Archive for August, 2008

EcoEnergy continues plans for wind project near Broadhead (Town of Magnolia)

Posted on August 29, 2008. Filed under: Wind | Tags: , |

From an article by Gina Duwe in the Janesville Gazette:

MAGNOLIA TOWNSHIP — Planning for EcoEnergy’s 100 megawatt wind project in Magnolia Township will continue despite the town board’s approval of what the wind developer says is a “very prohibitive” ordinance and non-supportive town leadership.

“We’re certainly not giving up,” project developer Curt Bjurlin said.

But he said as a business looking to develop projects in towns that help developers, “Magnolia could have acted in a way that was more enabling to allow us to build this project in a more efficient way.”

Board supervisor and town spokesman Dave Olsen disagrees.

“I think that’s incorrect. We have to have rules for everything,” he said.

“We do now have an ordinance that very clearly has rules that they (wind developers) can work with. Now they know where they stand.”

The board on July 3 unanimously passed an ordinance with turbine setbacks of a half mile from homes and 1,000 feet from property lines. Willing homeowners can have turbines placed closer—1,000 feet minimum—to their homes.

While Bjurlin repeatedly said EcoEnergy wants to work with the town, he and Olsen traded jabs in separate interviews with The Janesville Gazette:

— Olsen said the town approved an ordinance with “very reasonable setbacks.” He cited a July 8 article in The Daily Reporter, a Milwaukee business newspaper, that quoted Tim Le Monds, governmental and public affairs director for the state Public Service Commission, saying “That’s a pretty safe distance. It’s acceptable to us.”

— Bjurlin said he has read only a draft of the town ordinance and will be reviewing the approved version and firming up plans through summer on how the company will proceed.

“As this stands with the EcoMagnolia project, the current regulatory environment is not particularly favorable for building a project,” Bjurlin said.

The message the ordinance sends, Bjurlin said, is that you need a half-mile setback to be safe.

“I think it’s clear that that’s not needed,” he said. . . .

Construction on EcoEnergy’s proposed 100 megawatt wind project in Magnolia Township wouldn’t start for about two years, project developer Curt Bjurlin said.

Plans haven’t changed, despite the town passing an ordinance that makes it “very difficult to build an economic wind energy project,” he said.

The company still is proposing a 100 MW project, or 67 turbines at 1.5 MW each, he said.

Changes always are possible, he said, but EcoEnergy has no plans for different turbines, such as 2 MW turbines that would reduce the number of turbines needed to reach 100 MW.

The project has not been mapped out yet, he said, but he noted the township has many scattered high ridges rather than a broad open plateau. He said he doesn’t think Spring Valley Township would be a part of the project.

Given the proposed size of the project, it is required to be permitted through the state Public Service Commission—a process that can take about a year, Bjurlin said.

Read an intereview with Wes Slaymer, EcoEnergy’s Vice President of Wind Development, in the summer 2008 issue of RENEW’s quarterly newsletter.

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Middleton company wins $450 million contract for wind components

Posted on August 28, 2008. Filed under: General | Tags: |

From a story by Jeff Richgels in The Capital Times:

The global wind power boom just keeps blowing stronger for American Superconductor Corp., which has its wind power business based in Middleton.

The Devens, Mass.-based company on Tuesday announced that it has received a $450 million order from Beijing-based Sinovel Wind Corp. to provide core electrical components for 1.5-megawatt wind turbines. Shipments are expected to begin in January and extend through December 2011. The order comes on top of tens of millions of dollars of previous orders from Sinovel.

News of the deal sent American Superconductor’s stock soaring about 20 percent to more than $43 per share in Tuesday morning trading. It has been as low as $15.51 in the past year.

American Superconductor said the electrical components delivered under the contract will be used to support more than 10 gigawatts of wind power capacity, nearly double China’s total wind power base at the end of last year.

The components made by American Superconductor’s Power Systems unit enable reliable, high-performance wind turbine operation by controlling power flows, regulating voltage, monitoring system performance and controlling the pitch of wind turbine blades to maximize efficiency.

“Sinovel is the epitome of business success in China and is one of the fastest-growing wind turbine manufacturers in the world,” CEO Greg Yurek said in a statement. “It is invigorating to see Sinovel’s success in bringing much-needed electrical generation capacity to the Chinese power market at a crucial time in that country’s expansion. . . .”

