Archive for January, 2009

Roadbuilders disagree with repair priority

Posted on January 19, 2009. Filed under: General |

From an article by Paul Snyder in The Daily Reporter about the road builders’ response to the call from the Coalition for Wisconsin’s Green Economy, which includes RENEW, to repair existing roads:

Road builders dispute an environmental coalition’s claim that the best way to fix state highways is to repair what’s there and avoid expansion.

The Coalition for Wisconsin’s Green Economy on Tuesday issued a blueprint for the best way to spend federal stimulus money. In terms of transportation, the coalition argues the state should put maintenance and repair ahead of new construction.

“We’re having trouble keeping our existing infrastructure up to date,” said Steve Hiniker, executive director of 1000 Friends of Wisconsin and a member of the coalition. “The more we build, the more we have to maintain. Should we do that when we’ve already shown we can’t maintain what we have?”

Hiniker, echoing the coalition’s blueprint, said by fixing existing roads, the state will retain jobs and avoid inefficient development that promotes sprawl, increases fuel consumption and releases climate-change emissions.

Hiniker said he considers highway expansion work new construction.

And that’s where road builders take issue with the coalition’s “fix it first” plan.

There are several highway expansion projects on the state’s federal stimulus wish list, and that work on the interstate system times out well with the need for repairs, said Craig Thompson, executive director of the Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin.

“Why would we simply tear it up and fix what’s already there?” he said. “That would be short-sighted and foolish. We can look at increasing capacity at the same time we’re tearing it up.”

Terry McGowan, business manager for International Union of Operating Engineers Local 139, agreed.

“If you’re going to fix something, fix it right,” he said. “When I hear ‘repairs,’ I think of patching potholes, and, frankly, there are only so many patches you can put on an old tire.

“When (the American Society of Civil Engineers) rates our transportation infrastructure at a ‘D,’ what is there to repair? You have to overhaul the whole system.”

Robert Kraig, program director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin and a spokesman for the coalition, said most of the $630.7 million of work, which includes repairs and expansion, the state says it could turn around within 120 days for federal stimulus money is the kind of work the coalition wants.

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Wind in the lake needs transmission lines

Posted on January 17, 2009. Filed under: Wood |

From an article by Sean Ryan in The Daily Reporter:

There are not enough power lines to support wind farms in Lake Michigan.

That lack of transmission lines to carry power from offshore wind farms was one issue within the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin’s Wind on the Water report released Thursday. According to the report, if Wisconsin wants to generate more than 600 megawatts from a lake wind farm, the state will need a new power line parallel to Lake Michigan’s shore.

The ability to connect to transmission lines is the No. 1 factor determining where wind farms are built, and Wisconsin could make Lake Michigan more attractive to developers if there is a new power line with capacity for offshore farms, said Mike Donahue, executive vice president of Midwest Wind Energy in Chicago. For land-based wind farms, developers must choose a location and ask transmission companies if the existing power lines can handle the extra electricity generated by the turbines.

“Your transportation infrastructure has become the critical location factor for projects,” he said, “whether they’re land or offshore.”

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Solar hot water douses rising energy costs at Madison’s fire stations

Posted on January 16, 2009. Filed under: Solar |

The best location for the solar hot water system turned out to be the sout-facing wall of Fire Station 6.

The best location for the solar hot water system at Station #6 turned out to be the
south-facing wall.

From a Focus on Energy profile of the City of Madison’s installation of solar hot water system on all of the city’s fire stations:

When Madison set out in 2004 to become what Mayor David Cieslewiczcalled a “green capital city,” not one municipal property had yet taken advantage of solar hot water. Four years later, each of Madison’s 11 firehouses is equipped with a solar hot water system, serving anywhere from 45 percent to 60 percent of the buildings’ collective hot water loads and offsetting 205 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions each year. It’s fair to say that no other city in the country has been as aggressive or as successful as Madison in incorporating solar water heating into its municipal buildings.

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RENEW joins coalition for green jobs in stimulus plans

Posted on January 15, 2009. Filed under: General |

From a media release issued by the coalition:

Madison: Tuesday morning at the State Capitol, a broad new coalition of leaders in government, labor and environmental organizations unveiled a “Blueprint for Wisconsin’s Green Economy.” The Blueprint provides a vision and principles for how the federal economic recovery money should be used, and over $2 billion in examples of immediate, job-creating projects that increase our energy independence, build public transit systems, provide clean water, and rebuild crumbling urban infrastructure. The proposals as a whole would create an estimated 30,000 jobs in Wisconsin.

