advocates say the potential benefits to the environment, the economy and individual pocketbooks cannot be ignored.

One 2007 study estimates the U.S. could reap $1.2 trillion in electricity savings by investing $520 billion in energy efficiency measures by 2020.
In Wisconsin, a 2009 report by the Energy Center of Wisconsin said the state could create 7,000 to 9,000 jobs by 2012 and generate $900 million in savings by tripling its investment in energy efficiency.

President Barack Obama's administration set aside $16.8 billion in economic recovery act money for research and development, building retrofits, renewable energy projects and weatherization, among other things.

Wisconsin was awarded a $20 million grant in April for its Wisconsin Energy Efficiency (WE2) program to retrofit commerical, industrial and residential buildings.

"Wisconsin has made big steps forward in recent years through energy conservation, energy efficiency and by investing in a clean energy economy," Gov. Jim Doyle said in a statement declaring October to be Energy Awareness Month. "Through greater awareness we can continue to increase our energy independence, save money for families and businesses and create thousands of new clean-energy jobs in Wisconsin."

More energy efficiency could create 9,000 jobs in Wisconsin

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

WASHINGTON — In the absence of a national policy that puts a cap on carbon emissions, some environmental activists see an opportunity to place more emphasis on efficiency as part of the solution to climate change.

Advocates say the potential benefits to the environment, the economy and individual pocketbooks cannot be ignored.

One 2007 study estimates the U.S. could reap $1.2 trillion in electricity savings by investing $520 billion in energy efficiency measures by 2020.
In Wisconsin, a 2009 report by the Energy Center of Wisconsin said the state could create 7,000 to 9,000 jobs by 2012 and generate $900 million in savings by tripling its investment in energy efficiency.

President Barack Obama's administration set aside $16.8 billion in economic recovery act money for research and development, building retrofits, renewable energy projects and weatherization, among other things.

Wisconsin was awarded a $20 million grant in April for its Wisconsin Energy Efficiency (WE2) program to retrofit commerical, industrial and residential buildings.

"Wisconsin has made big steps forward in recent years through energy conservation, energy efficiency and by investing in a clean energy economy," Gov. Jim Doyle said in a statement declaring October to be Energy Awareness Month. "Through greater awareness we can continue to increase our energy independence, save money for families and businesses and create thousands of new clean-energy jobs in Wisconsin."

Paper mill fears not enough wood after biomass plant opens

From an article by Jake Miller in the Wausau Daily Herald:

The operator of a Tomahawk paper mill said Wednesday that a proposed Rothschild plant's insatiable demand for fuel would endanger other plants that rely upon wood products.

In a motion sent to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, Packaging Corp. of America said a planned biomass plant by Domtar Paper and We Energies would lead to a shortage in biomass fuel -- waste wood left behind when timber is harvested.

The Tomahawk mill currently operates two biomass boilers as part of a pilot program it entered in 2002 with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to reduce fossil fuel use, according to the motion.

Company officials initially believed that the proposed plant would not create a shortage in fuel, but at an Oct. 1 meeting with Domtar they "came to the realization that the project would in fact seriously redistribute local biomass resources," the motion said.

Therefore, Packaging Corp. requested a motion to intervene, which -- if allowed by the PSC -- means company officials could speak about the impact the new plant would have on the Tomahawk operation at a Dec. 2 meeting in Madison. The company missed the Sept. 8 filing deadline.

Monday, October 18, 2010

What If You Knew How to Make Your Home More Energy Efficient?

From a news release:

It's Easier than You May Think with Focus on Energy

When it comes to energy efficiency, knowledge is power. This is why Focus on Energy, Wisconsin's statewide program for energy efficiency and renewable energy, wants homeowners to know about the program's educational resources, technical assistance, and financial incentives available to help them improve the energy efficiency of their homes. Through Focus on Energy's Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® Program, homeowners learn how to take control of their energy use—resulting in lower energy bills and safer, more comfortable homes.

"Fall is the perfect time to develop an energy-efficiency plan for your home; before temperatures drop and energy bills rise," said Carter Dedolph, program manager for Focus on Energy. "And a homeowner's first step against high energy bills is much easier than they may imagine, with the help of Focus on Energy."

Step One - Getting the Answers You Need

Pinpointing poorly performing components of a home such as air leaks and insufficient insulation is key to lowering high energy bills. This is where the technical assistance and expertise of Focus on Energy comes in. With the help of Home Performance with ENERGY STAR and the program's partnering consultants and qualified contractors, identifying these problems and their solutions is easier than expected.

The expert consultant will start by inspecting all systems in your home including testing the ventilation, heating and cooling equipment, air infiltration, and insulation levels. Once the evaluation is complete you will receive a comprehensive home evaluation report that identifies any problems, along with recommended solutions. And finding a contractor to complete the projects couldn't be more convenient—your consultant can recommend trusted service providers in your area or you can choose your own contractor who partners with Focus.

"These are real solutions that will save energy and money, in addition to making your home more comfortable, safe, and durable," explained Dedolph.

Step Two - Making the Improvements

Once recommendations have been made, the program's qualified contractors can then implement the energy-efficiency improvements. By working with a program partner you're guaranteed the work will be done to Home Performance with ENERGY STAR standards. In fact, at the end of the project, the consultant will return to re-evaluate the home and verify that the improvements are complete and effective. In addition, you may be eligible to receive Cash-Back Rewards offered through the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program.

To be eligible, Wisconsin residents must meet two criteria: their electric and/or natural gas utility or cooperative must participate in the program; and the resident's dwelling must be a detached single-unit dwelling, mobile home, duplex, or three-unit building.

As part of a Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® Program evaluation, a trained technician will conduct a blower door test, which helps identify and quantify the air leakage of a home. Finding and sealing air leaks can reduce heating costs and increase comfort.

What If You Knew How to Make Your Home More Energy Efficient?

