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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Eau Claire Energy Cooperative Will Launch Wisconsin's Largest Community Solar Installation

Eau Claire Electric Cooperative is set to proceed with the largest community shared solar installation in Wisconsin. At 858 kilowatts, this project will surpass the combined generating capacity of the three shared solar arrays already operating in Wisconsin, all owned by rural electric cooperatives. River Falls-based Able Energy Company will construct the array and interconnect it to the grid. Read the full article here.

The FAQ that appears below can be accessed online.

 

FAQs – Eau Claire Electric Cooperative’s MemberSolar Project


What is the purpose of the MemberSolar project?

To provide interested Eau Claire Energy Cooperative members a viable and affordable option to purchase renewable solar energy on a voluntary basis.

What is the cost to participate in the project?

The project is 858 kW which will be made up of 2,816 - 305 watt solar panels. The output of each panel, a subscription unit, will be sold for approximately $650. Each ECEC account is eligible to purchase from 1 unit - up to a maximum of 30 units. Units will also be limited to the annual kWh usage per account. If you would like to know how many units you are eligible to purchase, please contact our office.

Is there any equipment installed at my home?

No, the community solar array will be built on a 4 acre section of ground along Highway 12 in Fall Creek. Eau Claire Energy Cooperative will be responsible for operating, maintaining, and insuring the array for the 20-year life of the project.

Do I own the solar panels if I participate in the project?

No, as a member you are not purchasing solar panels, you are purchasing the production rights (output) of a solar panel, or a unit, for the 20 year life of the project.

How much energy will the solar array produce?

Energy production will vary from month to month and year to year based on actual sunshine. Half of the energy is expected to be produced June through August. Each unit is estimated to produce an average of approximately 400 kilowatt hours each year over the 20-year life of the project.

How do I receive credit for participating in the program?

The total energy produced by the entire solar array each month will be divided by the number of units in the project. Each participating member's bill will be reduced by the number of kWh's their share of the overall project produced - priced at the current ECEC energy component of the member's retail rate. As the ECEC rate changes over time, the value of the bill credit will also change. If rates increase, the value of the credit will increase.

What happens if my share of production from the array is greater than my usage?

If your share of production exceeds your usage in any month, the excess will roll over to the next month. However, once per year, if there is any excess production it will be zeroed out and no credit will be given.

What happens if I move?

One option is to simply leave your solar energy credits on your account for whoever moves in, this is value added to your home the same as if you had physically installed panels. If you move your electric service to a different location within ECEC's service territory, you can transfer the credit to your new location. If you leave the area, you may elect to transfer or assign the unit production credits to another member, donate them to a member organization, or ECEC will repurchase on a declining basis of 10% per year.

What happens after the 20 year life of the project?

The project will be evaluated as the 20 year life approaches to determine if it is still a viable project. If it is deemed a viable project and is able to operate effectively, the cooperative has the option to extend the member agreement.

Will I receive renewable energy tax credits by participating in the project?

Since you own the rights to the energy production of the units and not the solar units themselves, you are not eligible for state or federal renewable tax credits. However, you are getting the benefit of the tax incentives in a reduced up-front cost. To determine any other tax implications, please contact your tax preparer.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Opinion Piece Discusses Discrepancies in Walker's Presidential Campaign and Proposed State Budget on Energy Policy

The below article by Tom Clementi appeared in the Appleton Post Crescent Wednesday March 25th. Titled "Check Walker's Motives on Energy Choices," it discusses differences in Governor Walker's self-proclaimed "supportive" position on bioenergy and renewables in his presidential stump speech and actions taken in his proposed 2015-2017 state budget that eliminates state funding for important bioenergy research.

Check Walker's Motive on Energy Choices

By Tom Clementi

If you’re like me and find the news involving Scott Walker and his ever-changing views on seemingly everything— from abortion as something between “a woman and her doctor” to “I will sign the bill” prohibiting abortion after 20 weeks, from saying that immigration amnesty “makes sense” to “I don’t believe in amnesty,” and “I have no interest in a right-to-work law” to signing the law at the first possible moment — just dizzying, well, welcome to the club.

