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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Developers seek to build large wind farm in St. Croix County

From an article by Clay Barbour in The Chippewa Herald:

MADISON – Developers have applied to the Public Service Commission for a permit to build a large wind farm in western Wisconsin, the first application of its kind in more than two years.

Emerging Energies applied this month to build Highland Wind Farm, a 41-turbine, 102.5-megawatt project in the St. Croix County towns of Forest and Cylon, about 25 miles east of the Minnesota border.

The application comes as new wind citing rules remain in limbo in the PSC, with officials trying to broker a deal between the wind industry and its critics.

William Rakocy, a founding member of Hubertus-based Emerging Energies, said his company understands there is still some uncertainty surrounding Wisconsin’s wind energy regulations, but he feels confident about the project.

“I guess we would like to believe that more reasonable minds will prevail,” he said.

The new wind siting rules, more than a year in the making, were suspended just before going into effect in March. Those rules required that wind turbines have a setback from the nearest property line of 1.1 times the height of the turbine, or roughly 450 feet. The rules also required turbines be no closer than 1,250 feet from the nearest residence.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Johnson Control wins Fort Bliss solar-energy contract

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

Johnson Controls Inc. has won a contract to reduce energy use and add solar energy at the nation's largest military installation, Fort Bliss in Texas and New Mexico.

A contract awarded Friday is valued at $16 million and is projected to save the Army post $39 million in energy costs over the next 24 years, Johnson Controls said.

The contract was awarded two weeks after President Barack Obama signed an executive order calling on federal agencies to make $2 billion worth of energy efficiency upgrades over the next two years, using energy-saving performance contracts like those offered by Johnson Controls.

Some 5,500 solar panels will be installed at Fort Bliss, along with new utility monitoring and control systems to manage energy at 120 different buildings. Together, the solar panels and energy-efficiency measures aim to reduce electricity use during peak power demand periods.

Fort Bliss, which encompasses 1.2 million acres in west Texas and New Mexico, is the country's largest military installation and is undergoing a $4 billion expansion, the military's largest expansion at any military installation since World War II.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Biomass plant construction going full steam ahead

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

ROTHSCHILD -- A $255 million biomass power plant under construction in Rothschild already has put more than 75 people to work full time, providing them with family-sustaining wages, officials said.

The workers -- mostly general laborers, iron workers and carpenters -- have spent recent months pouring concrete and erecting the 11-story steel frame for a building that ultimately will house the plant's boiler, said Randy DeMeuse, vice president of operations for The Boldt Co., the Appleton-based firm overseeing construction.

The plant, a We Energies and Domtar Corp. project, remains on schedule after crews began to build the facility this summer, We Energies spokesman Brian Manthey said. The plant at Domtar's Rothschild paper mill will generate steam for the papermaker and electricity for We Energies and is expected to be complete by late summer of 2013.

The state Public Service Commission approved the project this past summer after neighbors of the site waged a fierce battle to block its construction. Opponents cited pollution and visual concerns, while supporters argued the much-needed jobs outweighed those issues.

The number of people working on-site during construction is expected to climb to 250 by summer. If the project hits any delays, that number could grow to 400 because project managers would need to add a second shift of workers, DeMeuse said.

The number of people working on-site during construction is expected to climb to 250 by summer. If the project hits any delays, that number could grow to 400 because project managers would need to add a second shift of workers, DeMeuse said.

"That's just staff on site; it doesn't include truck drivers at all," he said. "Chances are we may peak out higher than (250)."

Monday, December 19, 2011

Highland Wind Farm, LLC files application for project in St. Croix County

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE December 19, 2011 Contact: Kristin Ruesch or Matthew Pagel, 608-266-9600 Kristin.Ruesch@wisconsin.gov or Matt.Pagel@wisconsin.gov

Madison, WI—The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (Commission) has received an application from Highland Wind Farm, LLC to build a 102.5 megawatt wind project located in the townships of Forest and Cylon, St. Croix County, Wisconsin. When the application is deemed complete, the Commission will have up to 360 days to make a decision on the application.

An electric generation project of 100 megawatts (MW) or greater requires a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) from the Commission.

The Commission has siting jurisdiction over all wind energy systems 100 MW or larger and over utility-owned wind energy systems, regardless of size.

A political subdivision (city, town, village, or county) has siting jurisdiction over non-utility wind energy systems smaller than 100 megawatts.

2009 Wisconsin Act 40 made several changes to the state statutes regarding the siting of wind energy systems. The law retained the jurisdictional split between the Commission and political subdivisions; directed the Commission to write wind siting rules; and stated that a political subdivision may not impose requirements that are more restrictive than those in the Commission’s wind siting rules.

In response, final Wind Siting Rules promulgated by the Commission (PSC 128) were published in the Wisconsin Administrative Register on February 28, 2011, to be effective March 1, 2011. Currently the rules are not in effect due to legislative suspension.

The Commission and interested parties are currently working to resolve concerns regarding wind siting for non-utility projects under 100 MW. Because Highland Wind Farm, LLC has planned a project surpassing the 100 MW threshold, the project application will be treated like any other CPCN application received by the Commission; however, the Commission is also statutorily required to “consider whether installation or use of the facility is consistent with the standards specified in the rules promulgated by the commission under Wis. Stats. §196.378 (4g) (b),” meaning the Commission will need to at least consider whether the application is consistent with the standards in the promulgated, yet suspended, PSC 128 rules.

Once the Commission receives all pieces of an application, the Commission has 30 days to determine whether the application is complete. After a CPCN application is deemed complete, the Commission urges the public to take advantage of the many opportunities to weigh in. The public is encouraged to read the Commission’s public notification letter, verify interested parties are included on the Commission mailing lists, review the application posted online, ask questions of the Commission staff, submit comments, and testify at hearings. Information can be found at the Commission’s web site, http://psc.wi.gov, and at local libraries, government offices, clerks’ offices, and within the environmental review documents that will be prepared for the project.

Wis. Stats. § 196.491 describes the procedures related to the issuance of a CPCN. The general application requirements for the CPCN are described in Wis. Admin. Code ch. PSC 111. An overview of a typical application review process can be found at: http://psc.wi.gov/thelibrary/publications/electric/electric03.pdf.

Documents associated with the Highland Wind Farm application can be viewed on the PSC’s Electronic Regulatory Filing System at http://psc.wi.gov/. Type case numbers 2535-CE-100 in the boxes provided on the PSC homepage, or click on the Electronic Regulatory Filing System button.

###

Why Scott Walker Killed Wind Energy Jobs in Wisconsin

From an article by Louis Weisberg in the Wisconsin Gazette:

When Wisconsin voters elected Scott Walker governor and handed Republicans control of the Legislature, about 1,000 new jobs in the emerging wind energy sector stood waiting on the state's horizon, according to industry proponents.

But Walker, who received at least $1.5 million in campaign cash directly from interests opposed to wind energy and much more indirectly, quickly quashed the rules that would have allowed those jobs - and the state's energy independence - to move forward.

Walker's move reportedly startled wind-energy supporters on both sides of the political aisle, since the so-called "wind siting" rules were ironed out during a year of negotiations with all the major stakeholders and approved by a two-thirds, bipartisan majority of lawmakers during the legislative session immediately preceding the state's GOP takeover.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Cashton community wind project under way

An article by Danielle Endvick in The Country Today:

The turbine foundations have been built and basic infrastructure is in place for Wisconsin's first community wind project.

Cashton Greens Wind Farm, set to begin operation this spring near Highway 27 southwest of Cashton in Monroe County, is expected to generate nearly 5 megawatts of energy, enough to power 1,000 Cashton homes annually.

The $11 million renewable energy project is a collaborative effort of the Village of Cashton, Gundersen Lutheran Health System and Organic Valley, the nation's largest cooperative of organic farmers.

Cecil Wright, Organic Valley director of sustainability, said planning on the wind farm, which is being erected on land near the cooperative's distribution center, began in 2008.

"It's taken a lot of discussion and a lot of learning," he said.

The project is one of several Organic Valley has spearheaded in an effort to gain energy independence. Others included the use of biodiesel in its truck fleet, solar photovoltaic windows in its headquarters and solar hot water panels in its cheese packaging plant and cafe.

The cooperative also encourages energy efficiency for its members through an On-Farm Sustainability Program.

"Our farmers and board have always wanted us to be responsible and get involved in renewable energy," Wright said. "Climate change is real for us, there's no doubt about that. Our farmers get that, our organization gets it, our consumers get it."


Electricity generated from Cashton Green's two commercial-scale turbines will flow into the Cashton power grid. The village invested in the wind farm's infrastructure.