From a news release:

It's Easier than You May Think with Focus on Energy

When it comes to energy efficiency, knowledge is power. This is why Focus on Energy, Wisconsin's statewide program for energy efficiency and renewable energy, wants homeowners to know about the program's educational resources, technical assistance, and financial incentives available to help them improve the energy efficiency of their homes. Through Focus on Energy's Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® Program, homeowners learn how to take control of their energy use—resulting in lower energy bills and safer, more comfortable homes.

"Fall is the perfect time to develop an energy-efficiency plan for your home; before temperatures drop and energy bills rise," said Carter Dedolph, program manager for Focus on Energy. "And a homeowner's first step against high energy bills is much easier than they may imagine, with the help of Focus on Energy."

Step One - Getting the Answers You Need

Pinpointing poorly performing components of a home such as air leaks and insufficient insulation is key to lowering high energy bills. This is where the technical assistance and expertise of Focus on Energy comes in. With the help of Home Performance with ENERGY STAR and the program's partnering consultants and qualified contractors, identifying these problems and their solutions is easier than expected.

The expert consultant will start by inspecting all systems in your home including testing the ventilation, heating and cooling equipment, air infiltration, and insulation levels. Once the evaluation is complete you will receive a comprehensive home evaluation report that identifies any problems, along with recommended solutions. And finding a contractor to complete the projects couldn't be more convenient—your consultant can recommend trusted service providers in your area or you can choose your own contractor who partners with Focus.

"These are real solutions that will save energy and money, in addition to making your home more comfortable, safe, and durable," explained Dedolph.

Step Two - Making the Improvements

Once recommendations have been made, the program's qualified contractors can then implement the energy-efficiency improvements. By working with a program partner you're guaranteed the work will be done to Home Performance with ENERGY STAR standards. In fact, at the end of the project, the consultant will return to re-evaluate the home and verify that the improvements are complete and effective. In addition, you may be eligible to receive Cash-Back Rewards offered through the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program.

To be eligible, Wisconsin residents must meet two criteria: their electric and/or natural gas utility or cooperative must participate in the program; and the resident's dwelling must be a detached single-unit dwelling, mobile home, duplex, or three-unit building.

As part of a Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® Program evaluation, a trained technician will conduct a blower door test, which helps identify and quantify the air leakage of a home. Finding and sealing air leaks can reduce heating costs and increase comfort.

More energy efficiency could create 9,000 jobs in Wisconsin

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

WASHINGTON — In the absence of a national policy that puts a cap on carbon emissions, some environmental activists see an opportunity to place more emphasis on efficiency as part of the solution to climate change.

Advocates say the potential benefits to the environment, the economy and individual pocketbooks cannot be ignored.

One 2007 study estimates the U.S. could reap $1.2 trillion in electricity savings by investing $520 billion in energy efficiency measures by 2020.
In Wisconsin, a 2009 report by the Energy Center of Wisconsin said the state could create 7,000 to 9,000 jobs by 2012 and generate $900 million in savings by tripling its investment in energy efficiency.

President Barack Obama's administration set aside $16.8 billion in economic recovery act money for research and development, building retrofits, renewable energy projects and weatherization, among other things.

Wisconsin was awarded a $20 million grant in April for its Wisconsin Energy Efficiency (WE2) program to retrofit commerical, industrial and residential buildings.

"Wisconsin has made big steps forward in recent years through energy conservation, energy efficiency and by investing in a clean energy economy," Gov. Jim Doyle said in a statement declaring October to be Energy Awareness Month. "Through greater awareness we can continue to increase our energy independence, save money for families and businesses and create thousands of new clean-energy jobs in Wisconsin."

Manufacturing can be 'green'

From a column by Matthew Davidson, CEO, XTen Industries, Kenosha, in BizTimes:

Xten Industries, a Kenosha-based injection molding firm, has found several ways to reduce its environmental footprint by using less electricity and natural gas and more earth-friendly plastics. Matthew Davidson, chief executive officer of the company, has made being “green” a central tenet of his company’s operating model.

“There are many ways for manufacturing companies to become more sustainable – to make choices that benefit the environment while actually saving cash. This is even true of small companies like Xten Industries, an injection molder dependent on heavy machinery, high energy use and the consumption of plastic.

“We found it easiest to approach sustainability in three broad areas: reduce waste, reduce energy and design parts more intelligently.

“As an example, Xten reduced our scrap by over 40 percent last year by re-examining our internal processes and how we identify, sort and reuse plastic, steel, oil and corrugated.

“This year we slashed our electric usage by more than 30 percent with the help of Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy program and Clean Tech Partners, which allowed Xten to retrofit its large machines and lighting through incentives and an innovative, cash-positive financing program that allows us to pay back the loans with the energy savings. These are terrific programs for Wisconsin manufacturers.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

ATC proposes line for Wauwatosa, Milwaukee

From a blog post by Tom Content on JSonline:

American Transmission Co. plans to propose a new power line in Wauwatosa and a portion of the city of Milwaukee to help meet growing demand for electricity in the U.S. Highway 45 development corridor, the Pewaukee company said Wednesday.

The power line company has planned an informational open house on Thursday, Oct. 21, to provide area property owners and the public an opportunity to hear more about the proposal and offer input on the 138,000-volt power line.

The preliminary cost of the project is $21 million to $37 million. A final cost estimate will depend on the route that is selected for the line, said ATC spokeswoman Luella Dooley-Menet.

The roughly 2-mile transmission line would be needed to connect a new substation that We Energies plans to build next to its Milwaukee County substation and Milwaukee County power plant at 93rd Street and Watertown Plank Road.

We Energies’ planning studies indicate electric demand in the U.S Highway 45 corridor in western Milwaukee County is projected to double as soon as 2016-2018.

“Studies also indicate that existing distribution substations and feeders that serve the area will not be adequate to meet anticipated future electric demand,” said Andrew Gumm, We Energies manager of project siting.

During the next year, ATC will narrow the potential routes before filing an application to build the line with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin in early 2012. If approved by the state Public Service Commission, construction of the new line would begin in 2014 and the line would be completed in 2015.

