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Monday, October 28, 2013

Potawatomi project will use food waste to make energy

One of Wisconsin's signature industries — food and beverage processing — is getting a cutting-edge flavor in a new renewable energy project scheduled to start operating this week.

The project, located in the Menomonee River Valley, just west of the Potawatomi Bingo Casino, will convert food wastes into renewable energy, with the power to be sold to We Energies.

Read more from Journal Sentinel

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Ranking Midwestern States on Solar Policies and Practices

On distributed generation, how does Wisconsin stack up against neighboring states?

Among Midwestern states, Wisconsin trails its neighbors in a ranking of solar policies and practices according to "Freeing the Grid", a report by the Vote Solar Initiative and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Inc.(IREC).

Net metering grade
Interconnection grade

Read the press release announcing the report for an overview or view the report on the IREC website.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

WPS Community Foundation funds Coleman Elementary School solar project

The Wisconsin Public Service Community Foundation recently funded its 51st SolarWise for Schools project. A new article in the Eagle Herald  details a large 24-kilowatt solar-electric system now generating electricity for the Coleman Elementary School. The project was funded in part by the WPS Community Foundation, along with Eland Electric Corporation and a Focus on Energy Grant. RENEW praises WPS's foundation for supporting projects like this.

On the flip side of this solar story, WPS, the private utility, wants to prevent systems of this size from being eligible for net metering in the future! Yesterday, Michael Vickerman and RENEW just submitted our brief concluding our arguments to improve net metering for WPS customers!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Wind turbine syndrome: Farm hosts tell very different story

People who host wind turbines on their properties and derive rental income from wind energy companies have important stories to tell about living alongside turbines, but they’ve largely been absent from the debate on wind farms and health. Australian filmmaker and researcher Neil Barrett is finally giving this critical group a voice in his new short film, The way the wind blows, released today.
In Barrett’s short film, 15 hosts and some of their neighbours from the central Victorian district near the town of Waubra tell what it’s like to live surrounded by large turbines.
Read the rest of the story...

Monday, October 7, 2013

Ride with RENEW was a huge success!

Thank you: Your support made it all possible
The first ever RENEW Wisconsin bike event occurred over the weekend of September 28 and 29 and was a major inspirational and fundraising success.
RENEW would like to thank all of you who sent your support and donations to us for our Ride with RENEW bike tour event. 161 of you donated over $8,000 to support this event and work toward a clean, renewable energy future in Wisconsin. We blew way past our goal of raising $5,000, which two of our major donors John and Mary Frantz had generously agreed to match. We were shocked and humbled when John and Mary offered to match the $8,000 all of you had donated, bringing our total to over $16,000!
Here are some of the highlights:
  • 9 riders
  • 2 days
  • 115 miles
  • 1 sag wagon
  • 3106 feet in elevation
  • 161 contributors
  • 9 corporate and in-kind sponsors
  • Over $16,000 raised (includes the match by John & Mary Frantz)
  • 12 renewable sites visited
  • 2 songs written 
  • 1 broken chain, 1 broken spoke
  • Many great experiences
We wanted to share with you some of the highlights of the bike ride, so we created a photo album on our Google+ page.

Continue Your Support: Become a Monthly Sustainer of RENEW!
RENEW’s new executive director, Tyler Huebner, initiated RENEW’s first 100 mile bike ride event to emphasize RENEW’s campaigns, fundraise to support these campaigns, get some exercise, and be part of an adventure. We hit the mark on all of these attributes! In addition, Tyler started this bike ride to get 100 Monthly Sustainers of RENEW Wisconsin, and set the 100 miles as a benchmark to coincide with this goal. We've already got 14 Monthly Sustainers: join us as a Monthly Sustainer of RENEW today and continue supporting our work with a monthly contribution of $25 or more!
Ride Summary
Saturday’s event started on the Merrimac ferry, north of Madison, and ventured up the hill to the International Crane Foundation to see their hot water and electric solar systems. The first hill was the second highest on the trip and it was a joy to eventually get on top. The next major stop was at the LEED Platinum Aldo Leopold Center near Baraboo and then the group took the Levee Road, Wisconsin River route on the way back towards the ferry.  Saturday’s event will be remembered by riders as being one that was warm, windy, rainy (at the end), and full of surprises.
Sunday started in the Middleton Park & Ride and quickly ventured past the new Dane County BioDigester being built just west of Middleton. Next stop was the Epic's new Galactic Wind farm in Northern Dane County. The weather was perfect for biking: sunny, 60 degrees, and no wind. However these conditions meant the Epic system’s wind turbines blades were not spinning.  The group then stopped at a private residence that was heated by 16 solar thermal panels on a south facing roof with an incredible view.
The toughest riding part of the trip was next, up the hill to the Bleu Mont Dairy near Blue Mounds State Park.  Bleu Mont Dairy is a zero energy operation with wind, solar thermal and solar electric  providing all the power for the award winning dairy, which also supports a passive solar greenhouse and cave cheese storage.  We continued up the hill to Britington Park and then were glad to descend down to Mt. Horeb and the solar based Grumpy Troll Brew Pub. The trip ended going on the Military Ridge State Bike Trail and viewing the solar system at Standard Imaging and Middleton Alternative High School's solar shingles.