As developers and owners of Cashton Greens, Organic Valley and Gundersen will receive income per kilowatt hour generated. Through a renewable energy contract with the Upper Midwest Municipal Power Agency, the two companies will buy back energy to offset their footprints.

"We'll turn around and buy it back after it goes through the system," Wright said, "but the actual electrons will be used by the village."

The partner companies will benefit from renewable energy credits.

Wright said the wind farm will allow Organic Valley to hedge rising energy costs.

"As the price of electric goes up, our project revenue will go up with it," he said.

A pre-project performance study suggested a pay-off point of 20 years, he said.

"If the cost of electricity goes up, it should more than pay for itself in that time," he said.

A plan for independence

Cashton Greens is one step in a long-term plan to make Gundersen Lutheran energy independent by 2014.

Corey Zarecki, director of engineering and operations for Envision, Gundersen's renewable energy program, said the health care system has aggressively worked toward that goal since 2008.

"Within the first 18 months, we improved energy efficiency by 20 percent," he said.

Zarecki said Gundersen's interest in renewable energy was spurred by increasing utility costs.

In 2007, the system's energy costs were increasing at a rate of more than $350,000 per year.

"Those costs were translating as higher health care costs," Zarecki said. "We chose to do something about it."

The resulting renewable energy program has led to implementation of solar and biomass electric, a heat and power partnership with a local brewery, and an Onalaska landfill gas energy project that will be operational in 2012.

Gundersen is also tied to a similar wind farm site near Lewiston, Minn., that should be running by New Year's, Zarecki said.

"Our overall goal with Envision is to be both ‘green' and ‘green,' " he said. "We want to reduce the cost of health care while being green from the environmental perspective and the financial perspective."

Most Envision projects have had paybacks of five to 10 years, Zarecki said.

The health care provider is invested in improving the communities it serves, he said.

"If you think about a hospital, we've been the community for 100 years," he said, "and we hope to be in the community for longer than that, into the future."

With the wind farm and completion of recent solar projects, Wright said renewable energy will account for 10 percent of energy usage at the Organic Valley headquarters.

The wind farm will also serve as a living lab for students from the Western Technical College of La Crosse.

Wright and Zarecki said they hope Cashton Greens sets an example.

"Most wind projects are done by developers or utilities," Wright said. "It's a little more unusual for companies and a community to get together."

Michels Corporation, a Brownsville-based contractor will install the turbines.

The partners are anxious to see the turbines at work.

"The tower and blades will show up in February, and we'll begin installation in March," Wright said. "We're hoping to have things turning by May."

Cashton community wind project under way

An article by Danielle Endvick in The Country Today:

The turbine foundations have been built and basic infrastructure is in place for Wisconsin's first community wind project.

Cashton Greens Wind Farm, set to begin operation this spring near Highway 27 southwest of Cashton in Monroe County, is expected to generate nearly 5 megawatts of energy, enough to power 1,000 Cashton homes annually.

The $11 million renewable energy project is a collaborative effort of the Village of Cashton, Gundersen Lutheran Health System and Organic Valley, the nation's largest cooperative of organic farmers.

Cecil Wright, Organic Valley director of sustainability, said planning on the wind farm, which is being erected on land near the cooperative's distribution center, began in 2008.

"It's taken a lot of discussion and a lot of learning," he said.

The project is one of several Organic Valley has spearheaded in an effort to gain energy independence. Others included the use of biodiesel in its truck fleet, solar photovoltaic windows in its headquarters and solar hot water panels in its cheese packaging plant and cafe.

The cooperative also encourages energy efficiency for its members through an On-Farm Sustainability Program.

"Our farmers and board have always wanted us to be responsible and get involved in renewable energy," Wright said. "Climate change is real for us, there's no doubt about that. Our farmers get that, our organization gets it, our consumers get it."


Electricity generated from Cashton Green's two commercial-scale turbines will flow into the Cashton power grid. The village invested in the wind farm's infrastructure.

As developers and owners of Cashton Greens, Organic Valley and Gundersen will receive income per kilowatt hour generated. Through a renewable energy contract with the Upper Midwest Municipal Power Agency, the two companies will buy back energy to offset their footprints.

"We'll turn around and buy it back after it goes through the system," Wright said, "but the actual electrons will be used by the village."

The partner companies will benefit from renewable energy credits.

Wright said the wind farm will allow Organic Valley to hedge rising energy costs.

"As the price of electric goes up, our project revenue will go up with it," he said.

A pre-project performance study suggested a pay-off point of 20 years, he said.

"If the cost of electricity goes up, it should more than pay for itself in that time," he said.

A plan for independence

Cashton Greens is one step in a long-term plan to make Gundersen Lutheran energy independent by 2014.

Corey Zarecki, director of engineering and operations for Envision, Gundersen's renewable energy program, said the health care system has aggressively worked toward that goal since 2008.

"Within the first 18 months, we improved energy efficiency by 20 percent," he said.

Zarecki said Gundersen's interest in renewable energy was spurred by increasing utility costs.

In 2007, the system's energy costs were increasing at a rate of more than $350,000 per year.

"Those costs were translating as higher health care costs," Zarecki said. "We chose to do something about it."

The resulting renewable energy program has led to implementation of solar and biomass electric, a heat and power partnership with a local brewery, and an Onalaska landfill gas energy project that will be operational in 2012.

Gundersen is also tied to a similar wind farm site near Lewiston, Minn., that should be running by New Year's, Zarecki said.

"Our overall goal with Envision is to be both ‘green' and ‘green,' " he said. "We want to reduce the cost of health care while being green from the environmental perspective and the financial perspective."

Most Envision projects have had paybacks of five to 10 years, Zarecki said.

The health care provider is invested in improving the communities it serves, he said.

"If you think about a hospital, we've been the community for 100 years," he said, "and we hope to be in the community for longer than that, into the future."

With the wind farm and completion of recent solar projects, Wright said renewable energy will account for 10 percent of energy usage at the Organic Valley headquarters.

The wind farm will also serve as a living lab for students from the Western Technical College of La Crosse.

Wright and Zarecki said they hope Cashton Greens sets an example.

"Most wind projects are done by developers or utilities," Wright said. "It's a little more unusual for companies and a community to get together."

Michels Corporation, a Brownsville-based contractor will install the turbines.

The partners are anxious to see the turbines at work.

"The tower and blades will show up in February, and we'll begin installation in March," Wright said. "We're hoping to have things turning by May."

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Years Later, Wisconsin Wind Farm Fears Fail to Materialize

From an article by Rick Chamberlin in Midwest Energy News:

LINCOLN TOWNSHIP, Wis. — When the 31 Vestas wind turbines in northeast Kewaunee County, Wisconsin began producing electricity in the summer of 1999, a moderate Republican named Tommy Thompson was a few months into his fourth term as governor. Relative peace reigned between the parties in the legislature, statewide unemployment was at a record low and the Dow had just topped 10,000 for the first time.

But in Lincoln and Red River townships, where the turbines were erected, the climate was anything but mild. Residents’ tempers had been flaring since before April 1998 when Madison Gas & Electric (MGE) hosted the first meetings in the community about its plans to build 11.2 megawatts of wind power in the area. Wisconsin Public Service (WPS), a Green Bay-based utility, had also announced its intention to build a large-scale wind farm in the area.

Despite the heat, the two utilities found more than enough landowners in the two towns willing to host all 31 turbines, and the town boards soon voted to approve conditional use permits for the projects. But pressure from several vocal landowners convinced the Lincoln town board in February of 1999 to amend its zoning ordinance to require board affirmation of all applications for future conditional use permits. A few months later, both townships adopted 18-month moratoriums on future wind farm sitings.

“We had some real knock-down-drag-outs,” said Mick Sagrillo, who chaired a committee charged with evaluating the impact of the projects on residents and proposing any changes to the permit process. More than anything, Sagrillo said, people feared change. . . .

A 2003 study by the Renewable Energy Policy Project (REPP) found “no significant evidence that the presence of the wind farms had a negative effect on residential property values” in the communities closest to the Kewaunee County turbines. . . .

When asked if dollars promised to landowners and the townships have materialized, Jerabek said, “I haven’t had any landowners complain that they haven’t received their lease payment.”

An excellent video tells the same story.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Potawatomi plan $18.5 million biomass energy project next to Milwaukee casino

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

The Forest County Potawatomi Tribe is proposing to build an $18.5 million biogas energy project adjacent to its Menomonee Valley casino.

The renewable energy plan calls for construction of an anaerobic digester that would produce both electricity as well as heat that would provide for hot water and heating to the casino.

The digester would produce gas from wastes produced by the food processing industry, the Potatatomi said in a proposal filed with the City of Milwaukee.

The tribe estimated the project would create 61 construction jobs and five full-time jobs. If all approvals are obtained, construction would begin in late spring and be completed by early spring in 2013.