Suppliers tout opportunities in wind power industry

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

Companies looking to get involved with the wind power supply chain should be ready to compete with top-notch quality and be prepared to adapt to swings in business activity in the sector, speakers at a wind energy symposium said Wednesday.

The wind power supply chain has plenty of opportunity, as the industry aims for a return to growth next year after a down year in 2010, said Jeff Anthony, business development director with the American Wind Energy Association.

"There are a lot of challenges in the wind industry. It's not an easy industry to get in, but there are plenty of opportunities," Anthony said.

Anthony addressed hundreds of participants at the Milwaukee symposium sponsored by Wisconsin Wind Works, a group focused on building up Wisconsin's participation in the wind power supply chain.

David Lisle, chief executive of Wausaukee Composites, is already a veteran of the fluctuating wind market.

"Tremendous opportunities do exist, but it can be treacherous waters," Lisle said.

In a few short years, the company has opened a plant in Cuba City that employed as many as 90 people, and then had to close it twice because of a downturn in the economy and tight credit markets that make banks reluctant to finance projects, he said.

But the company has diversified to the point where it now has four different customers in the wind industry instead of just one, he said. The company announced plans recently to expand its wind component factory in Cuba City to 76,000 square feet and create up to 200 jobs.

The challenge for suppliers dealing with the wind sector is to realize that this may be a new market in the United States but it's not new around the world. European makers of wind turbines have been relying on European suppliers for years, and are now shifting to the U.S. market, he said.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Doyle announces grant for Germantown company

From a news release issued by Governor Jim Doyle:

Projects to Create and Retain More Than 1,000 Jobs


PLOVER, GERMANTOWN – Governor Jim Doyle today announced $4.85 million in funding for McCain Foods and TecStar Manufacturing Company to help create and retain more than 1,000 jobs in the state. The funding comes from the State Energy Program (SEP).

“My top priority this year has been to help companies and communities move forward and create good-paying jobs for Wisconsin families,” Governor Doyle said. “With this funding, we will be able to help McCain Foods and TecStar Manufacturing Company expand their businesses and create hundreds of new jobs.”

McCain Foods USA, Inc. is a subsidiary of McCain Foods Limited, an international corporation that is the world’s largest producer of french fries and frozen potatoes, as well as a variety of frozen food products. McCain has been awarded $1.1 million in SEP funding for equipment purchases that will increase the efficiency of the company’s heat recovery capabilities. Specifically, the funding will help the company purchase $2.2 million in new and improved heat exchangers for various parts of their production line. The funding will help McCain in retaining 650 jobs at their Plover location.

Established in 1997, TecStar Manufacturing Company is a plastic injection molding manufacturer and a wholly owned subsidiary of the MGS Manufacturing Group. TecStar has been awarded $3.75 million in SEP funding to build injection molding machines for producing frames for photovoltaic panels. The total project cost is $15 million. With this funding, TecStar, of Germantown, has committed to creating 186 full-time positions in addition to the 170 already employed at the facility.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

We Energies' recognized for clean energy job development

From a news release issued by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC):

October 11, 2010. Los Angeles, CA - The Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) today awarded five Innovation Awards and six Special Recognition Awards at its 2010 Annual Meeting.

"Efforts like these are why I feel confident that the children of today will grow up to a world where solar and other clean energy technologies are as common place to them then as their cell phones, iPods and the Internet," said Ken Jurman, IREC Chair.

"This year's Innovation Awards targeted initiatives aimed at supporting clean energy workforce development, community renewables, financial incentives, clean energy ARRA projects, and efforts to grow the small wind market," said Ken Jurman, IREC chair. "Each of this year's winning submissions demonstrate initiatives and best practices that are helping move clean energy technologies closer to becoming the norm rather than the exception."

Selected through a competitive process, the 2010 Innovation Awardees include: Lakota Solar Enterprises for its Solar Energy for Great Plains Tribal Communities (clean energy ARRA project); Mountain View Solar's The JOBS Project (community renewables); We Energies' Solar for Humanity (clean energy workforce development); The Morris County Improvement Authority's MORRIS Model (clean energy financial program); and iCast's rural agricultural applications for small wind in rural Eastern Colorado (small wind). . . .

2010 Innovation Award Winners
Clean Energy Workforce Development Category:
We Energies: Solar for Humanity

Solar for Humanity, focused on workforce development and community partnerships, uses Habitat for Humanity homes as real training roofs for solar PV and solar thermal installers.

By the end of 2010, more than 90 solar PV and solar thermal systems will be installed on homes throughout the We Energies service territory, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity chapters in Wisconsin, Midwest Renewable Energy Association, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and non-union contractors. The partnerships were developed to help develop jobs and to create a more robust NABCEP solar installer base within the service territory, educate the general public about solar technologies and energy efficiency, and bring solar power to lower income households. All parties plan to grow and continue this effort making it the largest renewable energy training partnership in the Midwest. Visit http://www.we-energies.com/business/energyeff/solarforhumanity.htm

Monday, October 11, 2010

Wisconsin's green economy offers 15,100 jobs

From a report published by the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council, The Green Tier Porgram at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and the Wisconsin School of Business:

By 2007, 68,203 businesses in the United States had generated more than 770,000 jobs in the green economy (Pew Charitable Trust, 2009). Every state has a piece of America’s green economy. The leading states include Oregon, Maine,California, Colorado, Massachusetts and Minnesota. Wisconsin is not currently among the leading states:

SOURCE: PEW Charitable Trusts, 2009, based on the National Establishment Time Series 2007 Database; analysis by Pew Center on the Statesand Collaborative Economics

Green job growth in Wisconsin through the 2001 recession (where WI lost 100,000 manufacturing jobs that were never recovered) was anemic. Wisconsin has lost an additional 70,000 manufacturing jobs (through July, 2010) because of the recession of 2008 (Center on Wisconsin Strategy, 2010).

While Wisconsin ranks either first or second in the nation in manufacturing jobs per capita, there is still a great deal of idle capacity in Wisconsin.

