Archive for July, 2008

Alliant picks biomass suppliers for Cassville plant

Posted on July 31, 2008. Filed under: Biomass, Coal, Generation Plants, Global Warming | Tags: |

From an article by Paul Snyder in The Daily Reporter:

Wisconsin Power & Light Co. is lining up candidates to deliver biomass fuel to a plant expansion it doesn’t yet have approval to build.

The company, a subsidiary of Alliant Energy Corp., announced it selected five Wisconsin companies as candidates for a supply chain for the expansion of the Nelson Dewey Generating Facility in Cassville.

Alliant spokesman Rob Crain said the field of five candidates includes Premier Cooperative, Mt. Horeb; Midwest Forest Products/InDeck Energy Services Inc., Hayward; Bioenergy Products LLC, Lancaster; Futurewood, Hayward; and Marathon-based Marth Wood Shaving Supply Inc. He said the field will be narrowed to one or two companies later this year.

But that’s only if the project gets approval from the state, said Mark Redsten, executive director of Clean Wisconsin Inc., a nonprofit environmental group opposing the expansion.

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin is reviewing the expansion proposal and must issue its decision by Dec. 15.

Although Alliant promised 20 percent of the plant’s generation will come from renewable sources, the fact the plant would be predominantly coal-fired garnered continuing opposition from groups such as Clean Wisconsin and the Sierra Club.

Most of Alliant’s recent press releases about the project, which is estimated between $1.2 billion and $1.4 billion, highlight the company’s commitment to renewable energy.

Redsten said he’s still not buying it.

“We’ve been hitting them hard,” he said. “I wonder if this announcement (about biomass suppliers) is just an attempt to make the project seem more palatable.”

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Solar tax incentive extension looking doomed for this year

Posted on July 30, 2008. Filed under: Solar |

From a statement released by the Solar Energy Industry Association on the Senate’s 8th failure to extend solar tax credit:

Solar Energy Industries Association president Rhone Resch released the following statement after the Senate failed to pass a cloture motion on S. 3335, the Jobs, Energy, Families and Disaster Relief Act, which included provisions to extend the solar investment tax credit for eight years. The motion failed by a vote of 51 to 43, unable to gain the support of 60 senators needed for passage.

“For the eighth time since June 2007, the Senate was unable to reach a bipartisan compromise to extend solar tax credits which are vital to the solar industry and our economy. Time is running out to extend the solar tax credits and without passage in the immediate future, tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars will be lost in new solar investment. Already companies are putting projects on hold and preparing to send thousands of jobs overseas – real jobs that would otherwise be filled by American workers. Failure to extend the solar tax credits is a severe blow to an industry that has proven to be an economic engine for the U.S. at a time when we need it most.

“The Senate now has little time left this year to extend these tax credits. I strongly urge the Senate to figure out a bipartisan compromise and immediately extend the solar tax credit when they return from their August recess.”

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Posted on July 30, 2008. Filed under: Biomass | Tags: |

From Cows to Crops
Thursday, July 31st
10:30 am – 11:30 am
Room 300 SE, Wisconsin State Capitol
1 – 2:30 pm, Room 411, DATCP, Madison, Wisconsin

Summary: High food and crop prices are straining farmer and consumers. But this briefing will explore an innovative approach to use dairy manure as a resource to heat greenhouses and grow locally produced, high quality food, and clean up potential pollution concerns from waste.

The National Produce Production Development Company Inc. (NPPI) will discuss its proprietary Thermophilic Anaerobic Digestion (TAD) technology and plans to build the first network of profitable greenhouses in the United States, enabling local grown, quality produce food for consumers while cleaning our air and water.

Speakers: Steven Siegel, NPPI CEO, will present their patented process and WI prospects,

Brett Hulsey, Better Environmental Solutions, How dairy farmers can light our homes, run our cars, clean our air, provide us high quality food, and protect our streams.

Brett Hulsey, MNS
President, Better Environmental Solutions
Practical Solutions Today for a Better Tomorrow
222 S. Hamilton, Suite 14
Madison, WI 53703
Phone: 608-238-6070
Cell: 608-334-4994
Email: Brett@BetterEnviro.Com
Website: http://www.BetterEnviro.Com

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Checking in on manure digesters

Posted on July 29, 2008. Filed under: Biomass, Digesters |

In front of the Five Star Dairy’s biodigester near Eau Claire, Michael Vickerman holds the digestion’s fiberous residue that can be spread on fields for fetilizer or used for bedding and other products.

