Archive for May, 2009

State needs more biofuels for UW power plant

Posted on May 21, 2009. Filed under: Biomass |

From an Associated Press article by Ryan J. Foley, pubished in The Capital Times:

Uncertainty about the availability and cost of biomass fuels makes Gov. Jim Doyle’s $251 million plan to overhaul a University of Wisconsin-Madison power plant somewhat risky, according to a report released Tuesday.

Doyle has proposed converting the coal-fired Charter Street plant, long a major polluter in the area, to run on cleaner-burning biomass fuels such as wood chips and paper pellets. His administration says it would be one of the nation’s largest biomass projects and the plan has delighted environmentalists.

A report from consultants hired by the state recommended Tuesday running the plant on a mix of natural gas and biomass and installing a more expensive boiler that can burn any type of biofuel. But the report also warned the state’s biomass market must be expanded for the project to be successful.

The report said the state should get its money back over 25 years from building the more expensive boiler as long as enough biomass fuel supplies are developed and they cost less than natural gas over time. . . .

The report said there was “a significant risk” that not enough biomass supply would be available for the boiler when it is expected to begin running.

Wood products would likely be the main source of fuel for the plant in the beginning while others are developed, the report said. Paper pellets are another cost-effective biomass source, but they are currently in short supply. Switchgrass and agricultural waste currently cost more than natural gas.

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Where should turbines be located in Wisconsin?

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

Welch - cropped - lo res
Bob Welch (right), hired lobbyist for anti-wind forces, told a joint legislative hearing on wind siting where turbines can be located in Wisconsin:

Senator Jon Erpenbach: Yeah, real quick. Bob. 25%. You’re saying if a wind farm is built it’s only going to work—going to get 25% of it’s capacity. Where do you get the numbers from?

Welch: I got the numbers from the U.S. Department of Energy. And some of them are a little dated because the wind farms have not been very forthcoming in putting their stuff up right away, like quarterly, or by month, or at least we can’t find it. Maybe I just don’t know where to look, but we’ve had a lot of people looking. Some were averaging below 20%, but as I said, roughly, 25%, and the stuff out west, from the same time period, was 35-40%.

Erpenbach: Is there a place in Wisconsin where it would work?

Welch: Lake Michigan would work great.

Welch is also paid to lobby for the following interests: Safari Club International, Wisconsin Chapters; Swisher International, Inc.; The Washington Center; Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association; Wisconsin Bio Industry Alliance; Wisconsin Broadcasters Association; Wisconsin Coin Community Alliance; Wisconsin Corn Growers Association; Wisconsin Occupational Therapy Association; Wisconsin Wine and Spirit Institute.

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Study shows how to reduce bat fatalities

Posted on May 19, 2009. Filed under: Wind |

From an article posted on

Bird and bat deaths from wind farms have been among the few environmental negatives of this growing source of alternative energy. But a new study offers hope that a solution can be found.

A new study of the interaction between bats and wind turbines at the Casselman Wind Power Project found that turning off the turbines during low wind periods reduced bat mortality by more than 70 percent.

Iberdrola Renewables, owner of the Casselman wind farm in southwestern Pennsylvania, partnered with independent conservation group Bat Conservation International (BCI) to collect the data. From late July to mid-October 2008, Iberdrola Renewables and BCI researchers conducted a controlled experiment in which selected wind turbines at the Casselman project were stopped during relatively low wind-speed nights in the late summer and early fall.

“Shutting down turbines at certain wind speeds during periods when bats appear most vulnerable at this Northeastern U.S. wind farm may have the potential to be a cost-effective way to reduce the impact on bats during their late summer migration season,” Andy Linehan, wind permitting director for Iberdrola Renewables, said in a statement. He said Iberdrola Renewables “looks forward to a second year of the study to confirm what appears to be very good results with modest (power) generation lost.”

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A win for wind power in Wisconsin

Posted on May 17, 2009. Filed under: Wind |

From an editorial that ran in the Wisconsin State Journal:

An eight-hour public hearing last week at the Capitol highlighted a threat to the statewide interest in developing wind power.

The hearing also demonstrated why lawmakers should quell that threat by replacing a hodgepodge of local rules for smaller wind farms with uniform state standards.

At stake is not only a clean, renewable source of energy, but also the state’s economic vitality.

Wisconsin is counting on wind power to propel the state 90 percent of the way toward meeting a goal of more than doubling the renewable energy contribution to electric needs over the next six years. Developing wind power, and other forms of renewable energy, can help resolve global warming worries, improve energy security and generate jobs.

But a barrier looms: When developers of smaller wind farms apply to local governments to build turbines on specific sites, they too often find that local officials are cowed into imposing impossible-to-meet requirements, or even moratoriums, after opponents raise alarming concerns, commonly based in misinformation.

As a result, a few people gain veto power over the state’s energy policy.

Granted, not every location is suitable for wind farms. Local concerns about public safety and health should be respected, when based on sound science. But local officials confronted by alarmed constituents are not in a good position to evaluate competing arguments.