In 2007, jobs associated with the green economy accounted for 0.49 percent of all jobs nationally. WI was slightly below the national average with 3,150,000 total jobs and 0.48 percent of them being green.

A closer look at the data reveals that Wisconsin ranks as a top ten state in energy efficiency jobs. Energy efficiency is one of the five types of green jobs identified in the Pew report. Wisconisn ranked sixth in energy efficiency with 2,801 jobs. Midwestern states generally did well in all sectors, with Minnesota, Michigan, and Illinois appearing among the top 10 states in multiple sectors.

In 2007, jobs associated with the green economy accounted for 0.49 percent of all jobs nationally. WI was slightly below the national average with 3,150,000 total jobs and 0.48 percent of them being green.

A closer look at the data reveals that Wisconsin ranks as a 2,801 jobs. Midwestern states generally did well in all sectors, with Minnesota, Michigan, and Illinois appearing amongthe top 10 states in multiple sectors.

The report concludes:

The United States, and Wisconsin, will be focused on job creation over the next five to ten years. Creating green jobs has to be a part of the future if we hope to maintain our roleas a manufacturing state. Green jobs will gravitate towards states that are the most attractive, or to states that actively increase their attractiveness relative to competing states. The states that actively recruit green businesses will prosper in the longer run.

Wisconsin has a long history of manufacturing strength, and we are increasingly attracting manufacturing companies that are creating green jobs. But we can do more. We have only to look at our neighboring states of Iowa or Minnesota to see the benefit of establsihing Wisconsin as a hotbed of green expertise.

New green businesses can create jobs, generate revenues, and help Wisconsin re-emerge as a bell-weather state in the heartland of America.

Wisconsin's green economy offers 15,100 jobs

From a report published by the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council, The Green Tier Porgram at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and the Wisconsin School of Business:

By 2007, 68,203 businesses in the United States had generated more than 770,000 jobs in the green economy (Pew Charitable Trust, 2009). Every state has a piece of America’s green economy. The leading states include Oregon, Maine,California, Colorado, Massachusetts and Minnesota. Wisconsin is not currently among the leading states:

SOURCE: PEW Charitable Trusts, 2009, based on the National Establishment Time Series 2007 Database; analysis by Pew Center on the Statesand Collaborative Economics

Green job growth in Wisconsin through the 2001 recession (where WI lost 100,000 manufacturing jobs that were never recovered) was anemic. Wisconsin has lost an additional 70,000 manufacturing jobs (through July, 2010) because of the recession of 2008 (Center on Wisconsin Strategy, 2010).

While Wisconsin ranks either first or second in the nation in manufacturing jobs per capita, there is still a great deal of idle capacity in Wisconsin.

In 2007, jobs associated with the green economy accounted for 0.49 percent of all jobs nationally. WI was slightly below the national average with 3,150,000 total jobs and 0.48 percent of them being green.

A closer look at the data reveals that Wisconsin ranks as a top ten state in energy efficiency jobs. Energy efficiency is one of the five types of green jobs identified in the Pew report. Wisconisn ranked sixth in energy efficiency with 2,801 jobs. Midwestern states generally did well in all sectors, with Minnesota, Michigan, and Illinois appearing among the top 10 states in multiple sectors.

In 2007, jobs associated with the green economy accounted for 0.49 percent of all jobs nationally. WI was slightly below the national average with 3,150,000 total jobs and 0.48 percent of them being green.

A closer look at the data reveals that Wisconsin ranks as a 2,801 jobs. Midwestern states generally did well in all sectors, with Minnesota, Michigan, and Illinois appearing amongthe top 10 states in multiple sectors.

The report concludes:

The United States, and Wisconsin, will be focused on job creation over the next five to ten years. Creating green jobs has to be a part of the future if we hope to maintain our roleas a manufacturing state. Green jobs will gravitate towards states that are the most attractive, or to states that actively increase their attractiveness relative to competing states. The states that actively recruit green businesses will prosper in the longer run.

Wisconsin has a long history of manufacturing strength, and we are increasingly attracting manufacturing companies that are creating green jobs. But we can do more. We have only to look at our neighboring states of Iowa or Minnesota to see the benefit of establsihing Wisconsin as a hotbed of green expertise.

New green businesses can create jobs, generate revenues, and help Wisconsin re-emerge as a bell-weather state in the heartland of America.

Doyle announces $550,000 for digester at MontChevre Cheese in Belmont


From a news release issued by Governor Jim Doyle:

Company to Install Anaerobic Digester and Create 13 Jobs

MADISON – Governor Jim Doyle today announced a $550,000 loan for Betin Incorporated from the State Energy Program (SEP). Department of Commerce Secretary Aaron Olver and Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Secretary Randy Romanski made the announcement today in Belmont on behalf of the Governor.

“In Wisconsin, we are taking the lead to not only address environmental challenges, but also to find opportunities for innovation and growth,” Governor Doyle said. “I’m pleased that we could help Betin, Inc. install technology to use renewable energy and cut costs.”

“We are grateful to operate in a state where our Governor and Department of Commerce recognize the need to encourage and support private projects like ours that build environmentally-sound solutions to manufacturing,” said company President Arnaud Solandt. “The loan will allow us to expand further and create new jobs within the community.”

The SEP loan is funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Betin, Inc. is one of the nation’s largest goat-cheese manufacturers using the trade name Montchevre. It will install an anaerobic digester to process whey and waste water. The resulting methane will be used to help meet up to 80 percent of the company’s energy needs. The project will create 13 jobs and represent total investment of $3.5 million.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Wisconsin 'can do more' to attract green jobs

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

The Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council has published a 2010 Green Jobs Report focusing on areas of opportunity and investment for the state to focus on to build jobs in the clean-tech sector.

The report sees opportunities in jobs linked to energy efficiency, green building, renewable energy and mass transit.

"Green jobs are a critical part of the state's recovery from the recession," said Tom Eggert, executive director of the business council and co-director of the business, environment and social responsibility program at the University of Wisconsin School of Business.

