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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Construction begins on Milwaukee Public Museum’s solar wall

The Milwaukee Public Museum announced plans to cover the building's 8-story tower with a 234 panel solar array. The completed project is predicted to produce 77,533 kilowatt hours of electricity per year.

By Trisha Bee
MILWAUKEE (WITI) – The Milwaukee Public Museum’s south façade is getting a 21stcentury update. The marble cladding on the 8-story tower of the Museum, which was built in the mid-1960s, is being replaced with 234 solar panels. Work on the project, scheduled to last approximately five months, started Monday, July 29th with preparation for the removal of the marble exterior. 
Over the past 50 years, the Museum’s heavy marble façade has weathered and become less stable, creating the need for an update on the south wall facing Wells Street. MPM explored both the use of recycled material and solar panels as replacement options, and decided on the later because of the energy-generating potential of solar. Milwaukee-based manufacturer Helios USA has been contracted to produce the Museum’s solar panels. 
MPM’s solar wall is expected to generate 77,533 kilowatt hours of electricity per year, the equivalent of having 442, 60-watt light bulbs on for eight hours every day for an entire year. MPM will be the only building in Milwaukee with a full solar wall that is generating electricity. 
During removal of the marble cladding, the MPM’s Puelicher Butterfly Vivarium and Bugs Alive! exhibit will be closed to ensure safety of Museum visitors and staff members. This phase of construction is expected to last approximately four weeks.

Monday, July 29, 2013

New Report: Wisconsin Ranks 26th in the Nation for Solar Power

Wisconsin Environment Research and Policy Center's report Lighting the Way: What We Can Learn from America’s Top 12 Solar States identifies the twelve states making the greatest contribution to the rise of solar power in the United States. The report observes that while Wisconsin's solar capacity is growing, this growth is far behind the increase observed in the report's top ranking states, lagging behind enough to earn Wisconsin a ranking of 26th in the nation for per capita solar installations. The full report and the press release below identify the strong renewable energy policies adopted by the top ranking states and the reasoning for Wisconsin's low ranking.  

Milwaukee – Today, Wisconsin Environment Research & Policy Center releasedLighting the Way: What We Can Learn from America’s Top 12 Solar States, a new report highlighting a solar energy boom across the country. The report outlines the twelve states that have made a considerable contribution to the nation’s rise in solar power. Wisconsin however, missed the cut and ranks 26th in the nation for per capita solar installations. Last year, solar capacity in Wisconsin grew by 7% bringing it to a total of 14 megawatts. But Wisconsin still trails behind leading solar states such as New Jersey that has more than 50 times as many solar installations per capita than Wisconsin. 
“The sky’s the limit on solar energy,” said Megan Severson, State Advocate with Wisconsin Environment. “The progress of other states should give us the confidence that we can do much more. Our message today is clear: If you want your state to be a leader in pollution-free solar energy, set big goals and get good policies on the books.” 
Solar is on the rise across the country. America has more than three times as much solar photovoltaic capacity as it did in 2010, and more than 10 times as much as it did in 2007. And now the price of solar panels fell by 26 percent in 2012. Wisconsin Environment attributed the solar boom to the leadership of state officials, especially those in states profiled in the report. 
“More and more, homes and businesses are turning to solar as a pollution-free energy source with no fuel costs,” said Severson. “With the increasing threat of global warming, Wisconsin must become a leading solar state.”

[READ MORE

Friday, July 26, 2013

Speak Up for Clean Energy on the Highland Wind Farm

If you support wind energy development in Wisconsin, and if you believe a responsibly designed project should not be shouted down by antiwind pressure groups, please communicate your position to the Public Service Commission, which will decide the fate of the Highland Wind project later this year. The Commission will accept online comments through August 12th.


