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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Siting Windpower: The View From the Minefield

From a presentation by Michael Vickerman Wind Powering America All States Summit in Anaheim, CA, May 26, 2011:

In January 2011, All Hell Broke Loose:
• PSC 128 [statewide wind siting rule] clears legislative review in December;
• Gov. Walker introduces bill Jan. 11 in special session (SB 9) that threatens to bring wind development to a standstill;
• Most important provision in SB 9: greatly extends minimum setback requirement;
• PSC rule: 1.1 x total height from property lines (400-500 ft.);
• SB 9: 1,800 feet from property lines.

How Problematic Are 1,800 ft. Setback Requirements to SitingWind Turbines?
Consider Glacier Hills – a 90-turbine wind project under construction in two townships in Columbia County characterized by a low density of population:
• No. of turbines beyond a 1,250 ft. setback requirement from non-participating residences: 75 to 80;
• No. of turbines beyond an 1,800 ft. setback requirement from property lines: 2 to 5.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Energy groups oppose bill to undermine Wisconsin's renewable energy commitment

From statements issued by three groups in opposition to Assembly Bill 146:

"Clearly, this bill is a drastic step in the wrong direction for our state. The Wisconsin Energy Business Association therefore opposes this attack on renewable energy in our state." - Wisconsin Energy Business Association. Full statement.

We strongly recommend that this bill not be approved as it solves no known problem in Wisconsin and seeks only to roll-back policies on renewable energy that have served the state well and are otherwise benefitting Wisconsin residents with cleaner air and lower prices for electricity. - Wind on the Wires. Full statement.

Fresh attack on Wisconsin voters’ desire for a renewable energy standard would kill wind projects and sap state’s economy, say wind energy advocates - American Wind Energy Association. Full statement.

Energy groups oppose bill to undermine Wisconsin's renewable energy commitment

From statements issued by three groups in opposition to Assembly Bill 146:

"Clearly, this bill is a drastic step in the wrong direction for our state. The Wisconsin Energy Business Association therefore opposes this attack on renewable energy in our state." - Wisconsin Energy Business Association. Full statement.

We strongly recommend that this bill not be approved as it solves no known problem in Wisconsin and seeks only to roll-back policies on renewable energy that have served the state well and are otherwise benefitting Wisconsin residents with cleaner air and lower prices for electricity. - Wind on the Wires. Full statement.

Fresh attack on Wisconsin voters’ desire for a renewable energy standard would kill wind projects and sap state’s economy, say wind energy advocates - American Wind Energy Association. Full statement.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

WI utility agrees to buy Canadian hydroelectric power

While RENEW opposes counting hydro toward a utility's renewable portofio standard, Wisconsin Public Service agreed to buy 100 MW from Manitoba Hyrdo, according to an article in The Lac du Bonnet Leader:

Premier Greg Selinger announced today that Manitoba Hydro has signed agreements for a 250megawatt (MW) sale of electricity to Minnesota Power and a 100-MW sale to Wisconsin Public Service. Combined with a previously completed 125 MW sale to Northern States Power, these sales total 475 MW with an estimated value of $4 billion, Selinger said.

The premier said these sales will require the construction of new hydroelectric generating capacity in Manitoba. They will trigger the development of the 695-MW Keeyask (Cree for gull) Generating Station located on the lower Nelson River 175 km northeast of Thompson in the Split Lake Resource Management Area. Keeyask is to be developed by a partnership consisting of Manitoba Hydro and the Keeyask Cree Nations-Tataskweyak Cree Nation, War Lake First Nation, Fox Lake Cree Nation, and York Factory First Nation. The $5.6-billion project will provide some 4,500 person-years of construction employment, said Selinger. . .

The 250-MW power sale to Minnesota Power over a 15-year period from 2020 to 2035 requires an additional interconnection between Manitoba and the United States which will provide increased export capability and reliability benefits for Manitoba, said Selinger.

The 100-MW power sale agreement to Wisconsin Public Service covers the 2021-2027 period. Negotiations are continuing to expand the Wisconsin sale to 500 MW which would require construction of the Conawapa Generating Station, the premier said, adding with these sales, Manitoba Hydro and its partners are reviewing scheduling and other requirements for moving forward with Keeyask.

Transit: A Lifeline for People with Disabilities and Seniors

From a news release issued by Make It Work Milwaukee! Coalition:

The Make It Work Milwaukee Coalition supports the preservation of public
transportation funding. Transit and paratransit services are critical to maintaining the independence of older adults and people with disabilities as many do not drive or own a vehicle because of their disability, aging, and/or limited income.

When transportation is cut, not only are people with disabilities and older adults unable to work or get out in their community, but a caregiver may no longer be able to provide care when it is needed. Some people with disabilities need supports at all hours of the day. Transit lowers government costs by helping people with disabilities live independently and be employed.

Our agencies urge legislators to restore transit operating aids to help preserve public transportation. Over the past decade, we have seen harmful reductions in transit services, as local government struggles to maintain essential services with declining resources and increasing fuel costs. The resulting cutbacks have already taken a heavy toll on the ability of people with disabilities and seniors to work and be contributing members of the community, and also made it very difficult for the caregivers they rely on to get to work.

Nearly half of transit use is for work related purposes. Further cuts in transit will cut off people with disabilities and seniors from jobs and education, and lead to higher unemployment. Transit is vital to Wisconsin’s economy, businesses and families, and lowers government costs by keeping people employed and living independently.

In addition, proposed reductions in transit aids are expected to result in significant reduction of paratransit services which are a lifeline for many people with disabilities and older adults. In Milwaukee County along it is expected that a minimum of 2000 people with disabilities and older adults will completely lose access to transportation, leaving them prisoners in their own homes unable to travel to work, to school, to medical appointments, or to buy food. The majority of those expected to lose
service live in suburban areas including Bay Side, Glendale, Franklin, Oak Creek and Greendale. Thousands more will be impacted by the reduction of the service area and may be unable to get to work, to the doctor, or to visit family.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Schlitz Park to add electric vehicle charging station

From an article on BizTimes Daily:

Schlitz Park in downtown Milwaukee has become the first corporate development in the state to install an electric vehicle (EV) charging station as part of a growing effort to make sustainable transportation easier for its tenants and their employees.

The charging station was provided by ElectriCharge Mobility and manufactured by Coulomb Technologies, which operates the worldwide ChargePoint Network. Major automakers began to sell EV models late last year. Projections estimate that by 2012, 20 models will be available and that by 2015 there will be more than 3 million plug-in electric vehicles in use worldwide.