The aim of the report was to look at green jobs in Wisconsin at a time when other Midwest states have moved to capitalize and promote the attractiveness of their states for clean-tech companies, Eggert said.

"We can do more," the report concludes. "We have only to look at our neighboring states of Iowa or Minnesota to see the benefit of establishing Wisconsin as a hotbed of green expertise."

Strengths that the state can build on include its manufacturing tradition and the experience of its workforce in manufacturing technology, Eggert said.

"Green jobs will gravitate toward states that are the most attractive, or to states that actively increase their attractiveness relative to competing states," the report says.

Wisconsin has invested heavily in energy efficiency initiatives and in research linked to cellulosic ethanol and biofuels. Cellulosic ethanol is a biofuel produced from wood, grasses, or the nonedible parts of plants.

But Eggert sees an opportunity by increasing the state's renewable portfolio standard as a way to send a message to companies that may want to locate here that the state is committed to renewable energy. A renewable portfolio standard is a regulation that requires increased production of energy from renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar, biomass and geothermal.

New Glarus Utilities adds solar electricity


This week, New Glarus Utilities, a member of WPPI Energy, completed a new 5 kW solar project at their wastewater treatment plant located in the village. The energy produced will offset usage at the office building on-site.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Jimmy Carter redeemed: White House to tap sun for heating water and some electricity

From an Associated Press article by Dina Cappiello in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Solar power is coming to President Barack Obama's house.

The most famous residence in America, which has already boosted its green credentials by planting a garden, plans to install solar panels atop the White House's living quarters. The solar panels are to be installed by spring 2011, and will heat water for the first family and supply some electricity.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the plans Tuesday in Washington at a conference of local, state, academic and nonprofit leaders aimed at identifying how the federal government can improve its environmental performance.

Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush both tapped the sun during their days in the White House. Carter in the late 1970s spent $30,000 on a solar water-heating system for West Wing offices. Bush's solar systems powered a maintenance building and some of the mansion, and heated water for the pool.

Obama, who has championed renewable energy, has been under increasing pressure by the solar industry and environmental activists to lead by example by installing solar at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, something White House officials said has been under consideration since he first took office.

The decision perhaps has more import now after legislation to reduce global warming pollution died in the Senate, despite the White House's support. Obama has vowed to try again on a smaller scale.

Last month, global warming activists with 350.org carried one of Carter's solar panels - which were removed in 1986 - from Unity College in Maine to Washington to urge Obama to put solar panels on his roof. It was part of a global campaign to persuade world leaders to install solar on their homes. After a meeting with White House officials, they left Washington without a commitment.

Bill McKibben, the founder of the 350.org group, said Tuesday the administration did the right thing.

Open house shows need of new 150-mile transmission line

From an article by Jessica Larsen in the Tomah Journal:

Area residents got their chance on Tuesday to learn about a possible new 150-mile electric transmission line running from La Crosse to Madison.

American Transmission Company announced in July its plans for the 345-kilovolt line after a two-year study. Now the company is making its way to eight cities to host open houses for people to voice their opinions and learn more about the project, which it is calling the Badger Coulee Transmission Line Project. In Tomah, 143 people attended.

According to ATC, the line will improve system reliability, economic savings for utilites and energy consumers and access to additional renewable energy. It will improve electric system reliabilty in western Wisconsin by providing increased regional electric transfer capability into the state and alleviating stabilty issues in the upper Midwest, according to ATC reports. The company’s studies show that building a more efficient high-voltage line offsets the need for about $140 million in lower-voltage ugprades in western Wisconsin.

The route for the line is not set. Per state law, ATC will first look at existing transmission and other electric lines and pipelines. Next, it will turn to state and federal highways and railroads. After that, it will turn to receational trails and lastly will establish new corridors using section lines or property boundries when feasable.

At the open house, residents watched a seven-minute video about the project and then walked around to different stations to talk with ATC staff. People got a chance to leave comments and to give input on where they do not want the lines. Most popular was farm land and near schools.

“We are seeing a lot of curiosity,” said ATC local relations manager Sarah Justus. “We want input, and people appreciate the opportunity to have a stake in it. ... We don’t know everything there is to know.”

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Businesses can celebrate Energy Awareness Month with practical tips to save energy & money

From a news release issued by Focus on Energy:

Boost the bottom line while strategically managing energy use

Madison, Wis. (October 6, 2010)—In honor of Energy Awareness Month this October, businesses around the country are taking steps to reduce energy use by making cost-effective building improvements and getting staff involved to find smart solutions.

With cold weather on its way now is a great time for organizations to make sure they are well positioned to keep energy costs in check and save money this season, and year round. In fact, Focus on Energy, Wisconsin's statewide program for energy efficiency and renewable energy, has already helped Wisconsin businesses save more than $212 million in annual energy costs since 2001.

If organizations are unsure how to get started, Focus offers these free and low-cost best practices to help businesses get ahead this season.

1. Start an energy management team. One cost-effective way to keep tabs on energy costs is to establish an energy team within the organization. Visit focusonenergy.com/energyteam for a free toolkit to help create a team and start implementing high-ROI, low-risk projects.
2. Install (and use!) a programmable thermostat. Businesses can save 1 percent on heating costs for each degree they lower the thermostat. Instead of adjusting the thermostat manually, make sure to install a system that will automatically manage the building’s temperature. Already have a system in place? Program it to achieve maximum savings, and don’t forget to adjust it with the shift from Daylight Saving Time, if necessary.
3. Weatherization can yield big savings. Weather-strip and caulk cracks in walls, jams, and floors. Check for worn-out weather-stripping and replace it.
4. Measure the facility for proper attic insulation. Consider upgrading with spray-foam or batt insulation. Additional insulation can be blown into walls, and there are options for insulating flat roofs, crawl spaces, and floors.
5. Maintain heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning equipment regularly. Facilities can reduce the energy use of heating and cooling systems by up to 6 percent simply by having them serviced regularly and changing air filters monthly. Don’t forget to keep the space around the system clean and clear to prevent debris from being pulled into the burners and filters.
6. Purchase energy-efficient equipment and lighting. When it comes time to replace equipment, look for the ENERGY STAR® label—an assurance of quality and energy efficiency. For lighting, install compact fluorescent bulbs for task lighting and high-performance T8 or pulse-start metal-halide systems for larger or high-bay applications. Lighting-control systems such as occupancy sensors and daylight sensors can help save even more.
7. Talk to the experts at Focus on Energy. We’re a one-stop resource for free technical expertise and financial incentives. Call us today at 800.762.7077 or visit focusonenergy.com.

