Archive for May, 2008

Wisconsin coal plant to convert to wood

Posted on May 30, 2008. Filed under: Coal | Tags: , , |

From a press release on the PR Newswire:

ANN ARBOR, Mich., May 29 /PRNewswire/ — DTE Energy Services, Inc. (DTEES) has executed a purchase agreement for the acquisition of the E.J. Stoneman Power Plant from Integrys Energy Services, Inc., a subsidiary of Integrys Energy Group, Inc. (NYSE: TEG). DTEES plans to convert the 50-megawatt coal- fired plant in Cassville, WI, to burn wood waste, a renewable resource.

“The Stoneman plant offers us an opportunity to apply the expertise and experience that our company has developed with the two wood-waste plants we currently operate,” said David Ruud, President, DTEES. “We are looking forward to working with the officials and residents of Wisconsin in operating this plant in an efficient and environmentally sound manner. By converting the plant to use wood-waste fuel, we will help Wisconsin meet its renewable energy standards and help ensure the Stoneman Power Plant will continue to be a vital part of the Cassville community.”

The sale is subject to regulatory approvals before the purchase can be completed.

Located on the Iowa-Wisconsin border, the Stoneman facility was constructed in 1950. Integrys Energy Services purchased the 53-megawatt capacity coal-fired plant in 1996 from Dairyland Power Cooperative and operated it as a merchant power plant, selling power in the open market. . . .

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RENEW statement in support of wind project in Town of Union, Rock County, Wisconsin

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

May 29, 2008

To the Town of Union Plan Commission:

My name is Michael Vickerman, and I am here tonight representing RENEW Wisconsin’s 320 members who support EcoEnergy’s Community Wind initiative. This three-turbine project would supply Evansville Water & Light with a zero-emissions, locally available and renewable source of electricity for a minimum of 20 years. We urge the Town of Union to adopt a reasonable ordinance that would allow the construction of this community-scale project to proceed.

RENEW acknowledges that every energy source presents trade-offs, and wind-generated electricity is no exception. However, if one looks at this project through a broad lens that takes into account gaseous emissions, energy and price security, and economic impacts to local landowners and governments, there’s no question that the benefits of this project far outweigh the detriments. EcoEnergy’s proposal advances a number of public policy objectives in a single stroke. These objectives include:

1) Securing adequate supplies of energy from a sustainable sources;
2) Buffering ratepayers from future electricity surcharges caused by the rising cost of diesel fuel, coal, and natural gas;
3) Reducing air and water emissions from generation sources;
4) Preserving working farms and pasture land;
5) Reducing the flow of capital out of Wisconsin for energy purchases; and
6) Increasing the flow revenues into Wisconsin’s energy-producing communities.

If erected, EcoEnergy’s Community Wind project would diversify Wisconsin Public Power Inc.’s resource mix, which is at present heavily weighted toward the combustion of fossil fuels imported from other states and nations. This overreliance on fossil fuels is the primary reason why energy prices are rising this year. Bear in mind that when the cost of diesel fuel increases by 60% over 12 months, the cost of coal delivered to Wisconsin power plants will go up. And when the price of natural gas shoots up by more 50% since January 1, utilities become motivated to look for energy sources whose price they can lock into. Windpower is one of those few energy sources that can help utilities there.

There is one additional benefit from a Community Wind project that might not be apparent today: electricity for vehicular transport. WPPI, which now has four plug-in hybrid vehicles, is a leading utility advocate for electrified transportation. It now costs the average car owner about $8.00 to buy enough gasoline to drive 50 miles. The amount of electricity it takes to drive 50 miles, some 12 to 13 kilowatt-hours, costs an electric vehicle owner about $1.50. Given the current disparity of costs between electricity and gasoline, it seems to me that the transition to plug-in vehicles is a matter of when, not if. I believe that plug-in vehicles, whether hybrids or all-electrics, will become a common sight on city streets in five years. Why? Because the alternative–to leave things the way they–will become too expensive for the average person. And when these vehicles hit the mass market, their owners will want to fill their batteries with clean, renewable, locally produced energy. Imagine the feeling of security, environmental responsibility and civic pride that Evansville citizens would experience knowing that the electricity that powers their motor vehicles is produced from a wind project that’s visible from town. The EcoEnergy Community Wind project can make that future possible for Evansville and the surrounding area, if you let it.

