Archive for January, 2009

Recession threatens wind power, industry group says

Posted on January 30, 2009. Filed under: Wind |

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

Even as it reported a record-breaking year, the American Wind Energy Association warned that the recession is slowing wind-power development and urged Congress to support renewable energy in its economic stimulus legislation.

The wind power industry invested $17 billion and added 8,358 megawatts of new generating capacity last year – enough to power more than 2 million homes – but the Washington-based trade group said that financing for new projects and orders for turbine components slowed by the end of the year.

“Our numbers are both exciting and sobering,” said Denise Bode, the association’s chief executive. “It is clear that the economic and financial downturn have begun to take a serious toll on new wind development. We are already seeing layoffs in the area where wind’s promise is greatest for our economy: the wind power manufacturing sector.”

Bode called for action in Congress on an economic stimulus package that includes initiatives designed to expand renewable energy generation.

Capacity is increasing
Wisconsin saw a sevenfold increase in wind power capacity last year, as new wind power projects opened in Fond du Lac and Dodge counties. Those projects included the Blue Sky Green Field wind power project opened by We Energies, the Forward Wind Energy Center built by Invenergy of Chicago and Cedar Ridge, developed by Wisconsin Power & Light Co.

The state ranks 15th in the nation in wind power capacity, according to figures from AWEA. Iowa ranks second to Texas, after passing California in 2008. Several Wisconsin utilities have signed up to bring in wind power from Iowa, where the winds are stronger and turbines operate more efficiently than turbines erected in Wisconsin.

The association said wind power is creating jobs across the country, as wind turbine and turbine component manufacturers announced, added or expanded 55 new facilities in 2008, creating 13,000 jobs, the association said.

Also reporting this week it had a record year: Madison-based WindConnect, a unit of RMT Inc., which provides engineering, siting and construction services for new wind power developments.

We Energies has announced plans to open another wind power project, the Glacier Hills Wind Park in Columbia County, at a cost of up to $530 million.

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RENEW board president responds to anti-wind comments of Rep. Ziegelbauer

Posted on January 29, 2009. Filed under: General |

From a letter to State Representative Bob Ziegelbauer, who is also Manitowoc county executive, from Jennifer Heinzen, who is chair of the board of directors of RENEW:

Dear Representative Ziegelbauer,

This letter is in response to your comments made in The Daily Reporter dated January 24 concerning the Manitowoc County Board of Adjustment’s recent rejection of a seven-turbine wind farm. I am for many reasons baffled and disheartened by your statements, and ask for a few moments of your time to consider my words.

I am the lead instructor at Lakeshore Technical College (LTC) for the Wind Energy Technology program, a 2-year associate degree for aspiring wind turbine technicians. It is the only such program in the state, and we have worked very hard to make LTC nationally-recognized for its efforts in promoting conservation and renewable energy. Our 65 kW wind turbine started producing electricity for the campus in August of 2004, and nearly 30 students have climbed the tower since then. Two more wind turbines will be erected at LTC by 2010. Construction for the first will begin in just a few months.

As a state-certified master electrician and technical college instructor, I have a strong interest in keeping jobs at home. Promoting renewable energy in Wisconsin encourages conservation, efficiency and environmental stewardship. It also opens an exciting new market for a plethora of “green” jobs in the commercial, industrial, agricultural, and residential sectors. I work with the Department of Commerce, International Association of Electrical Inspectors, Wisconsin Distributed Resources Collaborative, and the Rural Energy Management Council to provide training for electricians in renewable energy. These classes and seminars fill up quickly and are in high demand statewide.

Manitowoc supports wind power in many respects. Companies like Tower Tech and Manitowoc Crane are prospering because of their connections to the wind industry. Orion Energy Systems recently obtained a permit from the City of Manitowoc to erect a large wind turbine at their new facility, and Manitowoc Public Utilities will likely be adding wind power to their energy portfolio. It’s ironic that this county, while supporting wind energy in so many ways, has also become notorious for writing ordinances that may as well say “no wind turbines allowed.”

I was a member of the Manitowoc County Wind Energy Systems Advisory Committee from 2005-2006. I had been asked by the County Board Chair to join this committee because of my experience with wind systems and my position at LTC. I accepted, believing naively that simple education was the remedy to the controversy. I thought the committee would only need certain fears eased, myths dispelled, and questions answered.

