Archive for November, 2008

UW System upgrades seek energy savings

Posted on November 29, 2008. Filed under: Energy Efficiency |

From an article by Jason Stein in the Wisconsin State Journal:

When night falls on the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Chamberlin Hall, administrators can’t save energy by turning off the air units that heat, cool and ventilate the building — they’re afraid the aging units might not reliably switch back on in the morning.

But a project now in planning will replace those units with more efficient models that will help cut energy use in the physics department hall by an estimated 67 percent — saving a projected $900,000 a year in a single building.

In the face of tight budgets and rising energy costs, the state is spending borrowed money now to seek long-term savings on gas and electricity used by its vast system of buildings around Wisconsin.

For three years, the state has been working toward a target set by Gov. Jim Doyle to use 10 percent less energy per square foot in major state buildings. That effort has saved roughly $23 million over two years, state officials said.

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Fiberglass fabricator merges with wind energy company

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

From an article by Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

A Wisconsin Rapids company is looking to tap surging investment in renewable energy, wastewater management and biofuels after it changed its name and went public through a merger last month.

Energy Composites Corp., formerly known as Advanced Fiberglass Technologies, is a manufacturer of structures, vessels and systems for a range of applications including wind power, biofuels and wastewater and drinking water storage.

The company says its technology is well suited to large wind turbines that may be erected in oceans or the Great Lakes.

The company, which this fall received a $1 million state loan through the Wisconsin Energy Independence Fund, told the state it anticipates creating nearly 130 jobs in the coming years.

Energy Composites has 86 employees.

As part of the merger, the company named Sam Fairchild as its chief executive officer. Fairchild is the former top executive at wind tower manufacturer Tower Tech in Manitowoc. Tower Tech is a unit of Broadwind Energy Corp. of Naperville, Ill.

TowerTech went public several years ago using a similar merger process.

Energy Composites said Tuesday it has shipped a municipal sewer lift station for the City of Baton Rouge, La. The price of the contract was not disclosed.

The shipment marks the launch of the company’s water management division, and is the first in a series of retrofitted lift stations for municipal sewer systems in Louisiana communities, said Jamie Mancl, Energy Composites president.

In the renewable-energy area, the company also has been named the distributor in North and South America for a line of epoxy resin systems used in wind power systems.

“From alternative energy to environmental compliance to water management, this product line fits ECC’s business plan to deploy highly functional, cost-effective composites as an enabler of clean tech,” Fairchild said in a statement.

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Wind power is pushing Duluth port to a new age

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

For those who harbor doubts about windpower’s capacity to stimulate a depressed economy, read the excerpt below from a story by Larry Oakes in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune.

Part of Duluth’s success is having land-based logistical support and cooperative state agencies, especially DOT. Can Minnesota’s success be replicated here …?

DULUTH — In 2005, a ship called the Bavaria arrived in Duluth-Superior from Europe with a visually stunning cargo the gritty taconite and coal port had never seen: gargantuan yet somehow slender blades, hubs and shafts meant for towering wind turbines.

Since then, America’s increasing embrace of wind power has brought the port a windfall, with shipments surging to make the head of the Great Lakes a major funnel for turbines destined for the Upper Midwest and parts of Canada. Jason Paulson, operations manager for Lake Superior Warehousing Co., which transfers turbines from ships to specially designed semitrailer truck caravans, said the port is on track to handle a record 2,000 windmill components this year for several manufacturers, most bound for wind farms in Montana, Oklahoma, Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota. Shipments of wind turbines through the port shot from 34,080 freight tons in 2005 to 307,000 freight tons last year.

The Duluth Seaway Port Authority reported this year that transportation of wind turbines was the single largest factor in making fiscal year 2007 its most profitable.

“The growth is explosive,” Paulson said. “There were times this season when we were moving 12 windmills a day. It’s become the major portion of our heavy-lift business.”

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Local laws leave wind farms out to pasture

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

From an article by Sean Ryan and Paul Snyder in The Daily Reporter:

Lawmakers will rally again for statewide regulations on wind farm development in the upcoming legislative session, and, if the standards pass, local regulation could be a thing of the past.

“We will push for the (Public Service Commission of Wisconsin) to create uniform standards and regulation of wind energy for all projects,” said Curt Pawlisch, an attorney with Cullen Weston Pines & Bach LLP, Madison. Pawlisch is revising wind farm standards that failed to get out of legislative committees last session.

