Archive for September, 2008

Lawmakers at impasse on incentives for renewable energy

Posted on September 30, 2008. Filed under: Energy Policy, Solar, Wind |

From an article by Robert Pear in The New York Times:

WASHINGTON — The House and the Senate conceded Monday that they were in a stalemate over proposals to provide tax incentives for the production and use of renewable energy, leaving the future of the nascent industry in limbo.

Tax credits for investing in solar energy and producing wind energy will expire at the end of the year unless Congress resolves the impasse, and lawmakers said they saw no immediate prospect of an agreement.

The deadlock comes at a time when economists and politicians of all stripes are saying the United States must rapidly develop solar, wind and other energy sources as alternatives to oil.

“Congress is furthering our dependence on foreign sources of energy — dirty, polluting sources of energy,” said Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group. “It’s scaring away investment, just as our industry is beginning to get a toehold. Solar projects are already being delayed.”

Gregory S. Wetstone, director of government affairs at the American Wind Energy Association, another trade group, said the tax legislation had broad bipartisan support in the House and the Senate, but had been “caught in a crossfire on unrelated issues.”

The National Association of Home Builders, the Sierra Club and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association are among the many groups that have urged Congress to extend and expand the energy tax breaks, scheduled to expire at the end of this year.

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ATC sees need for $2.7 billion in transmissions upgrades

Posted on September 29, 2008. Filed under: Transmission |

From a media release issued by American Transmission Company, LLC:

WAUKESHA, Wis. – American Transmission Co. identifies in its 2008 10-Year Transmission System Assessment report ( ) an estimated $2.7 billion in work needed over the next 10 years to ensure that the transmission grid can reliably meet the electricity needs of people and businesses in communities throughout most of Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. This is in addition to the $1.9 billion that ATC has invested in the transmission system over the past seven years.

“We’ve made major progress in improving electric system reliability in our first seven years as owner and operator of the transmission grid,” said Flora Flygt, director of ATC Transmission Planning.

“Some pockets of vulnerability remain, notably Dane and Walworth counties and the Green Bay, Appleton and Rhinelander areas. In these locales, low voltages and overloaded facilities must be addressed to maintain future system reliability. New and upgraded infrastructure will be needed.”

She added, “We also have to address the infrastructure needs of adding more wind power onto the grid. Building new interstate high-voltage transmission lines with the strategic location and capacity to deliver large volumes of renewable power from remote areas where it’s located into population centers will be a central challenge for years to come.”
Of the $2.7 billion investment that ATC identified in its 2008 Assessment, approximately $1.3 billion would be for new equipment including:
• adding 210 miles of new transmission lines,
• upgrading more than 540 miles of existing lines and
• installing more than 23 new transformers and 39 capacitor banks.

The remaining $1.4 billion would be for improvements including:
• maintenance on aging equipment
• connections to power plants
• infrastructure replacements and relocations
• distribution interconnections and
• other smaller network reliability improvements

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Senate passes tax break package, extends renewable tax credit

Posted on September 24, 2008. Filed under: Energy Policy, General |

From an article by Jim Abrams in the Washington Post:

WASHINGTON — The Senate passed a giant tax package Tuesday that saves more than 20 million taxpayers from the bite of the alternative minimum tax.

At a cost of more than $100 billion, the bill also nudges the nation toward greater use of alternative energy resources, renews popular tax breaks for businesses and individuals, and extends relief to disaster victims. . . .

The first segment of the three-part tax bill was a $17 billion measure to spur investment and create jobs in the renewable energy industry. The energy legislation extends for eight years, through 2016, investment tax credits for the solar power industry and for homeowners who install solar and wind equipment.

Taxpayers can claim a credit of up to $7,500 for purchasing plug-in electric cars, and production credits are extended to wind, biomass and marine _ waves and tide _ facilities. There are incentives to use smart meters for more efficient home energy use.

A study commissioned by the Solar Energy Industries Association found that the eight-year extension would more than triple investment during that period, to $325 billion, and almost triple employment in the industry, to 440,000 in 2016.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., who helped put the energy package together, said the solar industry investment would provide power for more than 7 million people.

The measure drew opposition from the National Wildlife Federation, which objected to incentives for oil shale, tar sands and coal-to-liquid production it said was harmful to the environment. . . .

And from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA):

Thanks to you for making your voice heard on Capitol Hill. The U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly, 93 to 2, to approve legislation containing a one-year extension of the crucial wind energy Production Tax Credit (PTC) through December 31, 2009. The bill, H.R. 6049, also would create a new investment tax credit for purchases of small wind systems used to power homes, farms and small businesses.

Next, the bill must be approved by the full House of Representatives in a vote late this week. Once again, your voices are crucial in order to clear this final hurdle before Congress adjourns at the end of September. This vote is the last opportunity this year for Congress to extend the PTC.