I’m really not sure how he does it, or frankly, how the people of Wisconsin can keep up with it or put up with it. Frankly, it makes me wonder if Walker is ever sure about anything or if he just changes his opinions as the political situations and locations warrant.

Recently, Walker traveled to Iowa and proclaimed his support for ethanol and bio-renewable fuels, which is about what you’d expect from a candidate stumping in the Corn Belt. Never mind that as far back as 2006, in his first run for governor, he was critical of the idea: “Mandates hurt Wisconsin’s working families. And whether they are from Washington or Madison, we as fiscal conservatives should oppose them.”

Yes, we know politicians change their minds.

But deep in his 2015-2017 budget, Walker calls for elimination of the University of Wisconsin’s renewable energy program. Keep in mind that this is separate from his proposal to cut the University of Wisconsin’s budget by $300 million. The research center develops ways to create energy out of wood, grasses and corn — all bio-renewable fuels. It partners with private companies to help them become more energy-efficient. An example is Johnson Controls, Wisconsin’s largest company, which opened a research facility on the Madison campus last year.

The energy research program started eight years ago with a $125 million grant from the George W. Bush administration. It continues to receive $25 million per year from the Department of Energy. The state’s financial contributions helped fund the actual construction of the building, which opened just two years ago. UW’s renewable energy program has been an unqualified success. It has filed 100 patent applications in the past eight years; that’s an average of about one per month.

Start-up companies have been enthusiastic about using UW’s technology, including GluCan Biorenewables, a Missouri company planning to build a plant in northern Wisconsin to develop chemicals used in the papermaking industry. That’d mean a more efficient papermaking process, and jobs to go with it. Another research center innovation is a process that breaks down plant sugars and coverts them to energy — energy from biological, not fossil fuels.

Walker, however, now wants to pull the plug on the state’s $4 million annual funding, which would mean the elimination of 35 positions and cripple the program. But why? To just save $4 million? It may be more important to recall exactly who has funded the Walker train from the start.

The amount of outside-the-state money that has flowed to the governor’s campaign coffers has been significant. Those donors are decidedly in the fossil-fuel business and their profits are threatened when they come up against renewable energy sources.

It’s fair to ask why there has been no expansion of wind power programs in Wisconsin in the last four years. Or why it was so easy for a Florida company to get approval to build the country’s largest open-pit mine in northern Wisconsin (though they’ve now quietly backed out of the mine’s construction). Or why, as soon as he walked into the governor’s office, Walker canceled an $800 million contract from the federal government to repair and expand rail service in Wisconsin.

Meanwhile, the amount of road construction in the state continues to increase and Walker wants to borrow the money to fund it. Who benefits from these type of policies? Whose profits increase? Those whose companies deal in gas, oil, coal and asphalt are those whose organizations have contributed heavily to Walker’s political campaigns.

I don’t know how the governor plans to reconcile his differing views and statements. I don’t know how he can attempt to dismantle the most successful bio-renewable research program in his own state, and then go next door to proclaim his support for an industry which uses the very research he wants to shut down.

It’ll be interesting to see how the governor defends his constantly fluctuating views on so many issues. We’d probably be wise to check Walker’s travel map before making any predictions on what he might say next.

— Tom Clementi is an Appleton resident. He can be reached at tjcwriter@gmail.com.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

RENEW and ELPC Join Together in Response to Anti-Solar Articles

 
Recently, two anti-solar opinion pieces appeared in the publication Utility Dive. The first, by Dr H. Edwin Overcast, favors increased fixed rates for solar customers as a solution to the solar "problem." The second, by Dr. Ashly Brown, claims solar customers do not deserve to be reimbursed at full retail value for the electricity they sell back to the grid. RENEW's Executive Director Tyler Huebner and Senior Attorney at the Environmental Law and Policy Center Brad Klein teamed up to write a response to Dr. Overcast and Dr. Brown on why "data is the key to determining solar's true value."