Archive for January, 2008

Xcel plans call for more wood to be burned

Posted on January 31, 2008. Filed under: Generation Plants, Wood |

From an article in The Daily Press (Ashland, WI):

MADISON — Xcel Energy’s plans to keep its Bayfront power plant in Ashland compliant with stricter pollution control standards should result in buying more locally grown wood products, according to a company spokesman.

Changes in the federal clean air regulations will require a significant reduction by January 2009 in nitrous oxide (NOX) and other pollutants emitted by power plants. Xcel’s plans to spend $7.7 million this year on equipment will cut Bayfront’s NOX emission from .5 pounds per million BTUs to .1 pound, said Tina Bell, an Xcel environmental engineer.

“That’s a dramatic reduction,” she said.

Waste tires, wood, natural gas and coal are burned in two of Bayfront’s five boilers, and since wood produces less NOX emissions than coal, Xcel plans to buy more waste wood after the new pollution control equipment is installed by November, said David Donovan, Xcel’s manager of regulatory policy.

“We plan to burn as much biomass as we can, as much as the control technology allows us to do that,” Donovan said.

The decision to use more waste wood at Bayfront was made after Xcel commissioned a study two years ago that showed there was sufficient waste wood within 60 miles of Ashland to operate the 92-year-old plant on wood at a higher level. Locally grown wood is as cost-effective as coal and emits far less sulfur dioxide, which is also targeted by federal regulations for reductions next year.

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Sagrillo dispells another anti-wind myth

Posted on January 30, 2008. Filed under: Wind |

Mick Sagrillo counters another rumor frequently circulated by opponents of wind generation: 


It has come to my attention that there are rumors circulating around Wisconsin as to the details of the WPS’s offer to purchase homes near their wind farm in Lincoln Township. Principle among these is the “report” that “the noise from the WPS wind farm was so intolerable that several homes were condemned as unlivable.” I would like to set that record straight.

The Factual Record

After 22 wind turbines—14 owned by WPS, eight owned by Madison Gas & Electric–were placed in service in Lincoln Township in June 1999, the Town adopted on July 6, 1999, a moratorium on further construction of wind turbines in the Township until it could review and evaluate the impacts on residents from the existing turbines. To that end, the Lincoln Township Wind Turbine Moratorium Study Committee was appointed by the Lincoln Township Board of Supervisors on December 6, 1999. I was appointed as chair of the committee by Lincoln Township Board of Supervisors Chairman Arlin Monfils.

In that capacity, I met with WPS employees Jerome Tews, Director of Real Estate, Tom Rice, Acoustics Engineer, and William Kust, Facilities Manager at the Pullium Plant, to design and oversee a seasonal sound study at nearly residences surrounding the wind farm. The Wind Turbine Committee recommended that the sound study be done by Sanchez Industrial Design Inc. out of Madison. My final meeting with Mr. Tews and Mr. Kust took place on May 9, 2000, at which time they were to review the results of the sound studies so that I could present the findings to the Wind Turbine Committee.

At that meeting, Mr. Tews revealed that WPS had sent letters to six property owners around the WPS wind farm on May 4th, offering to purchase their property. A copy of that letter (with the recipients’ name and address blocked out to respect their privacy) is attached to this correspondence. These six property owners had issues with the wind turbines and had voiced their dissatisfaction publically. Mr. Tews also explained that if any owners did sell their property to WPS, the homes would be razed and the property would be held by WPS as vacant land for possible sale. However, Mr. Tews emphasized that the properties would only be sold if rezoned and used for agricultural or commercial purposes, or possibly to adjacent property owners. WPS would not sell the property to anyone interested in building a residence on it.

When pressed as to why WPS would do such a thing, Mr. Tews explained that this type of offer was standard corporate policy for WPS with anyone complaining about any WPS facility or construction project, be it a coal-fired power plant, combined-cycle electric generating facility, transmission line, or utility right of way. MR. Tews explained that offering to purchase property was WPS policy for managing opposition to their projects. The additional policy of razing the home on the property and refusing to resell the property for residential development guaranteed that “problem residents”, as Mr. Tews put it, would not resurface.

When I reported this to the Wind Turbine Moratorium Study Committee on May 10, 2001, they were more than a little taken aback. One concern was that any property WPS purchased would be removed from the tax rolls. As such, the committee drafted (May 24, 2001) and approved (May 29, 2001) a resolution to go to the Town Board requesting that WPS devise a better solution to their public relations problems than buying out “complainers”, razing the homes, removing the properties from development, and taking the properties off of the tax rolls. The expectation was that WPS would meet with the Town Board of Supervisors to devise a compromise solution. The Lincoln Township Board of Supervisors approved the resolution on June 4, 2001. I sent the resolution to Tom Meinz, the WPS corporate official that Mr. Tews reported to, on June 5, 2001.