Wind energy is not only a significant component of the global warming solution, but also a powerful engine in the U.S. economy. Since January 2007, more than 40 wind industry manufacturing facilities have been announced, brought online, or expanded in the U.S., creating over 9,000 jobs and $1 billion in manufacturing investment. When the PTC has lapsed in the past, wind energy investments have fallen 73-93% in the following years. We cannot allow this bright spot in our economy to burn out.

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City of Manitowoc approves wind turbines

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

From 3 Minutes with the Mayor, Kevin Crawford:

In a year when the national spotlight has shone on our small northeastern Wisconsin community for its burgeoning manufacturing sector, strong economy and high quality of life, Manitowoc has stepped forward with yet another first. Our city of 34,500 people – which some believe can become the national epicenter for alternative and renewable energy technology development and the cache of “green collar” jobs that go with this new economy – is the first in Wisconsin to pass municipal legislation that allows the building of large-scale wind power generation within the city limits.

On Monday, September 15, 2008, after review by staff, the City Council, a public hearing, and with the recommendation of the Plan Commission, an ordinance was signed into law that allows wind towers nearly as tall as a 40-story building to be built in areas zoned for light and heavy industry where “set back” requirements can be met.

As most know, our city owns the largest municipally owned electric generating facility in our state. MPU employs a mix of clean coal technologies, natural gas and diesel to generate power for our own community and others in this area of the state. We are also home to a major “cluster” of impressive green manufacturers: Tower Tech – a builder of giant wind towers; Orion Energy – in the business of energy efficiency and renewables; Manitowoc Cranes – building the worlds finest wind generation erection equipment; and the long list of other businesses that support them. Our location on the Niagara escarpment coupled with the incredible wind plume generated by Lake Michigan make us not only a great place to build the key components of the wind industry, but also a great place to generate electricity using the wind as well.

The first industry expected to employ the new law is Orion Energy, which plans to construct one 1.5 megawatt wind turbine in the near future. The company plans a collaboration with Tower Tech, General Electric (GE), Lakeshore Technical College, Manitowoc Cranes and others to make the project a reality.

The City’s ordinance runs counter to the Manitowoc county board’s efforts to stop wind installations, though county committees nowseem to be moving toward allowing small turbines in the county.

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Farmers ask “When?” for turbines on their land

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

From an article by Lyn Jerde in the Beaver Dam Daily Citizen:

FRIESLAND — Larry Schneider doesn’t live in either of the towns of Randolph or Scott, and he’s not going to have a WE Energies wind turbine on or adjacent to his property.

But if any electric company might, in the future, want to build an electricity-generating turbine on his land in the town of Courtland, he has just one question: How soon?

Wind turbines, Schneider said, could someday “be like a cash crop” for Columbia County farmers, who might be paid for easements to build one or more of the 300- to 400-foot turbines.

“You’re going to see them everywhere anyway, so you might as well make some money on it,” he said.

At a Wednesday open house for the proposed WE Energies Randolph Wind Farm, about 25 people were, at any given time, gathered in the Randolph Town Hall for an informal open house about the wind farm, proposed to include 90 turbines in the towns of Scott and Randolph.

According to WE Energies spokesman Brian Manthey, questions from attendees included subjects such as the height of the turbines and where they might be located.

And, he said, more than a few asked questions similar to Schneider’s.

“They want to know if they can have one on their property, too,” he said.

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Gov. Doyle announces regional initiative focused on wind energy support

Posted on September 18, 2008. Filed under: Transmission, Wind |

From a media release issued by Governor Jim Doyle:

MADISON – Today Governor Jim Doyle and four other Midwest Governors announced the creation of a regional transmission planning effort that will promote regional electric transmission investment and cost sharing. The Upper Midwest Transmission Development Initiative will identify wind generation resources, transmission projects and infrastructure needed to support those resources in a cost-effective manner. Over the next 12 months, participants will determine a reasonable allocation for the costs of the region and will lead to the development of a concrete plan or tariff proposal for the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator (MISO).

Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota will join Wisconsin to coordinate efforts among state regulatory agencies, transmission companies, utilities, independent generation owners and other key stakeholders in the initiative. These states will work closely with MISO which is presently conducting a variety of transmission planning studies with results expected in 2009.

“Coordinated transmission planning centered on renewable energy is critical to providing a diverse supply of affordable, clean energy to our region,” Governor Jim Doyle said. “The coordinated transmission planning we are announcing today matches the recommendations made in a report by Wisconsin’s Global Warming Task Force.”

Governors from the other four participating states also expressed optimism for this joint effort . . .

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House adopts plan to boost renewables, ease offshore drilling ban

Posted on September 17, 2008. Filed under: Energy Policy, General |

From an article by Carl Hulse in The New York Times:

WASHINGTON — The House on Tuesday night approved a measure that would ease a longstanding ban on offshore oil drilling and try to spur greater use of alternative fuels as Democrats and Republicans engaged in a bitter pre-election clash over America’s energy future.

Under the Democratic legislation, adopted by a vote of 236 to 189, oil companies would lose some tax benefits, utilities would be required to produce 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020 and a ban on developing fuel from Rocky Mountain shale would be lifted.