The facility would be located one block west of the casino on the site of what is now a parking lot for casino employees. The tribe says it has ample parking at the casino and that the development would not result in additional street parking.

The tribe was awarded a $2.5 million grant for a variety of renewable energy projects from the U.S. Department of Energy. This project would be funded, as well as a recently completed solar installation at the tribe's administration building in Milwaukee and renewable energy projects that are in the planning stage on the tribe's reservation in northern Wisconsin.

Under the proposal, the biogas project would generate 2 megawatts of electricity, which would be sold to We Energies. That is enough power to supply about 1,500 typical homes. The project would include heat recovery equipment to proivde heat and hot water for the digesters themselves as well as excess heat that would be used to supply heat and hot water to the casino.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Coal Critic Coming to Madison to Speak on Effective Renewable Energy Advocacy, January 13, 2012

For immediate release
December 7, 2011

More information
Michael Vickerman
608.255.4044
mvickerman@renewwisconsin.org

Leslie Glustrom, research director of Colorado-based Clean Energy Action, and an unwavering critic of utility reliance on coal for electricity generation, will be the featured speaker at RENEW Wisconsin’s Energy Policy Summit.

The Summit will be held on Friday, January 13, 2012, at the University of Wisconsin-Extension’s Pyle Center located on the UW-Madison campus. Summit attendees will spend the day discussing and selecting renewable energy strategies that make sense in the current political environment in Wisconsin. More information on the Summit can be found on the RENEW Wisconsin website at http://www.renewwisconsin.org.

As research director, Glustrom authored in 2009 an extensively referenced report on U.S. coal supplies titled, “Coal—Cheap and Abundant—Or Is It? Why Americans Should Stop Assuming that the US has a 200-Year Supply of Coal,” available for free at http://www.cleanenergyaction.org.

Since 2009, Glustrom has traveled to numerous states helping them to understand the likely constraints on their coal supplies.

Glustrom’s on-going research illuminates a future in which coal prices will likely continue to escalate, driven by a combination of less accessible coal supplies, increasing demand from Asian countries, and rising diesel fuel costs for hauling coal to distant markets like Wisconsin.

Clean Energy Action is spearheading a campaign to shut down Colorado’s coal-fired power plants and replace them with locally generated renewable electricity.

“Leslie’s experiences with Clean Energy Action can help Wisconsin renewable energy advocates formulate effective strategies for 2012 and beyond,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide sustainable energy advocacy organization headquartered in Madison.

“Even though Colorado is a coal-producing state, it has adopted some of the most aggressive policies in the country for advancing renewable energy,” said Vickerman. “Colorado’s commitment to clean energy is driving its economy at a time when its coal output is diminishing. For example, Vestas, the world’s largest manufacturer of wind turbines with four plants employing 1,700 people in Colorado, supplied 90 turbines this year to Wisconsin’s largest wind project, the Glacier Hills Wind Park in Columbia County.”

“Leslie will inspire us to reverse the retreat from renewables and retake the initiative going forward,” Vickerman said.

In Boulder, Glustrom was part of the team that led the successful 2010 and 2011 ballot initiatives allowing Boulder to move ahead with plans to municipalize and break away from the long term commitment to coal plants made by their incumbent utility, Xcel Energy.

-- END --

Coal Critic Coming to Madison to Speak on Effective Renewable Energy Advocacy, January 13, 2012

For immediate release
December 7, 2011

More information
Michael Vickerman
608.255.4044
mvickerman@renewwisconsin.org

Leslie Glustrom, research director of Colorado-based Clean Energy Action, and an unwavering critic of utility reliance on coal for electricity generation, will be the featured speaker at RENEW Wisconsin’s Energy Policy Summit.

The Summit will be held on Friday, January 13, 2012, at the University of Wisconsin-Extension’s Pyle Center located on the UW-Madison campus. Summit attendees will spend the day discussing and selecting renewable energy strategies that make sense in the current political environment in Wisconsin. More information on the Summit can be found on the RENEW Wisconsin website at http://www.renewwisconsin.org.

As research director, Glustrom authored in 2009 an extensively referenced report on U.S. coal supplies titled, “Coal—Cheap and Abundant—Or Is It? Why Americans Should Stop Assuming that the US has a 200-Year Supply of Coal,” available for free at http://www.cleanenergyaction.org.

Since 2009, Glustrom has traveled to numerous states helping them to understand the likely constraints on their coal supplies.

Glustrom’s on-going research illuminates a future in which coal prices will likely continue to escalate, driven by a combination of less accessible coal supplies, increasing demand from Asian countries, and rising diesel fuel costs for hauling coal to distant markets like Wisconsin.

Clean Energy Action is spearheading a campaign to shut down Colorado’s coal-fired power plants and replace them with locally generated renewable electricity.

“Leslie’s experiences with Clean Energy Action can help Wisconsin renewable energy advocates formulate effective strategies for 2012 and beyond,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide sustainable energy advocacy organization headquartered in Madison.

“Even though Colorado is a coal-producing state, it has adopted some of the most aggressive policies in the country for advancing renewable energy,” said Vickerman. “Colorado’s commitment to clean energy is driving its economy at a time when its coal output is diminishing. For example, Vestas, the world’s largest manufacturer of wind turbines with four plants employing 1,700 people in Colorado, supplied 90 turbines this year to Wisconsin’s largest wind project, the Glacier Hills Wind Park in Columbia County.”

“Leslie will inspire us to reverse the retreat from renewables and retake the initiative going forward,” Vickerman said.

In Boulder, Glustrom was part of the team that led the successful 2010 and 2011 ballot initiatives allowing Boulder to move ahead with plans to municipalize and break away from the long term commitment to coal plants made by their incumbent utility, Xcel Energy.

-- END --

Coal Critic Coming to Madison to Speak on Effective Renewable Energy Advocacy, January 13, 2012

For immediate release
December 7, 2011

More information
Michael Vickerman
608.255.4044
mvickerman@renewwisconsin.org

Leslie Glustrom, research director of Colorado-based Clean Energy Action, and an unwavering critic of utility reliance on coal for electricity generation, will be the featured speaker at RENEW Wisconsin’s Energy Policy Summit.

The Summit will be held on Friday, January 13, 2012, at the University of Wisconsin-Extension’s Pyle Center located on the UW-Madison campus. Summit attendees will spend the day discussing and selecting renewable energy strategies that make sense in the current political environment in Wisconsin. More information on the Summit can be found on the RENEW Wisconsin website at http://www.renewwisconsin.org.

As research director, Glustrom authored in 2009 an extensively referenced report on U.S. coal supplies titled, “Coal—Cheap and Abundant—Or Is It? Why Americans Should Stop Assuming that the US has a 200-Year Supply of Coal,” available for free at http://www.cleanenergyaction.org.

Since 2009, Glustrom has traveled to numerous states helping them to understand the likely constraints on their coal supplies.

Glustrom’s on-going research illuminates a future in which coal prices will likely continue to escalate, driven by a combination of less accessible coal supplies, increasing demand from Asian countries, and rising diesel fuel costs for hauling coal to distant markets like Wisconsin.

Clean Energy Action is spearheading a campaign to shut down Colorado’s coal-fired power plants and replace them with locally generated renewable electricity.

“Leslie’s experiences with Clean Energy Action can help Wisconsin renewable energy advocates formulate effective strategies for 2012 and beyond,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide sustainable energy advocacy organization headquartered in Madison.

“Even though Colorado is a coal-producing state, it has adopted some of the most aggressive policies in the country for advancing renewable energy,” said Vickerman. “Colorado’s commitment to clean energy is driving its economy at a time when its coal output is diminishing. For example, Vestas, the world’s largest manufacturer of wind turbines with four plants employing 1,700 people in Colorado, supplied 90 turbines this year to Wisconsin’s largest wind project, the Glacier Hills Wind Park in Columbia County.”

“Leslie will inspire us to reverse the retreat from renewables and retake the initiative going forward,” Vickerman said.

In Boulder, Glustrom was part of the team that led the successful 2010 and 2011 ballot initiatives allowing Boulder to move ahead with plans to municipalize and break away from the long term commitment to coal plants made by their incumbent utility, Xcel Energy.

-- END --

Coal Critic Coming to Madison to Speak on Effective Renewable Energy Advocacy, January 13, 2012

For immediate release
December 7, 2011

More information
Michael Vickerman
608.255.4044
mvickerman@renewwisconsin.org

Leslie Glustrom, research director of Colorado-based Clean Energy Action, and an unwavering critic of utility reliance on coal for electricity generation, will be the featured speaker at RENEW Wisconsin’s Energy Policy Summit.