On August 6, 2001, Mr Meinz, Mr. Tews, and Mr. Kust attended the Lincoln Township monthly meeting to respond to the resolution. The message from Mr. Meinz to the Township was perfectly clear: the offer to purchase and raze the six homes that WPS had made was in line with WPS corporate policy and would stand. WPS was adamant that there would be no compromises. The Town board was dismayed with WPS’ obstinacy, to say the least.

Summaries of the six offers to purchase and outcomes:

1. The first house was about 1,000 feet from the nearest wind turbine. At the time of the WPS offer, the owners of this property were recently divorced, and disposal of the property was part of the settlement as both parties were in the process of moving. On receiving the WPS offer to purchase, one of the owners stated at a Town board meeting that this was “better than winning the lottery”. This home was purchased and subsequently destroyed by WPS.

2. The second house was also about 1,000 feet from the nearest wind turbine. Prior to WPS building the wind farm, the owner of this property had been contemplating moving to another community upon retirement. On receiving the WPS offer to purchase, the owner stated at a Town board meeting that he had “hit the jackpot.” The home was purchased and subsequently destroyed by WPS after the owner relocated to another community.

3. The third house was about 990 feet from the nearest wind turbine. The owners of this home declined the offer to purchase by WPS. They did, however, build a new home about 30 feet away from their original home, and still live there. Their new house is 1,020 feet away from the nearest wind turbine.

4. The fourth house is about 1250 feet from the nearest wind turbine. The owners of this house were interested in buying property in the adjacent township and moving their home to that new property. This was actually amenable to WPS. Unfortunately, the owners were not able to find a suitable piece of property to move their house to. They still live in their home.

5. The fifth house is about 1,500 feet from the nearest wind turbine, and the sixth house is about 2,830 feet from the nearest wind turbine. Rather than accept the WPS offer to purchase and destroy their homes, these owners hired an attorney and sued WPS, claiming that the wind farm was a nuisance. About a week before the case was to go to court, WPS settled out of court with both property owners, for undisclosed amounts. WPS denied any culpability or wrong doing, indicating that they did not need the negative publicity. Both homeowners still live in their respective homes.

I hope that this clarifies any misunderstanding that persists concerning this situation.

Mick Sagrillo

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Why wind turbine blades coated with ice can spin (slowly) but not throw ice

Posted on January 29, 2008. Filed under: Wind |

Mick Sagrillo, one of the nation’s leading authorities on wind energy, dispells a myth frequently repeated by wind energy opponents:

Wind turbine blades are actually a composite of two devices: a drag portion and a lift airfoil. If you look at any wind turbine blade, you’ll notice a large wide area near the butt of the blade that is greatly pitched relative to the rest of the blade. This is the “drag” portion of the blade, a scoop that gets “blown out of the way” by the wind. Its job is simply to get the blades moving from dead still. The wind just blows this part “out of the way,” and since that blade is attached to a hub, “out of the way” means in a circle. Once there is forward motion, lift can take over on the rest of the airfoil portion of the blade, and get the blades spinning up to their designed revolutions per minute.The drag portion is very inefficient when it’s matched to an alternator. But its job is not to drive the alternator, only to get motion started in the first place, as there can be no lift without some initial motion. Since it is such a very small part of the total swept area, while it does “drag” the lift portion of the airfoil down, it is almost an inconsequential part of the total swept area of the rotor. But it is needed to start motion because the airfoil portion cannot on its own. If they could, airplanes would not need to taxi down a runway, only jump into the air.Once there is any forward motion, the lift portion takes over and pulls the blades around the swept area, quickly and efficiently. And this part of the blade is what is doing the work to actually generate electricity.

Several winters ago, there was an icing event at Rosiere. Despite being covered with ice, most of the eight turbines were turning, albeit slowly, between 2 to 3 rpm. Turbines rotating at that speed are not producing electricity.

The ice that covered the Rosiere wind turbines covered the entire blade, both drag and lift part. But since the drag part is only a scoop that merely gets motion started, ice on that part is of some consequence, but very little. If you had ice covering your snow shovel, you could still shovel snow, albeit it would be more cumbersome.

However, the lift part is very different. The airfoil portion is a finely tuned device, and anything that alters the airfoil, dead bugs for example, greatly alters its ability to function as designed. This is what happens with ice coating jet wings, or the blades in Rosiere. In the case of the jet, the ice must be removed or it will not be able to “lift” off of the ground at the end of a runway.

