Archive for June, 2007

Crave Brothers unveil new manure-to-electricity system

Posted on June 29, 2007. Filed under: Digesters |

Bacteria in the biodigester (the tank on the left) produce methane gas, which is piped underground, and into a system to cool it (on the right) before the gas enters the building (behind the cooler) which houses the engine that burns the methane and turns a generator to create electricity.

Kelly Lang (above), renewable program marketing manager for Focus on Energy, shows the dried fiberous residue from the biodigestion process on the Crave Brothers Farm (just outside of Waterloo). Farmers can use the material for bedding or spread it for fertilizer. In addition, Crave Brothers adds it to potting soil, packages it in the purple bags behind Kelly and sells it under the name EnerGro. Focus on Energy provided funds for the computer control system of the Crave Brothers’ biodigester, installed by Clear Horizons.

Read more in an article by Bill Glauber in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

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Waste Management will convert landfill gas to electricity

Posted on June 28, 2007. Filed under: Biomass |

An Associated Press story broadcast on WKBT-TV, La Crosse:

HOUSTON (AP) – The nation’s biggest garbage hauler and landfill operator has plans for its most ambitious renewable energy project to date.

Waste Management plans to spend $400 million over the next five years to convert methane gas to electricity at 60 landfills in seven states, including Wisconsin.

The company operates 281 landfills in North America. 100 already have some form of methane-to-energy capability.

The Houston-based company sells the energy to retail power providers, municipal utilities and other users.

From the media release issued by Waste Management:

The LFGTE [landfill-gas-to-electricity], which will add 230 megawatts of electricity generation to the grid, enough to power approximately 230,000 homes, will position the company to serve the growing market for renewable energy. In recent years, consumer awareness of environmental issues and ambitious state Renewable Portfolio Standards have quickly increased demand for new sources of renewable energy. LFGTE projects are especially valuable to utilities because they provide dependable base load power, in contrast to the intermittent nature of other renewable energy sources.


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Random Thoughts from this Year’s Renewable Energy Fair

Posted on June 27, 2007. Filed under: General, Solar |


Petroleum and Natural Gas Watch
by Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin
June 26, 2007, Volume 6, Number 8

For some turnout is the measure of success at the annual Midwest Renewable Energy and Sustainable Living Fair, held each year in central Wisconsin over the summer solstice weekend. But the presenters and exhibitors at this three-day expo have their own yardstick for gauging a good fair: jaw muscle fatigue.

While I have no idea how many people attended this year’s edition, the ache in my jaws on Sunday afternoon told me that I had exceeded my personal quota of answering questions and giving advice on how to use the naturally occurring and non-depleting energy around us to prepare for the coming energy squeeze.

The barrage of questions at the RENEW Wisconsin table was nonstop. Examples: “If I put up solar panels, can I sell the power I don’t need to my utility?” “How do I know I live in a windy area?” “When will solar energy become cheaper than utility power?” “Why do I have to pay the utilities extra for renewable energy?” “Can I put a wind generator on my house?” “Can you put a wind generator on your property and sell the electricity to your neighbors?” And, of course, this hardy perennial: “How do I persuade my rural electric co-op to provide rebates for wind and solar?”

Continue reading here.

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Crave Brothers show details of manure-to-electricity system

Posted on June 26, 2007. Filed under: Digesters |

A sketch posted at Crave Brothers Farm provides a simple explanation of how a biodigester turns manure into electricity.
Click on photo to enlarge.

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Senate Dems improve energy provisions in state budget bill

Posted on June 25, 2007. Filed under: Energy Finance, Energy Policy |

RENEW supports the senate action, as reported in a story by Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Senate Democrats on Friday announced that they had removed a controversial renewable energy provision from the state budget.

They also restored funding for a renewable energy grant program that’s a key priority of Gov. Jim Doyle.

The moves would result in changes to energy provisions included in the budget by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee.


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Anti-wind provision not to be in final bill

Posted on June 25, 2007. Filed under: Energy Policy, Wind |

From the American Wind Energy Associaton (AWEA):

A section of a bill introduced by Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) that would have crippled both the large and small wind industries has been removed. The House Natural Resources Committee last week agreed to revise the wind power title (“Section D”), and instead accept an amendment from Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) that would require more robust enforcement of existing Fish and Wildlife Service regulations on utility-scale wind projects. Small turbines will continue to be unaffected by this measure.

This would-be anti-wind energy section of bill H.R. 2337 would have required 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. The bill also would have imposed jail time and fines for installations that did not follow this protocol.

Public opposition played a crucial role in the outcome of this issue. AWEA would like to extend thanks to those who contacted their Congressmen to oppose this measure.

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Energy bill falls short in Senate vote

Posted on June 25, 2007. Filed under: Energy Finance, Energy Policy, Wind |

From the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA):

In a Senate procedural vote on June 21, a tax package containing a five-year production tax credit (PTC) extension as well as a new small-turbine credit was derailed from becoming part of a broader energy policy bill.