The Summit will be held on Friday, January 13, 2012, at the University of Wisconsin-Extension’s Pyle Center located on the UW-Madison campus. Summit attendees will spend the day discussing and selecting renewable energy strategies that make sense in the current political environment in Wisconsin. More information on the Summit can be found on the RENEW Wisconsin website at http://www.renewwisconsin.org.

As research director, Glustrom authored in 2009 an extensively referenced report on U.S. coal supplies titled, “Coal—Cheap and Abundant—Or Is It? Why Americans Should Stop Assuming that the US has a 200-Year Supply of Coal,” available for free at http://www.cleanenergyaction.org.

Since 2009, Glustrom has traveled to numerous states helping them to understand the likely constraints on their coal supplies.
Glustrom’s on-going research illuminates a future in which coal prices will likely continue to escalate, driven by a combination of less accessible coal supplies, increasing demand from Asian countries, and rising diesel fuel costs for hauling coal to distant markets like Wisconsin.

Clean Energy Action is spearheading a campaign to shut down Colorado’s coal-fired power plants and replace them with locally generated renewable electricity.

“Leslie’s experiences with Clean Energy Action can help Wisconsin renewable energy advocates formulate effective strategies for 2012 and beyond,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide sustainable energy advocacy organization headquartered in Madison.

“Even though Colorado is a coal-producing state, it has adopted some of the most aggressive policies in the country for advancing renewable energy,” said Vickerman. “Colorado’s commitment to clean energy is driving its economy at a time when its coal output is diminishing. For example, Vestas, the world’s largest manufacturer of wind turbines with four plants employing 1,700 people in Colorado, supplied 90 turbines this year to Wisconsin’s largest wind project, the Glacier Hills Wind Park in Columbia County.”

“Leslie will inspire us to reverse the retreat from renewables and retake the initiative going forward,” Vickerman said.


In Boulder, Glustrom was part of the team that led the successful 2010 and 2011 ballot initiatives allowing Boulder to move ahead with plans to municipalize and break away from the long term commitment to coal plants made by their incumbent utility, Xcel Energy.

-- END --

Coal Critic Coming to Madison to Speak on Effective Renewable Energy Advocacy, January 13, 2012

For immediate release
December 7, 2011

More information
Michael Vickerman
608.255.4044
mvickerman@renewwisconsin.org

Leslie Glustrom, research director of Colorado-based Clean Energy Action, and an unwavering critic of utility reliance on coal for electricity generation, will be the featured speaker at RENEW Wisconsin’s Energy Policy Summit.

The Summit will be held on Friday, January 13, 2012, at the University of Wisconsin-Extension’s Pyle Center located on the UW-Madison campus. Summit attendees will spend the day discussing and selecting renewable energy strategies that make sense in the current political environment in Wisconsin. More information on the Summit can be found on the RENEW Wisconsin website at http://www.renewwisconsin.org.

As research director, Glustrom authored in 2009 an extensively referenced report on U.S. coal supplies titled, “Coal—Cheap and Abundant—Or Is It? Why Americans Should Stop Assuming that the US has a 200-Year Supply of Coal,” available for free at http://www.cleanenergyaction.org.

Since 2009, Glustrom has traveled to numerous states helping them to understand the likely constraints on their coal supplies.
Glustrom’s on-going research illuminates a future in which coal prices will likely continue to escalate, driven by a combination of less accessible coal supplies, increasing demand from Asian countries, and rising diesel fuel costs for hauling coal to distant markets like Wisconsin.

Clean Energy Action is spearheading a campaign to shut down Colorado’s coal-fired power plants and replace them with locally generated renewable electricity.

“Leslie’s experiences with Clean Energy Action can help Wisconsin renewable energy advocates formulate effective strategies for 2012 and beyond,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide sustainable energy advocacy organization headquartered in Madison.

“Even though Colorado is a coal-producing state, it has adopted some of the most aggressive policies in the country for advancing renewable energy,” said Vickerman. “Colorado’s commitment to clean energy is driving its economy at a time when its coal output is diminishing. For example, Vestas, the world’s largest manufacturer of wind turbines with four plants employing 1,700 people in Colorado, supplied 90 turbines this year to Wisconsin’s largest wind project, the Glacier Hills Wind Park in Columbia County.”

“Leslie will inspire us to reverse the retreat from renewables and retake the initiative going forward,” Vickerman said.


In Boulder, Glustrom was part of the team that led the successful 2010 and 2011 ballot initiatives allowing Boulder to move ahead with plans to municipalize and break away from the long term commitment to coal plants made by their incumbent utility, Xcel Energy.

-- END --

Monday, December 5, 2011

Local firms join energy efficiency effort backed by Obama, Clinton

From an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Washington - President Barack Obama is enlisting former President Bill Clinton and companies including Briggs & Stratton Corp., Kohl's Corp., 3M and Alcoa Inc. in a $4 billion initiative to cut energy costs in buildings and encourage hiring for construction jobs.

The program, which the administration forecast would create tens of thousands of jobs, is expected to provide work for energy service contracting firms including Johnson Controls Inc. and Trane.

It combines $2 billion in energy-efficiency upgrades over two years for federal buildings along with commitments from companies, cities and universities to put $2 billion into similar efforts.

The improvements to government buildings will be made under an existing federal program that uses private financing, according to the administration. The goal: boost buildings' energy efficiency by at least 20% by 2020.

"This is good business" that will help create jobs and promote energy independence, Clinton said after he and Obama toured a building in Washington that is being retrofitted. "It's the nearest thing we've got to a free lunch in a tough economy."

Obama is expanding the "Better Building Initiative" he announced in February and joining it with a White House effort to spark hiring that was begun after the president's $447 billion jobs plan stalled in Congress.

Johnson Controls is among 17 contractors, including Honeywell International, Trane and Ameresco, that are active contractors in a government program that pays for energy-saving projects through the savings the government sees over time on its energy bills.

Friday's announcement is a sizable boost for a program that Johnson Controls has worked on since it launched in 1998, said Clay Nesler, Johnson Controls vice president.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Iowa farmers find profits blowing in the wind

From an article by Jim Offner in The Courier:

WATERLOO, Iowa --- Of the 480 acres Tim Hemphill owns and 1,200 he farms near Milford, he sets aside three for two wind-turbine towers.

In exchange for the small plot of land Hemphill would have devoted to his corn and soybean products, he collects $20,000 a year.

"It's worth it, even with high grain prices," Hemphill said. "When we put them up, corn was around $3 a bushel, and it has doubled since then, but it's still worth it."

"The check's always good," he said.

Hemphills's towers have been up for two years, and the checks will flow in quarterly for the run of a 30-year contract, he said.

Hemphill said he is but one of an increasing number of Iowa farmers who have watched wind towers go up on their acreages.

"There's quite a few farmers I know who have them," he said. "My neighbor has six of them and another with seven."

Hemphill said his motivation transcends finances, although he acknowledges the income certainly doesn't hurt.

"I think we need more green energy," he said. "People in California and the cities have brownouts. Besides, it's a good revenue source."

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Solar energy makes gains, but policy puts future in question

From an article by in the La Crosse Tribune:

When the sun shines, Al Schultz makes money. Specifically, the 32 photovoltaic panels on his roof turn the sun's rays into electricity that powers his home in Ebner Coulee. If he doesn't need the power, he sells it to Xcel Energy.

"There is a certain peace of mind," said the self-employed contractor. "It's kind of a nice thought to think all your power is paid for."

Schultz is one of a small but growing number of area homeowners who've taken advantage of new, cheaper solar technology, which coupled with state and federal incentives have brought residential solar electric systems within reach of more regular folks looking to lessen their dependence on fossil fuels, lower their utility bills and even make some money.

But changes on the horizon have cast a shadow over the solar industry's future in Wisconsin. . . .

"Right now it's out of reach for 90 percent of the home-owning population," said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a nonprofit that promotes economically and environmentally sustainable energy in Wisconsin. . . .

Money from Focus on Energy is still available this year, but rebates will be frozen in January as FOE implements new formulas used to evaluate cost effectiveness and rebalances its portfolio of energy savings and renewables.

Program administrator William Haas said next year's renewable incentives won't be decided until early spring.

Solar advocates like Vickerman say the energy policy hierarchy, which values efficiency - use reduction - over renewables in terms of cost effectiveness, is misguided.

"However much efficiency is injected, it doesn't have any change in the resource mix," he said. "Diversifying resource mix has value."

Solar panels may reduce dependence on fossil fuels, but dollar for dollar, Haas said, high-efficiency lighting delivers better savings.

Dearing points out that his customers have already weatherized and bought high-efficiency appliances.

"Our customers call us after they've done the low-hanging fruit," he said. "We're expensive. This is big dollar stuff. This is the future."