“Every week we hear about a plant closing somewhere in Wisconsin that puts thousands of skilled workers on the street,” said Chuck Geiger of the Blue Green Alliance. “We need to provide these people with good, family supporting, green jobs as well as a pathway to get there. Every displaced worker says to themselves ‘now what?’ We need to answer that question.”

“The Blueprint provides an answer by showing how investing economic recovery money in this way can both remedy the immediate economic crisis, and build the basis for a high wage, environmentally sustainable, 21st Century Wisconsin economy,” said Melissa Scanlan, Founder and Senior Counsel, Midwest Environmental Advocates.

The coalition identified key project areas that could increase the number of green jobs in Wisconsin:
· Building our energy independence through renewable energy
· Retrofitting existing homes, businesses, and government buildings to make them energy efficient
· Building public transit infrastructure to efficiently connect people to jobs
· Renovating crumbling urban infrastructure
· Fixing leaking sewage pipes and installing best practices to reduce storm water run-off

Nearly 30 organizations and local officials signed a letter to the Wisconsin Congressional delegation asking for support for the blueprint. Heading the list of the signers were:

Mayor Tom Barrett
City of Milwaukee

Mayor Dave Cieslewicz
City of Madison

Kathleen Falk
Dane County Executive

Rep. Spencer Black
Wisconsin State Legislature

Rep. Jon Richards
Wisconsin State Legislature

Rep. Tamara Grigsby
Wisconsin State Legislature

Kevin Shafer
Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District

Tony Perez
Housing Authority City of Milwaukee

Ald. Robert Bauman
Milwaukee Common Council

Watch the press conference on Wisconsin Eye.

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Manure digesters help address the environmental scourge of animal waste

Posted on January 14, 2009. Filed under: Biomass, Digesters |

From an article by Anita Weier in The Capital Times:

A dozen Waunakee dairy farmers trudged through snow drifts on the Crave Brothers Farm near Waterloo on a recent wintry Wisconsin day.

Marty Mulcahy, one of the farmers, even brought along his veterinarian, Ross Mauer.

They were all there to see the farm’s manure digester, a relatively new use for an existing technology that is seen as a green way to address the high cost of traditional waste disposal methods while protecting soil, water and air.

One of the byproducts of a digester is a compost-like substance that can be used as bedding for livestock. Mulcahy was concerned whether the bedding would pose a risk to his cows’ health, which is why he brought Mauer along.

But Mulcahy was won over.

“Seeing your cows made me think differently,” he told Charles Crave, one of the brothers who operates the family farm. “Your cows are really clean.”

“These are some of the cleanest cows I’ve seen,” echoed Maurer. Use of a digester, he added, “might allow my clients and friends to be better stewards of the land.”

The tour of the Crave farm digester, which was installed in February 2007, was organized by Dane County officials who hope local farmers will buy into the idea of sharing use of a community digester, a proposal being pushed by County Executive Kathleen Falk. She put $1.1 million in her new budget for a Waunakee-area digester and identified another possible digester in the Black Earth Creek watershed as a top priority when asking for money from President-elect Barack Obama and Congress as part of the federal stimulus package that is expected to include aid for municipalities.

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Are we nearing peak coal? Part 1

Posted on January 12, 2009. Filed under: Coal |

From a post on Climate Progress, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization:

The imminent reality of peak oil production should be clear to all by now (see “Normally staid IEA says oil will peak in 2020“).

Now some very serious people are suggesting that there is a lot less accessible coal out there than most folks believe. If we are nearing peak coal (and peak oil), then we would need to embrace the rapid transition to a clean energy economy almost as urgently as we need to embrace it to avoid destroying the climate.

The post continues with an analysis of various reports on coal reserves.

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We Energies wants to study putting wind towers in lakes

Posted on January 9, 2009. Filed under: Wind |

From an article by Pete Millard in The Business Journal:

Wisconsin Electric Power Co. (d/b/a We Energies), the state’s largest public energy utility, is seeking Public Service Commission approval to spend $3 million to study the feasibility of harnessing the Great Lakes’ wind power.