Rally against coal on UW-L campus

From a story on WXOW-TV, La Crosse:

LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW)- Opponents of the use of coal to heat classrooms and dormitories at the UW-La Crosse held a rally to push for a transition to cleaner forms of energy.

Speakers at the rally emphasized damage to the environment and public health as reasons to stop using coal as an energy source. The rally also criticized what they call destructive methods used to mine the coal used to power the campus.

Representatives for the No Coal Coalition say that the transition to cleaner energy should not be complicated. The coal plant at UW-La Crosse is able to run on natural gas, which would be used as a transitional fuel until renewable sources of energy such as biomass can be used. The No Coal Coalition also mentioned that a new facility will not have to be built; only changes to the infrastructure will be needed.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Meet Butler Ridge, Wisconsin’s Newest Wind Project

By Michael Vickerman
September 30, 2010

On September 23, Alex DePillis and I hopped on board a tour bus filled with natural resource professionals and gave an overview of wind development in Wisconsin as we headed to the 54 MW Butler Ridge Wind Facility. The project is located in the Town of Herman in southeast Dodge County, a few miles west of State Highway 175. Most of the project’s 36 turbines are located south of State Highway 33.

The project was developed by Midwest Wind, which also developed the Cedar Ridge project owned by Alliant Energy. The project was sold to Babcock & Brown’s U.S. division, which then constructed the facility. The general contractor for that project was RES Americas. Butler Ridge was placed in commercial operation in March 2009. Right now, it is the newest utility-scale wind project in Wisconsin, but that distinction will only late this year, when Shirley Wind comes on-line.

In December 2009, NextEra Energy (formerly FPL Energy) bought Butler Ridge from Babcock and Brown. NextEra is also the owner of the Montfort project in Iowa County.

It turned out to be an excellent day to see wind generation in action. Thanks to a strengthening low pressure system to the west, there was a steady southerly air flow sweeping over southern Wisconsin that morning. Every flag we saw that morning was stiff as could be and pointing due north. Wind speeds at hub height ranged between 20 and 25 mph. The GE turbines were producing at about 75% of their rated capacity.

We stopped at Butler Ridge’s operations and maintenance center on Illinois Road. From the vantage point of the facility, we could see wind turbines in every direction. The closest turbine, at about 1,100 feet away, was audible but barely so.

Full article here.

Gov. Doyle Proclaims October Energy Awareness Month

From a news release issued by Governor Jim Doyle and posted on the Web site of WQOW-TV, Eau Claire:

Madison (Press Release) -- Governor Jim Doyle today proclaimed October Energy Awareness Month in Wisconsin to highlight the importance of energy conservation, energy efficiency and continuing to grow businesses and create jobs in the clean energy economy.

"Wisconsin has made big steps forward in recent years through energy conservation, energy efficiency, and by investing in a clean energy economy," Governor Doyle said. "Through greater awareness we can continue to increase our energy independence, save money for families and businesses, and create thousands of new clean energy jobs in Wisconsin."

Businesses, individuals, and government are creating energy solutions that will create jobs, lower utility bills, reduce the use of fossil fuels and work toward energy and economic security.

Since taking office, Governor Doyle has advanced an aggressive agenda to position Wisconsin as a leader in a growing clean energy economy. Wisconsin has adopted renewable portfolio standards, invested in clean energy jobs creation, led the advancement of research in cellulosic ethanol and biomass, and made great strides to increase energy efficiency in homes, businesses and government buildings. As a result, Wisconsin has seen a rapid expansion in alternative energy production and real growth in clean energy jobs.

Across the state, 140 communities have committed to using 25 percent of their electricity and transportation fuels from renewable sources by 2025.

Solar power proves steady investment for Janesville man

From an article by Frank Schultz in the Janesville Press Gazette:

JANESVILLE — So you want to invest.

Stock? Too wobbly.

Interest at the banks? Scant.

A rural Janesville man has found an investment that appears to work in any economy: the sun.

The sun, which is not expected to burn out for billions of years, spills massive amounts of energy onto the Earth every day. It also puts cash into Chuck Niles’ pocket.

Niles, a retired General Motors worker, said he’s been thinking about solar power for 25 years. He got serious about it three years ago when he learned that improvements in solar technology have reduced the cost per watt considerably.

Then he heard about government programs that provide huge discounts in startup costs.

Here’s how Niles does the math:

The 90 panels on the roof of Niles’ pole barn and nearby shed on Murray Road south of Janesville cost $130,410, installation included.

A federal program known as Section 1603 of the Recovery Act paid him $39,600. The state Focus on Energy program paid him $32,603.

Niles uses about $35 worth of electricity a month in the barn. The rest goes to Alliant Energy, which pays him monthly. The checks vary with sunshine, but Niles estimates conservatively that the checks will average around $440 a month.

In the meantime, Niles is also getting a federal income-tax break from the depreciation on his investment.

When all the costs and benefits are accounted for, Niles figures his payback period is just five years. He figures his return on investment is about 12 percent.

Solar power proves steady investment for Janesville man

From an article by Frank Schultz in the Janesville Press Gazette:

JANESVILLE — So you want to invest.

Stock? Too wobbly.

Interest at the banks? Scant.

A rural Janesville man has found an investment that appears to work in any economy: the sun.

The sun, which is not expected to burn out for billions of years, spills massive amounts of energy onto the Earth every day. It also puts cash into Chuck Niles’ pocket.

