Archive for February, 2009

Janesville allows solar panel

Posted on February 26, 2009. Filed under: Solar |

From an article on

JANESVILLE — The city’s Zoning Board of Appeals voted unanimously Tuesday to allow a 21-foot-high solar unit in the back yard of a home at 1036 Sentinel Drive.

Jon Wangerin, vice chairman of the board, asked that the city consider developing an ordinance so residents would not need a variance review from the appeals board.

City code allows a detached structure to be no greater than 14 feet tall.

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Xcel files application for largest biomass plant in Midwest

Posted on February 25, 2009. Filed under: Biomass, Generation Plants, Wood |

From a news release issued by Excel Energy:

ASHLAND, Wis. (Press Release) – Following more than a year of study and planning, Xcel Energy announced it has filed an application for a Certificate of Authority with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) to install biomass gasification technology at its Bay Front Power Plant in Ashland. When completed, the project will convert the plant’s remaining coal-fired unit to biomass gasification technology, allowing it to use 100 percent biomass in all three boilers and making it the largest biomass plant in the Midwest. Currently, two of the three operating units at Bay Front use biomass as their primary fuel to generate electricity.

The project, estimated at $58 million, will require additional biomass receiving and handling facilities at the plant, an external gasifier, minor modifications to the plant’s remaining coal-fired boiler and an enhanced air quality control system. The total generation output of the plant is not expected to change significantly as a result of the project. . . .

The Bay Front Power Plant was originally constructed and began operation in 1916. In 1960, it operated five boilers and six turbines. Since then, two of the boilers, and three of the turbines, have been retired. The three remaining boilers feed into a combined steam header system that can support three turbine-generator sets. During a major plant improvement project completed in 1991, the plant was equipped with an upgraded air quality control system, which includes two gravel bed filters designed to remove more than 98 percent of particulate matter.

Last year, Xcel Energy installed NOx (nitrogen oxide) emission control equipment on the two boilers that primarily burn wood, allowing both to continue to operate into the foreseeable future. When evaluating various alternatives for the remaining boiler, which primarily burns coal, it was determined that expanding Bay Front as a biomass resource was preferred over incurring significant environmental compliance costs relating to the Clean Air Interstate Rule and regulations on mercury emissions. . . .

When complete, the project will reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides by more than 60 percent, sulfur dioxides by more than 80 percent and particulate matter by more than 80 percent. In addition, displacing coal with sustainably harvested biomass will also reduce net carbon dioxide emissions, contributing to the company and state of Wisconsin’s carbon management goals.

The primary source of biomass at Bay Front is expected to be the lower quality, unused materials that are currently left in area forests following traditional harvests, such as treetops, logging slash, damaged trees, underutilized species, and the cull and mortality classed trees. Initial investigations conducted by Xcel Energy show more than ample supplies of this lower quality biomass within the area.

To ensure future biomass supplies are available on a reliable basis, Xcel Energy is working with the Wisconsin Office of Energy Independence, University of Wisconsin-Madison and local agricultural experts to explore the feasibility of developing biomass plantations and grower cooperatives.

“Xcel Energy has been a long-time leader in providing renewable energy from local sources to the citizens of Wisconsin,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director, RENEW Wisconsin. Mark Redsten, executive director, Clean Wisconsin, agreed.

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Nuclear should be part of state energy solution, PSC chair says

Posted on February 24, 2009. Filed under: Generation Plants, Nuclear |

From an article by Brian E. Clark posted on

MADISON — Eric Callisto, chairman of the state Public Service Commission, predicts the Legislature will soon open the door to building new nuclear power plants in Wisconsin.

Speaking Monday at an energy conference organized by, Callisto said the Democratic-controlled Assembly and Senate will enact the Governor’s Global Warming Task Force recommendations. And that includes modifying the language on the long-time moratorium on building nuke plants.

“It will be part of the package to reduce our carbon emissions,” said Callisto, who added that certain conditions would have to be met before the nuclear option could be considered.

Tia Nelson, who co-chaired the task force and participated in one of the conference panels, noted the task force didn’t recommend lifting the moratorium.

“It will happen only if stringent conditions are met,” she said. “I don’t believe nuclear plants are a near-term option. We should be pursuing the low-hanging fruit at this point, and that is conservation and energy efficiency. Right now, nuclear is a distraction.”