Unfortunately my attempts to help the committee write a reasonable ordinance were thwarted by the relentless storytelling and fear-mongering tactics used by the WINDCOWS, the Manitowoc-based wind energy opposition group. I underestimated their passion and dedication to the cause of essentially outlawing wind energy. As a result, the group created unrealistic and highly restrictive ordinances for wind farms, as well as small, privately-owned systems.

My defeat was both frustrating and inspiring. I dove into energy policy and legislation, and I am now president of the board of directors for RENEW Wisconsin. As you know, RENEW is a Madison-based, nonprofit organization that promotes clean energy. We have been working diligently on a statewide siting campaign that will hopefully end these expensive and extravagant local battles. (This 7-turbine project has been debated for nearly five years!) We have strong support from a wide variety of stakeholders and are confident that the legislation for uniform siting will pass this year.

Please believe our intent is in no way to belittle local communities or imply that anyone is “dumb,” as you stated in the article. But when irrational and unfounded fears are propagated and allowed to infest the minds of our local decision-makers, the madness must be stopped. I honestly don’t understand why the WINDCOWS and their allies hate wind power… Money? Aesthetics? I quit trying to rationalize it long ago because it really doesn’t matter. . . .

I hope you will reconsider your views on wind power here in our own back yard. The fuel is clean, renewable, abundant, and free. The concept is simple and the technology is readily available. Wind turbines are beautiful! They represent ingenuity, wisdom, forward-thinking, sustainability, and energy independence.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my views. I would be happy to speak with you more on this subject if and when you are interested.

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Business opportunities in supplying the wind industry, March 31, Appleton

Posted on January 28, 2009. Filed under: General |

Businesses with possible products or services for the wind industry could find new opportunities by attending the Wisconsin Wind Energy Supply Chain Seminar, March 31, 2009, Appleton, WI, produced by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA):

The wind energy industry is experiencing unprecedented growth, which is bringing major supply chain challenges to the industry while it aggressively “ramps up” domestic manufacturing of wind turbines and their components. As a result, there is significant opportunity for state and local governments, manufacturers and component suppliers across all industries to help feed the supply chain and grow their business.

This state-level seminar will focus on supply chain challenges and opportunities in the state of Wisconsin for companies looking to get involved in the supply of components and services to the wind energy industry. This state-level event is designed to focus on specific aspects for Wisconsin-based companies and to enable their entrance into the wind industry.

AWEA is presenting this workshop with the support of The New North, RENEW Wisconsin, We Energies, State of Wisconsin-Office of Energy Independence, Wisconsin Department of Commerce.

More details here.

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We Energies drops request for wind power spending

Posted on January 27, 2009. Filed under: Wind |

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

Citing a weakened economy and the prospect of new regulations for renewable energy, We Energies of Milwaukee has withdrawn its request to spend up to $69 million to coordinate construction of wind power projects to meet a state mandate.

The request was made to the state Public Service Commission in November.

“In the months since the filing, economic conditions in the United States and Wisconsin have changed dramatically, and the potential for additional state legislation and for federal renewable legislation is coming into focus,” the utility says in a letter to the PSC.

The company said it remains committed to renewable energy but must “re-evaluate its approach” to adding renewable generation. The company plans to make a new proposal to the PSC “once the timing and direction of state and federal legislation becomes clearer.”

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Wind farm debate cranks up in state Legislature

Posted on January 26, 2009. Filed under: Wind |

From a story by Paul Snyder in The Daily Reporter:

A Madison environmental group wants the state, rather than local governments, to oversee wind farm placement after a five-year push for seven turbines in Manitowoc County failed.

“There should be legislation in the next few weeks,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of the nonprofit RENEW Wisconsin. “Our concern is that local control is being abused, and smaller, independent wind farm developers aiming at community-scaled projects will just be deterred from coming here.”

The Manitowoc Board of Adjustment last week rejected the latest request by Hubertus-based Emerging Energies LLP to build the seven-turbine farm, which would send 15 to 20 megawatts of electricity to the town of Mishicot. Orville Bonde, the board’s chairman, declined to comment on the rejection because, he said, Emerging Energies is planning to sue the county.

Representatives from the company could not be reached for comment before deadline Friday.