“As electric vehicle use grows, there will be employee demand for EV charging services at their workplace,” said Dave Hansen of Brookfield-based ElectriCharge Mobility LLC. “Progressive organizations like Schlitz Park are seizing the opportunity to meet this need as part of corporate-wide green initiatives to lower greenhouse gases and to steward independence from petroleum based fuels beyond the workplace.”

Although users will charge vehicles overnight at home, the limited range of early electric vehicles will make the availability of charging stations where people work a necessity, according to Hansen.

Central Waters Brewing gains recognition for renewable energy and sustainability

From an article by B. C. Kowalski in the Wausau Daily Herald:

AMHERST -- Green beer can be quite common during St. Patrick's Day -- but the owners of Central Waters Brewing Co. had a different kind of green in mind when they began 13 years ago.

Central Waters was recognized for those green practices Friday as the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources named the company to its Green Tier program, which celebrates environmentally friendly businesses in Wisconsin. It is the first brewery in the state to be added to the program.

The DNR presented the business with a plaque and welcomed it to the program in front of about 50 people at the brewery in Amherst.

Entry into the program came after an application and a public comment period in which residents could say whether they thought the brewery should be added to the program.

Not a single person said it shouldn't be added, co-owner Anello Mollica said.

The facility runs on radiant floor heat, and water is heated by 1,000 square feet of solar panels.

"It's a steep upfront ticket, but the payoff is remarkable," said Paul Graham, Central Waters co-owner.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

From an editorial in the La Crosse Tribune:

. . . the pattern repeats itself. When the price of gas gets high enough, all we get are theatrics by Congress to parade the big oil executives in front of hearings. There are special investigations, studies, commissions and plenty of threats and promises, but nothing ever changes.

The oil companies do have us over our own barrel. Take away tax breaks and incentives, and there will be less oil and it will cost more, they argue. And that will cost jobs. And our profits of $36 billion in the first quarter alone — that’s the result of international demand for oil, they say. After all, we’re just providing a needed product for the American economy.

We can’t drill our way out of the fact that we simply consume more oil than we produce. And yet we allow oil to be traded as a commodity where a few speculators get rich while the rest of us hold our breath as the meter on the pumps spins faster and faster.

It’s easy to get mad at the oil companies, whose pomposity and arrogance is an insult to the millions of Americans who struggle to even fill up their tanks. The CEO of ConocoPhillips called repealing the $4.4 billion tax breaks for the biggest oil companies “un-American.”

What’s un-American is that we are still addicted to oil.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Small Wind Conference, Stevens Point, June 14-15

7th annual Small Wind Conference with an industry-leading lineup of 46 speakers and 7 poster presentations at the , June 14-15 in Stevens Point, Wisconsin.

Keynote address by Randy Udall, Community Office of Resource Efficiency.

Tuesday, June 14 at 7:00am - June 15 at 6:00pm

More info http://smallwindconference.com

Central Library renews environment via green roof, including solar

From an article by Bobby Tanzilo on OnMilwaukee.com:

There are always exciting things going on in Milwaukee Public Library's Downtown Central Library, 814 W. Wisconsin Ave. But, these days, there is also some excitement on the building's roof, too.

When the library needed to replace its 25-year-old roof last year, instead of going for a conventional roof, a 30,000-square foot green roof was constructed and 132 solar electric panels were added to generate about 36,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year. That's enough to power four homes annually.

"Everyone's very enthused about it," says the library's public services manager Christine Arkenberg, on a recent visit that begins on the library's first floor, where there is an area dedicated to the green roof initiative.

There, visitors can see books about green issues, view explanatory materials, see a monitor with status updates on how much electricity is being generated, watch a video screen slide show and pick up brochures.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

State clean energy mandates have little effect on electricity rates so far

From an article by Don Huagen in Midwest Energy News:

One of the larger reviews of renewable portfolio standards was a 2008 report (PDF) from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The study looked at data on a dozen state renewable policies enacted before 2007. The estimated impact on electricity rates varied by state, but it was a fraction of a percent in most cases and just over 1 percent in two states, Connecticut and Massachusetts. “There is little evidence of a sizable impact on average retail electricity rates so far,” the report concluded.

One of the report’s co-authors, Galen Barbose, said in an interview that they are collecting data for an updated version of the report. So far he said he hasn’t seen any new information to suggest their conclusion about rate impacts will change significantly in the next edition.

A 2009 study by the U.S. Energy Information Administration modeled the potential impact of a 25 percent nationwide renewable electricity standard. It, too, noted that rate impacts would vary by state, with renewable-rich regions like the Great Plains and Northwest meeting the targets more easily. Overall, though, it projected no impact on rates through 2020, followed by a less than 3 percent increase by 2025. By 2030, however, it projected little difference in rates with or without a national renewable mandate.

The Minnesota Free Market Institute and American Tradition Institute reached a very different conclusion in an April 2011 report (PDF), which claims Minnesota’s renewable electricity standard is going to cause rates in the state to skyrocket by as much as 37 percent by 2025.

Utilities’ experiences vary
Xcel Energy, the state’s largest utility, has come up with a much smaller number: $0.003. That’s the difference Xcel forecasts between its projected per-kilowatt-hour energy price in 2025 under its proposed wind expansion plan compared to a hypothetical scenario in which it stopped adding new wind capacity after 2012.

Asked to comment on the Free Market Institute’s study, Xcel Energy spokesman Steve Roalstad said, “It doesn’t seem to be moving in that direction.” The cost of adding renewable energy sources, especially wind, continues to fall and has become very competitive with traditional generating sources, he said.

State clean energy mandates have little effect on electricity rates so far

From an article by Don Huagen in Midwest Energy News:

One of the larger reviews of renewable portfolio standards was a 2008 report (PDF) from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The study looked at data on a dozen state renewable policies enacted before 2007. The estimated impact on electricity rates varied by state, but it was a fraction of a percent in most cases and just over 1 percent in two states, Connecticut and Massachusetts. “There is little evidence of a sizable impact on average retail electricity rates so far,” the report concluded.

One of the report’s co-authors, Galen Barbose, said in an interview that they are collecting data for an updated version of the report. So far he said he hasn’t seen any new information to suggest their conclusion about rate impacts will change significantly in the next edition.

A 2009 study by the U.S. Energy Information Administration modeled the potential impact of a 25 percent nationwide renewable electricity standard. It, too, noted that rate impacts would vary by state, with renewable-rich regions like the Great Plains and Northwest meeting the targets more easily. Overall, though, it projected no impact on rates through 2020, followed by a less than 3 percent increase by 2025. By 2030, however, it projected little difference in rates with or without a national renewable mandate.

The Minnesota Free Market Institute and American Tradition Institute reached a very different conclusion in an April 2011 report (PDF), which claims Minnesota’s renewable electricity standard is going to cause rates in the state to skyrocket by as much as 37 percent by 2025.