But Callisto said he is “optimistic (lawmakers) will take it up and move this issue forward. … Nuclear needs to be part of the solution.”

Three nuclear plants currently operate in the state — in Kewaunee, Point Beach, and on the UW-Madison campus.

Former Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch, R-West Salem, a longtime champion of exploring the nuke option, said he was pleased with Callisto’s comments.

“This is the first ray of sunlight in dealing with our need for power without adding to our greenhouse gas emissions,” Huebsch said. “There is nowhere else to go.

“Still, I’m concerned the moratorium will be lifted too late and that we’ll be 15 to 20 years behind,” said.

The task force report says new nuclear could be considered only if: recommended policies for conservation, efficiency and renewable energy are enacted; the PSC finds that a new nuclear power plant is “safe, economic and in the public interest;” the electricity is either generated by or sold to a Wisconsin utility; and the power is sold to electricity customers in the state.

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Wind farm bill would govern state

Posted on February 24, 2009. Filed under: Climate change, Wind |

From an article by Paul Snyder in The Daily Reporter:

State Sen. Jeff Plale says he is weeks away from introducing a new bill establishing statewide guidelines for wind farm development.

But meshing existing municipal ordinances into one that would govern the state has some bracing for a fight.

“When you jump into something really quick, as Wisconsin did with ethanol, you end up seeing some bad results,” said Magnolia Town Supervisor David Olsen. “I hope they don’t try to just push things through. (Legislators) should be there to represent constituents, not lobbyists.”

Although Plale, D-South Milwaukee, conceded his attempt to get a statewide wind farm siting bill passed at the end of the last session was late-developing and criticisms that it was rushed were justified, he said he likes his chances this time around.

“We’re trying to build a broad-based coalition with a lot of stakeholders,” he said. “I think understanding of wind power is better than last time, and so is the general prognosis.”

State law gives the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin the right to approve any wind farm that would produce more than 100 megawatts of energy, while any wind farm producing less than that amount can be decided upon by local municipalities. Plale said the goal is to give the state the final word on any development, regardless of its output.

But Plale declined to give any details about the bill in terms of possible setback distances or whether county or municipal governments that already have ordinances in place would be grandfathered in. He said details are still under negotiation, but suggested local ordinances might not set the best parameters for state law.

“If we’re going to make renewables a priority in this state,” he said, “we can’t have one community dictating policy for everyone else.”

Wisconsin instituted a mandate of producing 25 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2025.

Magnolia, which enacted its own ordinance earlier this year requiring half-mile setbacks for turbines from homes and businesses, would be a good example to follow, Olsen said.

“Just for sound and flicker-flash purposes,” he said, “I think it’s very fair.”

Yet wind farm developers looking to build in locales with such ordinances remain hamstrung by the terms and argue such setbacks leave no viable land on which to build multiple turbines.

Legal battles already surfaced in response to Trempeleau County’s one-mile setback ordinance, and last week Hubertus-based Emerging Energies LLP filed a complaint against the Manitowoc County Board of Adjustment’s ruling against the company’s request for a conditional-use permit to build a seven-turbine wind farm.

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Stimulus bright spot: renewable energy

Posted on February 23, 2009. Filed under: Solar |

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

Johnson Controls has begun generating electricity from the largest solar power system in the state – nearly 1,500 panels erected on the northeast corner of the company’s headquarters campus in Glendale.

The solar power system is part of the $73 million renovation and rehabilitation of the headquarters campus and power solutions businesses for the state’s largest company – and will be a showpiece for Johnson Controls as it tries to persuade customers to incorporate renewable energy into their buildings.

Power began generating this month after We Energies commissioned the solar system, said Don Albinger, vice president of renewable energy solutions at Johnson Controls.

The expansion of solar power is timely, coming as the stimulus package was signed into law. Energy experts are marveling at the array of tax benefits aimed at bringing more renewable energy online quickly, such as provisions that provide federal loan guarantees and accelerated depreciation for renewable projects.

“In these dismal times, we’ve got to look for some bright spots, and to me a great bright spot is the stuff that’s involved with renewable energy in that stimulus bill,” said Art Harrington, an energy lawyer with Godfrey & Kahn in Milwaukee.

Godfrey hosted three meetings across the state this week that drew about 500 businesspeople looking to learn more about economic opportunities created by the stimulus law, Harrington said.