Michael Vickerman
509 Elmside Blvd.
Madison, WI 53704

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Sheboygan school district lauded for saving energy

Posted on May 28, 2008. Filed under: Energy Efficiency |

From an article by Doug Carroll in the The Sheboygan Press:

Fail to turn off the lights or close the door in the Sheboygan Area School District, and Gene Gasper just might fail you.

Gasper, the district’s energy manager for the past 2½ years, has the responsibility of educating the educators on energy use. He knows the district’s schools inside and out. Those needing to watch things more carefully usually hear from him in the form of a “building report card.”

He’s getting results. Already, nine of the district’s 20 schools have been certified as Energy Star award winners, ranking in the top 25 percent nationally for energy conservation among schools of similar description. Factors include a school’s size, location, enrollment, number of computers, air-conditioning capacity and lighting specifications.

The district’s winners are Cooper, Jackson, Jefferson, Lincoln-Erdman, Pigeon River, Sheridan and Wilson elementary schools and Farnsworth and Horace Mann middle schools. The announcement of the awards was made Tuesday night at the regular meeting of the Sheboygan School Board.

Only 117 schools in Wisconsin and 1,003 in the country have received the Energy Star designation as part of a joint program of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy.

It’s a feather in the cap for the district, which committed in the fall of 2005 to an energy education program and claims it has saved 24 percent in energy costs over two years, even with an additional 330,000 square feet in facilities. Most of the savings are realized when buildings are empty of staff and students and can be shut down at least partially.

For example, about $275 a year is saved when a computer is turned off during non-school hours.

“It’s a combination of education and management,” said Gasper, 61, who has been with the district for 24 years. “You educate them to be more efficient and cost-conscious with lighting and heat.”

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Tour of solar heating in homes & businesses, Madison area, June 14th

Posted on May 27, 2008. Filed under: Solar |

Hot Water Products, Cardinal Solar, Advantage Plumbing, Hydronic Solutions announced a tour on June 14th of local homes and businesses that have gone solar.

Here are the details from Cardinal’s Web site:

A free bus tour of homes and businesses that harvest the sun’s energy to provide heat and hot water. Viewing of entire system by bus tour only.
Saturday June 14th from 10:00am – 4:00pm. Bus tour begins at 11:00am & 1:30pm.
Advantage Plumbing / 2881 Larue Field Ln., Sun Prairie, WI
Please rsvp before tour day to 608-837-9367 as seating is limited.

• Reduce energy cost and be a more efficient energy user
• Reduce carbon emissions in and around your home
• Improve the comfort of your home

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Wind turbines turn $2.3 million in profits for Duluth Seaway Port Authority

Posted on May 24, 2008. Filed under: Wind | Tags: |

From an article by Peter Passi in the Duluth News Tribune:

Fiscal year 2007 will go down as the most profitable ever for the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. The authority closed its fiscal books March 31 this year, more than $2.3 million in the black, according to Chief Financial Officer John Kubow.

The port authority’s previous financial best had been fiscal year 2001, when it reported a net profit of $837,000.

So what made fiscal year 2007 so special?

Kubow’s simple explanation: “Sales of wind turbine components.”

The port authority gets a cut of all revenues generated by the Clure Marine Terminal’s operator, Lake Superior Warehousing Co. Inc. And the company handled lots of wind power equipment last shipping season, both inbound from overseas and outbound to destinations on the East Coast and Europe.

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House passes energy bill; Senate uncertain; Bush threatens veto

Posted on May 22, 2008. Filed under: Energy Policy |

From an article by Kate Sheppard on Grist:

The House approved legislation today that renews billions of dollars in tax breaks for wind, solar, biomass, and other renewable energy sources, and extends a proposed new tax credit for biofuels derived from sources other than corn.

“The Energy and Job Creation Act of 2008” (which is a much better name than it had last week, when it was the “Energy and Tax Extenders Act”) was approved by a vote of 263-160. The total package, which also includes tax breaks for education and business expenses and an expansion of the refundable child tax credit, is worth $54 billion.