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It’s not costly going green

Posted on August 27, 2008. Filed under: General |

From a commentary by Dave Zweifel in The Capital Times:

We had a pleasant visit last week from two representatives of the Sierra Club who wanted us to know more about the organization’s big push to get Wisconsin and its industry base to embrace a clean-energy economy.

Rosemary Wehnes, an associate Midwest representative for the Sierra Club, and Tom Peplinski, a United Steelworkers Union member from Stevens Point, have embarked on an educational campaign to dispel the myth that going “green” is costly to business when actually it can save big money and at the same time boost the state’s economy by creating thousands of new decent-paying jobs.

Peplinski, who is on leave from his regular electrician’s job at a Stevens Point paper company, is particularly vocal about the importance of a clean-energy economy for the future of not only our state, but the nation and the world.

He wants Wisconsin government and business leaders to push the development of green industries here. We have the skilled work force and the technology already exists to wean us off fossil fuels and onto wind and solar, he pointed out. Wisconsin manufacturers should be taking the lead in providing the equipment and supplies needed for the energy future.

If Wisconsin companies don’t, he warned, someone else will, and we’ll be left in the dust of what’s left of the old technology. . . .

Peplinski is right about the state’s future. It’s time for us to return to our can-do roots and not only embrace the future of clean energy, but get involved in promoting the development of new industries here that can share in that future.

Our governor, our Legislature and our business community need to come together and take charge.

RENEW made the same point about manufacturing in an article titled “Wind Farm Construction Explodes While Manufacturing Lags” in Wisconsin Renewable Quarterly, Spring 2007:

Both the Forward Wind and Butler Ridge projects will be built with GE 1.5 MW turbines, while Blue Sky Green Field will feature 1.65 MW turbines from Vestas, the Danish manufacturer. Alliant Energy, which received approval in April to construct Cedar Ridge, has not yet committed to a particular manufacturer, though it is expected to announce its decision in June.

Even if the turbines aren’t delivered until next year, construction crews will be busy this summer and fall grading roads, pouring foundations, building transformer pads, and digging trenches for the underground cabling that will connect the turbines to the grid. Almost all of the site preparation work will be performed by local construction companies.

However, it seems unlikely that the fully assembled turbines will feature much in the way of local manufacturing content. There are only a handful of companies in Wisconsin that fabricate components for wind turbines. Unless this situation is addressed soon, this wave of utility-scale turbines will create relatively few jobs and manufacturing orders here in Wisconsin. Considering the enormous expense involved in transporting large and heavy components such as blades and towers, the paucity of local manufacturing content packs an economic double-whammy for Wisconsin, in the form of higher installation costs and production orders that went elsewhere.

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RENEW files testimony on Alliant’s Cassville plant

Posted on August 26, 2008. Filed under: Biomass, Coal, Generation Plants, Wind | Tags: |

Michael Vickerman submitted testimony on behalf of RENEW Wisconsin in the proceeding of the Public Service Commission on Alliant’s proposed generation plant near Cassville:

In my testimony I will survey the windpower prospects under development by independent power producers (IPP’s) in the parts of Wisconsin served by WPL. This information will include an estimate of their annual production (in the aggregate) as well as the current permitting and interconnection status for each prospect. The second half of my testimony outlines RENEW’s concerns with WPL’s proposal to co-fire biomass at Nelson Dewey 3 [proposed Cassville plant] . . . .

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Manitowoc, Clintonville companies supply, deliver wind energy components

Posted on August 26, 2008. Filed under: Wind |

From a media release issued by The New North:

NEW NORTH, August 19, 2008 – Broadwind Energy on Tuesday announced that Manitowoc-based Tower Tech Systems has signed a contract to manufacture wind tower components for Nordex USA, one of the world’s leading providers of onshore wind turbines.

Broadwind also announced that Badger Transport, based in Clintonville, signed a contract to deliver the components to Texas for Nordex.

“The wind energy industry is a targeted industry cluster of the New North, and over the past year, we’ve seen a great deal of growth in this field for companies in the region,” said Jerry Murphy, Executive Director of the New North, Inc.

“Today’s announcement is just more good news for Northeast Wisconsin’s developing wind energy industry.”

Tower Tech expects to supply the four-section towers to in early 2009, which will be used to support 2500 kW turbines developed by Nordex. The order is the largest ever for Nordex in the United States,
according to Broadwind.

“The New North’s efforts to promote the region’s wind energy assets are clearly paying off, following our organization’s trip to the American Wind Energy Association WINDPOWER Conference back in June,” Murphy said. “With great companies like Tower Tech and Badger Transport, a highly-skilled workforce, and great technical schools, we’re looking forward to the continued success of this industry throughout the region.”