Manitowoc County Executive Bob Ziegelbauer called the rejection the latest of many disputes over the project between the county and the company.

“They argue that our ordinance is too restrictive,” he said. “We think it’s reasonable and was created in good faith. This isn’t the final say in the matter by any means.”

Manitowoc County’s ordinance, adopted in 2004, calls for a minimum distance of 1,000 feet from a turbine to a property line. It also contains a noise restriction that turbines cannot create sound five decibels more than ambient noise.

“What does that mean?” Vickerman said. “If you fire up a leaf blower, that shoots up the ambient noise level 25 decibels. Do you measure it over crickets? What about a dog barking?”

Vickerman said the rule is an example of the way wind farm ordinances have been abused since the state ruled in 1994 that local governments can approve or deny the projects if they generate less than 100 megawatts.

A bill to create statewide regulation of all wind farm projects, regardless of energy output, failed to make it out of committee in the last session and could be hotly contested if it re-emerges this year.

Vickerman said state Sen. Jeff Plale, D-South Milwaukee, who led the Senate charge for the bill last year, likely will lead it again this year.

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Manitowoc County Says “No Can Do” to Windpower Project

Posted on January 23, 2009. Filed under: General |

From a news release issued by RENEW Wisconsin:

The Manitowoc County Board of Adjustment rejected earlier this week a developer’s request for approval to build a seven-turbine wind project west of Two Rivers. The decision marks the latest setback in the project developer’s four-year-long quest to erect a community-scale wind project in the Town of Mishicot.

By contrast, the project developer, Emerging Energies LLP, recently secured a permit to erect eight turbines in the Town of Glenmore in Brown County, about 15 miles from Mishicot.

Under development since 2004, the Mishicot Wind Farm is strongly supported by Wisconsin-based environmental and clean energy groups, including RENEW Wisconsin.

“The Board’s rejection of the Mishicot Wind Farm is certain to send a chill through every Wisconsin developer seeking to construct a community-scale wind project here,” said RENEW Wisconsin Executive Director Michael Vickerman,

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.

Among these features is a minimum setback requirement of 1,000 feet from a turbine to a property line. In contrast, Emerging Energies’ permit in the Town of Glenmore specifies a setback of 1.1 times the total turbine height from property lines and public rights-of-way. The total height of a commercial wind turbine–tower plus vertically extended blade–ranges between 350 and 450 feet.

“Suffice it to say that if every jurisdiction adopted Manitowoc County’s setback standards, there would not be a single commercial wind project operating in Wisconsin right now,” Vickerman said.

As part of its application, Emerging Energies offered to provide an annual payment of $77,000 to be allocated equally among the county, the town, and neighboring residences living up to ½ mile away from a turbine. Over a 30-year operating life, the developer’s offer would pump $2.31 million directly into the local economy.

Coverage in The Reporter (Fond du Lac).

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WPL (Alliant) may raise rates

Posted on January 22, 2009. Filed under: Generation Plants |

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

If you’re a Wisconsin Power & Light customer, you may soon pay more for electricity.

WPL is expected to file an emergency request with state regulators for permission to raise rates. Just last month, the Madison utility company agreed to hold electric rates steady for 2009 and reduce natural-gas rates by $4 million.

The reason: the recession.

WPL is losing millions of dollars in revenues that had been pouring in when business was booming and factories were busy. Now, the General Motors plant in Janesville is down to a few dozen workers and the Domtar paper mill at Port Edwards is closed. Both were among WPL’s top 10 power users.

Throughout southern Wisconsin, untold numbers of businesses are paring production and staff. That means less electricity is being used and WPL is collecting less money.

“We are sharing the pain being felt across our service territory,” Bill Harvey, chairman and chief executive of WPL’s parent company, Alliant Energy, told a conference call with analysts in December.

WPL won’t say how much electricity GM and Domtar had been using but said that together, the price they paid for power amounted to 1 percent of the utility’s revenues.

Harvey projected WPL’s sales this year will be 6.4 percent, or $30 million, lower than those anticipated in the recent rate settlement, which was based on 2007 figures. “Because of this significant downward shift in forecasts, we will likely file an emergency rate case,” he told analysts. . . .

Madison Gas & Electric and Milwaukee-based We Energies said they have no plans to seek a rate boost based on recession-impaired revenues. But both of those utilities have discussed the possibility of seeking increases to help meet pension costs.