Speak Up for Clean Energy on the Highland Wind Farm 
WI_Turbine.jpg
The Highland Wind Farm is a clean energy project proposed for the Town of Forest (St. Croix County).  The proposed farm will have 41 turbines and generate 102.5 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 25,000 homes.  The process of getting the Highland Wind Farm permitted has been an ongoing battle riddled with propaganda and misinformation about wind.  Recently we were pleased to learn that the Public Service Commission (PSC) agreed to reopen the case and reconsider permitting the wind farm.  Although a public hearing has been scheduled for August 14, at 610 North Whitney Way, Madison, in the Amnicon Falls Room (First Floor) the PSC has informed us that they will hear testimony from the general public on August 15.  You may also submit online comments until August 13.  Unfortunately, opponents are already commenting, and they will be out in full force at the public hearing.  Don't let a vocal minority shut the door on clean energy in Wisconsin!  Send in your comments today, and make plans to attend the public hearing. 
You can submit a comment following these steps:1.    Click here for the PSC website and fill out your information2.    Write your comment.  Feel free to use our talking points below to help form your comment, but also be sure to tell your personal story and reason for wanting more clean, wind energy in Wisconsin.3.    Click 'File Comments'
Talking Points:
  • Wisconsin is falling behind in the clean energy transition.  All of our neighboring states have installed more wind than Wisconsin.  Meanwhile in our state, at least 3 wind projects have been canceled in the past few years after the legislature temporarily suspended Wisconsin's uniform wind-siting rules, causing the loss of hundreds of megawatts of clean energy and over 1,000 potential jobs.
  • The Highland Wind Farm will create over 100 jobs during construction and up to 8 permanent jobs.  Over the next 30 years, it would provide $4.8 million in revenue to Forest Township, and over $6.8 million to St. Croix County.
  • The most significant commercial activity in the Town of Forest is farming.  The 25 host landowners would benefit from lease payments offered by the Highland Wind Farm, and this income is critical for anchoring the many family farms in this area.
  • The Highland Wind Farm will follow Wisconsin's Wind Siting Law, PSC 128, a policy created by a range of stakeholders over a several years designed to create business certainty and overcome the patchwork of local regulations that has threatened clean energy development in Wisconsin. 
  • The Public Service Commission needs to make decisions based on the law and what is good for the health of Wisconsin.  The Highland Wind Farm is both.
  • Wisconsin wants and needs wind and we shouldn't let a vocal minority block clean energy opportunities.
Shahla M. Werner, Ph.D., Chapter DirectorSierra Club- John Muir Chapter222 South Hamilton Street, Suite 11Madison, WI 53703-3201shahla.werner@sierraclub.orgPhone: (608) 256-0565Fax: (608) 256-4JMChttp://wisconsin.sierraclub.org/

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Monona Rolls Out Welcome Mat for Solar Energy: Four City Buildings to be Powered by Rooftop Arrays

--Immediate Release

In what will become the largest solar electric project serving a Wisconsin municipality, the City of Monona approved a contract this week that will result in the construction of rooftop arrays supplying renewable energy directly to four city-owned buildings. All four solar systems, totaling 156 kilowatts, should be online by year’s end.


The four Monona buildings selected to host the solar electric arrays are: City Hall, Public Library, Public Works Garage, and Public Works Dept. Well No. 3. All told, the solar arrays will produce more than 210,000 kilowatt-hours of clean energy per year, equating to 30% of the buildings’ combined electricity usage.


The City will receive a stream of renewable energy credits along with the electrical output under a solar service partnership agreement with Falcon Energy Systems, a Colorado based investment group. Bloomington, MN-based tenKsolar will manufacture the solar generating arrays, and Madison-based Full Spectrum Solar will install and service the equipment on the city-owned sites. Earlier this month, tenKsolar and Full Spectrum Solar teamed up to install a 48 kilowatt system on the Arbor Crossing apartments in Shorewood Hills.


The project team was assembled by Solar Connections, LLC, a Madison consulting group that has also developed residential solar installations that were financed primarily by friends and neighbors of the host customer.


Consultants Kurt Reinhold and James Yockey first introduced this municipal solar model to the  Sustainability Committee of the City of Monona in September of 2012, and has since been joined by Janine Glaeser, City Project Manager, to shepherd this project through numerous committees and hearings before Monday’s unanimous vote to adopt the resolution to enter into this solar services contract.


“Five years ago, Monona passed a resolution committing itself to greatly expand its own use of renewable energy by 2025,” said Kurt Reinhold, a principal with Solar Connections. “Not only will this partnership help Monona achieve its sustainable energy goals, it will also help the City save on its energy bills.”


“With this action, Monona joins the growing circle of Wisconsin businesses, communities and individuals committed to serving themselves with renewable energy produced on-site,” said Michael Vickerman, program and policy director of RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide renewable energy advocacy organization.