Utilities’ experiences vary
Xcel Energy, the state’s largest utility, has come up with a much smaller number: $0.003. That’s the difference Xcel forecasts between its projected per-kilowatt-hour energy price in 2025 under its proposed wind expansion plan compared to a hypothetical scenario in which it stopped adding new wind capacity after 2012.

Asked to comment on the Free Market Institute’s study, Xcel Energy spokesman Steve Roalstad said, “It doesn’t seem to be moving in that direction.” The cost of adding renewable energy sources, especially wind, continues to fall and has become very competitive with traditional generating sources, he said.

State clean energy mandates have little effect on electricity rates so far

From an article by Don Huagen in Midwest Energy News:

One of the larger reviews of renewable portfolio standards was a 2008 report (PDF) from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The study looked at data on a dozen state renewable policies enacted before 2007. The estimated impact on electricity rates varied by state, but it was a fraction of a percent in most cases and just over 1 percent in two states, Connecticut and Massachusetts. “There is little evidence of a sizable impact on average retail electricity rates so far,” the report concluded.

One of the report’s co-authors, Galen Barbose, said in an interview that they are collecting data for an updated version of the report. So far he said he hasn’t seen any new information to suggest their conclusion about rate impacts will change significantly in the next edition.

A 2009 study by the U.S. Energy Information Administration modeled the potential impact of a 25 percent nationwide renewable electricity standard. It, too, noted that rate impacts would vary by state, with renewable-rich regions like the Great Plains and Northwest meeting the targets more easily. Overall, though, it projected no impact on rates through 2020, followed by a less than 3 percent increase by 2025. By 2030, however, it projected little difference in rates with or without a national renewable mandate.

The Minnesota Free Market Institute and American Tradition Institute reached a very different conclusion in an April 2011 report (PDF), which claims Minnesota’s renewable electricity standard is going to cause rates in the state to skyrocket by as much as 37 percent by 2025.

Utilities’ experiences vary
Xcel Energy, the state’s largest utility, has come up with a much smaller number: $0.003. That’s the difference Xcel forecasts between its projected per-kilowatt-hour energy price in 2025 under its proposed wind expansion plan compared to a hypothetical scenario in which it stopped adding new wind capacity after 2012.

Asked to comment on the Free Market Institute’s study, Xcel Energy spokesman Steve Roalstad said, “It doesn’t seem to be moving in that direction.” The cost of adding renewable energy sources, especially wind, continues to fall and has become very competitive with traditional generating sources, he said.

We Energies moves forward on biomass plant

From an article in the Stevens Point Journal:

ROTHSCHILD -- We Energies said Monday it will move forward with the engineering and equipment orders for a planned biomass plant in Rothschild, a company spokesman said.

The decision came several days after state regulators from the Public Service Commission gave final approval to the $255 million project with orders that Milwaukee-based utility We Energies and Domtar Corp. come up with another $10 million either from the utility's shareholders or the paper company.

More from Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Construction on wind turbine project near Hoan Bridge could start in July

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

Plans are proceeding for Milwaukee to erect a 154-foot tall wind turbine this summer next to the Port Authority building near the Hoan Bridge.

The stimulus-funded project would generate more than enough electricity to power the port office building and sell a small amount of power back to the grid.

Some Bay View residents had raised concerns about a different alternative for the project, which would have been closer to the lake, next to the Lake Express ferry terminal.

A community meeting about the project attracted hundreds of people on a snowy evening in January. At that time, about one-third of those in attendance were in favor, another third were opposed and another third were seeking more information, said Ald. Tony Zielinski.

Zielinski said he was pleased that a compromise could be reached to address concerns about the original site.

The location by the Port Administration building, 2323 S. Lincoln Memorial Drive, is an improvement, Zielinski said, for "people who were fearful of the detrimental effect on the aesthetics of the lakefront by virtue of having it so close to the lake."

Other concerns had been raised about the other site, which would have put up a turbine or several small turbines on a confined disposal facility next to the Lake Express car ferry terminal.

"We received a lot of push back primarily because of public trust doctrine issues and the impact on waterfowl and migratory birds in that area," said Matt Howard, director of the city's office of environmental sustainability.

Public trust concerns were raised about whether a wind turbine would be an appropriate use of land on the lakefront site.

"They listened well and took that to heart in the planning for this alternate site," said Aaron Schultz, spokesman for the Lake Express ferry.

The turbine is aimed to be a demonstration of the city's commitment to renewable energy, Howard said.

"This seems to be a good compromise position. The wind profile is still great at that site, and we're still looking at being able to generate between 110% and 150% of that building's energy needs," he said.

Friday, May 13, 2011

We Energies may not meet renewable energy standard

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

We Energies won final approval to build a $255 million biomass power plant in north-central Wisconsin Thursday.

The utility had wanted a decision this week to help it keep on target to complete construction by late 2013.

But the utility hasn’t decided whether it will proceed with the building the plant at this point. Utility spokesman Brian Manthey said We Energies and Domtar Corp., its partner in the project, are reviewing conditions that regulators attached to the deal – conditions that aim to bring down the overall cost of the project for utility customers.

The biomass plant at the Domtar paper mill in Rothschild is being proposed at a time when the utility has enough power to meet the needs of its customers but is required because of the state’s renewable portfolio standard.

That standard, adopted by the state Legislature in 2006, requires that 8.25% of We Energies’ power come from renewable sources by 2015.

If the project does not move forward, We Energies executives told investors last week they would want to have discussions with the Walker administration about alternatives, including a possible way of delaying the company's compliance with the law.

There have been discussions of possible legislation that would help the utility delay the time frame for complying with the law, or it could take advantage of “off-ramps” built into the 2006 law that would allow it more time to comply.

We Energies Terminates Its Renewable Energy Program

For immediate release
May 13, 2011
More information
RENEW Wisconsin
Michael Vickerman
608.255.4044
mvickerman@renewwisconsin.org

We Energies Terminates Its Renewable Energy Program
Utility Pulls Plug on $6 Million a Year Commitment

As reported on its Web site, Milwaukee-based We Energies will discontinue an innovative and effective renewable energy development program that supported scores of renewable energy systems throughout its service territory. [The announcement can be accessed at http://www.we-energies.com/re.]

“It’s a sad day when the state’s largest utility decides to walk away from its commitment to a clean energy future,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide organization advocating for public policies and private initiatives that advance renewable energy.

As indicated in various filings with the Public Service Commission, We Energies had committed to spend $6 million a year over 10 years to increase its renewable energy supplies and make renewable energy more affordable to its customers through grants and incentives. We Energies’ commitment came in the wake of a settlement with RENEW over the utility’s plans to build two coal-fired power stations in southeast Wisconsin.

