Archive for May, 2007

MG&E proposes better rates to promote renewables

Posted on May 31, 2007. Filed under: Digesters, Energy Policy, Landfill Gas, Solar, Wind |

As part of its ongoing rate case, Madison Gas & Electric filed several tariff rates last Friday proposing changes to its renewable energy program.

First, MGE proposes to lower the premium for purchased renewable electricity from 2.66 cents/kWh to one penny/kWh. The minimum block size, currently at 150 kWh/month, may change.

MGE is also proposing an experimental PV tariff to take effect January 1, 2008. The buyback rate will be set at $0.25/kWh, available through a 10-year contract with the utility. The offer is extended to all customers who (1) are purchasing renewable energy through the utility’s voluntary program and (2) have installed or will have installed qualifying systems after March 6, 2007. The minimum installation size is 1 kW and the maximum is 10 kW (DC). Two utility meters are required. While the tariff sheet specifies a ceiling of 150 kW, MGE has told me that the ceiling will likely be raised, depending on the level of subscription growth in its voluntary renewable energy program. Under this tariff, all renewable energy and air emissions credits become property of the utility.

Apart from the 25 cent/kWh rate, MGE’s tariff appears to be identical to We Energies’ PV buyback tariff.

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Freshmen engineers build wind turbine

Posted on May 31, 2007. Filed under: Wind |

From the Web site of the UW-Madison:

Inspired to reinvigorate his teaching after a yearlong sabbatical, electrical and computer engineering professor Giri Venkataramanan decided to try an experiment. During spring semester 2007, he challenged the freshman in his introductory engineering class to build a functioning wind turbine from scratch. The stated goal was to generate power. But by the course’s end, the students had also gained critical hands-on skills, team experience – and a powerful understanding of what it means to be an engineer.

Watch the video.

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What’s the payback?

Posted on May 30, 2007. Filed under: Energy Finance, General |

An Environmental Economics Editorial
by Dennis Briley, President, RENEW Board of Directors

We have been acculturated to react with an expected response, “But, what is the payback?” when presented with an investment opportunity. “What’s the payback?” of course means the simple payback method of judging monetary value of an investment. If investment dollars are involved then it is purely an economics question, isn’t it? Yes and no, particularly when the investment involves energy or other environmental resource values. But, we don’t yet seem to be able to articulate a simple, concise, effective alternative way of discussing what economists call “intangibles.”

When considering a capital investment in energy efficiency or renewable energy, wouldn’t we like the financial question replaced with, how much energy, fossil fuel or greenhouse gases am I saving, and is this the best way to obtain the greatest environmental benefit?

It is my observation that earth care is growing momentum. The public seems to be considering renewable energy with favor. Perhaps the time is here for reframing the renewable energy investment as a gift to the earth.

An investment in renewables is a choice, like giving a gift. And choosing to give a gift is viewed as a good thing. We feel good when we give a gift. With an endowment gift to the planet’s health, we don’t need to consider payback.

Marketing renewable energy as a gift would involve a cultural change — a sensitive one, but one with emerging opportunities. We certainly need to acknowledge and respect the mind set of each customer, but to grow the market we need to coax out the fresh insight that may be hidden in the customer’s ever evolving mind.

I hope that we are practicing and experimenting with this dialogue in renewable energy marketing, learning from the process and educating each other.

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Nukes too dangerious, too expensive

Posted on May 29, 2007. Filed under: Nuclear |

A letter to the editor by Dave Steffenson, an active participant in the Madison Peak Oil Group, and other organizations combatting global climate chante:

Once again Prof. Max Carbon and the UW-Madison nuclear engineering faculty have taken their old fleece of obfuscation and woven it into a wool cap that they’ve pulled down over the eyes of columnist Bill Wineke (Warming Up to Nuclear Power, Sat., May 26).

While minimizing safety questions, they never mention nuclear electrical generation’s biggest dirty secret – it’s too costly! Present and future nuclear power plants in America, let alone France or Korea, are possible only with huge public subsidies.

What’s more, when you add plant-decommissioning costs when they are spent (many are reaching that point), that cost will also be laid on us taxpayers.

Furthermore, in case of any accidents or mistakes, they’ve already manipulated the law to lay most of the costs of that liability to pay for cleanup on us taxpayers.

No wonder, nuclear power can’t compete. If we had put as much public subsidy into solving mercury problems, making our electrical system and grid twice as efficient, and invested in carbon-free alternative energy and conservation, we wouldn’t even be considering nuclear power.

Wisconsin must keep its two reasonable legal requirements for safe storage and economic feasibility before any nuclear utilities can be built.

Dave Steffenson, Ph.D.
Ecological Ethics Specialist
Madison, WI

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LEED certification slated for new Madison school

Posted on May 25, 2007. Filed under: Energy Efficiency, Green Building, Solar |

From a story from Channel3000:

In spite of the controversy over its name, Vang Pao Elementary is officially under construction.

Ground was broken at the new school site on Wednesday. School board members along with Superintendent Art Rainwater and the building designers all turned the first soil where the school will stand.