So what happened in Rosiere was that the blowing wind pushed on the drag portion of the blades, getting them moving slowly, which is what is supposed to happen, but little else. With the coating of ice on the blades, the airfoil portion of the blades could not do its job, and the blades merely spun slowly by drag, about 2 rpm.

Blades spinning at 2 rpm cannot “throw” ice; they are moving too slowly. When ice melts from a blade moving that slowly, it falls straight to the ground, just as when ice is shed from power lines, utility transmission towers, trees, and buildings. If there is a strong wind during the ice shedding, the ice may be blown slightly downwind of the tower, but is too light to travel farther than about half the height from which it falls.

Note: Research and publication are funded in part by Focus on Energy’s Renewable Energy Program.

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Nature center lobbies for 110-foot turbine

Posted on January 28, 2008. Filed under: Wind |

From an article by Lawrence Sussman: 

The Riveredge Nature Center wants to put up a 110-foot-high wind turbine on the east end of its property in the Town of Saukville “to showcase a renewable form of energy,” Patrick Boyle, the center’s executive director, said.The town has received two wind turbine applications this month. Town resident Norman Ammermann is also seeking to erect a 100-foot-high wind turbine on his 5-acre property just west of the Cedarburg Bog.

Town Chairman Jim Kadow said last week that he did not think the town would be overwhelmed with wind turbines.

“They’re too pricey,” he said.

With its wind turbine, Riveredge hopes to show people how a business can generate enough energy to sustain its needs and live within its means, Boyle said.

“It’s just a matter of educating people on what these things can do,” he said.

The planned turbine is expected to produce 35 kilowatt hours of energy and cost about $140,000. The center hopes to use grants and donations to pay for the turbine.

The turbine also may be used for a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee research project, Boyle said.

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Blowin’ out of proportion? Company, Trempealeau County disagree about wind ordinance

Posted on January 26, 2008. Filed under: General |

From an article by Amber Dulek in the Winona (MN) Daily News:

Trempealeau County believes a threat of a lawsuit over wind turbines might be a bunch of hot air.

A little more than a month after the Trempealeau County Board passed one of the most restrictive wind ordinances in the country, the developers seeking to build a wind farm have now told the board to revise or they’ll sue.

A Madison, Wis., law firm representing AgWind Energy Partners sent the county board a letter Jan. 14 stating the county’s zoning ordinance that governs the placement, height and noise of wind turbines is illegal because it contradicts the state’s model in several ways.

Zoning director Kevin Lein said the letter is threatening, but has no substance.

“The consensus was to let it go for now,” Lein said. “We might change our mind.”

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Listen to Vickerman’s recorded interview

Posted on January 25, 2008. Filed under: Wind |

A recording of Michael Vickerman’s interview with Larry Meiller on Wednesday January 23 is posted on Meiller’s Web page.  The interview explored the question, “What is it about wind turbines that spooks some people?”

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Clean Wisconsin reacts to Doyle speech

Posted on January 24, 2008. Filed under: General |

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  January 24, 2008 

Contact:  Keith Reopelle, Program Director  608.251.7020 ext. 11  

 State of the State:  Governor’s environmental priorities on track 

(Madison, WI)  After monitoring Wednesday evening’s presentation of the State of the State address by Governor Doyle, Clean Wisconsin issued the following statement applauding two key environmental elements of the speech.  “We are pleased that passing a Great Lakes Compact with strong protections and adopting global warming solutions are two of the Governor’s highest environmental priorities,” said Keith Reopelle, Program Director for Clean Wisconsin.   “Governor Doyle understands the impact that these issues have on Wisconsin’s environment and economy.”  

Clean Wisconsin applauds the Governor for stating that Wisconsin must shoulder the responsibility of providing strong protections for Lake Michigan.  Ratifying a Great Lakes Compact is critical to protecting Wisconsin’s greatest natural resource which is the foundation for a large portion of the state’s economy.   

Governor Doyle also prioritized global warming solutions in his remarks.  This is consistent with his leadership in creating the Wisconsin Task Force on Global Warming, as well as his leadership as Chairman of the Midwest Governor’s Association in producing the Midwest Greenhouse Gas Accord, a commitment by six states to regulate global warming emissions through cap and trade regulation.     

“Governor Doyle has moved Wisconsin forward on this important issue,” said Reopelle.  “A similar effort by our neighbors to the south in Illinois resulted in modeling that showed that a cap and trade program to regulate global warming emissions will result in more jobs, higher economic productivity, and lower energy bills.” We hope that Wisconsin’s legislature will follow Governor Doyle’s lead on these important issues.  