Of the $60 million committed, the utility has spent approximately $30 million since 2006. This program will be zeroed out in We Energies’ next rate filing, which will cover 2012 and 2013.

This program supported numerous customer-sited renewable energy installations [see list below], conferences and workshops, research and development activities, and innovative buyback rates.

“Perhaps not coincidently, the decision to terminate this program comes just months after We Energies placed its second coal-fired plant in service. The $6 million a year was a small price to pay for the all of the renewable energy advances that occurred while the utility built two coal plants,” said Vickerman.

“Now that the coal plant is up and running, it appears that the program has outlived its usefulness to We Energies,” Vickerman said.
Six million dollars equates to about .025 percent of We Energies’ annual expenditures.

“This cancellation comes as a blow to area contractors and businesses that were relying on the program to create jobs and clean energy,” said Vickerman. “The achievements leveraged far outweigh the program’s negligible cost.”

“Between utility program cutbacks and state government rollbacks, Wisconsin’s policy framework for supporting renewable energy will be largely dismantled by the end of the year.”

--END- -

RENEW Wisconsin is an independent, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that acts as a catalyst to advance a sustainable energy future through public policy and private sector initiatives. More information on RENEW’s Web site at www.renewwisconsin.org.

Customer-owned renewable energy success stories and live data

A growing number of customers have their own renewable energy facilities. The links below go to summaries of the projects and/or real-time production data from the solar photovoltaic, solar hot water and wind renewable energy generation systems.

Solar electric photovoltaic
Ascension Lutheran Church
Cedar Community
City of Brookfield Safety Building
Concordia University Wisconsin
Cooper Elementary School
Cross Lutheran Church
Crown of Life Lutheran Church
Energy Producing Home #1
Evangelical and Reformed United Church of Christ - Waukesha
Fairview Charter School
Family Enrichment Center of Ozaukee County
First Congregational Church - Port Washington
First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee
Fox River Christian Church
Fox Valley Lutheran High School
Gateway Technical College Horizon Center Solar Tracker
GE Healthcare
GE Research Park
Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church and School
Growing Power - Milwaukee
HOPE Christian School
Johnson Foundation
Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School
La Casa de Esperanza
Lake Country School
Lake Park Lutheran Church
Lawrence University
Madison Area Technical College - Fort Atkinson Campus
Madison College - Fort Atkinson
Menomonee Falls North Middle School
Milwaukee Area Tech College - Oak Creek
Milwaukee Central Library
Milwaukee County Zoo
Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District
Milwaukee Recycling Education Facility
MSOE:Fat Spaniel Tech MSOE Monitor
Navarino Nature Center
North Shore Presbyterian Church
Our Savior Lutheran Church
Outpost Natural Foods
Pragmatic Construction Home 1 - PV
Purdy Elementary School - Fort Atkinson
Racine City Hall Annex
Racine Eco-Justice Center
Racine St. Catherine's High School
Schlitz Audubon Nature Center
St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church
Shoreland Lutheran High School
Shorewood School District
Still Point Zen Center
The Order of Julian of Norwich
Town of Greenville
Town of Menasha
Unitarian Universalist Church West
United Community Center
University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee
University of Wisconsin - Parkside
Urban Ecology Center
Village of Marshall Wastewater Treatment Facility
Village of Wind Point
Walden III Middle and Senior High School
Waukesha County Technical College
Wauwatosa Fire Department
Whitewater Innovation Center
Wisconsin Lutheran College
Wisconsin State Fair Park

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

Solar electric photovoltaic and wind
Discovery World
Lakeshore Technical College
Mequon Nature Preserve
Milwaukee Area Tech College - Mequon

Wind
Boys & Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee – Camp Whitcomb Mason
Village of Cascade Wastewater Treatment Plant

List from We Energies' Web site -- http://www.we-energies.com/residential/energyeff/active_installdata.htm

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

'Buy Local' grants in jeopardy

From an article by Mike Ivey in the La Crosse Tribune:

VIROQUA - Fifth Season Cooperative of Viroqua could serve as a model for business development in rural Wisconsin.

Ready to open for this spring's growing season, Fifth Season connects small farmers and processors with large institutional customers such as schools, universities or hospitals. The idea is to directly tie producers to markets, eliminating the middleman, to keep prices affordable for local meats, produce and dairy.

"We're one of just a handful of multi-stakeholder cooperatives in the United States," says Nicole Penick, coordinator for the co-op.

Members so far include organic and conventional farmers; processors Organic Valley, Westby Co-op Creamery and Premier Meats; and purchasers Gundersen Lutheran, Vernon Memorial Healthcare, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, Western Technical College and Viroqua Area School District.

After nearly two years of planning, Fifth Season was launched last August as a for-profit venture. It was helped with a $40,000 business development grant, the largest issued in 2010, through the state's Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin program.

The Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin grant program was part of former Gov. Jim Doyle's 2008 budget and was designed to connect local food producers with local buyers. It has awarded about $220,000 annually in development grants over the past three years. Recipients in 2010 included the Bayfield Apple Co., Perfect Pasture in Ashland, the Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition and Green & Green Distribution in Mineral Point.

But the grant program is on Gov. Scott Walker's budget chopping block and was not included in his proposed 2011-13 budget - a development some call short-sighted and contrary to Walker's goal of growing the private-sector economy.

Milwaukee solar manufacturer lands huge contract and added financing

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

Helios Solar Works was awarded an additional $150,000 in financing for the purchase of robotic manufacturing equipment at its factory in the Menomonee River Valley.

Helios, which began production in February, was initially awarded a $500,000 by the Milwaukee Economic Development Corp., a business lender affiliated with the city of Milwaukee, but the size of the company’s investment in robotic equipment has increased. MEDC’s loan and finance committee awarded more funding on Tuesday. . . .

Steve Ostrenga, Helios chief executive, said the increase resulted from higher costs for robotic equipment used in the production of solar panels that it says are more efficient than competitors’ panels. . . .

Ostrenga has just won its largest order to yet for solar panels, Ostrenga said.

“We just landed a 1-megawatt order,” he said. “That’s huge, so we’re making that right now.”

The 1 megawatt order is part of a 5-megawatt solar project that is expected to be one of the largest single solar projects in Europe, he said.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Boston firm aims to harness river power by 2017

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

A Massachusetts company hopes to develop hydroelectric projects at nine upper Mississippi River lock and dam sites by 2017, officials said Monday.

Free Flow Power Corp., a 3-year-old Boston firm, plans to apply for federal licenses for hydropower projects that in this area include Lock and Dam 4 at Alma, Lock and Dam 6 at Trempealeau, Lock and Dam 7 near Dresbach, Minn., and Lock and Dam 9 near Lynxville.

