From a letter from RENEW Wisconsin to Senators Jeff Plale and Mark Miller, co-chairs of the Select Senate Committee on Clean Energy, who held a hearing on the Clean Energy Jobs Act bill on January 27:
Dear Senators Miller and Plale:
Thank you for holding a hearing yesterday of the Select Committee on Clean Energy on SB 450 (the Clean Energy Jobs Act bill). You heard a great deal of substantive commentary about much of the bill, particularly the sections dealing with energy efficiency and the expanded Renewable Energy Standard.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the discussion on the proposal to institute Advanced Renewable Tariffs in Wisconsin. Early in the hearing, a speaker framed the issue as “asking a little old lady in Cudahy to subsidize an expensive system in Mequon.” From that point, the discussion devolved into a kind of semi-orchestrated gang-tackling on this issue that continued unabated until I was called upon to speak, some seven hours and forty five minutes after the hearing began. While RENEW members who work for or with solar, wind and biogas energy installation companies were present during the hearing and had registered to speak, none were called prior to myself. All but two (Full Spectrum Solar and Ed Ritger) had to leave before the hearing ended.
Now, I don’t believe the first speaker, a labor leader, had intended to belittle the companies that install customer-sited renewable energy systems or dismiss their contribution to Wisconsin’s economy and environment. Nevertheless, the “little old lady from Cudahy” theme took a life of its own, and as a result, the very important issues of how to support these systems through utility rates and whether these rates should be mandated had become thoroughly trivialized by the end.
Allow me to repeat some of the points I made at yesterday’s hearing:
1. The vast majority of the distributed renewable generating units installed in Wisconsin serve schools, dairy farms and other small businesses, churches and local governments.
2. Utilities are not in the business of installing these systems themselves.
3. In many cases the renewable energy installation went forward because there was a special buyback rate available to accelerate the recovery of the original investment made by the customer. Yesterday, I gave the example of the Dane County community anaerobic digester project that, once operational, will treat manure taken from several nearby dairy farms in the Waunakee area and produce two megawatts of electricity with it. The electricity will be purchased by Alliant Energy through a voluntary biogas tariff worth 9.3 cents/kWh. Unfortunately, Alliant’s biogas program is fully subscribed and is no longer available to other dairy farmers, food processing companies and wastewater treatment facilities served by Alliant.
4. Companies that install solar, wind and biogas energy systems are quintessentially small businesses, many of them family-owned. Renewable energy contractors and affiliated service providers constitute one of the few market sectors where young adults who have acquired the necessary skills to do the job well can find meaningful work at decent pay.
5. By its very nature, distributed renewable energy delivers nearly 100% of its economic punch to the local economy.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
From a news release issued by Governor Jim Doyle:
MADISON – Governor Jim Doyle today was joined by business leaders, labor, legislators and environmental organizations as he launched the Clean Energy Jobs Act, a landmark legislative package to accelerate the state’s green economy and create jobs. New industry-recognized research shows the package will directly create at least 15,000 green jobs in Wisconsin by 2025.
“Addressing climate change is not just an environmental issue, it’s about creating green jobs,” Governor Doyle said.
“The Clean Energy Jobs Act offers new standards to help accelerate Wisconsin’s green economy. I am calling on the Legislature to update renewable portfolio standards to generate 25 percent of our fuel from renewable sources by 2025 and set a realistic goal of a 2 percent annual reduction in energy consumption by 2015.”
The Clean Energy Jobs Act, State Senate Bill 450 and State Assembly Bill 649, implements the recommendations of Governor Doyle’s Global Warming Task Force to address climate change and grow the state’s green economy through several key measures:
• Enhanced renewable portfolio standards – A new 20 percent standard would be set for 2020 and a 25 percent standard would be set for 2025. The current 10 percent standard would be accelerated from 2015 to 2013. By advancing our current renewable portfolio standards, and setting new standards, we will ensure more of our energy dollars stay in the state, creating thousands of jobs for Wisconsin families in fields like construction, manufacturing, and agriculture.