Meanwhile, larger wind farms face no such array of local Mixmasters. They go to one agency — the state Public Service Commission. Wind farm plans face a rigorous PSC review process. But at least developers know what they are dealing with from the outset. It’s a far better system, both for encouraging wind farm development and protecting public safety and health.

Wisconsin’s hostile regulatory environment for smaller wind farms is taking a toll. The state lags far behind neighboring Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois in wind power. Part of the reason is that Wisconsin has less potential for wind power than those states. But testimony at last week’s hearing indicated that regulatory hostility is also a factor, driving some wind farms away from Wisconsin to its neighbors.

That conclusion is supported by the fact that Michigan, with a relatively small potential for wind power, has a far higher wind farm growth rate than Wisconsin.

The solution lies in the proposed legislation that was the subject of last week’s hearing. The plan calls for lawmakers to grant the PSC authority to establish, with public input, a model set of wind farm standards to guide local governments.

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Alliant Energy offers free, online business efficiency check up

Posted on May 15, 2009. Filed under: Energy Efficiency |

From the site for Alliant’s Business Efficiency Check Up:

Have you ever wondered how energy-efficient your business is? Alliant Energy’s Business Efficiency Check Up can help!

This free interactive, online tool will help you find where your energy is going and how you can cut energy costs throughout your facility.

– Efficiency Fast Track: Identify energy-saving opportunities and get started on them – fast!
– Detailed Analysis: Make an in-depth energy assessment to get detailed recommendations and project assistance specifically for your business.
– My Benchmark: Compare your energy use to see how you stack up against the competition.
– Case Studies: View quick tips and examples of how similar businesses save energy.

After you’ve completed your check up, you can return at any time to review, track and evaluate the projects you’ve selected for your facility.

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Wind farm bills survive public lashing

Posted on May 14, 2009. Filed under: Wind |

MV and Curt - lo res

Michael Vickerman (left), RENEW Wisconsin’s executive director, listens to Curt Pawlisch, repesenting Wind for Wisconsin, during their testimony on May 12 in support of identical companion bills (Senate Bill 185 and Assembly Bill 256) to begin a process to create state-wide standards for wind siting in Wisconsin. Brian Rude of Dairyland Power looks on from the background.

From an article by Paul Snyder in The Daily Reporter:

More than eight hours of public testimony mostly opposed to state guidelines for wind farm placement did little to kill bills that would limit local control of the energy developments.

“It just underscores the reason why we need the bill,” said state Sen. Jeff Plale, D-South Milwaukee. “These are the discussions that need to be happening, and they won’t happen unless there is a forum.”

But several residents of towns and counties that either host wind farms or are considering wind farm proposals said the discussion needs to stop.

“Everything I’ve heard from (wind farm supporters) has been about jobs and money,” said Don Mitchell, who lives in the town of Magnolia, which recently passed a wind farm ordinance. “There’s been nothing about health. We need to stop what we’re doing until we know what we’re doing.”

Identical state Senate and Assembly bills — steered, respectively, by Plale and state Rep. James Soletski, D-Green Bay — received a joint public hearing Tuesday with construction industry representatives and environmental advocates supporting statewide wind farm standards and many residents questioning the bills.

The bills would not create the standards or determine where in Wisconsin wind farms should be built, but the legislation would let the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin draft a set of statewide standards for legislative review.

The argument for the bill is that town and county ordinances vary greatly and deter wind developers from building farms to Wisconsin because there are too many hurdles.

Several wind farm developers spoke Tuesday about the state’s difficult reputation and a general disinterest to work in Wisconsin without uniform standards. . . . But Plale said the bills are just a start.

“We’re not creating an answer,” he said. “We’re creating a mechanism for this discussion to take place.”

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State senator calls missed wind opportunities ‘sad commentary’

Posted on May 13, 2009. Filed under: Economic development, Wind |

Plale speaking - lo res - cropped
State Senator Jeff Plale (right) testifies in support of identical companion bills (Senate Bill 185 and Assembly Bill 256) that he co-authored with State Rep. James Soletski (left). The bills direct the Public Service Commission to begin a process to set state-wide uniform standards for wind project permitting.

From an article by Paul Snyder in The Daily Reporter:

In addition to missing out on an estimated $3.5 million of economic opportunity for each wind turbine not built in Wisconsin, the state also is missing out on new energy without uniform standards.

“We’re looking at about 600 megawatts of stalled energy right now,” said R.J. Pirlot, director of legislative relations for Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce.

State Sen. Jeff Plale, D-South Milwaukee, author of the statewide wind farm siting bill and chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Utilities, Energy and Rail said the inactivity is disappointing.

“That’s a lot of missed opportunity,” he said. “And it’s a sad commentary for this state when we’re out there saying we want more renewable energy.”

RENEW Wisconsin’s executive director Michael Vickerman also testified.