The nine projects could meet the electricity needs of 65,000 homes, company officials told about 40 people at a public informational meeting at the Radisson Hotel in La Crosse.

Each project would have one of three designs — a traditional hydroelectric powerhouse that would be built on the end of the dam and contain turbines; a “gate bay installation” alternative with turbines installed in front of or behind existing dam gates; or a system with turbines installed at the bottom of the auxiliary lock. Studies would determine which design would be best for a particular lock and dam.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Agency will accept written comments in the next 60 days on what studies should be required during Free Flow Power’s licensing process.

Officials of various state and federal agencies accounted for most of the people at Monday’s 2½-hour session. But a few members of the public also spoke, including retired boat captain Byron Clements of Genoa, who questioned the feasibility of hydroelectric power on the Mississippi.

“I don’t think they can make it work and make money at it,” Clements said after the meeting. Clements, who with his wife operates Captain Hook’s Bait & Tackle shop in Genoa, said he also is concerned about fish being killed by the turbines.

The proposed turbines would turn much slower than those traditionally used in major hydroelectric projects in the western United States, said Jack Batchelder, a Free Flow Power environmental scientist.

Rail money went to states with "farsighted leadership"

From an editorial in The New York Times:

None of the money in Monday’s announcement will be going to Wisconsin, for example, where Gov. Scott Walker has also decided that his strapped state could do without rail improvements and the construction jobs that go with them. Nor will it go to Ohio, where Gov. John Kasich preferred rejectionism to the improvement of rail service among the state’s largest cities, which could have produced 16,000 jobs.

Instead, it will go to 15 states that have more farsighted leadership, who understand the important role federal dollars can play in stimulating the economy, moving people quickly from place to place and reducing tailpipe emissions. Some of those states are led by Republicans: Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan happily stood beside Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Monday to accept nearly $200 million to upgrade the rail line between Dearborn and Kalamazoo, the bulk of the Chicago-Detroit corridor.

Boston firm aims to harness river power by 2017

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

A Massachusetts company hopes to develop hydroelectric projects at nine upper Mississippi River lock and dam sites by 2017, officials said Monday.

Free Flow Power Corp., a 3-year-old Boston firm, plans to apply for federal licenses for hydropower projects that in this area include Lock and Dam 4 at Alma, Lock and Dam 6 at Trempealeau, Lock and Dam 7 near Dresbach, Minn., and Lock and Dam 9 near Lynxville.

The nine projects could meet the electricity needs of 65,000 homes, company officials told about 40 people at a public informational meeting at the Radisson Hotel in La Crosse.

Each project would have one of three designs — a traditional hydroelectric powerhouse that would be built on the end of the dam and contain turbines; a “gate bay installation” alternative with turbines installed in front of or behind existing dam gates; or a system with turbines installed at the bottom of the auxiliary lock. Studies would determine which design would be best for a particular lock and dam.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Agency will accept written comments in the next 60 days on what studies should be required during Free Flow Power’s licensing process.

Officials of various state and federal agencies accounted for most of the people at Monday’s 2½-hour session. But a few members of the public also spoke, including retired boat captain Byron Clements of Genoa, who questioned the feasibility of hydroelectric power on the Mississippi.

“I don’t think they can make it work and make money at it,” Clements said after the meeting. Clements, who with his wife operates Captain Hook’s Bait & Tackle shop in Genoa, said he also is concerned about fish being killed by the turbines.

The proposed turbines would turn much slower than those traditionally used in major hydroelectric projects in the western United States, said Jack Batchelder, a Free Flow Power environmental scientist.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Wisconsin shut out of federal train money

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

Wisconsin was shut out Monday in its bid for $150 million in federal money to upgrade the Milwaukee-to-Chicago Hiawatha line.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that 22 projects in 15 states would share $2 billion in federal high-speed rail money that had been rejected by Florida.

Wisconsin was seeking some of that money for train sets, locomotives and a maintenance base for the Hiawatha line. But while LaHood's announcement listed $268.2 million for five other Midwestern states that had joined Wisconsin in the application, it made no mention of the Badger State.

Officials at the state and federal transportation departments confirmed that no money would be awarded to Wisconsin. The federal agency had previously yanked an $810 million grant to this state after newly elected Gov. Scott Walker refused to use it to extend the Hiawatha from Milwaukee to Madison, a 110-mph stretch that would have been part of a larger plan to connect Chicago to the Twin Cities and other Midwestern destinations with fast, frequent trains.

In a telephone news conference, LaHood did not directly answer a question about whether Monday's decision was related to Walker's previous stand, which reversed 20 years of planning by predecessor administrations of both parties. But he repeatedly used the word "reliable" in characterizing the leadership of the states that were selected for the latest round of grants.

"The announcements we're making today are with the strongest partners in America," LaHood told reporters. "These are reliable people. These are people (who) have as one of their highest priorities the development of high-speed rail."

Walker is a Republican, as are the newly elected Florida and Ohio governors who also rejected federally funded rail projects. LaHood is a former GOP congressman serving in Democratic President Barack Obama's administration. But several of the states that won high-speed rail grants Monday are led by Republican governors, including Indiana, where Walker has cited Gov. Mitch Daniels as a role model.

State regulators lend support to biomass project

From an article in the Stevens Point Journal:

ROTHSCHILD -- State regulators indicated support of construction plans for a biomass plant in Rothschild on Friday, a major step in a lengthy and often contentious debate over a $255 million project backed by Milwaukee utility We Energies and Domtar Paper.

Two members of the state's Public Service Commission pushed for and received more concessions from the project's sponsors, concerned that the utility's ratepayers still are taking the biggest risk. We Energies and Domtar either can contribute $10 million more toward operating costs or increase the rate Domtar will pay for steam produced by the plant.

The PSC also will have the authority to review future changes to the rate Domtar pays We Energies for steam, which is used in its paper-making process.

The plant is part of We Energies' effort to meet the state's renewable energy requirements for utilities by 2015, buoyed by federal tax credits available to facilities that are operational by the end of 2013. We Energies has promised the project will create about 400 construction jobs and 150 jobs in Central Wisconsin for industries supporting the plant, and Domtar argues the change will allow them to compete in an increasingly testy paper industry.

Boneheaded move on transit

From an editorial in The Journal Times, Racine:

In a lamentable vote last week, state Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester, led the state’s Joint Finance Committee to vote 12-4 along party lines to do away with recently authorized regional transit authorities in southeastern Wisconsin and four other areas of the state.

It is a boneheaded and short-sighted maneuver that could well ring the death knell for commuter rail linking Kenosha, Racine, Milwaukee and Chicago.