“Through their actions, forward-thinking entities like Monona will reduce Wisconsin’s dependence on imported fossil fuels in a way that creates jobs and invigorates the local economy,” Vickerman said.

Read Gina Covelli's article in the Herald Independent to learn more

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Wisconsin's renewable energy community sheds light on misinformation used in debate over the impact of Fond du Lac wind turbines

Laura Ritger's article for the Fond du Lac Reporter published last Friday provided an outline of the continued debate over the impact of wind turbines on human health. Demonstrating the misinformation frequently used to attack wind farms, Barbara Vanden Boogart of the Brown County Citizens for Responsible Wind Energy anti wind group incorrectly reported to Ms. Ritger that a health study had been conducted to assess the risk for cancer in Brown County residents near a local wind farm. Wisconsin's renewable energy community was quick to identify and correct the misinformation used by Ms. Boogart's group with wind energy expert Mike Barnard responding in Barnard on Wind and RENEW's Michael Vickerman writing the following response to the Fond du Lac Reporter.

By Michael Vickerman

Dear Ms. Ritger:

You recently wrote an article describing an effort on the part of certain Fond du Lac County residents to advocate for a state-funded health study analyzing impacts of utility-scale wind generators on neighboring residents. Your article contained the following sentence:
Barbara Vanden Boogart, representing Brown County Citizens for Responsible Wind Energy, spoke Wednesday about health issues. She referred to a study that measured increased cancer risk for people living in Brown County homes near turbines and how some residents were compelled to leave their homes.

The highlighted statement is completely false.Yes, a team of acoustical engineers took measurements of infrasound and low-frequency sound levels at three houses near the Shirley wind farm. The results were recorded and written up in a report  titled "A Cooperative Measurement Survey and Analysis of Low Frequency and Infrasound at the Shirley Wind Farm in Brown County, Wisconsin." While these acoustical engineers are experts in their field, their expertise does not extend into medical science. They took sound readings, nothing more. Moreover, they were unable to persuade the owner of the Shirley Wind Farm to shut down the turbines at any time during the testing. Without a baseline sound reading, it is impossible to determine to what extent, if any, the Shirley wind turbines are responsible for any sounds recorded by this team. That being the case, the statement is in error on two grounds:

1. This was an acoustical inquiry, not a medical inquiry.

2. The measurements taken neither implicate or exonerate the Shirley wind turbines for any readings taken, because they were always operating during the testing.

It's quite a leap to interpret the data and conclude, as Ms. Vanden Boogart did, that living near wind turbines increases the risk of contracting cancer. No peer-reviewed medical study I'm aware of connects wind generation to any illness or disease recognized by the medical profession. Moreover, every reporter who covers this issue ought to know that Wind Turbine Syndrome is not a medically recognized phenomenon. 

I would ask that your newspaper issue a correction on this point. Ms. Vanden Boogart completely misrepresented the report in question, and her quote suggests that there is a risk from wind generators when in fact none has been determined to date by many researchers working around the world. 

For a balanced presentation of the Shirley report, please review the latest post on Barnard on Wind, which sets the record straight on what the Shirley infrasound report says and does not say. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Monona's Solar Project Underlines the Importance of the Ongoing Debate Over Third Party Renewable Energy Installations

In what could be the first third-party-owned solar electric system installed this decade in Wisconsin. Monona's proposed four-array 156 kilowatt project could test the legality of third-party renewable energy installations in the state. Wisconsin's murky policy regarding third party ownership combined with the economic growth experienced by states that expressly support it, emphasizes the need for clarification. Dan Haugen's informative article with comments from RENEW's Michael Vickerman provides a snapshot of the current debate in the context of the Monona project and what RENEW's Clean Energy Choice proposal could do for projects like it.

By Dan Haugen
Can a Wisconsin city buy solar power from someone other than its electric utility? A Madison suburb may soon find out the answer. 
The Monona City Council discussed Monday what could be a first-of-its-kind solar project in Wisconsin. 
A private company would install solar arrays on four municipal buildings at no upfront cost to the city. The installer would then own and maintain the systems over the life of a contract and sell the renewable energy credits they earn to the city of Monona. 
“The city has committed to being an energy-independent community and increasing our use of renewables,” Monona project manager Janine Glaeser said, “and this looks like a good way to do that without the upfront capital costs.” 
One possible hitch: Wisconsin law is unclear about whether so called “third-party-owned” solar systems, in which neither the customer nor their utility owns the panels, are legal in the state.