From an article by John Oncken in The Capital Times:

Almost 14,000 individual family-owned dairy farms are the foundation for Wisconsin’s $20 billion dairy industry. They are also major recyclers of the raw materials they use, as nearly all of the grain, forage and supplements consumed by a cow to make milk are recycled by the farmer as fertilizer to make crops grow.

In addition to the daily application of manure directly to farm fields, there are 18 manure digesters at work on larger Wisconsin dairy farms with about that many under construction or in advanced planning.

The Statz Brothers dairy in Sun Prairie is nearing completion of a manure digester for their 1,500-cow main dairy. Norm-E-Lane Farm at Chili in Clark County is in the final phases of construction of a digester for their 1,500-cow dairy. Bach Farm in Dorchester as well as Grotegut Dairy and Mapleleaf Dairy, both in Cleveland, have just received U.S. Department of Agriculture Renewable Energy grants and loans to build digesters.

Those dairy farms with digesters are producing solids used for livestock bedding and fertilizer and methane gas that powers generators to make electricity for homes. The cost of a manure digester system is well in the six figure category, most of it borne by the dairy family making for lots of tough decisions.

What about manure digesters for small farms?

Major discussions have been held about building central manure digesters in Dane County. The central challenges are determining who will pay the high cost of building them and figuring how to get the manure from individual farms to the central digester.

There is one, in Chino, Calif., where a dozen dairies pay the electric utility to haul and process their manure. But this is an area where cows are housed in open corrals on dairies located side-by-side, a very short distance from the digester. Wisconsin dairy farms are located farther apart and the cost of hauling manure great distances (it’s mostly water) is currently prohibitive.

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All 50 governors urge extension of federal renewable energy tax incentives

Posted on July 25, 2008. Filed under: Energy Policy |

Just as RENEW and numerous individuals signed an open letter to Congress, the National Governors Association also wrote:

The nation’s governors urge Congress to extend for at least five years tax provisions that encourage the development of renewable energy sources and promote energy efficiency.

Last February, leadership of the National Governors Association wrote the leaders of Congress’ tax writing committees to urge enactment of legislation containing these provisions. Since that time, however, efforts to advance them have fallen short. Extending these credits is critical and action must be taken as soon as possible.

Renewable energy plays an important role in our nation’s energy security, and governors have pioneered a wide array of innovative energy policies in their states. To supplement state efforts, governors support the development of federal tax incentives, including clean renewable energy bonds, to promote clean, secure, and affordable energy to fuel America’s future.

We also encourage Congress to continue to develop incentives for programs that help families and businesses use energy-efficient building techniques, materials, and equipment readily available in today’s market. Extending incentives for energy efficiency and conservation will slow the growth of future energy needs, minimize ratepayer costs, and lessen potential environmental impacts.

Securing our energy future must be a priority at both the state and federal levels. We strongly urge you to partner with states by passing legislation on a bipartisan basis to extend expiring renewable energy and energy efficiency tax credits that can be enacted this year.

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Sock maker steps up to solar hot water

Posted on July 23, 2008. Filed under: Solar | Tags: |

From left to right, Michael Vickerman (RENEW), Paul Milbrath (Wigwam), and Dave Drapac (Seventh Generation Energy) check the solar thermal collectors on the roof the Wigwam’s plant.

From a solar hot water profile written by RENEW’s Michael Vickerman and Ed Blume for Focus on Energy:

“We wanted to do something genuine, not phony,” said Bob Chesebro, president of family-owned Wigwam Mills, Sheboygan, about his company’s decision to install a solar energy system.

Initially, Chesebro wasn’t sure which kind of solar energy system to go with. But the more he delved into the question, the more he came to believe that solar hot water would provide the best fit for the
103-year-old company.

Placed in service in February 2008, Wigwam’s 27 solar collectors supply 47 percent of the hot water used by the company to shrink, bleach, antimicrobial treat, wash and soften 40,000 pairs of socks each day. . . .