Unlike the high-speed rail proposed for Milwaukee to Madison by former Democratic Gov. James Doyle, KRM would connect a corridor of highly populated areas in the southeastern corner of the state. It would give businesses access to willing workers through the region, provide those workers with the means to get to jobs, give residents a car-free alternative to taking in the sights, recreational and entertainment offerings of Chicago and Milwaukee — and it would lessen the reliance on the Interstate highway system.

It was perhaps prophetic that the Vos-led vote last week came as gasoline pump prices roared well past $4 per gallon.

For good measure, the Joint Finance Committee also threw state funding for bike and pedestrian paths under the bus as well, eliminating $5 million in spending over the next two years.

Vos said the transit authorities were unpopular, unelected “abomominations” as he guided the vote for disbandonment.

Unlike during the Gov. Tommy Thompson era, in recent years Republicans have taken a Goldilocks and the Three Bears approach toward mass transit, complaining that plans — whatever plans — were too hot, too cold, too this, too that. The unelected “abomination” criticism from Vos that transit authorities would spend tax money, even though their boards were not elected, feeds into the recent rise in anti-taxing frenzy — including an advisory referendum in Racine County on “new taxes” for transit or rail that was defeated by a large margin.

In fact, Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget would have preserved transit authorities, but required a binding referendum before an authority could levy a tax.

That’s a more reasoned approach . . .

Friday, May 6, 2011

Biomass critics say We Energies project still costs too much

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

A proposed We Energies power plant at the Domtar Corp. paper mill in Rothschild is still too expensive for the utility's customers and should be rejected, critics of the plant said Thursday.

Groups that have raised questions or opposed the plant made filings with the state Public Service Commission Thursday, a day before regulators are scheduled to discuss the power company's bid to build a $255 million power plant that would burn wood.

The filings came two days after We Energies and Domtar revised the financial terms of the deal to raise Domtar Corp.'s financial stake in the project.

State regulators last week raised concerns about the project's price tag, but gave the utility a chance to revise the financial terms of the deal this week.

The changes announced by Domtar and We Energies weren't sufficient to address the concerns raised by the PSC, said the Citizens' Utility Board, a consumer advocacy group.

"It is unacceptable for (We Energies) ratepayers to bear the brunt of the costs and all of the risks for an uneconomical and unnecessary project for which they receive little to no benefits," wrote Kira Loehr, CUB's lawyer, in the filing.

Valley plant could switch to gas

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

We Energies plans to take initial steps toward converting its Milwaukee coal-fired power plant to burn natural gas, the utility's chairman told shareholders Thursday.

The Milwaukee utility has been under pressure to address air pollution from the power plant located south of downtown in the Menomonee River Valley.

To comply with new federal pollution rules, the utility has been studying whether to convert the plant to natural gas or to add environmental controls that could allow it to continue burning coal.

"We believe we will need to convert the plant from coal to natural gas," Chairman and Chief Executive Gale Klappa told shareholders at Wisconsin Energy Corp.'s annual meeting at Concordia University Wisconsin in Mequon.

We Energies will file an application with the state Public Service Commission in the second half of this year for an initial project that would be needed for that conversion to take place.

"That first step would be to put in a larger natural gas pipeline that could . . . supply natural gas to that facility," Klappa said. "That will be a significant project. It will require PSC approval, it will require City of Milwaukee approval, and it will require us to update a 1949 natural gas line that runs through the area."

Klappa did not announce a timeline for converting the plant from coal to gas. Utility spokesman Brian Manthey said the utility needs to ensure it has the approval and the ability to supply gas to the power plant before it makes a final decision.

"The (Cleaner Valley) coalition encourages We Energies to move as quickly as possible," said the Rev. Willie Brisco, president of Milwaukee Inner City Congregations Allied for Hope. "People's lives are impacted by Milwaukee's dirty air each and every day."

Built in the late 1960s, the Valley plant is the utility's only major coal-fired plant in Wisconsin that lacks modern pollution controls. A much smaller coal plant in Wauwatosa provides steam to businesses at the Milwaukee County Grounds.

Environmental groups and a consortium of other groups in the Milwaukee area formed the Cleaner Valley Coalition to urge the utility to clean up the plant. In addition, the Sierra Club and Clean Wisconsin challenged an air pollution permit for Valley, saying it doesn't go far enough to protect public health.

"We're very happy to hear that they're taking a step in the right direction," said Emily Miota of the Sierra Club. "The biggest concern now is that they move quickly to make this happen."

Thursday, May 5, 2011

UW-Stout shuttle bus dubbed a 'tremendous success' in WI

From an article by Pamela Powers in the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram:

MENOMONIE - UW-Stout student Max Broton-Anderson takes the Dunn County Express bus nearly every day from Red Cedar Hall to his classes on the lower part of the college campus.

"It's fast," said the 19-year-old sophomore majoring in engineering technology. "You don't freeze. You don't get wet. You don't get hot. If they're going to run it, we might as well use it."

In January the Dunn County Express began offering a continuous bus circuit around campus and the surrounding area for off-campus students. The busing program is offered by Dunn County Transit, which operates buses in Menomonie and the county.

So far the route has been a big success. Broton-Anderson is among 16,404 riders who have ridden the university bus route since it began. The route averages between 1,500 and 1,800 riders per week.

"The bus is really being used," Dunn County Transit manager Kent Conklin said. "Students are getting on 50 at a time. We didn't know what to expect. It's been a tremendous success."

Because of the number of riders the transit bought two used 45-passenger, 40-foot buses, the first large transit buses to be operated in the city in 40 years, Conklin said.

Another step backward on jobs and energy independence

From an editorial in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Pay attention to this number.

$4.39.

That was the price of regular unleaded gasoline at a station on Milwaukee's south side on Tuesday. It's a number that's likely to rise. It's also a number that Gov. Scott Walker and the Legislature are so far ignoring as they put together a budget that does much for roads and highway funding but threatens to gut public transit systems across the state.

On Tuesday, the Legislature's budget committee took another step backward on transit when it voted to repeal authority for four regional transit authorities created in 2009. One of those would have been responsible for a commuter rail line connecting Kenosha, Racine and Milwaukee.

Keep in mind that Walker's budget also cuts aid to transit by 10%, moves transit aid from the state transportation fund to the general revenue budget and bars municipalities from raising taxes to make up for the loss in aid. By repealing the RTAs, the budget also removes another tool - a cooperative one - that local communities could have used to help them deal with the loss of funding.

The committee also voted to eliminate a $100 million bonding program for capital transit projects in southeastern Wisconsin and to eliminate all state funding - $5 million over two years - for bike and pedestrian paths.

Why does this matter? Several reasons, but let's talk about just two.