[READ MORE

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Dropping Prices and Low Maintenance Costs Encourage Local Solar Installations

Responding to decreasing solar energy systems costs, Stone House Development Inc. invests in a 117 solar panel setup above their new mixed use apartment building in Shorewood Hills. Phil Levin's report for NBC 15 notes that projects like this could be just the beginning. Read the article below and watch the video report to learn more.


By Phil Levin

Local developers are reconsidering solar panel installations as prices drop and energy efficiencies rise.
The projects were previously prohibitively expensive as pricey installations could take years to generate enough energy to offset their cost. Commercial arrays can now pay for themselves in as few as five years.
"If you are going to be owning the building for ten years or more, you're going to recoup those costs and the savings will keep going another 15 plus years after that," said Full Spectrum Solar Founder Burke O'Neal.
His group installs the arrays on residential and commercial buildings. They recently set up 117 panels above a new mixed-use apartment building in Shorewood Hills called Arbor Crossing.
The panels will produce energy when the sun is out to power common area utilities like lighting in hallways and the garage. In the middle of the day the solar array might generate more energy than those circuits need, causing the Madison Gas and Electric meter to spin backwards.

[READ MORE]

Monday, July 15, 2013

Utility Data Confirm Retreat from Renewables, Policy Rollbacks Slow Installation Activity

Utility Responses submitted to the Wisconsin Public Service Commission report that the electrical providers received far fewer requests to connect renewable energy systems to the energy grid in 2012 than in previous years. Read the press release below to learn what this means for utilities, energy consumers, and ultimately the future of renewable energy in Wisconsin.

Immediate Release -- 
In filings submitted to the Public Service Commission (PSC), most of Wisconsin’s electric providers reported that they handled far fewer customer requests in 2012 to interconnect renewable energy systems to the grid than in previous years. Last year’s decrease followed several years of steady growth in customer-sited renewable energy installations. 
 The solar and small wind energy sectors were hit hardest by this slowdown, while biogas installation activity remained steady through 2012. Solar electricity systems account for more than 90% of customer interconnection requests.        “These reports confirm our fears that ongoing utility resistance to customer use of clean energy is sucking a lot of oxygen out of Wisconsin’s renewable energy marketplace,” said Michael Vickerman, program and policy director for RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide renewable energy advocacy organization.        According to data submitted by Milwaukee-based We Energies, the utility processed only 56 interconnection requests in 2012, compared with 120 requests in 2009, 146 in 2010, and 172 in 2011.
   Green Bay-based Wisconsin Public Service and Madison Gas & Electric also reported declines in customer-sited renewable systems since 2011. According to Madison-based Wisconsin Power & Light, interconnections involving renewable energy peaked in 2009 and 2010, and have fallen off since. 
“The slowdown in Wisconsin stands in stark contrast to solar’s rapid expansion in other states. This contraction is occurring in spite of declining installation costs and higher electric rates,” Vickerman said.              
   Vickerman attributed the fall-off in installation activity to a number of policy changes, including
  •   Service changes adopted by several utilities to make net metering a less economically attractive option for customer-generators;
  •   Across-the-board elimination of special buyback rates for solar-generated electricity; and
  •   Recently adopted restrictions to the amount and availability of Focus on Energy incentives for solar and small wind.
“Solar is a proven generator of jobs as well as electricity. Lately, it seems that utilities are doing their level best to keep solar out of their resource mix,” Vickerman said. 
     “Other states such as Minnesota and Georgia are warming to solar, because they see how this clean resource drives business start-ups and investment opportunities. What will it take for Wisconsin to see the light?” Vickerman asked.                The utility filings were submitted as part of a PSC investigation to determine whether the state’s interconnection rules should be modified to facilitate more customer-sited renewable energy systems. The docket number is 05-GF-233.


-END-
RENEW Wisconsin is an independent, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that leads and represents businesses, organizations, and individuals who seek more clean renewable energy in Wisconsin.  More information on RENEW’s Web site at www.renewwisconsin.org. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Georgia Regulators Force State Utility to Embrace Solar Energy

Environmentalists, conservatives and solar startups celebrate as the influential state utility Georgia Power is mandated to expand the amount of solar energy it generates. The newly approved program requires Georgia Power to purchase solar power from solar firms, growing Georgia's solar industry. Read Kiley Kroh's article to learn about the Koch brother's attempts to undermine conservative support for the initiative.  Greg Bluestein and Kristi E. Swartz's article below outlines Georgia's path to an exciting future for the State's energy consumers and solar energy producers.

