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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Solar farm lets investors buy panels

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

Delavan - Welcome to the field where sun power and the sunflower meet.

Well, not just one sunflower. More like thousands. And not just one solar panel, either. Thousands there, too.

Convergence Energy of Lake Geneva is building one of the largest solar projects in the state, and the first that allows individual investors to buy a stake in the project.

The Convergence Energy Solar Farm began construction last year on 14 acres near Dan Osborn's wholesale nursery.

The idea, said Steve Johnson, vice president of business development, is to provide a green-power investment opportunity for people who live in a condo or have too much shade to make solar power workable on their own home's roof.

By the time it's finished this year, it will be the second-largest solar project in Wisconsin, after Epic Systems' corporate campus solar project in Verona.

But instead of being developed by one large company, this project is being built, piece by piece, as investors take a stake in the project.

"It's a way for a small investor to have a part in it all," said investor Dave Smith of Libertyville, Ill. "When you live in a town home like I do, there's nothing you can really do."

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Montfort wind farm marks 10th anniversary

News release
Renew Wisconsin
September 27,2011

More information:
Michael Vickerman
Executive Director
608.255.4044
mvickerman@renewwisconsin.org

The Montfort Wind Energy Center, a popular attraction in western Iowa County along U.S. Highway 18, turned 10 years old this summer. The 30-megawatt (MW) project, which for many years was Wisconsin’s largest commercial wind energy installation, began generating electricity in 2001, and thus far has produced over 500,000 megawatt-hours of electricity. In a typical year, Montfort’s output serves more than 5,000 households.

The project’s 20 turbines are divided into two arrays. The main array, consisting of 17 turbines, runs along the southern side of U.S. 18 between Cobb and Montfort. The output from those 17 turbines is sold to Milwaukee-based We Energies. The other three turbines, located to the south of the main array, produce electricity under contract to Alliant Energy’s Wisconsin Power & Light subsidiary, whose service territory covers Iowa County.

Originally developed by Enron Wind, the Montfort project was purchased in 2001 by NextEra Energy Resources, a Juno Beach, Florida-based company. Residents of Cobb and Montfort have been strongly supportive of this project. “Montfort has a gas station called Windmill Mobil,” said Carol Anderson, a project landowner. “Most commonly, I hear people ask ‘When we’re going to get more’?” Just east of the Windmill Mobil, an informational kiosk on the project stands prominently in front of the Tower Junction restaurant, located directly across the highway from Montfort’s westernmost turbines.

Carol Anderson holds a map of Wisconsin to show a group
the topography with the best wind resource for projects
similar to the Montfort Wind Farm.


“People are also surprised at how quiet the turbines are,” Anderson said. “Some family members still live in our homestead only 2,000 feet from the turbines, and they don’t have any problems with noise or anything else.

This project has brought economic development to Iowa County,” Anderson said. “Conservation is a big value in this area. All of us appreciate the conservation aspects of the clean energy.” Montfort is not the first Wisconsin wind project to complete 10 years of continuous operation. Others include the Rosiere and Lincoln projects in Kewaunee County, totaling 31 turbines, and the two-turbine Byron project south of Fond du Lac along U.S. Highway 41.

“Wind generation is proving to be a reliable source of clean energy over the long haul,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide organization promoting Wisconsin’s renewable energy marketplace. “Furthermore, unlike coal-fired generators, wind projects will never need expensive retrofits to comply with federal clean air regulations because they don’t produce particulates, sulfur compounds or greenhouse gases.”

“Wisconsin utilities are now in the process of spending more than a billion dollars to clean up their older coal-fired power stations,” Vickerman said. “This is a considerable expense that utility ratepayers will fully absorb. By contrast, Montfort’s owner will never have to spend a dime on pollution control technology over its entire operating life.”

“When you add the cost of retrofitting older coal-fired units to the cost of supplying these generators with fuel transported from Wyoming, windpower is hands down the better economic choice,” Vickerman said.

In addition to Montfort, NextEra Energy Resources also owns and operates the 36-turbine, 54 MW Butler Ridge project near Iron Ridge in Dodge County. That project started commercial operations in 2009.