Both Tower Tech and Badger Transport are subsidiaries of Naperville, IL-based Broadwind Energy, Inc.

RENEW Wisconsin participated in The New North’s economic development promotional activities at WINDPOWER 2008.

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More US states cooking up renewable energy incentives

Posted on August 25, 2008. Filed under: General |

From an article by Paul Gipe and Graham Jesmer on

Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle’s Task Force on Global Warming has called for implementation of Advanced Renewable Tariffs to encourage the development of the state’s renewable energy resources.

The recommendation is contained in a massive new report on how Wisconsin can reduce its emissions of global warming gases. The call for Advanced Renewable Tariffs, or renewable energy payments, is but one of many measures recommended. . . .

Implicit in the task force’s recommendation is that Wisconsin’s Public Service Commission (PSC WI) has the authority to establish feed-in tariffs without specific enabling legislation. The PSC WI has already initiated a proceeding that may explore how to design the program.

Support for inclusion of the recommendation in the Task Force’s report came from RENEW Wisconsin and Clean Wisconsin. RENEW Wisconsin was the first non-governmental organization in the U.S. to propose a policy of Advanced Renewable Tariffs when it filed testimony with the Wisconsin PSC in the fall of 2006. At the time, RENEW Wisconsin’s Michael Vickerman argued that renewable tariffs should be based on the cost of generation. His filing was a significant departure from the position of most American NGOs involved in renewable energy rate cases, putting RENEW in line with its Canadian and continental European colleagues.

Governor Doyle’s task force accepted this reasoning and specifically recommends “that these advanced renewable tariffs should be based upon the specific production costs of each particular generation technology, include a return comparable to the utilities’ allowed returns, and be fixed over a period of time that allows for full recovery of capital costs.”

Projects developed under Wisconsin’s proposed renewable tariff program will be limited to 15 megawatts (MW).

The task force “recognized that Advanced Renewable Tariffs would likely result in increased costs per unit of electrical output compared to utility-scale renewable projects, but that these costs are justified by the economic and environmental advantages from encouraging distributed small-scale generation.”

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Coal Plants Too Expensive in WI and NV: Platts Electric Utility Week

Posted on August 22, 2008. Filed under: Coal, Generation Plants |

Two articles by Ethan Howland from Platts Electric Utility Week:

Wisconsin PSC staff urge rejection of 300-MW WP&L coal-fired plant

Wisconsin Power & Light, an Alliant Energy utility, should drop its proposed 300-MW power plant in Cassville, Wisconsin, because of soaring costs for materials and labor and climate issues, according to Wisconsin Public Service Commission staff.

WP&L’s proposed $1.1 billion Nelson Dewey Unit 3 would be the most expensive conventional coal-fired plant in the US, Kenneth Detmer, a PSC staffer, told the commission last week. The plant would cost $3,611/kW. In comparison, the just-finished 500-MW Weston 4 plant, built by Wisconsin Public Service near Wausau, Wisconsin, cost about $1,400/kW, and We Energies’ 1,250-MW Elm Road project, under construction near Milwaukee, cost about $1,800/kW, staff said.

Also, PSC staff believe the cost estimates for the project are unreliable. “The large uncertainty in the [cost] estimates suggests an evaluation of all options needs to occur again before WP&L’s cost estimates can be viewed as reliable,” Detmer said. Staff noted that WP&L’s latest cost estimate, up 20% from a September 2007, forecast, will likely be revised upwards.

Further, PSC staff argue that a plan by WP&L to burn up to 20% biomass at the plant, add 300 MW of wind and retire a 76-MW coal-fired unit early would increase greenhouse gas emissions compared with 300 MW from a super critical coal-fired plant (EUW, 16 June, 24). WP&L, based in Madison, Wisconsin, is proposing to use circulating fluidized bed technology, which is less efficient than other coal-fired technologies.

According to staff, a power purchase agreement or a natural gas-fired plant may be a better option. “I believe that a new coal-fired generation unit, given today’s construction costs and current and likely fuel costs, is not an optimal choice,” said Denis Keptke, PSC senior economist. “I believe the lower risk option for both ratepayers and shareholders is to build a combined-cycle natural gas unit first.”

WP&L is buying the 300-MW Neenah simple-cycle plant in Neenah, Wisconsin, which was designed to be converted to a combined-cycle plant (EUW, 21 April, 5). Converting the plant is an option for meeting supply needs, according to Keptke.