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Clean energy needs transmission

Posted on July 22, 2008. Filed under: Transmission, Wind |

An editorial from the Wisconsin State Journal:

High-powered transmission lines don’t produce energy. They simply move it around to help keep people’s lights on.
Big transmission lines also can transfer clean energy just as easily as they can carry power from the dirtiest coal-fired generators.

Those are points many opponents of a 32-mile to 55-mile, 345-kilovolt line from west of Middleton to eastern Dane County seem to be missing. Higher energy use in Dane County doesn ‘t have to increase pollution or the carbon dioxide emissions blamed for contributing to climate change.

Just look at Texas.

The Lone Star state is already a national leader in generating power from wind. Just last week, Texas utility officials gave preliminary approval to spend $4.9 billion on big transmission lines to carry a huge amount of wind power from gusty West Texas to big cities such as Dallas. The lines would supply enough energy to serve an estimated 4 million homes.

That means the transmission lines are great news for the environment.

“We have all these wind plants up and operating. What we ‘re asking for is the superhighway to get the energy to the cities, ” said Tom Smith, director of the Texas chapter of the consumer group Public Citizen. “This will send signals to manufacturers all across the world Texas is ready to be a world-class player in renewable energy. ”

Wisconsin is similarly striving to create more renewable fuels. Wisconsin is not an especially windy state. But leaders are exploring erecting wind turbines on blustery Lake Michigan.

Wisconsin also enjoys a huge supply of material such as wood chips, corn stalks, manure and even paper factory waste that can be turned into biofuel.

In addition, some environmentalists are open to erecting a high-powered transmission line across southwestern Wisconsin to connect to wind power in Iowa and Minnesota.

The ongoing controversy over whether to allow a big transmission line around Madison is more complicated. The debate is essentially over how much energy Dane County will need in the future.

Conservation is important and will help reduce demand. But conservation alone won ‘t offset our growing region ‘s appetite for power. That ‘s especially true if plug-in automobiles eventually replace our gas-guzzling cars.

What Wisconsin needs more of is clean energy. And as we develop more of that, we ‘ll need to move it around just as before.

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Wind turbine part plant to employ 355 in Elgin

Posted on July 22, 2008. Filed under: Wind |

From a story by Harry Hitzeman in the Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL):

A producer of wind turbine gear drivers is planning to build a new plant in Elgin, creating 355 new jobs.

City leaders and officials at Georgia-based Siemens Energy and Automation announced Monday plans for a $20 million, 170,000-square-foot plant on Elgin’s far west side.

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Road trip report on Blue Sky Green Field (Johnsburg) and Forward Energy Center (Brownsville) by Michael Vickerman

Posted on July 21, 2008. Filed under: Wind |

Last Tuesday (July 15) was a particularly good day to visit Wisconsin’s two newest windpower installations. A steady 20 mph wind from the south provided plenty of fuel for the 154 turbines installed at We Energies’ Blue Sky Green Field installation and Invenergy’s Forward Energy Center. I counted only three turbines off-line out of the many dozens we saw that afternoon. The rest were spinning purposefully among the bending and swaying trees. The fields were alive with the sound of tractors and a few birds, punctuated by an occasional truck grinding along on the back roads.

My colleague Ed Blume and I left Madison a little early so we could drive to the Blue Sky Green Field project and snap a few photos. Though it’s only five miles north of a major state highway (23), it’s tucked away behind some rolling terrain and rather difficult to spot from the roadway. You have to turn north and drive a mile or so before the turbines start coming into view. We took the rollercoaster-like Seven Hills Road toward the project’s southern boundary in the Town of Marshfield. I highly recommend that approach, because the turbines will appear then disappear then reappear as you proceed from hillcrest to hillcrest.

At one point we stopped near the 345 kV line which transports BSGF’s electricity towards southeast Wisconsin, and about 1,200 feet from two turbines. Getting out of the car, we immediately heard the telltale crackling hum of the transmission line. In contrast, so faint was the aerodynamic sound from the nearby turbines that we had to consciously filter out the ambient sounds in order to hear the barely audible whoosh. By the way, there is still a lot of turned-over earth in the area, almost all of it a result of the Guardian Pipeline project now under construction.