Montfort wind farm marks 10th anniversary

News release
Renew Wisconsin
September 27,2011

More information:
Michael Vickerman
Executive Director
608.255.4044
mvickerman@renewwisconsin.org

The Montfort Wind Energy Center, a popular attraction in western Iowa County along U.S. Highway 18, turned 10 years old this summer. The 30-megawatt (MW) project, which for many years was Wisconsin’s largest commercial wind energy installation, began generating electricity in 2001, and thus far has produced over 500,000 megawatt-hours of electricity. In a typical year, Montfort’s output serves more than 5,000 households.

 The project’s 20 turbines are divided into two arrays. The main array, consisting of 17 turbines, runs along the southern side of U.S. 18 between Cobb and Montfort. The output from those 17 turbines is sold to Milwaukee-based We Energies. The other three turbines, located to the south of the main array, produce electricity under contract to Alliant Energy’s Wisconsin Power & Light subsidiary, whose service territory covers Iowa County.

 Originally developed by Enron Wind, the Montfort project was purchased in 2001 by NextEra Energy Resources, a Juno Beach, Florida-based company. Residents of Cobb and Montfort have been strongly supportive of this project. “Montfort has a gas station called Windmill Mobil,” said Carol Anderson, a project landowner. “Most commonly, I hear people ask ‘When we’re going to get more’?” Just east of the Windmill Mobil, an informational kiosk on the project stands prominently in front of the Tower Junction restaurant, located directly across the highway from Montfort’s westernmost turbines.

Carol Anderson holds a map of Wisconsin to show a group the topography with the best wind resource for projects similar to the Montfort Wind Farm.

 “People are also surprised at how quiet the turbines are,” Anderson said. “Some family members still live in our homestead only 2,000 feet from the turbines, and they don’t have any problems with noise or anything else.

 This project has brought economic development to Iowa County,” Anderson said. “Conservation is a big value in this area. All of us appreciate the conservation aspects of the clean energy.” Montfort is not the first Wisconsin wind project to complete 10 years of continuous operation. Others include the Rosiere and Lincoln projects in Kewaunee County, totaling 31 turbines, and the two-turbine Byron project south of Fond du Lac along U.S. Highway 41.

 “Wind generation is proving to be a reliable source of clean energy over the long haul,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide organization promoting Wisconsin’s renewable energy marketplace. “Furthermore, unlike coal-fired generators, wind projects will never need expensive retrofits to comply with federal clean air regulations because they don’t produce particulates, sulfur compounds or greenhouse gases.”

 “Wisconsin utilities are now in the process of spending more than a billion dollars to clean up their older coal-fired power stations,” Vickerman said. “This is a considerable expense that utility ratepayers will fully absorb. By contrast, Montfort’s owner will never have to spend a dime on pollution control technology over its entire operating life.”

 “When you add the cost of retrofitting older coal-fired units to the cost of supplying these generators with fuel transported from Wyoming, windpower is hands down the better economic choice,” Vickerman said.

 In addition to Montfort, NextEra Energy Resources also owns and operates the 36-turbine, 54 MW Butler Ridge project near Iron Ridge in Dodge County. That project started commercial operations in 2009.

Montfort wind farm marks 10th anniversary

News release
Renew Wisconsin
September 27,2011

More information:
Michael Vickerman
Executive Director
608.255.4044
mvickerman@renewwisconsin.org

The Montfort Wind Energy Center, a popular attraction in western Iowa County along U.S. Highway 18, turned 10 years old this summer. The 30-megawatt (MW) project, which for many years was Wisconsin’s largest commercial wind energy installation, began generating electricity in 2001, and thus far has produced over 500,000 megawatt-hours of electricity. In a typical year, Montfort’s output serves more than 5,000 households.

 The project’s 20 turbines are divided into two arrays. The main array, consisting of 17 turbines, runs along the southern side of U.S. 18 between Cobb and Montfort. The output from those 17 turbines is sold to Milwaukee-based We Energies. The other three turbines, located to the south of the main array, produce electricity under contract to Alliant Energy’s Wisconsin Power & Light subsidiary, whose service territory covers Iowa County.

 Originally developed by Enron Wind, the Montfort project was purchased in 2001 by NextEra Energy Resources, a Juno Beach, Florida-based company. Residents of Cobb and Montfort have been strongly supportive of this project. “Montfort has a gas station called Windmill Mobil,” said Carol Anderson, a project landowner. “Most commonly, I hear people ask ‘When we’re going to get more’?” Just east of the Windmill Mobil, an informational kiosk on the project stands prominently in front of the Tower Junction restaurant, located directly across the highway from Montfort’s westernmost turbines.