“As we debate this legislation, American families are paying record prices at the pump — yesterday the cost of a barrel of oil passed $129 for the first time in history. Today, I believe it went past $130,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the House floor today. “This legislation invests in the future and the ingenuity of the American people to create and deploy cutting-edge renewable technologies that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”

The bill includes a six-year extension of the investment tax credit for solar energy; a three-year extensions of the production tax credit for biomass, geothermal, hydropower, landfill gas, and solid waste; and a one-year extension of the production tax credit for wind energy. There are also incentives for the production of renewable fuels such as biodiesel and cellulosic biofuels, incentives for companies that produce energy-efficient products, and incentives to improve efficiency in commercial and residential buildings.

Congress has been trying to get these tax credits for clean energy through for a year. The bill is likely to face tougher opposition in the Senate, and the president has already threatened to veto it. But in a press conference today after the House passed the bill, Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Jim McDermott (D-Wa.), and Richard Neal (D-Mass.) expressed hope that it might still have a chance, citing rising fossil fuel prices and the need for long-term solutions.

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Mazo plant will produce solar electric components

Posted on May 21, 2008. Filed under: General |

From a story by Judy Newman in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Cardinal Glass will build a $60 million factory in western Dane County that could employ 120 people by the end of 2009.

The plant, to be built on a 26-acre site in Mazomanie’s industrial park, about 25 miles west of Madison, will manufacture two types of glass for use in solar photovoltaic panels.

“It’s new technology, it’s timely and it’s an eco-product. It’s perfect,” said Mazomanie village President Scott Stokes.

Groundbreaking for the first phase of the project will be June 9. A $30 million, 175,000-square-foot factory will be built and 40 to 45 employees will be hired to manufacture tempered glass panels.

Weeks after the start of that building, construction could begin on a $30 million, 75,000-square-foot expansion that will house the second part of the operation: glass panels with a special high-tech coating on one side, called a transparent conductive oxide coating.

It is the “integral part of the solar cell,” said Bob Bond, president of Cardinal Glass’ solar technology division. “It’s transparent because it has to allow the sunlight to come in, and once the electrons are activated and moving within the solar cell, the conductive part sweeps the current out of the cell and onto the electrical grid.”

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Two new wind projects now producing electricity

Posted on May 20, 2008. Filed under: Wind |

From a press release issued by We Energies:

MILWAUKEE- We Energies’ Blue Sky Green Field wind project was placed into commercial service today. The 88 turbines have a demonstrated capacity of 145 megawatts and are expected to generate more than 328 million emission-free kilowatt hours annually – enough to power 36,000 homes.

“Blue Sky Green Field is one of several targeted efforts we’re undertaking to generate more energy from renewable resources,” said Rick Kuester, executive vice president of Wisconsin Energy Corporation, the parent of We Energies. “We appreciate the support we have received from our customers and from the communities of Calumet and Marshfield and northeast Fond du Lac County in making the project a reality.”

At a cost of approximately $300 million, the Blue Sky Green Field project consists of 88 Vestas Wind Systems turbines spread across 10,600 acres. Each turbine is capable of producing 1.65 megawatts of electricity. The V82 turbines have a hub height of approximately 262 feet and a blade length of 134 feet. From the foundation to the tip, each tower has a height 397 feet.

We Energies continues to pursue the development of additional renewable energy to meet customer demand and to meet the state of Wisconsin’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, which requires utilities across the state to generate 10 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2015. “While the Blue Sky Green Field project is an important contributor to our renewable goals, We Energies will need to add several more renewable projects to meet the state mandate,” said Kuester.

A story by Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel also reports on Blue Sky Green Field and notes:

In addition, the 86-turbine Forward Wind Energy Center in Dodge and Fond du Lac counties was completed this month, said Mick Baird, Invenergy project manager.

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Iberdrola to invest $8B in U.S. clean energy

Posted on May 20, 2008. Filed under: Wind |

Iberdrola owns a wind project called Top of Iowa, which sells electricity into Wisconsin through contracts with WPPI and MGE. This story by Craig Rubens comes from

Iberdrola Renewables, one of the largest owners and operators of renewable energy facilities in the world, announced yesterday its plans to invest $8 billion in American renewable energy by 2010. A large part of the money will go to expanding Iberdrola’s wind energy capacity, but the company also said it intends to invest elsewhere in American clean energy.