Clean Wisconsin, an environmental advocacy organization, protects Wisconsin’s clean water and air and advocates for clean energy by being an effective voice in the state legislature and by holding elected officials and corporations accountable.  Founded in 1970 as Wisconsin’s Environmental Decade, Clean Wisconsin exposes corporate polluters, makes sure existing environmental laws are enforced, and educates citizens and businesses. On behalf of its 10,000 members and its coalition partners, Clean Wisconsin protects the special places that make Wisconsin such a wonderful place to live, work and play.  Phone: 608-251-7020, Fax: 608-251-1655, Email:, Website: 


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Policy Options to Reduce Wisconsin’s Contribution to Global Warming

Posted on January 24, 2008. Filed under: Global Warming |

From a report by Wisconsin Environment: 

Wisconsin could reduce its contribution to global warming much further by adopting 13 key policy strategies. There are numerous tools available to Wisconsin to reduce global warming pollution. The following policies can help the state reduce carbon dioxide emissions from energy use.

1. Adopt the Clean Cars Program. The Clean Cars Program will impose limits on vehicle carbon dioxide emissions and offer Wisconsinites a greater selection of hybrid-electric vehicles.

2. Require energy-saving replacement tires. By requiring the sale of energy-saving replacement tires, Wisconsin can improve vehicle efficiency without negatively affecting safety.

3. Create mileage-based automobile insurance. Automobile insurers should be required to offer insurance with rates based on the amount traveled. This will reward those who drive less and potentially reduce accidents.

4. Reduce the number of automobile commutes. Large employers should be required to develop programs to discourage single-passenger commuting and provide employees with more transportation choices to cut single-occupant vehicle commutes by 40 percent by 2020.

5. Reduce the growth in vehicle miles traveled. Wisconsin should invest in transit and reduce sprawling development to stop the per capita growth in vehicle miles traveled by cars and light trucks on Wisconsin’s highways.

6. Adopt a low-carbon fuel standard. A portion of motor fuel sold in Wisconsin should come from sources with lower life-cycle emissions than gasoline or diesel to reduce the carbon intensity of the fuel mix by 10 percent by 2020.

7. Strengthen building energy codes. Stronger energy codes for residential and commercial buildings would reduce energy use and thus global warming pollution.

8. Adopt appliance efficiency standards. Wisconsin should adopt energy efficiency standards for appliances and equipment.

9. Increase investments in energy efficiency. Investing more in energy efficiency would reduce electricity use by 0.7 percent and natural gas use by 0.4 percent annually.

10. Encourage combined heat and power. Wisconsin has the potential for 1,100 MW more of combined heat and power technology, which allows commercial and industrial facilities to use the same energy to generate both electricity and useful heat.

11. Strengthen the renewable electricity standard. Wisconsin should increase its existing renewable electricity standard to require that 20 percent of electricity comes from renewable sources by 2020.

12. Prevent expansion of coal-fired power plants. Wisconsin can avoid major projected increases in emissions by preventing the construction of new coal-fired power plants.

13. Reduce government energy use. Wisconsin should increase the energy efficiency of state government buildings, get 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2015, and reduce emissions from vehicles by 30 percent.

Adoption of these strategies would reduce global warming pollution while improving Wisconsin’s energy efficiency. By 2020, Wisconsin’s emissions of carbon dioxide would be approximately 30 percent below projected 2020 levels and 23 percent below 2006 levels.

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Doyle speech will tout renewable energy

Posted on January 23, 2008. Filed under: Energy Policy |

From an article in the Stevens Point Journal:

In the face of national economic challenges, Governor Jim Doyle will focus on efforts to grow Wisconsin’s economy by seizing new opportunities in agriculture, manufacturing and renewable energy in his State of the State Address tonight before the State Legislature. He will also call for bold efforts to make health care more affordable, invest in education and protect the Great Lakes.“In my address before the Legislature and the people of Wisconsin, I will lay out a bold agenda to deal with the national economic slowdown and outline the next steps to grow Wisconsin’s economy,” Doyle said. “I will unveil efforts to protect our priorities, foster innovation, seize energy opportunities, make health care affordable, and build an educated workforce ready to compete around the world.”

Doyle’s State of the State is scheduled for tomorrow, Wednesday, Jan. 23, at 7 p.m. The address will be carried live on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Ideas Network and Wisconsin Public Television.

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Vickerman on Public Radio, 11:45 a.m., Jan. 23

Posted on January 23, 2008. Filed under: Wind |

RENEW’s executive director Michael Vickerman will talk with Larry Meiller on the aesthetics and envrionmental impacts of wind energy projects.  Vickerman’s invitation to appear came after he wrote, “What is it about living winthin sight of large turbines that spooks certain people to the point of irrationality?”

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