Vickerman says the future of the solar industry depends on policy.

"If we proceed without any policy changes there won't be much happening," he said. "You'll see a number of solar installers go out of business."

Monday, November 28, 2011

Small projects have wind in their sails

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

Companies working toward energy independence

The stalled state of wind farm development in Wisconsin has led to little development activity for large wind farms.

But on a much smaller scale, wind projects are moving ahead as companies fulfill commitments to environmental and energy independence.

In western Wisconsin, Organic Valley Cooperative and Gundersen Lutheran Health System have broken ground on a two-turbine wind project that will generate enough power to offset the energy use for Organic Valley's corporate headquarters and distribution center, as well as meet 5% of Gundersen Lutheran's energy needs.

In southeastern Wisconsin, S.C. Johnson & Son has proposed building two or three turbines that would generate 1.5 megawatts of power each. If the plans proceed on schedule, the turbines would be erected next year.

The co-op and health care system project, Cashton Greens, calls for roads and foundations for the $9.9 million project to be completed this fall, with the turbines scheduled for installation in spring 2012, said Cecil Wright, Organic Valley's director of sustainability.

When completed, the turbines will generate about 12 million kilowatt-hours a year.

It's a boost to a brand that has the word "organic" in its name, but this is about more than conveying a green image, Wright said.

"One of the main reasons we did is that it'll help manage and fix our costs," Wright said. "We're not just doing it because it's a nice thing to do. The higher the price of electricity goes up, the better we'll do at paying off our project quicker, and that'll be a profit center for us," he said.

"In addition to providing renewable energy to Cashton and Organic Valley, the wind turbines will serve as a 'living lab' for research and education for students at Western Technical College," Wright said.

Windmills and more
At S.C. Johnson, the wind proposal is the latest in a string of distributed generation and renewable energy initiatives for the company, which uses landfill methane gas to generate energy for the factory. The Waxdale factory will be able to produce 100% of its electricity on-site, with 60% of it from renewable sources, said Christopher Beard, S.C. Johnson spokesman.

The reasons for the projects are many - everything from a desire for energy security to a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions linked to energy use and a platform to showcase their brands as environmentally friendly.

"Both of those projects show that customers are demanding and making clean energy happen," said Lee Cullen, a Madison energy lawyer who has been working with clients in the wind-energy sector. "There's a groundswell of renewable energy production that's happening because people understand its importance."

Beard said the S.C. Johnson wind project "helps us address the fact that consumers are asking for products that are green and products that have been produced in a sustainable way. Manufacturing our products using on-site sustainable energy helps meet that consumer demand," Beard said.

Projects to erect wind turbines and solar panels needs to be complemented with efforts to slash energy waste from a company's buildings and production processes, said Tom Eggert, who runs the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council.

Small projects have wind in their sails

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

Companies working toward energy independence

The stalled state of wind farm development in Wisconsin has led to little development activity for large wind farms.

But on a much smaller scale, wind projects are moving ahead as companies fulfill commitments to environmental and energy independence.

In western Wisconsin, Organic Valley Cooperative and Gundersen Lutheran Health System have broken ground on a two-turbine wind project that will generate enough power to offset the energy use for Organic Valley's corporate headquarters and distribution center, as well as meet 5% of Gundersen Lutheran's energy needs.

In southeastern Wisconsin, S.C. Johnson & Son has proposed building two or three turbines that would generate 1.5 megawatts of power each. If the plans proceed on schedule, the turbines would be erected next year.

The co-op and health care system project, Cashton Greens, calls for roads and foundations for the $9.9 million project to be completed this fall, with the turbines scheduled for installation in spring 2012, said Cecil Wright, Organic Valley's director of sustainability.

When completed, the turbines will generate about 12 million kilowatt-hours a year.

It's a boost to a brand that has the word "organic" in its name, but this is about more than conveying a green image, Wright said.

"One of the main reasons we did is that it'll help manage and fix our costs," Wright said. "We're not just doing it because it's a nice thing to do. The higher the price of electricity goes up, the better we'll do at paying off our project quicker, and that'll be a profit center for us," he said.

"In addition to providing renewable energy to Cashton and Organic Valley, the wind turbines will serve as a 'living lab' for research and education for students at Western Technical College," Wright said.

Windmills and more
At S.C. Johnson, the wind proposal is the latest in a string of distributed generation and renewable energy initiatives for the company, which uses landfill methane gas to generate energy for the factory. The Waxdale factory will be able to produce 100% of its electricity on-site, with 60% of it from renewable sources, said Christopher Beard, S.C. Johnson spokesman.

The reasons for the projects are many - everything from a desire for energy security to a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions linked to energy use and a platform to showcase their brands as environmentally friendly.

"Both of those projects show that customers are demanding and making clean energy happen," said Lee Cullen, a Madison energy lawyer who has been working with clients in the wind-energy sector. "There's a groundswell of renewable energy production that's happening because people understand its importance."

Beard said the S.C. Johnson wind project "helps us address the fact that consumers are asking for products that are green and products that have been produced in a sustainable way. Manufacturing our products using on-site sustainable energy helps meet that consumer demand," Beard said.

Projects to erect wind turbines and solar panels needs to be complemented with efforts to slash energy waste from a company's buildings and production processes, said Tom Eggert, who runs the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council.

Friday, November 25, 2011

RENEW Wisconsin hosts Renewable Energy Policy Summit, Jan. 13, 2012

REtaking Initiative - REframing Message REvitalizing Economy
8:30 am - 4:00 pm
Pyle Center, UW-Madison Campus
702 Langdon Street
Madison, WI 53703
Wisconsin's renewable energy marketplace is going through a tumultuous period. We need to chart a new course for 2012 to address the ongoing policy uncertainties and emerging marketplace realities.

RENEW WI invites stakeholders from around the state to join us in shaping the renewable energy community’s 2012 policy agenda.

If you want to build or buy any part of today's energy economy, this is a conversation you want to be part of. Join RENEW members, businesses, energy customers, and legislators to craft a robust policy platform for renewable energy in Wisconsin.

Breakout Groups will discuss strategies for:
Expanding Market Access for Customers and Generators;
Economics of Renewable Production;
Regulatory Environment for Renewable Production ;
How do we choose who we want to be customers of?

Summit Outcomes
Summit Statement for enacting an Energy Economy that works for Wisconsin, with RENEW Wisconsin facilitating working groups throughout 2012.

More information and registration at
RENEW Wisconsin Renewable Energy Policy Summit.

RENEW Wisconsin hosts Renewable Energy Policy Summit, Jan. 13, 2012

REtaking Initiative - REframing Message - REvitalizing Economy
8:30 am - 4:00 pm
Pyle Center, UW-Madison Campus
702 Langdon Street
Madison, WI 53703
Wisconsin's renewable energy marketplace is going through a tumultuous period. We need to chart a new course for 2012 to address the ongoing policy uncertainties and emerging marketplace realities.

RENEW WI invites stakeholders from around the state to join us in shaping the renewable energy community’s 2012 policy agenda.

If you want to build or buy any part of today's energy economy, this is a conversation you want to be part of. Join RENEW members, businesses, energy customers, and legislators to craft a robust policy platform for renewable energy in Wisconsin.


Breakout Groups will discuss strategies for:
Expanding Market Access for Customers and Generators;
Economics of Renewable Production;
Regulatory Environment for Renewable Production ;
How do we choose who we want to be customers of?

Summit Outcomes
Summit Statement for enacting an Energy Economy that works for Wisconsin, with RENEW Wisconsin facilitating working groups throughout 2012.

More information and registration at
RENEW Wisconsin Renewable Energy Policy Summit.

RENEW Wisconsin hosts Renewable Energy Policy Summit, Jan. 13, 2012

REtaking Initiative - REframing Message REvitalizing Economy
8:30 am - 4:00 pm
Pyle Center, UW-Madison Campus
702 Langdon Street
Madison, WI 53703
Wisconsin's renewable energy marketplace is going through a tumultuous period. We need to chart a new course for 2012 to address the ongoing policy uncertainties and emerging marketplace realities.

RENEW WI invites stakeholders from around the state to join us in shaping the renewable energy community’s 2012 policy agenda.

If you want to build or buy any part of today's energy economy, this is a conversation you want to be part of. Join RENEW members, businesses, energy customers, and legislators to craft a robust policy platform for renewable energy in Wisconsin.


Breakout Groups will discuss strategies for:
Expanding Market Access for Customers and Generators;
Economics of Renewable Production;
Regulatory Environment for Renewable Production ;
How do we choose who we want to be customers of?

Summit Outcomes
Summit Statement for enacting an Energy Economy that works for Wisconsin, with RENEW Wisconsin facilitating working groups throughout 2012.