PSC staff also contend that WP&L’s annual load growth estimates, at 2.37% a year, are too high. Staff assumed a 1.65% annual growth rate in its modeling.

The PSC will hold hearings on WP&L’s Nelson Dewey proposal in mid-September. A final decision is expected in December.

Nevada PUC staff urges utilities to pursue smaller coal-fired option

Fearing additional cost increases and delays to a 1,500-MW coal-fired plant proposed by Sierra Pacific Resources’ two utilities, Nevada regulatory staff last week said they want the company to pursue a smaller coal-fired plant at a different site.

Nevada Power and Sierra Pacific Power, SPR subsidiaries, should begin developing a 500-MW coal-fired plant as an alternative to the Ely Energy Center, according to Nevada Public Utilities Commission staff in filings last week with the commission.

In 2006, the utilities pegged the cost for the plant and a related 500-kV transmission project at $3.8 billion. The utilities now think the project will cost about $5 billion. “Staff has concerns about the economic viability of the EEC if construction costs continue to increase at accelerated rates,” Jon Davis, a PUC staff member, told the commission.

The in-service date for the project has been pushed back from 2011 to 2015 for the plant’s first 750-MW unit, with a second unit following a year later (EUW, 7 April, 13). PUC staff believe further delays are possible, which could add to the plant’s cost.

Staff wants the PUC to direct the utilities to explore building a 500- to 700-MW plant next to the existing 522-MW, coal-fired Valmy station. The project would cost less than the Ely project on a per kilowatt basis because it would share facilities with the existing plant, Davis said. PUC staff recommends that the PUC allow Nevada Power to spend $13 million on permitting a new Valmy unit.

Staff said a smaller plant would allow for more geothermal energy to be developed in northern Nevada. The Ely project would allow for about 400 MW of geothermal capacity to be added in northern Nevada while a smaller Valmy unit would allow for 1,100 MW of geothermal capacity to come online by 2020, Davis said.

Staff also questioned Nevada Power’s load forecast used to justify the larger Ely Energy Center. The economy in southern Nevada has slowed significantly and Nevada Power may not need the output from the larger plant, Davis said.

PUC staff and the Bureau of Consumer Protection, which represents ratepayers, recommended that the PUC allow Nevada Power to buy Reliant Energy’s 562-MW Bighorn plant near Primm, Nevada, for $510 million. They also supported allowing Nevada Power build 500-MW of natural gas-fired generation for $682 million at the existing Harry Allen plant.

The PUC staff and BCP recommendations were made in response to a request by Nevada Power to amend its long-range resource plan. The PUC will hold hearings on the request in early September. Adam Grant, a Nevada Power spokesman, declined to comment on the recommendations.

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Focus on Energy seeks large renewable projects to fund

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

From a media release issued by Focus on Energy:

Focus on Energy, Wisconsin’s energy efficiency and renewable energy initiative, is helping businesses statewide become more energy independent by offering large, one time only grants to help finance the installation of innovative renewable energy systems. Eligible businesses must submit grant proposals to Focus on Energy by Oct. 29, 2008. Funds will be awarded on a competitive basis and are meant to support one project in each of the following technologies:

Industrial or Municipal Anaerobic Digesters
Many industries and wastewater treatment facilities are looking for a solution to both organic waste management and a source of on-site energy production. Anaerobic treatment of industrial or municipal wastewater can offset waste treatment costs by collecting and using biogas for energy applications. This grant will fund the installation of a commercially available anaerobic digester system in the $2 to $4 million range. The grant will reward up to 25 percent of the installed project cost, or a maximum of $500,000.

Biomass Combustion
Biomass Combustion can serve as on-site energy production for many industries and commercial facilities. The technology offsets energy costs by burning biomass for energy applications. Biomass combustion systems can help supply space heating, process heating, cooling and electricity. This grant will fund the installation of a commercially available biomass combustion system in the $2 to $4 million range. The grant will reward up to 25 percent of the installed project cost, or a maximum of $500,000.

Solar Water Heating
The sun’s energy can be used to heat water for commercial and industrial applications. Businesses interested in implementing solar water heating can use this grant for the installation of one large, commercially-available solar water heating system or a group of systems owned by the same entity and installed simultaneously. This grant will fund the installation of a solar hot water system that offsets more than 10,000 therms per year. The grant will reward up to 25 percent of the installed project cost for tax-paying entities and up to 35 percent for nonprofits, or a maximum of $100,000.