Carol Anderson holds a map of Wisconsin to show a group the topography with the best wind resource for projects similar to the Montfort Wind Farm.

 “People are also surprised at how quiet the turbines are,” Anderson said. “Some family members still live in our homestead only 2,000 feet from the turbines, and they don’t have any problems with noise or anything else.

 This project has brought economic development to Iowa County,” Anderson said. “Conservation is a big value in this area. All of us appreciate the conservation aspects of the clean energy.” Montfort is not the first Wisconsin wind project to complete 10 years of continuous operation. Others include the Rosiere and Lincoln projects in Kewaunee County, totaling 31 turbines, and the two-turbine Byron project south of Fond du Lac along U.S. Highway 41.

 “Wind generation is proving to be a reliable source of clean energy over the long haul,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide organization promoting Wisconsin’s renewable energy marketplace. “Furthermore, unlike coal-fired generators, wind projects will never need expensive retrofits to comply with federal clean air regulations because they don’t produce particulates, sulfur compounds or greenhouse gases.”

 “Wisconsin utilities are now in the process of spending more than a billion dollars to clean up their older coal-fired power stations,” Vickerman said. “This is a considerable expense that utility ratepayers will fully absorb. By contrast, Montfort’s owner will never have to spend a dime on pollution control technology over its entire operating life.”

 “When you add the cost of retrofitting older coal-fired units to the cost of supplying these generators with fuel transported from Wyoming, windpower is hands down the better economic choice,” Vickerman said.

 In addition to Montfort, NextEra Energy Resources also owns and operates the 36-turbine, 54 MW Butler Ridge project near Iron Ridge in Dodge County. That project started commercial operations in 2009.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Milwaukee Electric Vehicle Meeting - Sunday, Oct. 9th in Milwaukee

I'm sending this out to you as an invite to the first ever official meeting of the Wisconsin Electric Vehicle Association! (WiEVA)

The meeting will be held at:
Milwaukee Makerspace
3073 S. Chase Ave, Bldg 34
Milwaukee, WI 53207

On Sunday, October 9th at 1:00 PM.

The Wisconsin Electric Vehicle Association is a chapter of the Electric Auto Association, whose goal is to promote electric vehicles through education, and help owners and drivers of electric cars connect with each other. We are just starting up, and want to become THE state-wide organization for those interested in electric vehicles and clean transportation. If you are interested in a Chevy Volt, NIssan Leaf, or are already DRIVING your own electric car, we want to hear from you!

The Milwaukee Electric Car Club is an informal group of guys in the greater Milwaukee area who get together to convert their own vehicles to electric. They already meet at the Milwaukee Makerspace, so we are piggly-backing on when of the days when their members are in working on their cars. Those coming out to the meeting are welcome to arrive early and stay late to visit with Milwaukee Electric Car Club members, and take a look at their vehicles. They typically meet from 10AM to 4PM for electric car work.

If you are getting this e-mail, then you have already expressed interest in electric vehicles at an event such as the MREA, Green Drive Expo, EcoFair 360, or other event we have already been displaying vehicles at.

We would like to have as many electric vehicles at our meeting as possible. So, if you have an electric car, truck, scooter, motorcycle, lawn mower, Chevy Volt, or other vehicle you would like to s how off, bring it out. If you are interested in buying or selling an electric vehicle, or converting your own, this will be the place for you as well. If you know what Electrathon is, or have ever wanted to drag-race a "PowerWheels", come on out! Electric Vehicle Dealers WELCOME!

If at all possible, please bring your electric vehicle with you. If you can make it, but can't bring your EV, please bring photos or any other information you have on it. We will also have computers and internet access for anyone who wants to show off any web content about their vehicle.

We hope to do a round-robin of introductions, do a little general education on EVs, and show off a number of different vehicles, with informal tours by their builders. We'll have some snacks and beverages there for you as well!

Please tell anyone else you think would be interested in this event about it. If you are on an eco or transportation mailing list, please share it with your other members.

While this meeting will be held in Milwaukee, we hope to hold meetings in other locations around the state in the future. We need your help deciding how to make our organization as useful as possible to members, and educating the general public.

I genuinely hope that you can make it!