Niles, a retired General Motors worker, said he’s been thinking about solar power for 25 years. He got serious about it three years ago when he learned that improvements in solar technology have reduced the cost per watt considerably.

Then he heard about government programs that provide huge discounts in startup costs.

Here’s how Niles does the math:

The 90 panels on the roof of Niles’ pole barn and nearby shed on Murray Road south of Janesville cost $130,410, installation included.

A federal program known as Section 1603 of the Recovery Act paid him $39,600. The state Focus on Energy program paid him $32,603.

Niles uses about $35 worth of electricity a month in the barn. The rest goes to Alliant Energy, which pays him monthly. The checks vary with sunshine, but Niles estimates conservatively that the checks will average around $440 a month.

In the meantime, Niles is also getting a federal income-tax break from the depreciation on his investment.

When all the costs and benefits are accounted for, Niles figures his payback period is just five years. He figures his return on investment is about 12 percent.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Seek assistance before heating moratorium begins

From a news release issued by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin:

Heating moratorium begins November 1

MADISON – The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) urges energy consumers to contact their local utility if their heat is currently disconnected. The PSC also encourages residents to take advantage of energy-efficiency programs and the state’s low-income bill payment assistance programs to reduce the burden of utility bills this winter.

Wisconsin law states that consumers cannot be disconnected during the heating moratorium period from November 1 to April 15, if they are connected at the start of the moratorium. Consumers who are currently disconnected must make arrangements with their local utility to pay outstanding bills in order to have service restored. If a consumer has not made arrangements to pay an outstanding bill, the utility is not required to reconnect the service until payment arrangements have been made.

Consumers who need to set up a payment agreement should call their local utility. Phone numbers for the largest utilities in Wisconsin are listed below. If consumers cannot reach an agreement with their utility, they may contact the PSC at 1-608-266-2001 or 1-800-225-7729.

Alliant Energy, 1-800-862-6222
Madison Gas & Electric, 1-608-252-7144
Superior Water, Light & Power, 1-715-394-2200
We Energies, 1-800-842-4565
Wisconsin Public Service Corp., 1-800-450-7260
Xcel Energy, 1-800-895-4999

Energy Assistance
Due to recent changes in program eligibility, many more households across the state may be eligible for heating assistance this winter. Consumers may qualify for assistance in paying their heating bills through the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP), which provides financial assistance to low-income residents. WHEAP is part of the state’s comprehensive Home Energy Plus program which provides assistance with emergency energy needs, emergency furnace repairs, conservation service, and weatherizing for low-income households.

Seek assistance before heating moratorium begins

From a news release issued by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin:

Heating moratorium begins November 1

MADISON – The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) urges energy consumers to contact their local utility if their heat is currently disconnected. The PSC also encourages residents to take advantage of energy-efficiency programs and the state’s low-income bill payment assistance programs to reduce the burden of utility bills this winter.

Wisconsin law states that consumers cannot be disconnected during the heating moratorium period from November 1 to April 15, if they are connected at the start of the moratorium. Consumers who are currently disconnected must make arrangements with their local utility to pay outstanding bills in order to have service restored. If a consumer has not made arrangements to pay an outstanding bill, the utility is not required to reconnect the service until payment arrangements have been made.

Consumers who need to set up a payment agreement should call their local utility. Phone numbers for the largest utilities in Wisconsin are listed below. If consumers cannot reach an agreement with their utility, they may contact the PSC at 1-608-266-2001 or 1-800-225-7729.

Alliant Energy, 1-800-862-6222
Madison Gas & Electric, 1-608-252-7144
Superior Water, Light & Power, 1-715-394-2200
We Energies, 1-800-842-4565
Wisconsin Public Service Corp., 1-800-450-7260
Xcel Energy, 1-800-895-4999

Energy Assistance
Due to recent changes in program eligibility, many more households across the state may be eligible for heating assistance this winter. Consumers may qualify for assistance in paying their heating bills through the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP), which provides financial assistance to low-income residents. WHEAP is part of the state’s comprehensive Home Energy Plus program which provides assistance with emergency energy needs, emergency furnace repairs, conservation service, and weatherizing for low-income households.

Seek assistance before heating moratorium begins

From a news release issued by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin:

Heating moratorium begins November 1

MADISON – The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) urges energy consumers to contact their local utility if their heat is currently disconnected. The PSC also encourages residents to take advantage of energy-efficiency programs and the state’s low-income bill payment assistance programs to reduce the burden of utility bills this winter.

Wisconsin law states that consumers cannot be disconnected during the heating moratorium period from November 1 to April 15, if they are connected at the start of the moratorium. Consumers who are currently disconnected must make arrangements with their local utility to pay outstanding bills in order to have service restored. If a consumer has not made arrangements to pay an outstanding bill, the utility is not required to reconnect the service until payment arrangements have been made.

Consumers who need to set up a payment agreement should call their local utility. Phone numbers for the largest utilities in Wisconsin are listed below. If consumers cannot reach an agreement with their utility, they may contact the PSC at 1-608-266-2001 or 1-800-225-7729.

Alliant Energy, 1-800-862-6222
Madison Gas & Electric, 1-608-252-7144
Superior Water, Light & Power, 1-715-394-2200
We Energies, 1-800-842-4565
Wisconsin Public Service Corp., 1-800-450-7260
Xcel Energy, 1-800-895-4999

Energy Assistance
Due to recent changes in program eligibility, many more households across the state may be eligible for heating assistance this winter. Consumers may qualify for assistance in paying their heating bills through the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP), which provides financial assistance to low-income residents. WHEAP is part of the state’s comprehensive Home Energy Plus program which provides assistance with emergency energy needs, emergency furnace repairs, conservation service, and weatherizing for low-income households.

Don't fall for the myths about CFLs; now is the time to start saving

From a news release issued by Focus on Energy:

When you install ENERGY STAR qualified compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) there are financial and energy savings to be realized; however, there are a few misconceptions about CFLs that have kept some homeowners on the fence. Focus on Energy, Wisconsin's statewide program for energy efficiency and renewable energy, is tackling those myths in an effort to educate Wisconsin residents and help them switch to CFLs. Starting Oct. 1, 2010, and for a limited time, Focus on Energy is offering CFLs for a discounted price at participating retail locations throughout the state.