“I wouldn’t say local regulations would be for naught,” he said, “but the PSC would determine what works and what doesn’t.”

And that could mean the state getting final say on any wind project.

For some, it’s encouraging news. Mike Donahue, executive vice president of Midwest Wind Energy in Chicago said statewide rules would help Wisconsin attract more wind farm projects because clarity and consistency in law is the key.

“In Wisconsin, (laws) vary so wildly,” Donahue said. “Oftentimes, they will change on you in the middle of the development process.”

And with the state scrambling to reach its goal of obtaining 25 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2025, state officials are increasingly wary of local obstacles.

Wisconsin’s biggest competitors for wind farm projects are Iowa and Minnesota, both of which have statewide rules and permitting systems, Donahue said. Localized control of wind farm legislation in Wisconsin puts the state at a competitive disadvantage, he said.

“That’s sort of the great irony of Wisconsin,” he said. “You have an excellent state policy framework that supports wind energy development, but you don’t necessarily have that kind of support at the local government (level).”

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Wisconsin utilities would consider buying electric cars

Posted on November 21, 2008. Filed under: Vehicles - Electric, Vehicles - Hybrid |

From an article by Rebecca Smith in the Wall Street Journal:

The auto industry’s quest to launch a new generation of electric cars may get a big boost from a sector with much to gain from getting advanced vehicles on the road: U.S. electric utilities.

Top executives at several utilities are mulling the possibility of ordering thousands of the vehicles — known as plug-in electric cars — as an expression of support for the technology they fear could be derailed by the auto industry’s financial traumas. The cars would run primarily on electricity, with gasoline to extend their range, and would recharge by plugging into standard electrical outlets.

Utilities stand to gain by selling the electricity needed to power the cars. Because power companies own tens of thousands of cars for their own company fleets, the idea under discussion involves putting in a substantial order to put weight behind development and, perhaps, persuade Congress to give the auto industry the assistance it needs.

“Our industry is interested in reducing carbon-dioxide emissions, and it seems like a good idea for auto makers and us to pull together,” says Bill Johnson, chief executive of Progress Energy Inc., Raleigh, N.C.

Another reason the sector is keenly interested is that it has excess generating capacity at night when power plants mostly go to sleep because demand drops. A study by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, a federal energy lab, found that 73% of the nation’s light vehicles could be recharged with the existing utility infrastructure if the vehicles were plugged in overnight. Such a shift from gasoline to electricity as a primary transportation fuel could displace an estimated 6.2 million barrels of oil a day, about 52% of current oil imports.

Another report, by the Electric Power Research Institute, a utility-funded research group, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, concluded that if 60% of U.S. light vehicles were electrified by 2050, it would increase national electricity consumption by less than 8%. But it would cut total U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions by 450 million metric tons annually, equivalent to taking 82 million cars off the road. . . .

Utilities would take possession of vehicles when they debut, likely in 2010 or 2011 if development efforts stay on track for cars such as the Chevy Volt, Saturn Vue or Ford Escape.

“If we get enough of us together, we could put in a very large order and maybe a big down payment,” says Dick Kelly, chief executive of Xcel Energy in Minneapolis.

“I would do it,” says Gale Klappa, CEO of Wisconsin Energy, adding that his utility has about 3,000 vehicles in its fleet and replaces 20% each year.

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Reducing dependency beyond driving less

Posted on November 20, 2008. Filed under: Peak Oil & the End of Cheap Fossil Fuel |

From blog reader Jayme H. Simões:

Many Americans are wondering what they can do to help the United States to reduce its dependency on foreign oil. The obvious first step is to drive less and turn the thermostat down. But, there are other simple ways that every American can make painless choices that reduce our nation’s dependency on Middle Eastern petroleum.

According to the Chlorophiles Group, plastic manufacturing accounts for more than 4% of world crude oil use. That does not include the energy involved in transporting making plastic from crude-based raw materials.

Here are four simple choices we can make everyday to reduce our dependency on foreign oil and build a stronger America:

1. Pick Paper, not Plastic. We have a choice at the grocery store: a paper bag made from pulp produced in North American, or a plastic bag, possibly based on foreign petroleum. Not only is the paper bag better for the environment, but it helps keep jobs and resources in or country. So, the next time you go shopping, ask for paper.