More information and registration at
RENEW Wisconsin Renewable Energy Policy Summit.

RENEW Wisconsin hosts Renewable Energy Policy Summit, Jan. 13, 2012

REtaking Initiative - REframing Message REvitalizing Economy
8:30 am - 4:00 pm
Pyle Center, UW-Madison Campus
702 Langdon Street
Madison, WI 53703
Wisconsin's renewable energy marketplace is going through a tumultuous period. We need to chart a new course for 2012 to address the ongoing policy uncertainties and emerging marketplace realities.

RENEW WI invites stakeholders from around the state to join us in shaping the renewable energy community’s 2012 policy agenda.

If you want to build or buy any part of today's energy economy, this is a conversation you want to be part of. Join RENEW members, businesses, energy customers, and legislators to craft a robust policy platform for renewable energy in Wisconsin.


Breakout Groups will discuss strategies for:
Expanding Market Access for Customers and Generators;
Economics of Renewable Production;
Regulatory Environment for Renewable Production ;
How do we choose who we want to be customers of?

Summit Outcomes
Summit Statement for enacting an Energy Economy that works for Wisconsin, with RENEW Wisconsin facilitating working groups throughout 2012.

More information and registration at
RENEW Wisconsin Renewable Energy Policy Summit.

Friday, November 18, 2011

La Crosse picked over Eau Claire for commuter train route

From an article in The Chippewa Herald:

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Federal Railroad Administration says a route running along the Mississippi River is the most feasible and reasonable for a proposed high-speed commuter train between the Twin Cities and Chicago.

That puts an end to another option that would have sent the route along the I-94 corridor through Eau Claire.

However, not only is the preferred route in the earliest planning stages, but fixing the existing track for the entire high-speed line could cost as much $3 billion — and such funding isn't visible on the horizon.

But advocates hailed Tuesday's announcement as an important step in getting more money for faster passenger rail service.

"We're pleased that we're able to find a path to move forward and continue to develop the project ... if nothing else," said Dan Krom, director of the passenger rail office for the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

“If we can get to Chicago in 5-1/2 hours, we can compete with autos,” Krom told the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Wisconsin regulators question CapX2020 power-line proposal

From an article by Mary Juhl in the La Crosse Tribune:

WINONA, Minn. - The Wisconsin Public Service Commission isn't convinced the La Crosse-area population will increase enough to justify a proposed $450 million, 345-kilovolt transmission line.

The proposed CapX2020 line would extend about 150 miles from Hampton, Minn., to the La Crosse area, crossing the Mississippi River at Alma and ending at a new substation near Holmen. Construction would begin in 2013, with the line in service by 2015.

The Public Service Commission, a state regulatory agency, released a preliminary review of the project this week that questioned some CapX2020 projections.

"The applicants state that the growing demand for electricity in the La Crosse/Winona area would exceed the capabilities of the existing electrical system to deliver power reliably under contingency conditions," the agency stated in its report. "At this time, that conclusion is still being questioned."

CapX2020 officials have projected the demand for electricity in the Winona and La Crosse area to increase significantly over the next 20 years, by 1.7 percent annually. Referencing its own data, the Public Service Commission says that estimate is high because projected population growth has slowed.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

RENEW applauds Organic Valley & Gundersen for first community wind project in Wisconsin

A news release from RENEW:

Construction is now proceeding on the Cashton Greens Wind Project, Wisconsin’s first community wind project. Consisting of two 2.5 megawatt turbines, this innovative installation will serve two well-known western Wisconsin organizations – Organic Valley, La Farge, and Gundersen Health System, La Crosse. The two organizations are partnering in the development and ownership of this project.

“We at RENEW salute Organic Valley and Gundersen for demonstrating the viability of a large-scale wind turbine project in Wisconsin as a strategy for controlling their energy expenses and reducing their reliance on fossil fuels, said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide sustainable energy advocacy organization headquartered in Madison.

According to the two companies, the generated electricity will account for five percent of Gundersen’s energy independence goal and more than offset the electricity usage at both Organic Valley’s distribution center in Cashton and its headquarters facilities in La Farge.

“This is leadership by example at its finest. In this case, two economic linchpins in their region have joined forces to incorporate on-site renewable energy production into their base operations,” said Vickerman.

“Organic Valley and Gundersen join a group of farsighted Wisconsin businesses that are taking great strides toward energy independence and sustainability, among them Epic Systems (Verona), Johnson Controls (Milwaukee), and Montchevré, a goat cheese producer in Belmont.”

Erecting wind turbines using in-state contractors, in this case Michels Corporation (Brownsville), will generate jobs for workers and business for local suppliers and subcontractors.

This project was supported with incentives from Focus on Energy, the statewide energy efficiency and renewables program funded by Wisconsin’s utility ratepayers.

“Ironically, this project occurs at a time when our state government is back-pedaling on policies and incentives to boost renewable energy as a means of moving toward energy independence. In contrast to Wisconsin’s elected officials, leading Wisconsin companies certainly ʽget it’ when it comes to the economic and environmental values of renewable energy,” said Vickerman.

For more information about this project and its owners/developers visit Organic Valley’s news room at http://www.organicvalley.coop/newsroom.

RENEW applauds Organic Valley & Gundersen for first community wind project in Wisconsin

A news release from RENEW:

Construction is now proceeding on the Cashton Greens Wind Project, Wisconsin’s first community wind project. Consisting of two 2.5 megawatt turbines, this innovative installation will serve two well-known western Wisconsin organizations – Organic Valley, La Farge, and Gundersen Health System, La Crosse. The two organizations are partnering in the development and ownership of this project.

“We at RENEW salute Organic Valley and Gundersen for demonstrating the viability of a large-scale wind turbine project in Wisconsin as a strategy for controlling their energy expenses and reducing their reliance on fossil fuels, said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide sustainable energy advocacy organization headquartered in Madison.

According to the two companies, the generated electricity will account for five percent of Gundersen’s energy independence goal and more than offset the electricity usage at both Organic Valley’s distribution center in Cashton and its headquarters facilities in La Farge.

“This is leadership by example at its finest. In this case, two economic linchpins in their region have joined forces to incorporate on-site renewable energy production into their base operations,” said Vickerman.

“Organic Valley and Gundersen join a group of farsighted Wisconsin businesses that are taking great strides toward energy independence and sustainability, among them Epic Systems (Verona), Johnson Controls (Milwaukee), and Montchevré, a goat cheese producer in Belmont.”

Erecting wind turbines using in-state contractors, in this case Michels Corporation (Brownsville), will generate jobs for workers and business for local suppliers and subcontractors.

This project was supported with incentives from Focus on Energy, the statewide energy efficiency and renewables program funded by Wisconsin’s utility ratepayers.

“Ironically, this project occurs at a time when our state government is back-pedaling on policies and incentives to boost renewable energy as a means of moving toward energy independence. In contrast to Wisconsin’s elected officials, leading Wisconsin companies certainly ʽget it’ when it comes to the economic and environmental values of renewable energy,” said Vickerman.

For more information about this project and its owners/developers visit Organic Valley’s news room at http://www.organicvalley.coop/newsroom.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Organic Valley and Gundersen Health System break ground on Cashton Greens Wind Farm

From a news release from Organic Valley issued on November 14:

Organic Valley, the nation’s largest cooperative of organic farmers and a leading organic brand, and Gundersen Health System today announced construction has begun on the Cashton Greens Wind Farm, Wisconsin’s first community wind project. This collaborative project will feature two wind turbines expected to generate nearly 5 megawatts of energy for Cashton’s power grid—enough to power 1,000 homes each year. The energy produced will more than offset electricity used at Organic Valley’s Cashton Distribution Center and its La Farge headquarters facilities, and represents about five percent of Gundersen’s energy independence goal.

“Fostering strong, sustainable rural communities is key to who we are,” said George Siemon, founding farmer and C-E-I-E-I-O of Organic Valley. “We’re particularly proud to establish a long-term renewable energy source right here in the Cashton area, which is not only a sustainable solution for our community, but hopefully also an example for other communities.”

The Cashton Greens Wind Farm is the first commercial scale project of its kind in Wisconsin. Wind farms typically are owned by utility or wind development companies, but as developers and owners of the Cashton Greens Wind Farm, Organic Valley and Gundersen will receive income per kilowatt hour (kWh) generated. Organic Valley will buy back its portion of energy to offset its footprint through a renewable energy contract with the villages of Cashton and La Farge.

“Gundersen Health System is pleased to be entering into this partnership with Organic Valley,” says Jeff Rich, executive director, GL Envision, LLC. “The wind farm project is a great thing for our patients and for the community. By reducing our energy costs, we can eventually pass the savings on to our patients in the form of lower healthcare costs. In addition, the project creates local construction jobs and has a positive impact on the health of the environment, too. It is a win-win all around.”