With more than a half-dozen wind farms sprouting up in corn and soybean fields from Montfort in southwest Wisconsin to Portage, Eden and Kewaunee on the banks of Lake Michigan in northeast Wisconsin, the real potential for wind power exists on the Great Lakes. That’s according to a November 2008 PSC report.

While no one doubts the potential for wind power on the Great Lakes, there are environmental, construction, transmission and maintenance issues that need examination before wind turbines and towers begin rising in the depths of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior.

“What we’re proposing is taking the next step forward from the PSC report,” said Roman Draba, WEPCO’s vice president of regulatory affairs and policy.

The PSC’s own Great Lakes wind power study summarizes the various state, federal and tribal statutes, rules and regulations that may have to be changed before any proposal to build an off-shore wind project can move ahead, but these are not insurmountable obstacles, said Carl Siegrist, WEPCO’s senior renewable energy strategist.

Less known is whether the technology exists to economically transmit the wind power from off-shore turbines to on-shore transmission lines. Also unknown is the cost to build and maintain the turbines and towers, especially in winter, Siegrist said.

“A big part of the study will also monitor exactly what the wind patterns are and how productive they may be,” said Draba.

The WEPCO Lake Michigan study also will look at the potential environmental impact the towers and turbines would have on bats and migratory birds.

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Wisconsin boasts most manure-to-energy projects

Posted on January 7, 2009. Filed under: Digesters |

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

When it comes to generating renewable energy, Wisconsin lacks the high winds of the Great Plains and the steady sunlight of Arizona, but it has one abundant resource few others can match – cow power.

Although renewable energy makes up only a fraction of the state’s total energy mix, one area that’s growing fast is systems that convert cow manure into electricity and heat.

At the Crave Brothers dairy farm and cheese factory in Waterloo, the farm’s anaerobic digester – its cow power system – takes manure from the farm’s 1,100 cows and converts it to electricity.

Rising demand for the company’s specialty cheeses led to an expansion that will add a second digester and triple the amount of electricity the farm produces.

“They process their own milk, and the demand for the specialty cheeses they make has increased enough to justify an expansion,” said Dan Nemke, general manager of Clear Horizons, which provides the digester.

Clear Horizons estimates it invested $4 million in the Waterloo system.

Wisconsin leads the country in anaerobic digesters with 19 projects. California is second, with 16.

“And we have 16 projects under contract right now set to go in, so we should be doubling the number of digesters in this state in the next year,” said Don Wichert, director of renewable energy with the state Focus on Energy program.

Behind the surge in interest in homegrown energy is the recognition that what once was waste now has value. That can include anything from cheese whey to restaurant grease to cow manure.

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Climate change, renewable energy on Conservation Lobby Day agenda

Posted on January 6, 2009. Filed under: Climate change, Energy Policy |

From the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters:

Wednesday, February 25, 2009 – RSVP here!
RSVP Required—RSVP DEADLINE is February 13!

Since the first Conservation Lobby Day in 2005, it has grown from just over 100 citizens to over 500! Each year these citizens from across Wisconsin descend on the Capitol to share their conservation values with their Legislators. As we head into the 5th annual Conservation Lobby Day, there is one thing we can guarantee-when citizens come together to make their conservation values known, legislators listen, and conservation victories soon follow!

The reauthorization of the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund and the passage of the Strong Great Lakes Compact are two great examples of how citizen lobbying resulted in ground-breaking conservation laws.

The participation of local groups and citizens like YOU is incredibly important to the success of Conservation Lobby Day. Every day throughout the state, countless citizens work tirelessly to protect the local land, water, and wildlife.

Conservation Lobby Day is a unique opportunity to share your conservation stories and experiences with legislators and have a huge impact on conservation policies affecting all of Wisconsin.

In 2009-2010, the conservation community will be fighting to:

Stop Global Warming in Wisconsin: address the threats of global warming in Wisconsin through clean, renewable energy jobs and energy conservation.

Preserve Groundwater: Wisconsin’s Buried Treasure: manage Wisconsin’s groundwater resources to preserve drinking water supplies, lakes, streams, and wetlands.

Restore Conservation Integrity: return Wisconsin to an Independent DNR Secretary and a timely appointment of Natural Resource Board members.

Protect Wisconsin’s Drinking Water: protect Wisconsin’s drinking water supplies by making sure we safely spread agricultural, municipal, and industrial waste.

For a 1-page brief on each of these issues, click on their title above.

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