First, there are people without cars who rely on transit to get them to jobs, appointments, shopping and friends. Some can't afford a vehicle; others prefer not to have one. Having a car should not be a requirement for living in urban areas such as Milwaukee, Madison, Racine and Waukesha. Giving people options that include transit as well as good roads make those areas more attractive for economic development.

Second, as gas prices continue to rise, many commuters are looking for alternatives to driving to their jobs. In a recent informal and unscientific poll by the Editorial Board, a slight majority of respondents said that a $4-per-gallon price for gasoline would be enough to make them change their driving habits.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

More good news from wind industry for Iowa

From a story on WHOTV.com, Des Moines:

A wind energy plant wants to bring jobs to Iowa

A Maryland-based company is making plans to employ 175 people at a new plant in Iowa City. North American Ductile Iron Company will initially focus on making parts for the wind turbine market.

The $85-million project is subject to state and city review. The company hopes to begin operation by 2013.

More good news from wind industry for Iowa

From a story on WHOTV.com, Des Moines:

A wind energy plant wants to bring jobs to Iowa

A Maryland-based company is making plans to employ 175 people at a new plant in Iowa City. North American Ductile Iron Company will initially focus on making parts for the wind turbine market.

The $85-million project is subject to state and city review. The company hopes to begin operation by 2013.

Biomass plan revised after regulators object to cost

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

Domtar Corp. agreed to boost its financial stake in a proposed biomass power plant, as We Energies and the paper company revised the terms of their deal Tuesday to satisfy regulators' concerns.

The three-member state Public Service Commission last week raised objections about the cost of the $255 million biomass power plant that We Energies is seeking to build at the Domtar paper mill in Rothschild, just south of Wausau. The plant would burn wood chips and other forms of biomass to produce electricity for the energy grid and steam for the adjacent paper mill.

The PSC, however, said the plant's price tag was too expensive and was structured in such a way that too much of the cost would be borne by customers of the Milwaukee-based utility. Commissioners directed Domtar and We Energies to revise their proposal.

The filing by the companies Tuesday will be reviewed by the plant's critics, including the Wisconsin Citizens' Utility Board. The groups raising concerns about the project have until Thursday to respond to the revised financing plan.

Domtar on Tuesday said it would boost its contribution by $22 million, to $47 million, a move that increases the price of the steam Domtar would buy for the paper mill and reduce the cost for We Energies customers.

Both companies stressed the economic development opportunity from the project, linked to construction and paper mill jobs.

Budget panel votes to repeal transit authorities; KRM line likely in trouble

From an article by Patrick Marley and Don Walker in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

It also eliminates state funding for bike paths

Madison — The Legislature's budget committee voted Tuesday to repeal the state's regional transit authorities, including one responsible for a proposed commuter rail line from Milwaukee to Kenosha.

The Legislature gave four areas the ability to create RTAs in 2009, when Democrats were in charge. Republicans now run the Legislature, and on a 12-4 party-line vote the Joint Finance Committee voted to reverse course and eliminate the RTAs. The measure will go to the Legislature as part of the state budget once the committee finishes its work in the coming months.

After the 2009 law passed, local officials created the Southeastern RTA and the Dane County RTA, but the Chippewa Valley RTA and Chequamegon Bay RTA have not been formed.

The Southeastern RTA, or SERTA, is responsible for the proposed KRM Commuter Link rail line. It has the authority to impose an $18 per vehicle fee on rental cars but has not done so.

SERTA had $1.27 million in its coffers as of August. If it were disbanded, the money would be split equally by Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha counties unless the counties agree otherwise.

The committee also voted to go along with Republican Gov. Scott Walker's plan to eliminate a $100 million bonding program for capital transit projects in southeastern Wisconsin and to eliminate all state funding - $5 million over two years - for bike and pedestrian paths.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Demand for utility-bill aid up 6%

From an Associated Press article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

More Wisconsin residents are looking for help with their heating and electricity bills.

The state Division of Energy Services reports that the number of low-income people seeking financial assistance is up 6% this year compared with last year.

The agency administers the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Spokeswoman Susan Brown said 9,000 households have sought basic assistance with their utility bills this year, and another 3,000 households sought crisis assistance.

Brown tells Wisconsin Public Radio the numbers could be up this year because of the struggling economy, but also because more people might be aware of the program.

Testimony in Opposition to Counting Canadian Hydro Toward RPS

Statement of RENEW Wisconsin in Opposition to SB 81
Senate Judiciary, Utilities, Commerce and Government Operations Committee
May 3, 2011

Good morning, my name is Michael Vickerman. I am here to represent RENEW Wisconsin, a nonprofit advocacy and education organization based in Madison. Incorporated in 1991, RENEW acts as a catalyst to advance a sustainable energy future through public policy and private sector initiatives. We have over 300 total members, and more than 60 businesses around the state, including Biogas Direct (Prairie du Sac), Bubbling Springs Solar (Menomonie), Crave Brothers Farm (Waterloo), Convergence Energy (Lake Geneva), Emerging Energies (Hubertus), Energy Concepts (Hudson), Full Circle Farm (Seymour), Full Spectrum Solar (Madison), GHD, Inc. (Chilton), H&H Solar (Madison), Kettle View Renewable Energy (Random Lake), Michels Wind Energy (Brownsville), North American Hydro (Neshkoro), Northwind Renewable Energy LLC (Stevens Point), Pieper Power (Milwaukee), Organic Valley (LaFarge), Quantum Dairy (Weyauwega), Renewegy (Oshkosh), and Seventh Generation Energy Systems (Madison).

More on North American Hydro later.

On behalf of our members and the many businesses and individuals who support the continued expansion of Wisconsin’s renewable energy marketplace, RENEW Wisconsin is here to express opposition to AB 114/SB 81, and urges the Legislature not to pass this bill. If passed as is, AB 114/SB 81 would allow electric utilities to use generation from hydro facilities larger than 60 megawatts to satisfy their renewable energy requirements under 2005 Act 141. Manitoba Hydro could easily become Wisconsin’s largest supplier of statutorily sanctioned renewable energy in the next decade.

Because no increase to the state’s Renewable Energy Standard is contemplated in this bill, the outwash of kilowatt-hours from Manitoba in the next decade will crowd out opportunities for utility-scale renewable energy development opportunities in Wisconsin. The window was already closing for in-state renewable energy sources before this bill was introduced. According to Platt’s Electric Daily, Wisconsin Power & Light and WPPI Energy have already accumulated enough renewable electrons and credits to meet their 2015 targets. The same is true of Madison Gas & Electric. The Platt’s article also quotes a Wisconsin Public Service Corporation official stating that the utility can meet its 2015 renewable energy requirements with what it has acquired to date until 2020. AB 114/SB 81 would enable those utilities to enter into contracts with Manitoba Hydro to supply them with post-2015 renewable energy, thereby sparing these utilities from ever having to invest another nickel in a Wisconsin renewable energy project again.