Although there were 57 votes to cut off debate on the tax package, and only 36 opposed, it did not receive the 60 votes necessary to defeat a filibuster. Later that day, the Senate approved a limited energy policy bill that also does not contain Democrats’ call for a national renewables portfolio standard (RPS) aimed at boosting reliance on wind, biomass, and other forms of clean energy (see related story). The tax package rejected by the Senate would have cost about $28 billion over 10 years. Under the Democrats’ “pay-as-you-go” budgeting, the bulk of the funding would have come from cutting existing oil and gas subsidies. The legislation called for the PTC to be extended through 2013.

“Given the opportunity for a straight up-or-down vote in the Senate, we would have prevailed on both a five-year PTC extension and a federal RPS,” said AWEA Executive Director Randall Swisher. “We were not given that opportunity.”

Meanwhile, as the Senate bill moves ahead without tax provisions and minus a renewable portfolio standard, the House of Representatives is moving toward adopting a more modest energy tax package, pegged at about $14 billion. That package, which the House Ways & Means Committee approved on June 22, contains a four-year PTC. The bill, however, includes a new complex financial cap that AWEA opposes because it would create financial uncertainty within the industry and cause far fewer wind projects to get built. In contrast to the current PTC, the proposed House version would penalize projects with the highest capacity factors. The bill’s next step is to go to the floor of the full House.


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Mercury in compact fluorescent lightbulbs

Posted on June 22, 2007. Filed under: Energy Efficiency |

Science Matters column by David Suzuki:

Whenever a new product comes to market, inevitably it will have flaws that can drive some people to distraction, so much so that they may be unable to see the forest for the trees.

Case in point – compact fluorescent light bulbs, or CFLs.

Much has been made about switching from standard, incandescent bulbs to CFLs to help save energy. On the surface, it’s an easy choice. CFL bulbs put out as much light as regular bulbs while using one quarter of the energy. Incandescent bulbs, on the other hand, haven’t really changed much since their invention over 100 years ago. More than 90 per cent of the energy they use actually produces heat rather than light.

With CFLs now on the scene and issues like global warming and air pollution at the top of people’s radar screens, it’s only natural that switching to CFLs would become an issue. In fact, I’m even doing a series of advertisements with Powerwise, an energy-conservation partnership between the Government of Ontario and local power producers, to get people to start replacing their old bulbs.

Still, the switch to CFLs is not without criticism. Some folks suggest that because the bulbs use less electricity, people will be tempted to keep them on longer, negating their energy-efficiency advantage. Others point out that all that extra light from people keeping their bulbs burning for longer will add to the burden of light pollution in our cities. Still others say that the quality of light is less pleasing, and Lupus sufferers tell me incandescent light is better for them.

Far and away the most common concern is about mercury. CFLs contain a small amount of mercury – a toxic metal. Mercury poisoning can be a serious health hazard. The term “mad as a hatter” actually comes from the days when hat makers used mercury to improve the felt on hats. Many hatters exposed to large amounts of mercury over long periods of time suffered brain damage. Mercury accumulation in fish can also be a health hazard to those who eat certain types of it regularly.


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Madison receives solar city grant

Posted on June 21, 2007. Filed under: Solar |

From an article in The Capital Times by Mary Yeater Rathbun

Madison is one of 13 U.S. cities that will be sharing $2.5 million in new federal money to advance solar power projects.

Madison’s goal is to double solar use in the city within two years by creating a one-stop shop for those interested in doing it, mayoral spokesman George Twigg said Wednesday.

That would make Madison the model solar city for the Midwest, according to Joe DeMorett of the city Engineering Department. He wrote the grant application asking the U.S. Department of Energy for $200,000.

To be eligible to be Solar America Cities, cities had to be large with high electricity demand and represent a diverse geography, population and maturity of solar infrastructure, according to DOE spokeswoman Julie Ruggiero. Cities were selected based on their plan and commitment to a comprehensive, citywide approach to deployment of solar technologies. . . .

The other cities selected to receive Solar America Cities grants are: Ann Arbor, Mich.; Austin, Texas; Berkeley, Calif; Boston; New Orleans; New York; Pittsburgh; Salt Lake City; San Diego; San Francisco and Tucson.

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Call Kohl & Feingold about energy bill

Posted on June 20, 2007. Filed under: Energy Policy, Wind |

Please contact Senators Kohl (202.224.5653) and Feingold (202.224.5323) and ask them to support the Bingaman/Reid RPS amendment when the energy bill comes to the Senate floor and to oppose amendments that would weaken the program’s requirements for clean renewable energy, like wind.

National Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) legislation will come to the floor of the Senate today. The legislation would require utilities to generate or purchase 15% of electricity from renewable energy sources. An RPS is a flexible, market-driven policy that can ensure that the public benefits of renewable energy, such as wind, continue to be recognized as electricity markets become more competitive. The policy ensures that a minimum amount of renewable energy is included in the portfolio of electricity resources serving a state or country, and — by increasing the required amount over time — the RPS can put the electricity industry on a path toward increasing sustainability.

To learn more about contacting them, go to the Web site of the American Wind Energy Associaiton.

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