See you there,

Ben Nelson
Member:
EAA, Wisconsin Electric Vehicle Association, Milwaukee Makerspace
ben@hdvideoguy.com
414-403-0021

PS: It's worth coming out just to see the Milwaukee Makerspace - a collaborative creative workshop concept making amazing real-world projects. See their web page for directions to the Makerspace, its members, and projects. If you receive a duplicate of this e-mail, my apologies, I am a member of several mailing lists that have overlapping memberships. If you received this message in error, let me know, and I'll remove you from my list. Also, plenty of parking there, and smaller vehicles, motorcycles, and convertibles can be parked inside in case of poor weather.

Monday, September 26, 2011

New 100kW Turbine Dedicated Sunday near Random Lake

from an article in The Sounder, September 22, 2011

An open house and dedication will be part of Sunday’s program to dedicate the 100-kilowatt wind turbine on the Preder farm west of Random Lake. The wind turbine was erected jointly by the Jeff and Kathy Preder family, and the Ed and Stephenie Ritger family, who are neighbors living on County Rd. I.
Sunday’s open house from 1-4 p.m. will have exhibits about renewable energy, tower inspections, farm tours and light refreshments. Among the exhibitors will be the Lakeshore Technical College wind energy program and the Random Lake High School Science Club. The 2 p.m. dedication ceremony will include a talk about the theology of environmental stewardship by Fr. Ed Eschweiler. Among his writings is the prayer, “Beatitudes for Stewards of Earth,” and the book, “Celebrating God’s Good Earth in Prayer, Discussion & Action.”
There will be comments by elected officials, including Cong. Tom Petri (R-Fond du Lac) and State Rep. Dan LeMahieu (R-Cascade). Northern Power Systems of Barre, Vermont, will give a jobs report. Visitors can park at the Preder Farm, N254 County Rd. I, west of Random Lake.
The turbine is expected to produce all the electrical power needed to run the Preder household and the farming operation with enough electricity left over to power 12 to 15 additional homes. That additional power will be sold to the We Energies utility.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Germantown company erects 100 ft Wisconsin-built wind turbine


From an article on ControlDesign.com:

It was like the Egyptian obelisk going up in “The 10 Commandments,” only it was a lot faster, and the slaves were replaced by portable hydraulics. Oh, and there was a 32 ft diameter fan at the top.

This was the scene on a sunny, early-September afternoon as Wago installed a 100 ft tall wind turbine next to its U.S. headquarters in Germantown, Wis. And, as if the gleaming white tower wasn’t impressive enough, it was “tipped up” in an amazing 8-10 minutes by a portable hydraulic unit hooked up right next to the tower. After that, it took only another 15 minutes to bolt down the tower, hook up its electronics, and get it spinning in the breeze of Wisconsin’s famous “dairy air.”

Capable of generating 20 kW for Wago’s multi-function facility, the small-scale, commercial-grade VP-20 turbine was built by Renewegy in nearby Oshkosh, Wis. The turbine employs Wago’s 787 Series power supplies, 756 Series cables/connectors, 288 Series fuse blocks and backup capacitor module.

The wind turbine’s initial cost was $80,000, but state and federal incentives allow Wago to reduce its bill by about $35,000. Other VP-20s have been installed at SCA Tissue in Neenah, Wis., and at the North Texas Job Corp Center in McKinney, Texas. Renewegy reports that it can install single 20 kW units on farms, 40 kW dual units to serve schools, and 100 kW five-unit systems for small wind farms and commercial applications.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Dairyland Power partners with Bush Bros. on renewable energy plant

From a news release by Dairyland Power:

Methane digester located in Eau Claire Energy Cooperative’s service territory

LA CROSSE, WI— Dairyland Power Cooperative has signed an agreement with Bush Brothers & Co. to purchase the renewable energy and capacity from a new anaerobic wastewater system located in Augusta, Wis. The system will be served by Eau Claire Energy Cooperative, a Dairyland member.

Construction on the renewable energy facility is nearing completion, and commercial operation is expected in early 2012.

“It is a significant milestone when three entities work together to create yet another renewable energy facility for the benefit of the communities we all serve. Renewable energy facilities, including the new one at the Bush Brothers facility at Augusta, have added a positive element to the way we provide electricity for our co-op members,” said Eau Claire Energy Cooperative CEO and President Lynn Thompson.

The digester plant at the industrial wastewater facility is designed to process biogas produced in a covered lagoon to power a 635 kW generator. This is projected to produce enough renewable energy to power nearly 500 homes in the Dairyland system.

“The anaerobic digester represents a responsible method for handling plant waste and we are glad to have it as a part of our manufacturing process,” said Joe Breid, Director of Operations for the Bush Brothers plant in Augusta.