The legislation, which faces significant hurdles to becoming law before Congress breaks at the end of the month, would allow drilling as close as 50 miles from the coastline if adjacent states agree and 100 miles out no matter a state’s position. It would impose stricter oversight on the agency that handles oil leasing and royalty payments after recent disclosures of improper relationships between its employees and oil industry representatives. . . .

The outlook for the measure is uncertain with only two weeks before Congress is set to break until at least the November elections and perhaps until next year. The Senate is preparing to take up a similar bill, but even if it averts a filibuster, it seems unlikely that the bills could be reconciled before the break. And the White House on Tuesday threatened a veto of the House plan.

The Senate was to initially consider extending a series of $17 billion in tax breaks for renewable energy like wind and solar power and then try to sort through proposals that could include the House bill, a bipartisan Senate plan that would allow new drilling in the Gulf of Mexico off the Florida coast and a separate Republican plan.

Among other objections, House Republicans joined industry in criticizing the measure because it would eliminate about $18 billion in tax breaks for oil companies, including a manufacturing deduction of particular benefit to large firms. The savings from the oil companies would be diverted to pay for tax breaks and incentives for renewable fuels, vehicles that use alternative energy and other fuel efficiency programs and research. . . .

An article by Eoin O’Carroll in The Christian Science Monitor summarizes the bill.

These members of the House of Representatives issued media releases on the bill:

Rep. Ryan – “More hot air from Congress” says Ryan
Rep. Kind – Kind votes to advance comprehensive energy plan
Rep. Obey – Obey backs comprehensive energy bill

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Gov. Doyle announces $7.3 Million in clean energy grants

Posted on September 16, 2008. Filed under: General, Solar, Vehicles - Ethanol |

From a media release issued by Governor Jim Doyle:

Projects Expected to Leverage $44 Million in Additional Investment

MADISON – Governor Jim Doyle today announced $7.3 million in grants and loans from the Wisconsin Energy Independence Fund (WEIF) for research and development and commercialization or adoption of new technologies. These awards will leverage $44.2 million in investments and create new jobs for Wisconsin families on farms, in forests, in research labs and for manufacturers.

“From manufacturing wind turbines and solar panels to retro-fitting fuel pumps and exploring the latest clean technologies, our future lies in seizing green opportunities that will create good jobs for our citizens and add billions of dollars to our economy,” Governor Doyle said. “Today we are awarding more than $7 million in grants and loans to companies that are committed to expanding Wisconsin’s clean energy industry. “

Governor Doyle made the announcement at Greenstone Technologies in Madison. Eight Madison-area projects totaling $2,498,000 are receiving funding. Greenstone is using $250,000 to develop a working prototype of a solar window. Eligible applicants for the grants and loans include businesses and researchers. Projects require a 50-percent match. Governor Doyle will announce the remaining statewide grants in the coming days.

The Wisconsin Energy Independence Fund is an integral part of Clean Energy Wisconsin, Governor Doyle’s strategy to strengthen Wisconsin’s energy future. This comprehensive plan moves Wisconsin forward by promoting renewable energy, creating new jobs, increasing energy security and efficiency, and improving the environment.

The media release includes a list of all of the grant awards.

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Family enjoys wind turbines

Posted on September 15, 2008. Filed under: Wind |

From an article by Rick Vanderlinde in The Alliston Hearld(central Ontario, Canada):

SHELBURNE — As Andria Hutchinson watched the giant wind turbines being erected around her home two years ago, she grew uneasy.

The windmills, with their massive concrete columns and large fiberglass blades, were beginning to dominate the flat farmland of Melancthon Township, just west of Shelburne.

“We didn’t know what to think when they were going up,” she says, gazing at the blades of a turbine spinning in the brisk breeze last Thursday. “They sat there all winter and we thought, ‘Gee how loud are these things going to be?’”

Two summers later, Hutchinson and her young family have grown to enjoy the 45 windmills built by Canadian Hydro in this Dufferin County township.

“We don’t mind them at all. There’s no real noise from what we can tell,” she says. “You basically have to stop walking along the gravel to hear them because your footsteps are louder than they are.”

Hutchinson, who lives on a farmstead but doesn’t have any of the windmills on her land, even enjoys the striking display of the white windmills.

“I found they actually relax you. They have a calming effect as the blades spin around,” she says. “It’s kind of nice.”

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U.S. House to act on energy legislation next week

Posted on September 12, 2008. Filed under: Energy Policy, Solar, Wind |

According to press release issued by Rep. Ron Kind:

Among its provisions, the Comprehensive American Energy Security & Consumer Protection Act will:

– Invest in wind, solar, and natural gas through tax incentives and infrastructure development;
– Open up additional offshore areas for drilling;
– Release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve;
– Require that 15 percent of America’s energy comes from renewable sources by 2020;
– End subsidies to the five largest oil companies; and
– Require oil companies to develop leases they already own or lose the opportunity.

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