Archive for September, 2011
From an article Ken Paulman on Midwest Energy News:
There’s no denying that wind turbines make noise. A giant rotor blade the size of an aircraft wing swooshing through the air is going to make a noticeable sound, particularly in a quiet, rural setting.
And it’s an often-repeated claim of wind farm opponents that this noise can lead to a whole host of health issues, including headaches, tinnitus, fatigue and sleep disturbances. Health fears, among other objections, have sometimes been cited by local governments as they establish large setbacks, moratoriums or other restrictions on wind farm development.
But a new study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters (PDF) suggests those claims are, at best, conflated. The analysis by four Swedish scientists reviews existing literature and finds that with the exception of some self-reported cases of sleep disturbance, there is no scientific or empirical basis to conclude that wind turbine noise causes health problems.
Among the works examined was Nina Pierpont’s oft-cited book Wind Turbine Syndrome, which relies on anecdotal evidence from 38 individuals living near wind farms, several of whom reported insomnia, tinnitus, nausea, dizziness and other symptoms. Pierpont concludes that the symptoms are a direct result of low-frequency noise from nearby turbines, but the Swedish researchers found the book “has several limitiations” which “make the conclusion unjustified.”
For example, the lack of acoustic measurements, no comparison group of people with no or low wind exposure and no investigation of the subjects prior to the wind turbines were constructed (prior health status was estimated retrospectively). In addition, the results, which are based on a very small sample, are contradicted by results from cross-sectional studies … which included a total of more than 1600 people.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
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.
“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.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
From an article in The Sounder, Random Lake:
An open house [dedicated} . . . 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. . . .
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.
Ritger, a Random Lake attorney and Town of Sherman hobby farmer, is financing the $500,000 tower with about half of the cost covered through grants offered by the federal government and Focus on Energy. He looks at the turbine as an investment that will pay for itself during the next 10 to 15 years — and be around to produce energy for much longer.
“It’s an investment but it’s also an opportunity to send a message that we need to do more renewable energy,” says Ritger. “That’s a message I’ve been preaching for a long time. So my wife and I are putting some dollars behind that message.”
The Ritger Professional Building in Random Lake was equipped with solar panels when it was built in 2000. The panels power the building, and the excess electricity goes back to the power grid. He thought it would be a good idea to try building a turbine out in the country, and the Preders were receptive to the idea.
The 140-acre Jeff-Leen Farm raises Piedmontese cattle and free-range chickens with no growth hormones. Jeff’s great-great grandfather, John Pannier, purchased this Town of Sherman farm in 1868.
“We’ve been neighbors for 40 years, and you can’t put a wind turbine in the valley,” said Ritger. “You put it on the best hill that you’ve got. So that’s how this joint venture was put together — the Preders providing the site and the Ritgers providing the capital.”
Jeff and Kathy Preder purchased the farm in 1977 and they milked cows until 1997, when they switched to beef raising. They soon discovered Piedmontese cattle from Italy. This breed features more cell mass per muscle and less fat.
“They are kept on pasture year round and moved to a new pasture every two to three days to ensure that they have fresh grass and alfalfa,” says Jeff Preder. “The calves are kept at their mother’s side to see that they get a healthy start and the nutrition that they need. The animals are positively free of added growth hormones, steroids, antibiotics and animal byproducts.”
The Preders sell their products at farmers markets in Sheboygan, West Bend, Fox Point and Milwaukee, and they also supply a number of restaurants.
The Preders, whose energy bills run about $400 a month, worked with Kettle View Renewable Energy of Silver Creek to acquire and install the wind turbine. Kettle View Renewable Energy, which has been in business since 2006, installed turbines in 2010 at Random Lake High School and at the Village of Cascade wastewater treatment plant.
This new turbine has 34 1/2-foot long blades. It can produce up to 160,000 kilowatt hours per year (about 125,000 more than the Preders consume annually). The turbine generates electricity in wind speeds of 7 mph or greater.
“It’s not for every place,” says Randy Faller, who owns Kettle View Renewable Energy with his wife, Maureen. “You’ve got to make sure it’s going to be a good wind site that’s going to be productive and pay for itself.” The process to acquire, get permits for and to properly locate the wind turbine took almost a year. The installation began on Mon., Aug. 20, and it was commissioned on Mon., Aug. 27.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
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.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
From an article by Sarah Kloepping in the Manitowoc Herald Tribune:
MANITOWOC — The Manitowoc County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted against creating a moratorium on large wind turbines in the county.