• Enhanced energy efficiency and conservation efforts – Graduated statewide electricity savings goals would be set, leading up to a 2 percent reduction by 2015 and annual reductions thereafter. The cheapest way to lower carbon emissions is through energy conservation. By setting achievable conservation goals, this bill will help reduce energy costs in businesses and homes across the state.
A comprehensive economic assessment of the Clean Energy Jobs Act found that the package would directly create at least 15,000 green jobs in Wisconsin by 2025. More than 1,800 jobs would be created in the first year alone. The assessment also found that between 800 and 1,800 construction jobs would be created each year from 2011-2025, and more than 2,000 manufacturing jobs would be created once the laws are fully implemented.
Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin’s executive director said:
Wisconsin’s existing 10% Renewable Energy Standard has driven significant investment in rural, forestry and agriculture markets by encouraging the construction of large wind, biogas, biomass and solar projects. Increasing the Renewable Energy Standard to 25% in 2025 would continue to generate more of the lucrative payments to landowners and biofuel / biomass providers as well as create more jobs constructing and maintaining the additional projects are built to meet the new standards.
The bills also include three of the proposals backed by the Homegrown Renewable Energy Campaign:
• Renewable Energy Buyback Rates, also called an Advanced Renewable Tariffs, would set utility payments for small renewable energy producers who want to “feed energy” into the electric grid, enabling farmers and rural businesses to help Wisconsin become more energy independent with biopower, wind and solar.
• The Biomass Crop Reserve Program would award contracts to farmers to plant native perennial plants, which the farmer can then sell for bioenergy production, helping to solve the chicken-and-egg problem of jumpstarting the homegrown fuels market.
• A Low-Carbon Fuel Standard would be a market-based approach to promoting the cleanest, low-carbon fuels for Wisconsin, and would put Wisconsin in a position to capture the rapidly-developing clean energy market by using Wisconsin’s abundant natural resources like switchgrass.
From an article by Dee Hall in The Capital Times:
Discarded food would be collected and turned into energy under a proposal announced Monday by Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk.
The project would be one of the first in the United States to use municipal food waste to generate energy, according to Troy Runge, director of the Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative, a state-funded program based at the UW-Madison.
The county is seeking a consultant to design a system that would make use of the 30,000 tons of food waste from homes, businesses and institutions disposed of annually in the Dane County Landfill, which gets about 200,000 tons of material a year. Falk said the project could bring in $4 million a year in revenue and create 45 jobs.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency calls food waste “one of the least recovered materials in the municipal solid waste stream” and “one of the most important materials to divert from landfills” because it generates methane, a major greenhouse gas. The EPA said food waste is the second-largest contributor to landfills after paper.
Dane County already captures methane from the county landfill and a closed landfill in Verona and burns it to generate electricity, which it sells to Madison Gas & Electric. That arrangement has been around since 1997.
The project announced Monday seeks to segregate food from the rest of the waste stream. The material would be digested at up to three plants around Dane County, according to the request for proposals issued by Dane County last week.
Falk said the project would use discarded fruits, vegetables, meat and other perishables to create methane, which in turn would either be converted into natural gas or burned to generate electricity. The leftover organic material would be packaged for use as fertilizer.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
From a news release issued by DF-1:
Yorkville, Wis. – When Maple Leaf Farms, a large duck producer, closed the doors on its Yorkville Plant in 2008, the region lost more than jobs. A unique, first-of- its-kind waste treatment facility, which We Energies celebrated as Wisconsin’s first duck manure-to energy methane digester in 2002, was also shut down, apparently destined for decommissioning and demolition.
Now, a group of local businessmen and renewable energy advocates called DF-1 Associates want to bring new life to this shuttered facility by converting it to a renewable energy site – a site that could generate enough electricity to power up to 800 Wisconsin homes.