Once operational, the Bush Brothers facility will represent the seventh methane digester within the Dairyland system, and the first industrial use. The first six digester f if acilities are “cow power” plants, utilizing dairy cow manure as the source from which methane gas is derived to fuel the generators and create renewable energy. . . .

About Bush Brothers
Founded in 1908, Bush Brothers & Company is a privately owned food processor headquartered in Knoxville, Tenn. Best known for their baked beans, Bush’s also offers more than 30 varieties of canned beans including kidney, pinto and black. Bush Brothers & Company is still family owned and operated, working for the same ideals that were set forth by A.J. Bush more than 100 years ago – ensuring the highest quality and best taste can be found in all their products. Bush’s sells one-third of all canned beans in the U.S., making it the top bean brand in the country. Its signature commercials of Jay Bush and his Golden Retriever, Duke, have made Bush’s Beans a familiar household name. For more information, visit www.bushbeans.com.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Lake Country Moving to Solar, Saturday, Sept. 24

We are having a "Lake Country Moving to Solar" bash at Lake Country Unitarian Universalist Church, W299N5595 Grace Drive in Hartland from noon to 4 this Saturday, celebrating our 19.68 kW solar PV system which came on-line last month. We are having speakers INCLUCING MICHAEL VICKERMAN, musicians, tours of the solar installation and community garden on the premises, solar tea and other snacks, informational tables including a petition to Obama, Kohl, and Johnson to Move Away from Fossil Fuels, and children's activities. We will have preferred parking for bikes and hi-mpg vehicles!

Hope you all can make it to this. Call me (Gerry Flakas) at 262-646-2703 if you have any questions.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Port of Milwaukee Gets "OK" for Wind Turbine Project

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

A project to build a wind turbine adjacent to the Port of Milwaukee's administration building will move forward after a contractor agreed to increase its use of businesses owned by minorities or women.

The Board of Harbor Commissioners gave the project a go-ahead at a meeting Wednesday morning. The board had delayed action on the contract last month because of concerns about participation levels of minority and female-owned businesses.

"We're excited to see this project move forward and we're glad that the issues the board raised were able to be resolved successfully," said Matt Howard, the city's environmental sustainability director.

The low bidder on the project, Kettle View Renewable Energy of Random Lake, offered to boost minority hiring on the project in order to keep the project on track. The vote to approve the $520,922 contract was unanimous.

Construction of a foundation is expected to start in the coming weeks, with the tower and turbine to be installed in the spring.

The 154-foot turbine would be located just north of the port administration building on South Lincoln Memorial Drive, west of the Lake Express ferry terminal.

Kettle View was the low bidder among five firms that submitted proposals for the project.

As proposed, a combination of $400,000 in federal renewable-energy stimulus money and grants of up to $100,000 each from the state Focus on Energy Program and We Energies would pay for the wind turbine.

The turbine for the project would be made in Vermont by Northern Power Systems. Kettle View is considering a Wisconsin contractor for the turbine tower, said Erick Shambarger of the city's environmental sustainability office.

The project aims to demonstrate the city's commitment to clean energy and provide more than enough electricity to meet the needs of the port administration building.

The wind turbine that the city selected is less than half the height of a utility-scale wind turbine, such as those erected in Fond du Lac County in recent years.

It's shorter than the Bay View Terrace condominium tower along the lake, but taller than the small turbines that are outside the Discovery World museum.

It would generate enough electricity over a year's time to power up to 15 typical homes.

The city is forecasting savings on utilities plus energy-related revenues totaling $14,000 to $20,000 a year.

The turbine that's planned for the site is the same model as those built in recent years around the state, at Wausau East High School, the Fort Atkinson campus of Madison Area Technical College and the Village of Cascade in Sheboygan County.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

UW Milwaukee Receives Top Dollar Gov. Grant for Energy Program

The University of Wisconsin Milwaukee was awarded 1.5 million dollars from the DOE (Department of Energy) in order to continue to train under-graduate and graduate level engineering students to become future leaders in industrial energy efficiency. The award is part of a larger 30 million dollar DOE grant given to 24 universities across the county, who currently are leaders in this field. The money will be used to set up an assessment center where students will be able to learn, though working with larger corporations and smaller businesses, how to reduce energy waste and save money through energy efficiency. The money will be given to UW Milwaukee in installments over the next 5 years. Energy Secretary Steven Chu thinks this will open the door to new jobs in this ever growing industry.