Solar Electric
Solar energy can be converted directly to electricity with photovoltaic (PV) cells. As light strikes the PV cell, it creates an electrical potential that generates a current of electricity. To implement solar electricity, businesses can use this grant for the installation of a large solar electric system or groups of systems that are innovative and very visible. This grant will fund the installation of a PV system that produces more than 50 kilowatts (kW) per year. The grant will reward up to 25 percent of the installed project cost for tax-paying entities and up to 35 percent for nonprofits, or a maximum of $100,000.

Wind Energy
The energy present in wind can be converted into electricity with a wind turbine. Wind passing over the turbine creates a rotary motion that turns an electric generator and creates electricity. This grant will provide financial support for the installation of one commercially available wind energy system that demonstrates a new type of turbine, has a special type of application and/or provides very high visibility and educational value. To be eligible the project must produce 20 kW to 100 kW per year. This grant will reward up to 35 percent of the installed project cost, or a maximum of $100,000.

“These grants offer a one time opportunity for businesses and non-profits to apply for projects that are twice as large as those normally accepted by Focus on Energy. We believe there is an emerging demand for renewable energy systems at this larger level, offering businesses a way to mitigate the effects of fossil-fuel-based energy use, reduce pollution and lessen America’s dependence on energy from overseas,” said Don Wichert, program director for Focus on Energy’s Renewable Energy Program.

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Five energy proposals for Wisconsin

Posted on August 20, 2008. Filed under: Energy Efficiency, Green Building, Solar |

From a commentary by Don Wichert, director of renewable energy programs for Focus on Energy, in the Wisconsin State Journal:

High energy prices and potential supply disruptions can prompt creative thinking and new approaches in thousands of situations. Here are five energy proposals that could be started immediately.

The most imminent is to provide innovative and analytical support to rebuild flooded homes and communities with sustainable energy designs.

Wisconsin folks have done this before in Soldiers Grove in 1978. This community effort can be replicated and improved upon using 30 years of sustainable development practices.

The second proposal is to retool the General Motors plant in Janesville to make the new GM Plug-In Hybrid Electric “Volt” or some similar next generation vehicle.

The changing of the car guard from big to efficient is a perfect transitional energy fit and an entire trained workforce and significant manufacturing infrastructure awaits in Janesville.

The Volt is due to be produced in 2010 for the 2011 model year, about the same time Janesville’s SUV line will close.

Proposal three is to get the Wisconsin printing industry, led by companies like Quad Graphics, Serigraph and others, to start printing solar electric “paint” on building materials, like roofing, siding and windows.

A company called NanoSolar in the Silicon Valley has shown that this process can be done at drastically reduced cost. And that’s when the printing techniques were developed from scratch.

This is a fantastic opportunity for our mature printing industry to follow suit.

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234-megawatt wind farm proposed in Columbia County

Posted on August 19, 2008. Filed under: Wind |

From an article by Kevin Murphy in The Capital Times:

Milwaukee-based WE Energies wants to build a 90-turbine, 234-megawatt wind farm located between the Columbia County villages of Cambria and Friesland.

In an application filed Monday with the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, WE Energies proposes to locate the turbines with a hub height of up to 262 feet generally north and west of Friesland and northeast of Cambria in the towns of Randolph and Scott.

The project would gather power from up to 90 turbines, each with a half-acre footprint, by using up to 50 miles of 50-foot-wide corridors for collector cables. Twenty miles of permanent roads would be used to access the turbine sites, according to the application.

WE Energies acquired an option on the site from Florida Power and Light when it sold its interest in the Point Beach nuclear plant, said Brian Manthey, a WE Energies spokesman.

“The area was already sited for its potential for wind power, once we decided to (exercise the option) we saw that it was a good possibility for us, a good area for wind power production,” Manthey said.

Construction costs haven’t been finalized for the wind farm, now called the Randolph Wind Project, because the number and type of wind turbines haven’t been determined. WE Energies plans to submit those costs to the Public Service Commission within a few months, Manthey said.

He compared the new proposal to the company’s $300 million, 88-turbine wind farm spread across 10,600 acres in Fond du Lac County. The Blue Sky Green Field wind project, which became operational in May, has a 145-megawatt capacity, enough to power 36,000 homes, according to WE Energies.

It used turbines that are 397 feet tall from foundation to the blade tip.

Ryan Schryver, Clean Wisconsin’s wind power advocate, called the proposal a great example of the “choice that we have to make regarding our energy production.”

The Blue Sky Green Field project will be open for public tours on September 13.

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