“The food processing industry is an essential part of Wisconsin’s industrial base and is vital to the state’s economy,” said Penny McDonough, spokesperson for DF-1 Associates. “Our group’s goal is to give Wisconsin food processors and agricultural industries an environmentally friendly way of dealing with the by-products they generate by turning these organic materials into renewable energy rather than sending them to area landfills. SEH, Inc., a regional engineering firm taking the lead in renewable energy services has joined the project as well. The initial feasibility study to reopen this site and convert it to use organic food byproducts was made possible by a grant from Focus on Energy making this project a part of Focus on Energy’s commitment to making Wisconsin less dependent on fossil fuels and more on renewable sources of energy.
DF-1 Associates is proposing to open a renewable energy facility that brings in organic food processing by-products and send this material through an anaerobic digester, which is an oxygen-free system containing naturally-occurring bacteria that break down the organic material. This process produces a biogas that is approximately 55-70% methane. The contained methane is then used to power an engine-generator and produce electricity, which is sold back to the local utility company. Leftover biosolids from this process are used for bedding for livestock and the leftover liquid is further treated to Wisconsin DNR standards allowing discharge for replenishment of the local aquifer.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
From an article in The Capital Times:
You better get a mooove on if you want to bid on constructing Dane County’s $18 million cow waste conversion machines.
Dane County issued requests for proposals Monday for a community manure digester facility that would be built in Waunakee.
The digester, dubbed by County Executive Kathleen Falk as the county’s Cow Power Project, would convert manure into fuel to produce “green” electricity, as well as keep phosphorus out of area lakes and streams so algae has less of a chance of fouling the waters.
Falk has $1 million in the 2009 county budget for the manure digester project.
Gov. Doyle also supports digesters, announcing in March he wanted state funding for two community digesters.
The State Building Commission went along with the governor and included $6.6 million in the capital budget for the project.
The county and the state are also seeking federal stimulus money and private investment to get the project to move forward.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
From an article by John Oncken in The Capital Times:
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According to Focus on Energy, there were 17 operating anaerobic digester systems on Wisconsin dairy farms as of June. As of about a week ago, there were 18, with the start up of the system at Statz Brothers Dairy Farm just east of Sun Prairie.
The Statz family — with brothers Don (Shirley) and Richard (Veronica), Don’s son Joe and Richard’s sons Troy and Wesley — milks some 2,000 cows at three locations.
Don and Rich moved to this farm in 1951 with their parents and bought the farm in 1966. “I had a total of $100, and Don had the same,” Rich says. “But we had people who knew us and trusted us.”
Over the years, the farm has grown to some 5,000 acres of cropland that supports a variety of crops for the canning industry and the family’s dairy cattle. In addition, they do some custom farm work for neighbors. A milking parlor was built in 1979, and today a series of freestall barns hold the 1,250 cows that are milked in a double 16 parlor at the home farm. In addition, 450 and 300 cows are milked at two other farms nearby.
About five years ago, the Statz family began looking at new manure handling systems including anaerobic digesters. They visited working digesters and talked to experts across the country. “We saw the future and wanted to get along with our Sun Prairie neighbors and make better use of our manure,” Rich Statz says.
From an article by Anita Weier in The Capital Times:
A dozen Waunakee dairy farmers trudged through snow drifts on the Crave Brothers Farm near Waterloo on a recent wintry Wisconsin day.
Marty Mulcahy, one of the farmers, even brought along his veterinarian, Ross Mauer.
They were all there to see the farm’s manure digester, a relatively new use for an existing technology that is seen as a green way to address the high cost of traditional waste disposal methods while protecting soil, water and air.
One of the byproducts of a digester is a compost-like substance that can be used as bedding for livestock. Mulcahy was concerned whether the bedding would pose a risk to his cows’ health, which is why he brought Mauer along.
But Mulcahy was won over.
“Seeing your cows made me think differently,” he told Charles Crave, one of the brothers who operates the family farm. “Your cows are really clean.”