All in all, it was a fantastic weekend at the end of September, riding for a really great cause and fun adventure.  Many thanks to all who participated as riders, sponsors, supporters, logistic planners, sage wagon drivers, and renewable site owners. Special thanks to John and Mary Frantz who were able to match all of the other 161 sponsors with a generous gift.

Based on this success, RENEW plans to make the early fall bike ride an annual event. Stay tuned for details at the end of summer 2014.
If you donated $35 or more, you are now considered a member of RENEW and we are happy to have you with us. You will receive e-newsletters from us and can keep up to date via our website and blog. We have a number of events coming up around the state, so be sure to check out our events calendar.
Also, a very special thank you to our sponsors, who generously provided marketing, logistical help, donations, and snacks and support to us during our ride:
Wisconsin Business AllianceAlvarado GroupHome Savings BankDreambikesBerkeley Running CompanyApple WellnessChocolate Shoppe Ice Cream
Thank you again!

RENEW Wisconsin Staff & Board of Directors
222 S. Hamilton St.
Madison, WI 53703

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

PSC Pulls Plug on Solar and Wind Incentives Again

For the second time in three years, state of Wisconsin incentives for customer-sited solar and small wind systems has been suspended, a result of recent Public Service Commission (PSC) decisions affecting Focus on Energy's renewable energy budget. Incentives for biogas and biomass installations are not affected by the PSC's decisions.

The cut-off of solar and wind incentives follows an across-the-board suspension of renewable energy incentives that lasted one year before being lifted in July 2012. RENEW Wisconsin has issued a press release concerning the PSC's decision below.

UPDATE: Check out Tom Content's article on JSOnline for more information.
For Immediate Release
August 1, 2013 
PSC Pulls Plug on Solar and Wind Incentives Again 
PSC Vote a “Dark Day for Solar Energy in Wisconsin” 
Focus on Energy has suspended incentives for solar and small wind energy systems for the remainder of 2013, as a result of a Public Service Commission (PSC) order approved last week. The funding suspension takes effect even though Focus on Energy has spent only $1.2 million of the $10 million budgeted this year for all renewable energy technologies. 
The PSC split 2-1 on the vote stopping the flow of incentives for solar and small wind energy systems. Commissioners Phil Montgomery and Ellen Nowak approved the suspension order, while Commissioner Eric Callisto voted against the motion.   
“In approving this funding stoppage, the PSC ignored the public comments of over 630 citizens and businesses who urged the agency to provide a consistent, stable program to promote solar and wind energy,” said Executive Director Tyler Huebner.  “This will go down as a dark day for solar energy in Wisconsin.” 
The funding suspension was triggered by a slowdown in demand for incentives for biogas and biomass energy systems. Though up to $7,500,000 in incentives is set aside for bioenergy projects, only $384,448 in incentives have been paid out to date in that category.  Under an order adopted by the PSC in 2012, Focus on Energy must maintain a 75/25 percent funding split between the bioenergy category and the solar/small wind category.  
“Prices for solar projects have dropped steeply in recent years and these projects are as cost-effective for residential and business customers as biogas is for farmers and food processors,” said Huebner. “In addition, the timelines for biogas projects are unrelated to those of wind and solar projects. Add these together, and there is no reason financial incentives for solar and wind should be contingent on the health of bioenergy market." 
“This decision further ‘boxes in’ the Focus on Energy administrator regarding these incentives. The stipulations added by the Commission appear to make the calculations mathematically unworkable. We can envision the program’s administrator resorting to a Ouija Board to figure out how much funding is available for solar and wind projects going forward.”   
Burke O’Neal, co-owner of Full Spectrum Solar in Madison, discussed the impact on businesses.  He said, “It’s really bad for business in Wisconsin to have a program that appears and then with very little notice disappears. It’s really hard to build a business and a stable industry when programs aren’t consistent.” 
In his dissent, Commissioner Eric Callisto stated that Commission’s goal in its 2012 ruling “was to create market certainty, foster fiscal sustainability and program cost-effectiveness, and ultimately allow the funding of more biogas and biomass projects. The Commission’s decision today helps to advance none of those goals, but rather reintroduces substantial uncertainty into the renewables marketplace.” Callisto added, “If the Commission’s 75/25 split was meant to emphasize biomass and biogas resources, it isn’t working, and today’s decision won’t help.” 
RENEW Wisconsin’s Tyler Huebner added, “In Wisconsin we send $12.5 billion out of the state each year to buy coal, oil, and natural gas. We don’t have any of those energy resources within our state.  The Focus on Energy incentives for solar and wind should be available to help residents, businesses, and farmers take control of their energy bills and produce electricity in a self-sustaining manner.  For a decade, the success of this program helped Wisconsin build a thriving small business market to deliver these alternative energy solutions to customers.  With this latest suspension, that once-thriving market of businesses will take yet another hit, and sadly, the credibility of the entire Focus program certainly takes a hit too.”