The motion for the moratorium, which would have temporarily prevented construction of turbines with a capacity of more than 100 kilowatts, failed 14-8, with two supervisors absent and board chairman Paul Tittl abstaining because he owns stock in Broadwind Energy.
The ordinance was brought forward after the towns of Cooperstown, Mishicot and Two Creeks submitted petitions requesting the county enact a moratorium to allow time for the state Public Service Commission to establish statewide rules on the installation and use of wind energy systems or for a period of one year, whichever came first. . . .
Supervisor Paul Hansen said while he understands health concerns, he didn’t support the moratorium because he wants to see the scientific evidence about the effects of wind turbines to make a decision.
“There are health concerns for every type of energy we currently produce in this country,” he said. “There are concerns with coal plants. There is concern with gas and oil. There are nuclear concerns. We live on a planet where we make a judgment whether or not to accept that risk.”Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
From an article written by Casey Fryda on the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College website
NWTC Solar Energy Technology students helped a library in De Pere adopt solar energy.
Students in the Photovoltaics – Design and Site class evaluated the site of the Kress Library and presented recommendations for including solar energy panels in the library’s energy system.
Under the instruction of instructor Michael Troge, the students met with library staff, collected information on energy use at the facility, and performed a solar site assessment. They used the information they collected to put together proposals for solar systems on the building. These proposals included specifications and cost estimates. They also made a presentation to the Library Board of Directors.
NWTC was one of several partners in the project. The story below was provided by the Center for Sustainability Living at Kress; the Brown County Library; and SEEDs for De Pere, which is part of the De Pere Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
This article was written by Thomas Content of the 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.”
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.”Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
From an article by Thomas Content of the 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.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
From an article written by Patricia Wolff of the Northwester
Who would have known an opportunity to turn cow poop into cash would be right under everyone’s noses? Or that the effort would not only reduce the odor of manure at an area mega-farm but could also result in a learning and research lab and public education center at the same time?
University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Chancellor Richard Wells on Friday let out a robust laugh at the notion that all of those things could be accomplished with cow manure as the main component.
A proposal for the university and partners to build a large, wet anaerobic biodigester and biogas facility at Rosendale Dairy at Pickett in Fond du Lac County would turn cow manure into energy that could be sold to power companies.
If the proposal plays out, Wisconsin’s largest dairy farm — Rosendale Dairy — will be home to what UWO officials call one of the state’s most dynamic research, renewable energy production and public education facilities in an initiative involving the UWO’s College of Letters and Science and UW-Oshkosh Foundation.
Rosendale Dairy, owned by Milk Source, Inc., has 8,400 milking cows, which each year produce millions of gallons of manure. Last year the cows at the dairy produced enough manure to spread as fertilizer on 8,656 acres of farm land. The land-spreading has been an irritant to neighbors who claim the odor is so strong on some days that they can not venture out of doors.
The biodigester would address some of the odor problems that crop up now, a company spokesman said.
It would work by anaerobically decomposing the cow manure in the odor-controlled environment of a large digester. The decomposition of organic matter produces methane gas that is burned in engines to produce electricity that can be sold to local power companies, said Greg Kleinheinz, professor of microbiology and associate dean of the College of Letters and Science.
“One of the big benefits is that as the odor portion of the manure is essentially removed, it does not lose the nutritional value. It’s still a value to farmers on fields,” Kleinheinz said.
The digester would reduce the volume of the manure by about a third, Kleinheinz said. But because the manure contains more nutrients per pound once it’s been through the biodigester, farmers can apply less manure per acre. An added bonus is that in this form there is less chance of manure run-off from fields.
Kleinheinz called the project a great example of the University in a private partnership to help address a need. It converts manure to green energy and provides an opportunity for students to learn.
“It’s a great, big piece of research and teaching equipment for us,” Wells said. “Students will be doing all kinds of experiments to maximize the energy produced.”
The multifaceted energy plant and facility will significantly enhance UWO student learning and community outreach opportunities. It will house a public education center operated by university students and faculty. It will introduce K-12 to the science and engineering involved in harnessing renewable energy. It will be available as a remote classroom and lab for UWO students taking microbiology, biology, environmental studies and chemistry.
“Through this one proposed facility and partnership, there is the potential for much good for our campus, region and state,” Wells said.