"We are thrilled with the number of residents throughout Wisconsin who have reduced their energy use and utility bills by installing ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs, but there are still many who have not made the switch," said Linda Mae Schmitt, program manager for Focus on Energy. "It's my hope that by exposing common misconceptions about CFLs, we can encourage more people to take advantage of the many benefits of energy-efficient lighting. And now is the perfect time get on board. Why wouldn't you want to save money while also helping Wisconsin's environment?"

The release goes on to present the facts about the following myths:
Myth #1: CFLs are expensive.
Myth #2: CFLs won't fit in my fixtures.
Myth #3: CFLs are hazardous.
Myth #4: CFLs are hard to find.

Meet Butler Ridge, Wisconsin’s Newest Wind Project

By Michael Vickerman
September 30, 2010

On September 23, Alex DePillis and I hopped on board a tour bus filled with natural resource professionals and gave an overview of wind development in Wisconsin as we headed to the 54 MW Butler Ridge Wind Facility. The project is located in the Town of Herman in southeast Dodge County, a few miles west of State Highway 175. Most of the project’s 36 turbines are located south of State Highway 33.

The project was developed by Midwest Wind, which also developed the Cedar Ridge project owned by Alliant Energy. The project was sold to Babcock & Brown’s U.S. division, which then constructed the facility. The general contractor for that project was RES Americas. Butler Ridge was placed in commercial operation in March 2009. Right now, it is the newest utility-scale wind project in Wisconsin, but that distinction will only late this year, when Shirley Wind comes on-line.

In December 2009, NextEra Energy (formerly FPL Energy) bought Butler Ridge from Babcock and Brown. NextEra is also the owner of the Montfort project in Iowa County.

It turned out to be an excellent day to see wind generation in action. Thanks to a strengthening low pressure system to the west, there was a steady southerly air flow sweeping over southern Wisconsin that morning. Every flag we saw that morning was stiff as could be and pointing due north. Wind speeds at hub height ranged between 20 and 25 mph. The GE turbines were producing at about 75% of their rated capacity.

We stopped at Butler Ridge’s operations and maintenance center on Illinois Road. From the vantage point of the facility, we could see wind turbines in every direction. The closest turbine, at about 1,100 feet away, was audible but barely so.

All of the output from Butler Ridge is sold to WPPI Energy, which serves a number of municipal utilities in the area, including Hartford, Slinger, Hustisford, and Juneau.

Once at the O&M center, the group listened to Nate Crawford, Butler Ridge’s site manager for NextEra, and Julie Voeck, NextEra’s manager for regulatory affairs in the Midwest. Most of the questions from the group addressed environmental impacts. Nate explained that the some of the turbines were moved to the east to create a larger buffer zone between the project and the Neda Mine bat hibernaculum. We also talked about the new permitting rule, the flow of dollars into the local area, and the effects of turbines on radio and TV reception.

Nate said that there have been very few complaints from the neighbors, and they have been almost always about TV reception. NextEra is in the process of providing the affected households with satellite TV service that features Milwaukee stations.

Only one person has taken his complaints to the Herman Town Board. That person, Nate said, has been a vocal opponent of the project from the outset. The Town Board did not find any merit in that individual’s complaint. Nate characterized the local reaction as being very positive, and the Town Board seems very supportive of the installation.

The turbines generate $216,000 annually in utility local aids. Dodge County receives about $125,000 a year, with the remainder going to the Town of Herman.

Though compensating neighbors is not a standard feature of projects developed by NextEra Energy, neighbors of the Butler Ridge turbines do receive compensation. This is a hallmark of Midwest Wind Energy’s developments in Wisconsin.

The Q&A lasted through the allotted 25 minutes. Alex and I stayed a while after the tour bus left to look at the SCADA system and continue our conversation with Nate and Julie. The availability factor at Butler Ridge is very high, with numbers hovering around 99%. I asked Nate if he could recall a time when Butler Ridge was curtailed due to transmission congestion. He could not. But it has become a serious problem at several NextEra Energy projects in Iowa. Julie and I had been at a Wind on the Wires meeting earlier that week, where it was revealed that curtailments in the MISO region are expected to shave 5% off this year’s output from wind generation. There were several at the meeting, including Julie, who believe that the MISO estimate is too low.

All in all, the conservationists seemed to enjoy their visit to Butler Ridge. For me, it was my first visit to this project, and I came away thinking that this is an attractive and well-run facility. It is only an hour’s drive from Madison, and less so from Milwaukee. We are grateful to NextEra Energy for opening up their installation to us.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Don't fall for the myths about CFLs; now is the time to start saving

From a news release issued by Focus on Energy:

When you install ENERGY STAR qualified compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) there are financial and energy savings to be realized; however, there are a few misconceptions about CFLs that have kept some homeowners on the fence. Focus on Energy, Wisconsin's statewide program for energy efficiency and renewable energy, is tackling those myths in an effort to educate Wisconsin residents and help them switch to CFLs. Starting Oct. 1, 2010, and for a limited time, Focus on Energy is offering CFLs for a discounted price at participating retail locations throughout the state.

"We are thrilled with the number of residents throughout Wisconsin who have reduced their energy use and utility bills by installing ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs, but there are still many who have not made the switch," said Linda Mae Schmitt, program manager for Focus on Energy. "It's my hope that by exposing common misconceptions about CFLs, we can encourage more people to take advantage of the many benefits of energy-efficient lighting. And now is the perfect time get on board. Why wouldn't you want to save money while also helping Wisconsin's environment?"

The release goes on to present the facts about the following myths:
Myth #1: CFLs are expensive.
Myth #2: CFLs won't fit in my fixtures.
Myth #3: CFLs are hazardous.
Myth #4: CFLs are hard to find.