The company says it already operates 2,400 megawatts of wind turbines in the United States with plans to boost that to 3,600 megawatts by the end of the year. The company says it aims to control a 15 percent share of the American wind industry by 2010, and is already the world leader in installed wind capacity with over 7 gigawatts of installed capacity. Iberdrola jumped ahead of the former leader, Florida-based FPL Energy, last year with the help of an extra 1.45 gigawatts it acquired when it bought ScottishPower’s wind assets.

Iberdrola’s big move into U.S. wind is part of a growing trend of foreign firms buying into the U.S. wind boom. According to Clean Edge, Iberdrola’s North American headquarters in Radnor, Penn., has plans for 22,000 megawatts of new wind power in the U.S.

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Gas Tax Pain

Posted on May 19, 2008. Filed under: Peak Oil & the End of Cheap Fossil Fuel, Vehicles |

Fossil Fuel Watch
by Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin
May 19, 2008

Could there be more convincing proof of America’s debilitating addiction to oil than the recent calls to institute a gasoline tax holiday issued by two of the three presidential aspirants still in the race?

Imagine what would happen if a candidate for public office endorsed a repeal of cigarette taxes. Articulating such a position would instantly disqualify that candidate from serious consideration by rank and file voters. Indeed, it would stop a candidacy faster than you can say “macaca.”

Yet, while Sens. John McCain or Hillary Clinton, both advocates of suspending the 18.4 cents/gallon gasoline tax, have been excoriated in editorials for espousing such patent flimflam, they don’t seem to have lost any ground with the voting public.

Though the McCain-Clinton gas tax suspension proposal set a new low in the public discussion of energy, it can’t be dismissed as mere election-year pandering. Instead, this proposal reveals a dark truth about ourselves: we Americans are psychologically unprepared to accept the energy reality we now inhabit, which is that oil is neither cheap nor plentiful (relative to demand). The same holds true for natural gas.

The factors converging to create global energy insecurity—diminishing output from supergiant fields, rapid demand growth in the world’s most populous nations, civil unrest in oil-exporting nations, etc.—cannot be held at bay with political stunts.

Whether its citizens like it or not, the United States will, going forward, consume a smaller portion of the Earth’s remaining petroleum than at any time during the Automobile Age.

But before the federal government takes action to address supply uncertainties and price volatility, our leaders have to tell the nation in no uncertain terms that continued dependency on oil and natural gas will hasten our economic decline and lead us into future resource wars.

Certainly, Senators McCain and Clinton aren’t up to the challenge. Fortunately for the nation, both are powerless to push their intellectually dishonest tax holiday proposal past Congress and the White House.

The White House predicts that this year’s budget deficit will reach $410 million, a sum that excludes the cost of our continuing military misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. The United States can hardly afford to forgo $9 billion in hard revenues just to manufacture the illusion that every motorist will have $28 extra dollars to spend on items other than gasoline.

Savings in excess of $28 can easily be achieved with one less fill-up at the gas station. And how can that be accomplished? By driving less aggressively, turning off the engine while standing, keeping your tires fully inflated, and organizing your errands to reduce miles traveled.

These are simple and practical suggestions that don’t involve sacrifice or hardship. All that is required is the will to take responsibility over your driving habits.

Each time we leave a light bulb burning in an unoccupied room, each time we leave the engine running in the drive-up lane, we dig ourselves a deeper hole. Of course, we must stop what we’re doing, but we’ve become so accustomed to cheap and abundantly available sources of fossil energy that wasting it has become second nature.

So who’s going to throw the bucket of cold water on our national energy fiesta and tell the people that thrift and responsibility are in and energy profligacy is out. Senators Clinton and McCain have disqualified themselves in spectacular fashion. Is Obama our only hope here?


Michael Vickerman is the executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a Madison-based nonprofit organization that acts as a catalyst to advance a sustainable energy future through public policy and private sector initiatives. These commentaries also posted on RENEW’s Web and the site
of the Madison Peak Oil Group’s blog:

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