The cost of building the system has not been released but it would be borne by the university and the foundation. The plan would be to finance the project over a 10-year period, but annual proceeds from selling energy are anticipated exceed the amount needed for loan repayment, even in the first year. The excess money would be used for scholarships and programs, according to Alex Hummel, associate director of news and public information, integrated marketing ad communication for UWO.
Milk Source, which operates several large dairies in the state, had been talking about digesters for years and had been in discussions with several potential providers. The company knew an outside source would provide one at some point, said Bill Harke, director of public affairs for Milk Source.
“The UWO proposal was almost too good to believe. This is a marvelous idea, the best plan we’ve heard,” Harke said.
About a week ago, the foundation board of directors unanimously endorsed the proposal that would form a partnership with Rosendale Dairy and the renewable energy companies Viessmann Group and BIOFerm Energy Systems of Madison.
The proposed biodigester is not the first for UWO. Viessmann and BIOFerm collaborated with the UWO foundation and the university to build a dry fermentation anaerobic facility, dedicated in May and now in operation off Witzel Avenue. It uses grass clippings, plant refuse and campus food waste to produce electricity and garbage food particles. It supplies about 10 percent of the University’s electrical needs.
Engineering and business plans for the new biodigester will be reviewed in the coming months and construction could begin in spring, with a projected startup in 2013.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
At a September 6 hearing of the Assembly Energy and Utilities Committee, Michael Vickerman testifies against AB146, a bill that would extend into perpetuity the shelf life of an unused renewable energy credit. Vickerman’s testimony explains how this seemingly innocuous change to Wisconsin’s renewable energy standard would allow utilities to put off the day when they would need to add more renewable energy to their resource mix.
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 100 businesses around the state producing renewable energy or building renewable energy systems. A list of our business members accompanies this testimony
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 146. If passed as is, AB 146 would water down the state’s Renewable Energy Standard by extending the shelf life of an unused renewable energy credit to infinity. As the accompanying graphic shows, no other state in the Upper Midwest allows their utilities’ renewable energy credits to be banked in perpetuity. In the same graphic, one can also see how weak Wisconsin’s renewable energy standard has become in relation to those of neighboring states.
What is the problem here that this so-called “tweak” would solve? Other utilities in the region face stiffer renewable energy supply requirements than the utilities in Wisconsin, yet you don’t see them beseeching special treatment that allows them to bank unused renewable generation for decades. Giving into their request would effectively give utilities a 10-year vacation from actually adding a new renewable energy source to stay in compliance with their Act 141 requirements. All the Wisconsin utilities would need do to remain in compliance would be to fill out some paperwork at the end of the year and buy a new batch of elderly credits out of petty cash. How many jobs will that create? How many dollars in landowner and local government revenues will that generate?
The answer is none.
Another thing that extending the shelf life of unused renewable credits will not do is save ratepayers money. The bill lets the utilities put off the day when they would actually need to achieve a renewable energy content of 10% in real time, well into 2020’s by my calculations. In so doing, the benefits from continued investments in renewable generation, such as technology improvements, capital cost reductions and protection from fossil fuel cost increases, would not be passed along to ratepayers. Meanwhile, the Wisconsin businesses that generate renewable electricity for Wisconsin electricity customers in real-time—and there are many, as this table of biogas installations comprehensively shows– will in all likelihood downscale their presence in Wisconsin and deploy their resources in other states with livelier renewable energy markets. The impact of this bill’s passage will be particularly devastating to the state’s agricultural and food processing industries, because the renewable generation they produce from their wastes will not be needed as an energy source for years to come.
It’s worth repeating that no other state in the Upper Midwest has adopted such relaxed terms for banking renewable energy credits. These states understand that the principal effect of such a change would be to diminish the pace and scale of renewable energy installation activity. They have no desire to put a brake on one of the few economic sectors with the potential for additional growth. But they’re not going to complain if a misguided neighboring state commits this folly.
Let me put this in simple terms: this bill is nothing more than a utility-led effort to drain all the life out of Wisconsin’s renewable energy standard while leaving the law on the books. Under this bill, 2005 Act 141 will effectively become a sham law, devoid of any discernible effect. It will undermine the renewable energy marketplace, which in the last five years has been a source of vitality and confidence for the state’s economy. Once this particular marketplace goes away, there is nothing to stop the state’s energy economy from becoming a lifeless backwater. Is this the vision you have for Wisconsin’s future?