“My advice to clients is to get knowledgeable on this stimulus bill,” he said. “Get knowledgeable quickly and then follow the money.”

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Minneapolis company to lease land for wind farm near Rockford

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

From an article by Isaac Guerrero on

A Minneapolis company is leasing land from western Winnebago County [Illinois] landowners for its planned 100-turbine wind farm that would generate enough electricity to power 44,000 homes.

The turbines would dot the western half of the county and a bit of Stephenson County and would stretch from the Wisconsin border to just south of the Winnebago-Ogle county line. The precise layout, however, depends on how negotiations with landowners pan out.

In 2003, Minneapolis-based Navitas Energy built a smaller wind farm in Lee County near the Paw Paw exit on Interstate 39. More recently, the firm won zoning approval for wind farms in Stephenson and Ogle counties, though lawsuits have put those projects on hold.

Company officials have been canvassing rural Winnebago County for weeks. They’ve offered Richard Beuth about $7,600 a year for each plot of his farmland on which it could build a 410-foot turbine.

“We’re all for it,” said Richard Beuth, who farms near Seward. “The turbines actually wouldn’t take up that much space on our farm. After they’re built, each tower would take up a 100-foot-by-100-foot area, plus an access road that would need to go in there. It’s good money for the size of ground it takes up. Crop and livestock prices aren’t so good right now.”

The company’s lease agreements with landowners would last some 50 years. Rent payments from Navitas would increase a bit each year based on inflation, and the company would pay property taxes on land occupied by its turbines. Navitas would make money on the wind farm by supplying the local power grid with electricity.

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RENEW & Clean WI submit comments to support higher buy-back rates for small renewable installations

Posted on February 18, 2009. Filed under: General |

The comments of RENEW and Clean Wisconsin expess support for the PSC to order utilities to pay higher prices (rates) for electricity they purchase from the owners of small renewable electricity installations, such as wind turbines, solar panels, and anaerobic biodigesters.

The reasons for higher buy-back rates the comments say are:

based on the barriers distributed generators face in a centralized power environment. Past energy policy has had the effect of creating a landscape of economic effects that thwart investment in renewable energy capacity, making progress dependent on future emission, environmental and tax policies. Uncertainty about future policies is likely to cause investors to delay investment in renewable energy until such policies become clear, coherent, and economically rational. The current policy landscape is especially slanted toward larger installations (100 MW or greater) because of their economies of scale. If Wisconsin is to nurture a distributed generation market, the logical place to intervene is through utility buyback rates. All current utility buyback rates for distributed generation, except a few recent experimental rates, provide marginal compensation for distributed generation. This situation is especially acute for variable output renewable generators that supply energy, but not capacity, such as wind and solar electric (in single installations).

For comments of several other organizations, go to the list of submitted documents on the PSC Web site.

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Stimulus bill boosts solar installations

Posted on February 17, 2009. Filed under: Solar |

From a post by Annie Carmichael on Vote Solar:

The recovery package will immediately spur job creation along each link in the solar supply chain- from PV panel manufacturers to solar hot water system installers. Serious kudos to our hard-working friends at SEIA who traversed the halls of Congress until the 11th hour, and to all of our members who chimed in online to make their voices heard.

Solar provisions in the final economic recovery bill:

Renewable Energy Grants: Given the economic downturn, many traditional solar project financiers were left without the tax appetite necessary to put the 30 percent solar tax credit to good use. This provision puts solar finance back on track by offering DOE grants as an alternative to the tax credit. To be eligible for the program, the project must commence construction in 2009 or 2010 and be placed in service by January 1, 2017. Applications must be filed by October 1, 2011.

Repeals Penalty for Municipal Solar Finance Programs: Around the country, cities are implementing innovative finance programs that help residents and businesses go solar without breaking the bank. As the tax code was written, there was some uncertainty as to whether participants in these programs could claim the federal solar tax credit. This provision ensures that businesses and individuals can qualify for the full amount of the solar tax credit, even if projects are financed with local development bonds or other subsidized energy financing.

Loan Guarantee Program: This provision is especially helpful for the development of large-scale solar power plants. It establishes a temporary DOE loan guarantee program for renewable energy and electric power transmission projects. The program is available for any renewable project that commences construction by September 30, 2011.
The program provides $6 billion in renewable funding.