Twenty minutes later, we joined a tour of the Forward project organized by Jenny Heinzen of Lakeshore Technical College. An Electrical Apprentice Instructor there, Jenny also teaches one-week-long introductory classes in renewable energy. On hand to greet us at Forward’s substation was Laura Miner of Invenergy. Laura is one of seven or eight Invenergy employees who work out of the Brownsville office.

At the substation, which is located at the project’s northeast corner, we stood about 500 feet from the nearest operating turbine. At 500 feet you will hear gearbox-related sounds coming from inside the nacelle. You can also hear many other human-generated sounds in the mix, as well as birds and the wind itself passing through the trees. One of the objectors to the project has written several posts picked up by (, in which he likens the gearbox sound to a jet plane passing overhead. This has become an antiwind talking point. Living under the approach path to Dane County’s airport, I stop talking whenever a jet flies overhead. Here, notwithstanding our proximity to that turbine, the people in our group had no difficulty talking to each other at normal conversational volumes.

Our second stop took us to a turbine just west of the hamlet of South Byron, about two miles north of Brownsville. We stopped at an access road leading to a turbine that had just shut down. While most of the group walked to that turbine, I stayed behind for a minute to listen to another turbine that was about four tower-lengths away (1,100 feet). I could not hear any gearbox sound or any whooshing sound from that turbine. Nor could I hear anything emanating from the seven or eight turbines that I could see from my vantage point. It was the perfect spot to appreciate the fact that 99% of wind energy’s environmental impact is visual in nature.

According to Laura, there haven’t been many complaints from neighbors. Most of the callers have complained of poor TV reception. Invenergy hasn’t yet decided on a preferred mitigation measure for rectifying the reception problems. On this matter, I would advise Invenergy to implement whatever mitigation measure it deems appropriate by opening day of the 2008 NFL season.

Ms. Miner told the tour group that five or six households have complained about sound impacts. Considering the number of households within or abutting the 32,000 acre project zone, those are small numbers. Invenergy just completed a sound characterization study of its turbines, which will soon be available on-line at the Public Service Commission’s Web site.

The land reclamation/restoration effort had made considerable progress since March 12, the day Michels Wind Energy completed outdoor assembly work on the project. Waist-high stalks of corn lined the smoothly surfaced access road we walked on. With the fields planted in corn, it is nearly impossible to detect the access roads unless you happen to be directly in front of one. Laura mentioned that the restoration work on the county highways was almost finished.

Ms. Miner also disclosed some details of the post-construction wildlife study, which involves approximately one-third of the turbines. To ensure that no carcass goes undetected, Invenergy is required to clear the vegetation/crops from about an acre’s worth of land surrounding each turbine. This study will continue through the end of 2009.

On the way back to Madison, Ed and I turned off Highway 49 and pulled into a trailhead on the western side of Horicon Marsh, about a mile east of Highway 151. We did this to observe the visual impact of the wind turbines behind the marsh, and compare the real-life views against the computer-generated rendering of the Forward project that appears on the Horicon System Marsh Advocates’ Web site. If one needed additional proof of the deliberate deceit that underpins antiwind propaganda, take a good look at that second image on the web site and compare it against one of the photos we took that day.

In short, both Blue Sky Green Field and Forward are excellent visual complements to Wisconsin’s working landscape, and will prove to be worthy exemplars of Wisconsin’s investment in utility-scale wind energy. To those who haven’t visited either of these projects, what are you waiting for?

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RENEW board member recognized for education work

Posted on July 18, 2008. Filed under: General, Wind |

From an article on WisInfo:

Jenny Heinzen, Lakeshore Technical College’s renewable energy instructor, recently received the first-ever educator award at the Fourth Annual Small Wind Conference in Stevens Point.

The award was one of two Small Wind Awards given for “enthusiasm, dedication, advocacy and contributions to the small wind industry.”

Besides teaching LTC’s renewable energy classes, Heinzen also manages LTC’s wind turbine and photovoltaic systems, which offset a portion of the campus’ electrical energy needs through wind and solar energy.

Heinzen serves on the Rural Energy Management Council’s citizen advisory council for the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. She also serves on the RENEW Wisconsin Board of Directors. RENEW is a nonprofit organization that promotes clean energy tactics, including wind power.

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