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Developer explains reasons for needed wind siting reform

Posted on May 12, 2009. Filed under: General |

Several people, representing themselves or organizations, spoke or submitted statements in support of SB 185 and AB 256, companion bills to begin a process to set uniform siting standards, at a public hearing in the State Capitol. William Rakocy, Emerging Energies of Wisconsin LLC, submitted the following:

Emerging Energies of Wisconsin, LLC, supports the current efforts of wind siting reform before the State of Wisconsin. It is our understanding that we have the good fortune to hold a conditional use permit for the last wind project issued by a town board in the State of Wisconsin (Town of Glenmore, March 26, 2007). It is truly amazing to us that an adjacent county denied unanimously, a request for a similar project with similar design characteristics (e.g. setbacks).

Six years ago, Emerging Energies began an effort to permit a wind farm in Manitowoc County. In a serious effort to be a good neighbor to the community we began at the County Parks & Planning Department. We requested a permit and we were asked to wait until an ordinance had been developed. Inconvenient as it was, we truly wanted to have a good relationship so we accepted the request and waited the six months. Once the ordinance had been developed we tailored the design of our Mishicot Wind Project to meet the ordinance without exception. We applied for a permit and were immediately suspended by the enactment of a moratorium. During the period of the moratorium a new wind ordinance was developed, one which would not allow a wind turbine project such as ours to exist in the county. At the end of the moratorium period, our permit request was heard by the Parks and Plan Board of Adjustment from Manitowoc County. At the recommendation of Manitowoc County Corp Council, Steve Rollins, the Board of Adjustment applied the original ordinance since that was what was in place at the time of application. After a three-month hearing process we were granted a unanimous approval. Within the appeal period, residents opposed to wind started an action against the county’s decision to apply the original ordinance. Circuit Judge Willis remanded our permit request back to the Board of Adjustment for further consideration against the newer wind ordinance. After considerable effort and expense, we were heard once again by the exact same board members for the same wind project and received a unanimous denial in January, after four months of hearing and deliberation.

The forward thinking efforts of the State of Wisconsin to enable clean renewable energy are being prevented in significant quantities in the best wind areas of our state by people who have been scared by fear mongering opponents. At this time we plead with the state to enable a process that will allow reasonable projects to move forward and satisfy the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard.

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Come to legislative hearing on wind siting stardards, May 12

Posted on May 11, 2009. Filed under: Wind |

Help the legislature understand the importance and wide-spread support for wind siting reform in Wisconsin.

The Senate and Assembly Utilities Committees will take testimony on Senate Bill 185 (SB 185) and an idential companion bill, Assembly Bill 256 (AB 256), the wind siting reform bills in room 411 South of the State Capitol.

As you probably know, 600 megawatts of proposed wind projects are stalled in Wisconsin due to the absence of clear, predictable regulations.

This bill will address the roadblocks of anti-wind groups, who will try to get as many of their members to testify as possible.

If we’re going to see more wind project development in Wisconsin, we must counter the anti-wind hysteria by showing up at the hearing – May 12, 11:00 a.m., room 411 South, State Capitol.

Come a little early to get a good seat and pick up your wind supporter button!

You can testify (probably for no more than 3 minutes) or simply complete a registration form with a check box to register your support. Or send a letter along the lines of the attached.

If you cannot attend the hearing in person (and we really hope that you can), you can contact your legislators through the legislative Web site. Use this link to identify your legislators if you’re unsure of who they are —

Use this link to find the e-mail addresses of state senators –

And use this link to find the e-mail addresses of state representatives –

This is the most important piece of wind-related legislation in this session, please come to the hearing or contact your legislators.

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SunEdison helping Kohl’s go solar

Posted on May 10, 2009. Filed under: Solar |

From an Associated Press article published in the Maryland Daily Record:

ELDERSBURG — Shoppers who step into the Kohl’s department store in Eldersburg may not notice anything more environmental about the building, but a recent addition has brought it into the growing ranks of buildings using renewable energy.

Atop the building’s roof, Beltsville-based SunEdison has installed 1,500 solar panels that will capture solar radiation from the sun and convert it into electricity, which will be used by the store.

The national Kohl’s chain has made a commitment to be more environmentally minded, and in 2008, the Wisconsin-based company was able to purchase 20 percent of its energy needs from renewable energy sources, according to a press release from Kohl’s.

Sixty-seven stores have solar panels on the roofs, and another 100 stores in six states, including Maryland, are expecting to get more solar energy systems installed, according to John Fojut, Kohl’s vice president of facilities.

“We assess opportunities for solar on a case by case basis,” Fojut said in an e-mail. “The Eldersburg site was ideal because of the building age and roof condition.”

Installation of the solar panels on the Eldersburg store this spring took nine weeks, according to Loretta Prencipe, director of communications for SunEdison.

The system will be capable of producing an average of 297 kilowatt-hours, or more than 5.9 million kwh over 20 years — the equivalency of enough power to supply 559 homes for a year, said Kirk Roller, vice president of sales for SunEdison.

SunEdison owns and maintains all of the solar panels installed with Kohl’s buildings, Roller said, which provide a total of 20.9 megawatts of power each year. To put the size of Kohl’s operations into perspective, the biggest single solar power production facility in the country is an 8-megawatt facility in Arizona, Roller said.

“They don’t have to touch it, they don’t have to maintain it — that’s our job,” Roller said.

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