2. Bottle it! Buy your juices, soft drinks, and beer in cans, glass bottles, or paper cartons, but not plastic. Everybody knows that beer, juice and even milk tastes better in glass. Why support foreign oil producers by buying beverages in a plastic container? Aluminum cans, paper cartons, and glass bottles are made with resources found right here at home. They’re easy to recycle, and help support American industry and jobs. Just say no to plastic bottles.

3. Put a Cork in it! Many Americans are wondering about the plastic corks that they are pulling out of some wines. Their effect on wine over the long term is unknown. And, with no program to recycle them, environmentalists can only imagine the effect of millions of plastic corks in America’s landfills each year. Natural oak corks, meanwhile, breakdown quickly and harmlessly. So, look for a natural cork, and reject any wine or champagne sealed with plastic.

4. Get Together. Next time, you are headed out shopping, going on errand, or heading into town, call a friend, neighbor or co-worker and offer them a ride. The more we share rides, the fewer cars on the road, and the less oil burned. And by spending more time with people and not alone in cars, the stronger our communities will become. At a time of national crisis we need to refocus ourselves on our communities, for there is power in unity.

There are many other things we can all do, but by simply making a choice to use less of petroleum–based products and burning less fuels we can do our part to help our nation find success on the road ahead.

Thanks for the thoughts, Jayme!

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Solar to replace rejected Cassville generation plant?

Posted on November 20, 2008. Filed under: Biomass, Energy Efficiency, Generation Plants, Solar, Wind |

From an article by Judy Newman in the Wisconsin State Journal:

How about positioning a network of solar panels throughout southern Wisconsin to soak up the sun’s rays and convert them into electricity?

Or maybe a small power plant could be built, running solely on agricultural products left as waste?

Those are a couple of options the Sierra Club would like Wisconsin Power & Light to consider, now that the Madison utility company’s plan to build a 300-megawatt, mostly coal-fired power plant at Cassville was rejected by the state Public Service Commission last week.

Talks have started on alternatives, but it’s too soon to tell how long it will take WPL to come up with a new proposal, said company spokesman Rob Crain. “We’ve begun discussions with commission staff to take a look at the available tools and what our options might be, but we’re certainly not in any position yet to come up with a clearly defined plan,” Crain said.

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No money, no coal plants, and fewer wind projects create concerns about grid reliability

Posted on November 19, 2008. Filed under: General |

From an Associated Press article by in the International Herald Tribune:

GREAT FALLS, Montana: As workers scramble to build an $800 million coal-fired power plant on a patch of farmland here, a crisis that began on faraway Wall Street threatens to stretch America’s power supplies to the brink — driving up prices and laying the stage for future shortages.

The power industry is under extraordinary financial pressure just five years after North America suffered its worst blackout ever, when rolling outages turned out the lights on 50 million people. Even before the extent of the global credit crisis was fully known, the nation’s largest power providers warned of even bigger blackouts to come with the power grid under ever growing strain.

The industry has faced criticism for blackouts, but it also faces opposition to new new plants and stringing new power lines.

With the economy teetering toward recession, it may face its toughest obstacle yet.

If credit woes put the brakes on scores of proposed plants, observers say a shift to other, more expensive fuels could end up soaking customers. The alternative is more frequent and potentially extended outages.

Couple the article above with The Impact Of The Slowdown In Construction Of Wind Generation, an article by Jude Clemente posted on the

The last few months have seen a significant stalling in plans and proposals to build new wind-based power generation. These delays and cancellations have significant implications for two important components of American energy: (1) the Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPSs) that have been passed in many states and (2) the reliability of the North American electric grid.

In the first case, the ability of respective states to meet their RPS is increasingly in doubt. In the second case, the emerging shortfall in projected wind generation has very real implications for power reliability given the fact that so many coal plants have been canceled and natural gas prices remain highly volatile.

The 2008 report of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) takes a relatively optimistic view of the amount of wind generation going forward. Increasing delays and cancellations in wind projects, however, necessitates a second look as to the contribution wind can really be expected to make over the next decade. Natural gas and coal will have to carry the burden of incremental electricity demand. NERC’s 2007 report warned about an over dependence on natural gas generation and the danger of relying on liquefied natural gas imports.