The new school will cost $12,923,000. The 86,396-square foot school will have 36 classrooms and house 690 students and 90 teachers. It’s expected to be completed by September 2008.

The green building will be LEED Silver Certified, and will include geothermal day lighting and solar electric panels. The school will be located on Madison’s far West Side off of Valley View Road west of County Highway M on Ancient Oak Lane.


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Coal Rush Negating Wind’s Promise

Posted on May 24, 2007. Filed under: Wind |

Petroleum and Natural Gas Watch
by Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin
May 24, 2007, Vol. 6, Number 8

After being held in check for several years, windpower development in the Badger State is finally on the move! Construction will begin this year on four utility-scale projects in eastern Wisconsin, three of which are located wholly or partially within Fond du Lac County.

They are:

• We Energies’ Blue Sky Green Field project. This 88-turbine project will straddle the towns of Marshfield and Calumet overlooking the eastern shore of Lake Winnebago;

• Alliant Energy’s Cedar Ridge project. This project will be built in the Town of Eden, east of We Energies’ two turbines along U.S 41;

• InvenergyLLC’s Forward Wind Center. Located south of Fond du Lac and east of Horicon Marsh, this project will serve three utilities and will likely be the largest in Wisconsin; and

• Eurus/Midwest Wind Energy’s Butler Ridge project. The energy from this 36-turbine installation in southeast Dodge County will be sold to Wisconsin Public Power, Inc.

Having secured all the necessary approvals from local, state and federal authorities, project owners have a little more than 18 months to complete their installations. In all four cases, the construction timetable envisions achieving commercial operation on or before December 31, 2008, in time to capture the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC), now worth 2 cents/kWh, before it expires under current law.


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Anti-wind Trempealeu committee still blocks wind development

Posted on May 23, 2007. Filed under: Wind |

From a story by Amber Dulek in the Winona (MN) Daily News:

WHITEHALL, Wis. — Trempealeau County might be two steps away from a future in wind energy development.

The zoning committee will vote tonight on a wind ordinance, which regulates placement, noise and safety for wind developers. If approved, the proposal goes to the Trempealeau County Board for a vote June 18.

Jim Naleid offers a commentary followed by a detailed report on the committee’s vote:

From a developer’s perspective, the entire process that covered eight months from inception to adoption was conducted from an anti-wind development bias. The committee, although giving lip-service to the Wisconsin Model ordinance, and in fact incorporating some aspects of it within its own, as well as the Wisconsin statute 66.0401, gave little credence to the emphasis the law puts on restrictive ordinance articles other than for public health and safety reasons.


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Assurances demanded on Glenmore project

Posted on May 23, 2007. Filed under: Wind |

More on Glenmore from a story by Malavika Jagannathan in the Green Bay Press-Gazette:

GLENMORE — The concerns aired by residents Tuesday night in response to Tom Mattson’s wind-turbine proposal were nothing new — noise pollution, decreasing property values and liability.

The board will discuss and vote on the project at its June 4 meeting.

But as with previous wind-turbine proposals that went before the town for permits, residents wanted assurances from Tom Mattson of Suamico-based Prelude LLC that the seven turbines he wants to build will have a minimal effect on their community, health and property value.

Town chairman Don Kittell read from a stack of written comments, many of them questioning the long-term effect on property values from the turbines.

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New Bill in Congress: Jail for Installing a Wind Turbine?

Posted on May 22, 2007. Filed under: Energy Policy, Wind |

From the American Wind Energy Association:

Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) has introduced legislation that would impose devastating, excessive, and unworkable requirements for all existing and future wind projects – including small wind systems – that do not comply with as yet unwritten onerous siting standards.

This bill’s anti-wind energy section, Subtitle D of bill H.R. 2337, would have to be satisfied by all wind systems of any size to avoid, minimize, and mitigate adverse impacts on migratory birds and bats despite the fact that wind turbines cause less than 0.003% of human-caused bird mortality.

AWEA is fighting this provision and we need your voice to help defeat it. AWEA’s aim is to stop these provisions from becoming part of energy legislation that may be acted on later this year. To join the fight against this bill and for more information, see

Subtitle D of this bill would:

• Impose imprisonment and/or a $50,000 fine for placing a wind
turbine on private property without first gaining approval from the
Director of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, regardless of whether
used for personal or commercial purposes.


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Energy efficient amendment failed in Wisconsin budget committee

Posted on May 21, 2007. Filed under: Energy Efficiency, Energy Finance, Energy Policy |

RENEW Wisconsin joined in support of the school bonding with the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters and the other conservation groups. This story by Lindsey Huster comes from The Daily Reporter:

Sen. Mark Miller’s motion to issue $50 million in energy efficiency revenue bonds to Wisconsin school districts failed to be adopted by the Joint Finance Committee.

The effort was one of four priorities selected by a coalition of more than 50 conservation organizations and citizens around Wisconsin.

“We will continue working with the Legislature to find funding for school districts to increase efficiency and lower energy use, which improves Wisconsin’s environment and saves schools money,” said Jennifer Giegerich, Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters energy advocate.


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