Other universities receiving the grant

Monday, September 12, 2011

Solar Farm Provides "Green" Investment Options for the Public

Delavan - Welcome to the field where sun power and the sunflower meet.

Well, not just one sunflower. More like thousands. And not just one solar panel, either. Thousands there, too.

Convergence Energy of Lake Geneva is building one of the largest solar projects in the state, and the first that allows individual investors to buy a stake in the project.

The Convergence Energy Solar Farm began construction last year on 14 acres near Dan Osborn's wholesale nursery.

The idea, said Steve Johnson, vice president of business development, is to provide a green-power investment opportunity for people who live in a condo or have too much shade to make solar power workable on their own home's roof.

By the time it's finished this year, it will be the second-largest solar project in Wisconsin, after Epic Systems' corporate campus solar project in Verona.

But instead of being developed by one large company, this project is being built, piece by piece, as investors take a stake in the project.

"It's a way for a small investor to have a part in it all," said investor Dave Smith of Libertyville, Ill. "When you live in a town home like I do, there's nothing you can really do."

Smith bought one of the Convergence systems at a time when the economy and stock market were in rough shape.

"I thought, why should I invest in anonymous equities and bonds when I can invest in a local company that I can keep an eye on, that's doing something good and will probably pay returns?" he said. "So I was very excited about it."

Johnson said, "We call it networked solar. It allows people whose homes aren't oriented toward the sun properly to take part. They might be in the woods. Or some may not like the aesthetics of the panels on the roof."

The project allows those people to still have a stake in something they believe in, Johnson said.

Convergence developed the project, obtaining funding from the state's Focus on Energy program as well as a U.S. Treasury Department financing program authorized by the federal stimulus package.

Now, the company offers investors a stake in the project by investing at least $16,000 for a system, which amounts to 80 or so panels erected across three tracking towers. Each system of three towers generates up to 20 kilowatts of electricity, and dozens of the towers stretch across the land.

One advantage, compared with conventional rooftop solar systems, is that these panels are erected on dual-axis trackers, so they rotate during the day to follow the sun. That generates about 30% more power than a fixed solar system, Johnson said.

Convergence leased the land from Osborn, who opted to grow sunflowers this summer in between the rows of panels. He wants to press the sunflower seeds into oil that could be used in biodiesel.

Osborn's business has been running a tractor on biodiesel for years, so this just made sense, he said. Osborn estimates he could end up with 600 gallons of fuel from the sunflowers that are now in full bloom and face toward the sun each morning.

Osborn has invested in several of the tracking systems and says he did it to offset the power used by his business, his home and the homes of his children, who live nearby.

"This is my little part, you know. It's clean and it's the sun, and it's what we should all be doing," he said.

Power produced by the project is sold to We Energies, with Convergence in turn passing that income on to its investors.

"It wasn't all about the money," Smith said. "I wanted to paint my own corporation's name on the pole and say, 'Look, we've invested in solar.' We're offsetting our carbon footprint."

We Energies has been a strong supporter of the project, Johnson said.

Ryan Logterman is proud to be a part of the project, which helped create jobs for his firm, Logterman Heating and Cooling, more than doubling its workforce in the past few years.

Logterman also is an investor in the project.

"We're all in. We are all investing in this ourselves. I've got the end of the second row," he said, gesturing across the field. "I'm on System No. 10."

Logterman's heating, ventilating and air conditioning business employed three people five years ago when he began work in the industry as a solar thermal installer.

Today, Logterman's business has 10 employees, one crew working exclusively digging trenches, building foundations and wiring Convergence Energy's solar panels.

"It's a good feeling. We're doing something positive. We're generating renewable power, and I'm hiring more people and helping the local economy," Logterman said. "We try to buy as much material as we can from local wholesalers."

Convergence is keeping it local, too, buying panels from the Helios Solar Works factory that opened this year in Milwaukee's Menomonee Valley. Convergence was Helios' first customer, and that firm has been adding more workers as it builds its customer base.

Customers and investors alike appreciate the made-in-Wisconsin flavor of the project, Johnson said, adding that Helios panels were selected because they're more efficient than the typical photovoltaic panel.

"The whole thing about renewables is about local economies. We're really striving to build local economies," Johnson said. "It's providing an opportunity for people who want to invest in solar and put a little more clean energy on the grid."


This article was written by Thomas Content of the Journal Sentinel