Now, in a special report released in early November, NERC has warned that “increased dependence on natural gas as a fuel for electric generation may impact reliability.” New coal plants have been cancelled or deferred across the nation. As will be discussed here, new wind-based power generation is experiencing delays and cancellations. As NERC’s analyses demonstrate, all of these factors are converging to raise serious questions relating to the reliability of America’s electric power system over the next decade.

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Wind farmer seeks deal with Union land owners

Posted on November 18, 2008. Filed under: Wind | Tags: , |

From an article by Paul Snyder in The Daily Reporter:

A company that wants to construct a three-turbine, 4.5-megawatt wind farm in Union won’t give up even though a town ordinance essentially leaves no room to build.

“I wouldn’t say it’s the end yet,” said Curt Bjurlin, wind project developer for Elgin, Ill.-based EcoEnergy Engineering LLC. “I still need to take a close look at the ordinance, and we’ll probably just have to leave it at that until I can do a more thorough review.”

The Union Town Board last week approved an ordinance requiring half-mile setbacks from property lines for wind-farm projects unless developers earn consent from property owners.

EcoEnergy wants to build three turbines in Union and sell the power to Wisconsin Public Power Inc. The company did not release estimates for construction costs.

Nina Plaushin, WPPI’s vice president of external affairs, did not admit defeat, but said the ordinance casts a pall over the plan.

“It will delay the project if it does happen,” she said. “And it could delay it significantly.”

Plaushin said there’s still a chance EcoEnergy could strike a deal with a private owner. She said some farmers in the area expressed interest in generating extra income by selling land for a turbine. Plaushin did not give the names of those who are interested.

Tom Alisankus, a municipal judge and Union resident, said the town’s ordinance is legally sound, adding it will be a long time before any turbines are built within Union’s borders.

“It’s a matter of perspective,” he said. “But I don’t know that it would be a financially viable project.”

Nor does it seem to be a necessary project. Plaushin said WPPI’s renewable standard requirements are secure without the wind farm, and the utility can stand to lose the 4.5 megawatts the project would generate.

“It’s not a small amount of power for the size of smaller communities,” she said. “But we serve 45 communities throughout the state, and we’re on track to do so even without this project.”

Still, Plaushin said producing more renewable energy in Wisconsin should be a shared goal by all local governments. She said WPPI would support action in the state Legislature to create wind development standards for projects that generate less than 100 megawatts of energy.

In May, RENEW wrote to the town board in support for the project:

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.

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RENEW, Clean Wisconsin endorse Manitowoc wind project

Posted on November 17, 2008. Filed under: Wind |

A media release from RENEW and Clean Wisconsin:

Representatives of Wisconsin’s leading sustainable energy organizations—Clean Wisconsin and RENEW Wisconsin–endorsed today a proposed seven-turbine windpower project currently under review by the Manitowoc County Board of Adjustment.

The project, proposed by Wisconsin-based Emerging Energies LLP, would be situated within the Town of Mishicot. The County’s Board of Adjustment is scheduled to deliberate further on Emerging Energies’ application at its next regularly scheduled meeting on November 17.

“We are impressed with many of the steps Emerging Energies is taking to spread the benefits of wind energy development to the host community, and especially to neighboring residents,” said RENEW Wisconsin Executive Director Michael Vickerman.

“Their Mishicot Wind Project has been a model of transparency and careful planning, right from the start.”

“The benefits from this project to Manitowoc County’s environment and economy are too great to ignore,” said Clean Wisconsin Energy Policy Director Katie Nekola. “The Mishicot Wind project deserves to be approved and built.”

Vickerman pointed to Emerging Energies’ commitment to incorporating industry “best practices” as another compelling reason why Manitowoc County should approve the project. Once the installation is energized, Emerging Energies plans to compensate neighboring residences within one-half mile of a wind turbine over the life of the project.

“RENEW commends Emerging Energies for volunteering to lead by example and abide by a set of development practices that we hope other developers will follow,” Vickerman said.

Blessed with some of the state’s strongest winds, Manitowoc County adopted a wind ordinance in 2004. Emerging Energies first proposed the Mishicot project in 2005. Progress since that time has been slowed by a countywide moratorium on wind development and the subsequent adoption of one of the most restrictive wind ordinances in Wisconsin.

“Emerging Energies has put together a stellar proposal that satisfies every reasonable public interest standard that can be applied to a wind project,” Nekola said. “The County has deliberated long enough on this matter. It deserves to be approved”

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