Roads, foundations, the electrical collection system, and an operation and maintenance facility for the Cashton Greens Wind Farm will be completed this year, and the turbines are scheduled for installation in spring 2012 by Michels Corporation, a Brownsville, Wis.-based utility, engineering, design and construction contractor.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Interest in energy-efficiency program picks up

From an article by Sharif Durhams in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Maybe the cash rebates are responsible for the uptick in interest in a City of Milwaukee program designed to help consumers pay for energy-saving home improvements.

Or maybe it was just a cold snap.

In any case, the number of city residents signing up for the Milwaukee Energy Efficiency program, known as Me2, is picking up after a slow start. The program, financed by a federal stimulus grant, has a goal of getting at least 4,500 buildings retrofitted with insulation, more efficient furnaces and other green improvements over the next two years.

So far about a tenth of that number of homeowners - 444 - have paid for the $100 energy assessments that are required for the program since it launched early this year. Ninety-three homeowners have completed the recommended upgrades or are making them.

"Nothing is as fast as you'd like it to be, of course, but we're getting some pickup," said Dan Milbrandt, the chief lending officer for Summit Credit Union.

The credit union, which is providing low-interest loans for the home improvements, has a potential lending pool of $30 million for the program. So far, the credit union has signed off on $260,000 in loans, a figure Milbrandt said bank officials expected to hit this summer.

Since then, the partners in the program - the city, Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corp. and Summit - have better coordinated their efforts, Milbrandt said. And the program has added incentives.

Now, anyone who invests at least $2,500 in energy improvements gets a $500 rebate from Me2. Those who make at least $5,000 in improvements get $1,000 back. To get in on the deal, participants have to sign up with a participating contractor and commit to making the improvements by the end of the year, said Erick Shambarger of the City of Milwaukee's Office of Environmental Sustainability.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Farmers can save money, help environment with renewable energy

From a a story by Tim Morrissey of Public News Service:

SPRING VALLEY, Wis. - Increasing numbers of Wisconsin farmers are cutting their power bills and reducing their carbon footprints by switching to alternative sources of energy.

Harriet Behar, an organic specialist with the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES), says farmers use a lot of energy in producing food.

"From grinding feed to heating hot water in a milk-house to just cleaning grain, fixing machinery - all kinds of things that are done on farms that use energy, and they pay pretty hefty electric bills."

A typical monthly electric bill for the average farm can run $300 to $400. Behar says she is seeing a trend of farmers using several forms of alternative energy.

"Solar photovoltaics for electricity; wind for electricity; and then solar hot-water heating, and biodiesel, where they grow a crop and use that as fuel."

MOSES, Behar says, is involved in helping farmers make the transition to cleaner forms of energy.

"We've had workshops at our Organic University and also at the Organic Farming Conference, both on looking at alternative sources of energy."

Some state and federal grants and programs are available to help farmers develop alternative energy sources, but Behar says many decide to do it on their own.

"Even without government funding, they have participated more in this, because they like making that investment in their infrastructure on the farm, for a kind of long-term sustainability."

Illinois town aims to make electric cars … Normal

From an article by Kari Lydersenin Midwest Energy News:

Normal, Illinois, is home to Mitsubishi’s only U.S. manufacturing plant, and residents of the town 130 miles southwest of Chicago are known for embracing sustainability and renewable energy. Many families have two incomes and two cars, and “are very educated and early adopters of technology,” in the words of Mayor Chris Koos.

So about a year ago, Koos and other civic leaders decided to dub Normal and its adjacent “sister city,” Bloomington, “EVTown” and ask Mitsubishi to make it among the early destinations for its new all-electric car, the i-MiEV.

As typically happens with electric and hybrid cars, Mistubishi will roll out the i-MiEV in larger coastal markets first. Drivers in smaller towns, especially in the Midwest, will have to wait many months longer than urbanites to buy an electric vehicle or hybrid from their local dealer. Normal town planner Mercy Davison said locals were disappointed in how long they had to wait for the Nissan Leaf.

So Mitsubishi agreed to dedicate up to 1,000 i-MiEVs for Bloomington-Normal drivers. With a combined population of about 130,000, that would mean a considerably high proportion of families buying new i-MiEVs.

“It’s a big goal, but we think it’s doable,” said Koos.

A bright idea from Milwaukee

From an article by Dan Haugen in Midwest Energy News:

A mobile app that helps people perform their own home lighting audits is the winner of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “Apps for the Environment” challenge.

Light Bulb Finder was created by a Milwaukee, Wisc., app developer called Eco Hatchery. Co-founders Adam Borut and Andrea Nylund learned they won the challenge last week, and on Tuesday they’ll be in Washington, D.C., to accept the recognition. . . .

The app was released for iPhone and Android in late 2010. It lets people walk around their home and use icons to identify the type of bulb currently used in each light fixture. After entering a zip code and the estimated daily hours of use for each bulb, the app suggests more efficient replacement bulbs, as well as a detailed projection of savings, in dollars and carbon emissions.

“We want to provide people with meaningful, individualized feedback so that they can make the smartest decision based on their priorities,” Borut said.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sierra Club issues notice of intent to sue We Energies for coal ash spill

A news release from the Sierra Club:

Madison, Wisconsin - Today, the Sierra Club issued a Notice of Intent to sue We Energies for the October 31 flood of coal ash into Lake Michigan when an old landfill located on the bluff collapsed at a construction site at the company’s Oak Creek coal plant.

“We Energies must be held responsible for the toxic mess at the bottom of Lake Michigan,” explained Jennifer Feyerherm of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. “We Energies has essentially turned Lake Michigan, a national treasure that supplies drinking water to over 10 million people, into a coal ash dump. We Energies filled a ravine next to Lake Michigan with coal ash, and it is that ash that now lies at the bottom of the lake. This was a predicted and preventable disaster.”

A biologist from the Southeastern Wisconsin Planning Commission raised concerns about the structural stability of the bluff when We Energies was planning to develop the site. As construction proceeded, the bluff collapsed, covering the shoreline with an estimated 25,000 cubic yards of coal ash and soil and dumping 2,500 cubic yards of coal ash and soil into the lake.

The Notice of Intent to sue alleges that the pollutants in the coal ash at the bottom of Lake Michigan “pose an imminent and substantial endangerment to human health and the environment.”

Coal ash is the toxic byproduct of burning coal. Heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury, chromium, and molybdenum remain in the ash after coal is burned. These toxic metals are linked to many health effects including cancer, birth defects, kidney damage, and nerve damage. In fact, studies have likened the risk of living near a coal ash site to smoking a pack of cigarettes each day. These toxic metals also put our fragile Great Lakes ecosystem at risk, threatening aquatic habitat and building up in the food chain.

“There are more than 2,000 toxic coal ash sites in the U.S. polluting our air and water, and now there is a new one on the bottom of Lake Michigan,” noted Melissa Warner, a volunteer leader with the Sierra Club that lives south of the coal ash dump. “My family’s drinking water comes from the lake. We Energies must clean up its mess and prevent any disaster like this from happening again.”

To date, there has been little information available to the local community about where the coal ash in the lake is going, what it will take to clean it up, and when the cleanup might be completed. Today’s Notice of Intent to sue is the first step in legal action against We Energies to force the company to clean up the toxic coal ash.

Ever since the TVA coal ash disaster in 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency has been trying to enact national protections to stop this kind of disastrous spill from happening.

“Communities here in Wisconsin and across the nation remain at risk and unprotected,” concluded Feyerherm. “The burning of coal is a public health menace. This spill is yet another illustration that as long as we are still mining and burning coal, our families and communities are paying the price.”

More posts on the spill and utilities.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Facts on wind installations trump myths

Michael Vickerman's letter-to-the-editor of the Racine Journal Times:

Dear Editor:

In his November 3rd letter opposing S.C. Johnson’s proposed wind development in Mt. Pleasant, Tom Joy rattles off a number of myths about wind turbines that populate the Internet. However, the facts on the ground paint a very different picture of wind generation than what Mr. Joy represents.

First, there is no medically credible study out there that concludes or suggests that wind generation is a threat to human health. According to Dr. Jevon McFadden, a public health professional serving on Wisconsin’s Wind Siting Council, “Evidence does not support the conclusion that wind turbines cause or are associated with adverse health outcomes.”

If the experience elsewhere in Wisconsin is any guide, the proposed wind turbines will have no discernible effect on neighboring property values. But don’t just take RENEW’s word for it. Ask any and all assessors in townships that host large wind turbines, and to a person they will confirm that finding. Moreover, in Kewaunee County, home to the oldest commercial wind projects in Wisconsin, new homes are going up within sight of the 31 turbines operating there.