By Greg Bluestein and Kristi E. Swartz
State regulators forced Georgia Power on Thursday to expand the amount of solar energy it generates, putting the company on the rare losing side of a political battle. But the vote was just a skirmish compared with bigger battles ahead for the powerful utility. 
It faces a double-whammy of upcoming votes before the Public Service Commission on approving new costs for its nuclear expansion project and a proposed 6 percent rate hike to fund new equipment. And a legislative fight looms over a proposal to create a new solar monopoly that could challenge Georgia Power’s grip on state utilities. 
The all-Republican commission’s 3-2 vote was a significant defeat for the Atlanta-based company, which had warned it already generated more than enough energy for its customers. Opponents also said that adding 525 megawatts of solar by 2016 would inevitably drive up rates, although Georgia Power, in a surprising about-face, backed off that argument on Thursday after months of making that case. Instead, its attorney said for the first time that the added solar likely wouldn’t affect power bills. 
In the aftermath of Thursday’s vote, the odd coalition of environmentalists, conservatives and solar startups behind the expansion barely paused to savor their win. Some emboldened activists said the victory gave them new hope they could successfully challenge the utility on other contentious issues.

[READ MORE]

Thursday, July 11, 2013

RENEW's Michael Vickerman Examines Utility Arguments Against Third Party Solar Arrangements

To: Clean Energy Choice Supporters

From: Michael Vickerman

Date:   July 10, 2013

Our grassroots campaign is beginning to catch the attention of utilities. Shortly after one county board passed a resolution in support of Clean Energy Choice, a utility representative contacted a board member and expressed his company's dismay over the vote. This representative said that the reason utilities oppose Clean Energy Choice is that third party arrangements enable customers to use less utility-provided energy, which reduces revenues to utilities. The result is that the fixed costs associated with utility electric service are spread over a smaller rate base, which drives rates higher.

Let's examine this argument in greater depth.

First, the argument can be applied with equal force to customer-owned self-generation. The impact from a rooftop solar electric system to utility revenues is the same no matter who owns the system.  If the solar system results in a 50% reduction in electricity consumed by the customer, that reduction is based on the amount of energy produced by the system relative to the amount of grid-supplied electricity consumed by that customer. The question of who owns the system is immaterial to that calculation.

Of course, the same argument could be levied against energy efficiency. If a retrofit of a building’s lighting system results in a 40% reduction in electricity usage, that reduction would be the same whether the new lights are owned by the building owner or by a third party service provider like Johnson Controls, which is in the business of saving customers money by reducing their consumption of energy. It’s interesting, though, that utilities are careful not to complain about energy efficiency’s impact on their rates, even though a kilowatt-hour (kWh) not consumed as a result of efficiency has the same effect on utility revenues as a kWh produced behind the meter and consumed on site. As with self-generation, the question of who owns the efficient lighting system does not affect the outcome.

Now, if the utilities figure out a way to overcome their basic hang-ups about solar energy, and resolve instead to provide solar-generated kWh to their customers who desire such a service, we wouldn’t be having this argument. There is nothing to prevent a utility from offering a voluntary solar service to customers. This service could be provided to any customer who wants their electricity to come from sunshine, including those who don’t have any access to sunshine on their premises and thus cannot host PV systems themselves. This is one group of potential solar customers that only the local utility can serve in a rate-regulated environment. Remember, a utility can place solar systems anywhere in its distribution system to serve individual customers who are willing to pay for such a service. But they have decided, at least for the time being, to remain fully committed to a fossil fueled future, to the point of obstructing customer efforts to supply themselves with solar energy. In so doing they are walking away from a golden opportunity to serve large subset of customers with solar energy that, due to shading or suboptimal roof orientation or lack of space, cannot be produced on their premises.  