Leaving aside We Energies’ proposed biomass plant in Rothschild, which may or may not go forward, We Energies’ Glacier Hills wind project in Columbia County is the only utility-scale renewable energy project under construction right now in Wisconsin. It will be completed this December. None of the other utilities have any plans to build a renewable energy generating facility in Wisconsin in the next five years. Should this legislation pass, we could go 15 to 20 years before seeing another large renewable energy project built in this state, if ever.

True, there are quite a few wind prospects under development in Wisconsin, all of them pursued by independent companies. But as of late, Wisconsin utilities have shown no interest in entering into a contract with them. And if AB 114/SB 81 is adopted without an increase in the state’s Renewable Energy Standard, Wisconsin utilities will have no reason to buy wind projects or their output, because the utilities can get whatever they need from Manitoba Hydro.

For the record, RENEW supported the Clean Energy Jobs Act introduced last year and the compromise on large-scale hydro in that legislation. That bill would have increased the utilities’ renewable energy requirements along with classifying large hydro as an eligible renewable energy resource. In it there was room for both in-state renewable energy development and electricity purchases from Manitoba Hydro. However, as a stand-alone measure, AB 114/SB 81 would make room for Manitoba Hydro at the expense of local renewable energy businesses. If passed, this bill would effectively turn Wisconsin into a renewable energy backwater for the next 20 years.

In the absence of legislation to increase the state’s renewable energy standard, AB 114/SB 81 is best described as the “Outsource Renewable Energy to Canada Act.”

About North American Hydro, this company owns 25 hydro generating units in Wisconsin and employs about 70 people. Both the company and its employees pay taxes in Wisconsin and spend the income they earn in their respective communities. That won’t happen when renewable energy production is outsourced to Canada.

Let me close by asking a few rhetorical questions.
  • How does the elimination of in-state renewable energy development revitalize the state economy and create new jobs?
  • How does importing vast quantities of hydropower from another jurisdiction promote energy self-sufficiency and resilience in this state?
  • How does purchasing vast quantities of hydropower from another country improve the country’s balance of payments?
  • Where will our children and young people go to find renewable energy employment opportunities if we decide that foreign hydro should become Wisconsin’s default energy resource option.
Respectfully submitted,
Michael Vickerman,
Executive Director

Monday, May 2, 2011

Businesses urge legislators not to cut investment in energy efficiency

A news release from Clean Wisconsin:

Letters signed by nearly 100 businesses delivered to Capitol

MADISON – Letters signed by nearly 100 businesses as well as faith, low-income and environmental advocates were delivered to members of the Joint Committee on Finance today, asking them not to eliminatethe funding approved last year for Focus on Energy, a statewide program that helps homeowners and businesses reduce energy use.

“Focus on Energy is a successful program that creates thousands of family-supporting jobs and cuts energy bills,” said Keith Reopelle, senior policy director at Clean Wisconsin. “Cutting this funding would increase
electricity bills as homeowners and businesses would lose the opportunity to reduce their energy bills by a combined $2 billion.”

Joint Finance Committee co-chair Robin Vos has stated his intention to eliminate the funding approved last year several times. That move is likely to happen as early as tomorrow through the committee’s consideration of the state budget, despite the fact that Focus on Energy funding is unrelated to the state budget.

“We urge you to protect the PSC’s investment increase for the program and allow our businesses to grow, add new jobs, and strengthen the local economy,” reads a letter addressed to members of the Joint Finance Committee. “With a proven track record of delivering cost-effective energy savings and driving local business, Focus on Energy should be allowed to grow.”

To date, Focus on Energy has created 24,000 jobs and saved homeowners $2.50 for every $1.00 invested in the program, according to an independent evaluation. When the PSC issued its approval for the increased funding in November of last year, it referenced an energy efficiency-potential study that showed 7,000 to 9,000 new jobs would be created with a similar increase of Focus on Energy funding.

“The Focus on Energy program contributes significant resources to help businesses and residents save energy, create jobs and stay competitive in the marketplace,” said Randy Johnson, president of US Lamp, Inc. “Reducing or eliminating Focus on Energy funding would take away our state’s competitive energy advantage and position us in the bottom, not the top, of states to consider for residence or locating a business. I would urge legislators to keep the Focus on Energy funding in place for the vitality of
Wisconsin.”

Newly appointed Public Service Commission Chairman Phil Montgomery issued a statement two weeks ago, on Earth Day (April 22), lauding the program and pointing out that it saved Wisconsin ratepayers $380 million on their energy bills in 2010 alone.

Judge recommends county wind ordinance not be applied to wind project

From an article by Regan Carstensen in the Red Wing Republican Eagle:

Goodhue County's wind power ordinance should not be applied to a project proposed by Goodhue Wind, a judge said Friday in her recommendation to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.

Administrative Law Judge Kathleen Sheehy said that she found good cause not to apply many provisions of the county ordinance, passed last October, to Goodhue Wind's 78 megawatt, 52-turbine project.

"It was really a comprehensive review, and she was very professional and even-handed in the way she developed it," said Joe Jennings, director of communications for Goodhue Wind.

The review detailed 179 findings, in which Sheehy addressed many things people who were opposed to the project had been concerned about.

Some concerns involved noise from the turbines, as well as the possibilities of stray voltage, ice throws and shadow flicker.

Sheehy found that all of the wind turbine sites proposed by Goodhue Wind would be located far enough from dwellings to meet the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency noise standards. Another finding showed that there is no evidence that any wind farm operation has ever caused stray voltage problems.

Judge recommends county wind ordinance not be applied to wind project

From an article by Regan Carstensen in the Red Wing Republican Eagle:

Goodhue County's wind power ordinance should not be applied to a project proposed by Goodhue Wind, a judge said Friday in her recommendation to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.

Administrative Law Judge Kathleen Sheehy said that she found good cause not to apply many provisions of the county ordinance, passed last October, to Goodhue Wind's 78 megawatt, 52-turbine project.

"It was really a comprehensive review, and she was very professional and even-handed in the way she developed it," said Joe Jennings, director of communications for Goodhue Wind.

The review detailed 179 findings, in which Sheehy addressed many things people who were opposed to the project had been concerned about.

Some concerns involved noise from the turbines, as well as the possibilities of stray voltage, ice throws and shadow flicker.

Sheehy found that all of the wind turbine sites proposed by Goodhue Wind would be located far enough from dwellings to meet the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency noise standards. Another finding showed that there is no evidence that any wind farm operation has ever caused stray voltage problems.