S.C. Johnson’s proposed project has been carefully designed to meet the strict performance standards specified in Wisconsin’s wind siting rule. We have little doubt that this project, once placed in service, will very quickly become a source of pride for the surrounding community.

Sincerely,

Michael Vickerman
Executive Director
RENEW Wisconsin

Facts on wind installations trump myths

Michael Vickerman's letter-to-the-editor of the Racine Journal Times:

Dear Editor:

In his November 3rd letter opposing S.C. Johnson’s proposed wind development in Mt. Pleasant, Tom Joy rattles off a number of myths about wind turbines that populate the Internet. However, the facts on the ground paint a very different picture of wind generation than what Mr. Joy represents.

First, there is no medically credible study out there that concludes or suggests that wind generation is a threat to human health. According to Dr. Jevon McFadden, a public health professional serving on Wisconsin’s Wind Siting Council, “Evidence does not support the conclusion that wind turbines cause or are associated with adverse health outcomes.”

If the experience elsewhere in Wisconsin is any guide, the proposed wind turbines will have no discernible effect on neighboring property values. But don’t just take RENEW’s word for it. Ask any and all assessors in townships that host large wind turbines, and to a person they will confirm that finding. Moreover, in Kewaunee County, home to the oldest commercial wind projects in Wisconsin, new homes are going up within sight of the 31 turbines operating there.

S.C. Johnson’s proposed project has been carefully designed to meet the strict performance standards specified in Wisconsin’s wind siting rule. We have little doubt that this project, once placed in service, will very quickly become a source of pride for the surrounding community.

Sincerely,

Michael Vickerman
Executive Director
RENEW Wisconsin

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

We Energies' coal ash spill dumps toxins into Lake Michigan

A news release issued by Clean Wisconsin:

November 1, 2011

Contact:
Katie Nekola
Clean Wisconsin
608.212.8751(cell)

MILWAUKEE — Monday’s bluff collapse at We Energies’ Oak Creek coal plant sent a substantial amount of coal ash into Lake Michigan. Coal ash is a dangerous byproduct of burning coal to make electricity, yet has potentially toxic health effects if it enters our groundwater.

“We Energies said in an update on its website today that coal ash is ‘not a hazardous material,’” says Katie Nekola, attorney for Clean Wisconsin, “but that is far from true. The fact is, coal ash contains chemicals and compounds that are dangerous to human health. This disaster proves that we need better regulation of coal ash and that the public deserves the right to know what’s in their drinking water.”

Coal ash contains 24 known pollutants, some of which, according to the National Resource Council, are toxic even in minuscule quantities. Those toxins include: arsenic, boron, cadmium, chromium, hexavalent chromium, lead, mercury, and dioxins, along with other chemicals and compounds.

These toxins can cause serious health problems including cancers, central nervous system damage, and blood and kidney disorders. Coal ash dump ponds and landfills are often unlined, and arsenic, lead, mercury and cadmium can leach into local drinking water. One Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study found that residents living near unlined ash ponds run a risk of cancer from arsenic contamination that is 2,000 times greater than the EPA's threshold for acceptable risk. At Oak Creek, the coal ash came from a decades-old, closed coal ash landfill. This spill comes at a time when Congress is considering limiting EPA's authority to regulate coal ash as a hazardous waste.

“This landslide poured toxic materials directly into Lake Michigan, which 10 million people rely on for drinking water,” said Nekola. “Area residents should insist that We Energies and state regulators ensure the safety of their water supplies as soon as possible.”

###

Solar farm, alternative fueling station, composting set for O'Hare & Midway

From an article by Jon Hilkevitch in the Chicago Tribune:

Solar energy collectors will be installed on up to 60 acres at O'Hare International Airport, and a service station selling alternative fuels for private and commercial vehicles will open near the airport, Chicago's aviation chief announced Monday.

"The solar panels will provide a substantial renewable energy source to help power O'Hare, and the alternative fueling station will promote the use of clean fuels and electricity to power vehicles," city Aviation Commissioner Rosemarie Andolino said at the 2011 Airports Going Green conference, which runs through Wednesday in downtown Chicago and at O'Hare.

At Midway airport, a composting program will be launched to handle food waste from its 13 restaurants, Andolino said.
private waste hauler will collect compostable materials at Midway, ranging from leftover food to cardboard boxes, and deliver them to an off-site composting facility, said Amy Malick, deputy commissioner of sustainability at the Chicago Department of Aviation.

The Midway project follows a pilot composting program at O'Hare. A total of 200 tons of compostable waste at both airports will be diverted from landfills each year, Malick said.

The service station selling alternative fuels will be located on a 2.25-acre parcel at Patton Drive and Higgins Road (near the intersection of Mannheim Road and Higgins) just outside the airport, Andolino said.

"The fueling station will be able to provide alternative fuels like bio-diesel, ethanol, electric charging as well as traditional fuel'' to commercial vehicles and private passenger vehicles, Andolino said. Construction of the facility is expected to begin in about a year, she said.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Bluff collapse at power plant sends dirt, coal ash into Lake Michigan

From an article by Meg Jones and Don Behm in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Oak Creek - A large section of bluff collapsed Monday next to the We Energies Oak Creek Power Plant, sending dirt, coal ash and mud cascading into the shoreline next to Lake Michigan and dumping a pickup truck, dredging equipment, soil and other debris into the lake.

There were no injuries, and the incident did not affect power output from the plant.

When the section of bluff collapsed and slid from a terraced area at the top of a hill down to the lake, Oak Creek Acting Fire Chief Tom Rosandich said, it left behind a debris field that stretched 120 yards long and 50 to 80 yards wide at the bottom.

Aerial images show a trailer and storage units holding construction equipment tumbled like Tonka toy trucks and were swept along with the falling bluff in a river of dirt that ended in the water.

"This is definitely a freak accident," U.S. Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Brian Dykenssaid.

As a company hired by We Energies began cleanup in Lake Michigan, the utility confirmed that coal ash was part of the debris.

"Based on our land use records it is probable that some of the material that washed into the lake is coal ash," We Energies spokesman Barry McNulty said. "We believe that was something that was used to fill the ravine area in that site during the 1950s. That's a practice that was discontinued several decades ago."

The Environmental Protection Agency is in the process of developing stricter regulations of coal ash following a 2008 Tennessee coal ash pond washout that created a devastating environmental disaster.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Milwaukee County and Kenosha get funds for express bus routes

From an article by Larry Sandler in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Milwaukee County will get $19.1 million in federal funds to pay for three new express bus routes, the state Department of Transportation and County Executive Chris Abele announced Thursday.

Those new routes will partly replace existing local service, as part of Abele's plan to stave off deep cuts that had been recommended in other routes. Regional planners, state staffers and local advisory committees had backed the plan before it received final approval from state Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb.

Two routes will be funded by $12.7 million of the $15 million previously allocated to the now-defunct KRM Commuter Link rail plan. The remaining $2.3 million will go to Kenosha Transit for new buses.

One route will run from Bayshore Town Center to Mitchell International Airport, by way of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and downtown; the other will run from UWM to the Waukesha County line, mainly on Capitol Drive.

Jackson Co. farm gets USDA funds for biodigester project

The USDA announced $1.8 million in a grant and loan for an electricity-generating manure digester at Heller Farms near Alma Center in Jackson County:

MERRILL, Wis., October 26, 2011 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA is funding anaerobic digester projects in eight states to encourage renewable energy production, reduce energy costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and farm-based pollution. The announcement was made on the Secretary's behalf by Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager during a trip to Wisconsin.

"Through the efforts of the Obama Administration, the Rural Energy for America Program has helped rural small businesses, farmers and ranchers across the nation," Vilsack said. "Since its creation this program has assisted almost 9,600 small businesses, farmers and ranchers and created or saved an estimated 15,000 jobs. It also provides producers with new opportunities to diversify revenue and make American agriculture and rural small business more competitive."

Funding for the biodigesters is provided through the USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and has created or saved an estimated 13.4 billion kWh of electricity and reduced almost 14.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

One of the biodigesters announced today will be constructed on Heller Farms near Alma Center in Jackson County, Wis. It is expected to produce 3.3 million kW hours of renewable energy each year, enough to power 400 average Wisconsin homes per year. Digesters will also be constructed in Pennsylvania, Idaho, Iowa, Florida, Oregon, Ohio, and Vermont.

Today's announcement is in concert with an agreement signed by Secretary Vilsack in December, 2009. During climate change talks in Copenhagen, Denmark, the Secretary signed a historic agreement to help U.S. dairy producers cut greenhouse gas emissions. The agreement between USDA and the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy calls for the parties to work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from dairy farms by 25 percent by 2020.