Manufacturing Investment Credit: Everyone wants manufacturing jobs, and this provision will help attract solar manufacturing facilities to the U.S. It provides up to $2.3 billion to fund 30 percent investment tax credit for facilities engaged in the manufacture of advanced energy technologies. Projects must be certified by the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of Energy, through competitive bidding.

Remove Limits on Solar Water Heating: This provision gives solar hot water heaters the same treatment of solar panels. It repeals the $2,000 monetary cap, making solar water heating property eligible for the full 30 percent tax credit.

More details from the Solar Energy Industries Association

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Dave’s Brewfarm will craft Wind-brewed Beer

Posted on February 16, 2009. Filed under: Energy Efficiency, Geothermal, Solar, Wind |


A crew prepares a tower for the wind turbine at Dave’s Brewfarm™.

From an article by Joe Knight in the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram:

WILSON – Dave Anderson, 44, didn’t set out to save the planet. He just wanted to brew beer and do it in a manner that would be cost-effective in the long haul.

If it happens that his small brewery, Dave’s BrewFarm, uses more renewable energy than similar operations, he’s OK with that.

Anderson said the first time he visited the land that now is his 35-acre farm near Wilson, he noticed it was a windy ridge. “I stepped out of the car and I was struck by how windy this site was. Then the light bulb went on,” he said.

He needed a wind generator.

During the first week of February, a 20-kilowatt wind generator was erected on a 120-foot tower on the ridge in eastern St. Croix County where he is building a new home and micro brewery.

He will live above the brewery. The aroma of brewing beer won’t bother him, he said.

“When you’re boiling it smells kind of like cooked Grape Nuts. It smells kind of like a bakery,” he said. . . .

Anderson has consulted on the constructions of breweries in Italy, Vietnam, Israel and a couple of sites in the western United States. He also has traveled to Belgium to study how beer is brewed there.

During those travels he noticed that energy was costly in much of the world. Paying $8 or $9 a gallon for gas was common in Europe, and people there were investing in wind generation in a big way. The $4 a gallon gas last summer in the U.S. was a reminder that America is not insulated from volatile fossil fuel prices, so Anderson decided to generate as much energy as possible from alternative sources.

Making beer requires a lot of hot water, and solar panels on the south side of the building will heat water to 120 degrees – at least when the sun shines – for the first part of the brewing process.

He also will use heat from groundwater to heat the building in winter and cool it in summer. He has buried four 800-foot loops of pipe 8 feet deep for a geothermal system, which will provide substantial energy savings over standard furnaces and air conditioners.

The building is insulated with sprayed foam, which expands as it dries and does a better job of filling cracks than fiberglass insulation, he said.

Wastewater or gray water from the brewery will be used to irrigate hop fields and an orchard. A brewer’s garden will have herbs, spices and fruits, which have been used since people began brewing beer 6,000 years ago, he said.

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Zero Energy Building: The convergence of solar power and energy efficiency, Milwaukee, March 13

Posted on February 13, 2009. Filed under: General |

From WE Energies and the Wisconsin Green Building Alliance:

Coming to Milwaukee!
Friday, March 13, 2009, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Lessons For Architects, Builders, Designers, Engineers, Developers, and Owners

Steven J. Strong, President, Solar Design Associates
Lew W. Pratsch, U.S. Department of Energy

We Energies
Public Service Building – Auditorium
231 W. Michigan St.
Milwaukee, WI 53203

Sponsored by We Energies and the Wisconsin Green Building Alliance



Friday, March 13, 2009
8:00am – 8:30am Registration and Continental Breakfast
8:30am – 8:45am Welcome and Introductions
8:45am – 9:15am PV Cell and Module Technology
9:15am – 10:15am Overview of PV Systems Options & Applications: Intro to basic systems and components with application examples

10:15am – 10:30am Morning Break
10:45am – 12:00pm Moving Toward Zero Energy Homes
12:00pm – 1:00pm Lunch Break
1:00pm – 2:00pm BIPV: Options, Materials and Methods
2:00pm – 2:45pm BIPV: A World View
2:45pm – 3:00pm Afternoon Break
3:00pm – 4:00pm BIPV – Detailed Case Studies
4:00pm – 4:30pm Codes, Economics and Incentives
4:30pm – 5:00pm Wrap Up with Questions and Discussion

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