It should be remembered that customers who reduce their consumption of fossil generated electricity through efficiency and on-site renewables furnish fellow utility customers the health and sustainability benefits of clean, non-CO2 producing electricity free of charge. The economic reward to system hosts from these pathways comes from bill savings, nothing more.  If the utilities are willing to engage in a serious discussion on a fair allocation of costs and benefits, they must acknowledge the need to incorporate adverse health and environmental impacts into the cost of electrical service, and not leave that particular tab to taxpayers.    

Summary: the question of system ownership is irrelevant to utility rate impacts.  Energy conservation and on-site generation have the exact same impact on rates. If on-site generation is undesirable from a ratepayer perspective, then so is energy conservation, if we extend the utility argument to its logical end point. And, lest we not forget, third-party contracts for renewable energy fill a void created by utility unwillingness to serve their own customers with clean resources that have demonstrated market appeal.

With each passing day, the battle lines between the solar community and utilities resistant to solar continue to sharpen, as evidenced by the four dispatches below.

Utilities Battle the Inevitable: Rooftop Solar


Beyond the Keystone Pipeline 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Collaboration Between Rosendale Dairy, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and Renewable Energy Firms Enables the States Largest Dairy Farm to Begin Waste-to-Energy Project

Rosendale Dairy's University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh funded biodigester is predicted to supply 1,200 homes with electricity. Read Tom Content's article to learn how the BIOFerm headed project will help the University achieve it's goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2025.

By Thomas Content
A $7 million waste-to-energy manure digester will be built at Rosendale Dairy in Pickett, in a collaboration between the dairy, renewable energy firms and the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.The project, kicked off Tuesday, consists of a large biodigester energy facility, learning laboratory and a public education center at Milk Source's Rosendale Dairy, the state's largest dairy farm with more than 8,000 cows, located in Fond du Lac County. 
The project is being funded by the UW-Oshkosh Foundation in support of the climate emission targets and sustainability education efforts in place at the university. 
The digester, to be completed by the end of the year, will use methane from livestock waste to produce electricity that will be sold to the electric power grid through an arrangement with Madison-based Alliant Energy Corp.The digester is expected to generate 1.4 megawatts of electricity, or enough to supply about 1,200 typical homes, according to BIOFerm Energy Systems of Madison, which is overseeing the project. 
UW-Oshkosh plans to tap carbon credits from the renewable power generated at the site to help it fulfill its climate change emission reduction commitment."The campus hopes to also use it go help us greatly accelerate our carbon neutrality goal, which was 2025," said Alex Hummel, UW-Oshkosh spokesman. "Early estimates from when we were sizing up the collaboration show we could reduce that to about 2017 or 2018." 
UW-Oshkosh and BIOFerm opened a first-of-its-kind dry fermentation digester, about one-seventh the size of this project, in 2011. The digester converts food waste and yard waste to energy. 
Partners in the project include BIOFerm and its Germany-based parent company, Viessmann Group, as well as Alliant Energy and Madison-based Soil Net.BIOFerm also is the developer of a third area project, a small family-farm-scaled digester that is currently in the pilot stage that also processes livestock waste.

Monday, July 1, 2013

WE Energies Admits their Elm Road Power Plant Operates only 20 Percent of the Time

In an interview with Wisconsin Public Radio, company spokesman Brian Manthey attributes low natural gas prices and orders from a Midwest power supply operator to the plant's low operation but Michael Vickerman notes that this is only part of the story. Read or listen to Chuck Quirmbach's story to learn how rate payers are absorbing the costs of the plant's low operation.

 By Chuck Quirmbach
As part of its 'Power The Future' project a few years ago, WE Energies was allowed to build 1,200 megawatts of new coal-fired generating capacity near an existing power plant in Oak Creek. The new plant is called the Elm Road Generating Station. WE Energies concedes the plant only operated about 20 percent of the time last year. Company spokesman Brian Manthey says that's due to orders from a Midwest power supply operator and low natural gas prices that made it cheaper to boost operation of a gas-fired plant. But Manthey says the Elm Road plant really cranked up when the weather got very hot last summer. 
"The two new units actually at times were operating beyond their rated capacity, at a time when there was power needed from every possible source in the Midwest."
Manthey says with natural gas prices going up this year, he expects the Elm Road plant to run more. He says it's available to generate power more than 90 percent of the time. But Michael Vickerman, of Renew Wisconsin, says WE Energies rate payers still have to keep paying for Elm Road, and aren't getting much for their investment.

[READ MORE]