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PSC will also study advanced renewable tariffs

Posted on January 20, 2009. Filed under: General |

From another notice from the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin announcing an investigation of standard buy back rates for electricity for generated by renewables, as proposed by RENEW in the recent rate case of Alliant Energy and WPS, as well as the Home Grown Energy Campaign:

This is an investigation to examine whether and how to expand the availability and use of advanced renewable tariffs (ART) in Wisconsin and promote greater uniformity in the ARTs offered by Wisconsin electric utilities.

The Governor’s Task Force on Global Warming issued a final report in July 2008 recommending that the state of Wisconsin develop and implement an advanced renewable tariff policy. More specifically, the Task Force recommended that the Commission convene a docket to determine the production costs of various distributed renewable resources such as solar, wind, small hydro, landfill gas, biogas, and other biomass sources.

The Commission has previously approved experimental renewable tariffs for some Wisconsin utilities on an individual case-by-case basis. In a recent rate case, the Commission decided to open this investigation into whether it should establish more uniform ARTs across all Wisconsin electric utilities.

The announcement lists a long list of issues for the investigation and asks for responses to the issues by noon on Tuesday, February 17, 2009.

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Business group supports wind siting reform

Posted on January 20, 2009. Filed under: Wind |

From a newsletter article by R. J. Pirlot, Director, Legislative Relations, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC):

By 2015, state law requires ten percent of the state’s electricity to come from renewable resources. WMC is already doing its part to meet that goal. Through Madison Gas and Electric, WMC voluntarily buys half of its electricity from wind generation power plants.

Unfortunately, some local communities are starting to virtually ban development of small wind farms, stymieing Wisconsin from meeting its renewable energy goals. WMC is already working with the Wisconsin Legislature on setting fair and uniform standards to encourage wind farm development, helping Wisconsin meet its renewable energy law.

The Wisconsin Public Service Commission has authority over all power plant proposals in excess of 100 megawatts, including wind energy power plants. Local units of government have permitting authority over all power plants under 100 megawatts, including wind energy power plants. Some local units of government have imposed expensive, time-consuming and scientifically-unjustified restrictions on the development of wind energy power plants.

For example, a new Trempealeau County ordinance forbids building a wind turbine within one mile of a habitable building, effectively banning building small wind farms in the county. Other communities have taken similar action and, as a result, investment in and installation of approximately 400 megawatts of wind energy power plants are stalled in Wisconsin.

Rather than allowing a patchwork of varying local regulations, the Wisconsin Legislature should take swift action to have fair and uniform standards for wind turbines set throughout Wisconsin. Wind speeds in Wisconsin are high enough to support development of additional wind turbine farms and wind is a cost effective way to meet the state’s ten percent renewable energy law. While solar, biomass, biogas and hydroelectricity, too, will help meet this ten percent renewable energy requirement, wind power is projected to account for 95 percent of Wisconsin’s renewable energy production.

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PSC opens investigation of potential solar development

Posted on January 20, 2009. Filed under: Solar |

From an announcement issued by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin:

This is an investigation to assess the potential for the development of utility investments in solar energy resources to cost-effectively contribute to Wisconsin’s electric supply. The Sierra Club submitted testimony discussing solar energy resources in Commission dockets 6680-UR-116 and 6690-UR-119, the Wisconsin Power and Light Company and Wisconsin Public Service Corporation rate cases recently before the Commission. At its open meeting on December 18,2008, under the authority of Wis. Stat. 5 196.02, the Commission directed Commission staff to prepare a notice to open a docket to investigate utility investments in solar energy resources.

The Commission intends to work with stakeholders to:
(1) identify and assess the current financial and business models available for utility investment in solar energy resources;
(2) identify and assess the costs of utility investments in solar energy resources;
(3) identify and assess the benefits of utility investments in solar energy resources, including benefits to:
(a) peak and intermediate load operations,
(b) the utility as a business,
(c) policy objectives, including meeting the state’s renewable portfolio standards and reducing greenhouse gases in preparation for proposed federal legislation, and
(d) utility risk management;
(4) identify and assess technical, market and policy issues that may affect the potential for utility investment in solar energy resources; and
(5) establish short-term and long-term recommendations regarding program design and implementation of utility investments in solar energy resources.

Other issues may also be identified and investigated.

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