“These are some of the cleanest cows I’ve seen,” echoed Maurer. Use of a digester, he added, “might allow my clients and friends to be better stewards of the land.”
The tour of the Crave farm digester, which was installed in February 2007, was organized by Dane County officials who hope local farmers will buy into the idea of sharing use of a community digester, a proposal being pushed by County Executive Kathleen Falk. She put $1.1 million in her new budget for a Waunakee-area digester and identified another possible digester in the Black Earth Creek watershed as a top priority when asking for money from President-elect Barack Obama and Congress as part of the federal stimulus package that is expected to include aid for municipalities.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
From an article by Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
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When it comes to generating renewable energy, Wisconsin lacks the high winds of the Great Plains and the steady sunlight of Arizona, but it has one abundant resource few others can match – cow power.
Although renewable energy makes up only a fraction of the state’s total energy mix, one area that’s growing fast is systems that convert cow manure into electricity and heat.
At the Crave Brothers dairy farm and cheese factory in Waterloo, the farm’s anaerobic digester – its cow power system – takes manure from the farm’s 1,100 cows and converts it to electricity.
Rising demand for the company’s specialty cheeses led to an expansion that will add a second digester and triple the amount of electricity the farm produces.
“They process their own milk, and the demand for the specialty cheeses they make has increased enough to justify an expansion,” said Dan Nemke, general manager of Clear Horizons, which provides the digester.
Clear Horizons estimates it invested $4 million in the Waterloo system.
Wisconsin leads the country in anaerobic digesters with 19 projects. California is second, with 16.
“And we have 16 projects under contract right now set to go in, so we should be doubling the number of digesters in this state in the next year,” said Don Wichert, director of renewable energy with the state Focus on Energy program.
Behind the surge in interest in homegrown energy is the recognition that what once was waste now has value. That can include anything from cheese whey to restaurant grease to cow manure.
A column by Mike Nichols in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel seems to present an either/or dicotomy between wind-generated electricity and digester-generated electricity. Nichols wrote:
This is something to ponder as we head into a new year – and a new era. We are developing huge wind farms in Wisconsin. People are talking about setting turbines out on our Great Lakes. Breaking wind could be the key to the future. The only question now is “What kind?”
Do we harness our skies or our pies?
The Journal Sentinel published the following response from RENEW’s executive director Michael Vickerman:
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The statement that Wisconsin can generate more electricity from manure than from windpower is not supported by the numbers.
To make biogas from manure, a dairy farm operator has to keep the cows inside and under a roof at all times. Only in a confined setting is it possible to collect cow manure and break it down in an oxygen-free digester that results in methane. Of Wisconsin’s 1.3 million dairy cows, only one-eighth of them live in confined animal operations. The average dairy cow here is part of a small herd and spends a considerable amount of time in pasture.
As stated in the column, Wisconsin is well ahead of other states in capturing energy from dairy cow manure and generating electricity with it, and there is certainly room for growth. Bear in mind, however, that takes more than 2,000 dairy cows to produce enough methane to equal the output from one commercial wind turbine. Yes, Wisconsin now boasts about two dozen biogas generation systems attached to dairy farms. But compared with the output from the 251 wind turbines installed this year at four different projects, their electrical production is quite modest.
Though other locally available resources–solar, small hydro, woody fuels and biomethane—will certainly play a larger part in contributing to Wisconsin’s electricity mix, wind energy will remain the renewable energy workhorse for the foreseeable future.
Finally, the Governor’s Global Warming Task Force recommended a raft of policies to achieve a renewable energy goal of 25% by 2025, no small undertaking I can assure you. If we are serious about achieving that goal, we must accept expanded contributions from all eligible resources. We do not have the luxury of playing favorites.
From the announcement of the Manure Digester Summit:
Whether you have less than a 100-head herd or a large herd, digesters can work for you. Come to the seminar to hear how Dane County and Richland County are using community digesters as well as how to implement a manure digester on a 50-head farm.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Room B-30 West Square Building
Cost: $20.00 and includes lunch
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