Archive for October, 2009

Renewable energy tour, Nov. 13

Posted on October 30, 2009. Filed under: Biomass, Solar, Wind |

A news release issued by Wisconsin Farmers Union:

Chippewa Falls, Wis. (October 30, 2009) – The Wisconsin Farmers Union and other Homegrown Renewable Energy Campaign partners will host a bus tour on Nov. 13 to highlight the benefits of four homegrown renewable energy policies promoted by the campaign and the opportunities for clean energy jobs in Wisconsin.

The four signature partners of the activities are Wisconsin Farmers Union, the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, Clean Wisconsin and RENEW Wisconsin. The Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection, and Office of Energy Independence are co-sponsors of the event.

The bus tour will begin at 9 a.m. at the Montfort Wind Farm, 254 Highway 18, Montfort, Wis. The wind farm is an example of one way to reduce carbon emissions and emphasizes the campaign’s advocacy for a Low-Carbon Fuel Standard. A LCFS calls for a reduction in carbon emissions from transportation fuels, based on the carbon content of all fuels, and the transformation of the market.

The Fuels for Schools and Communities Program and the Biomass Crop Reserve Program will be addressed at the second stop on the tour – at the Meister Cheese Plant, 1160 Industrial Drive, Muscoda, Wis. The cheese plant uses a wood-chip heating system. Research at the University of Wisconsin will also be highlighted demonstrate the prospects for Wisconsin farmers to grow biomass crops.

Providing funding for schools and communities to install renewable energy projects that use biomass crops will create demand for renewable energy. The Biomass Crop Reserve Program provides incentives for farmers to meet that demand by growing biomass crops.

The third stop will be at the Cardinal Glass factory in Mazomanie, Wis. Cardinal Glass is one of the leading suppliers of glass for solar panels. The stop is an example of how homegrown renewable energy can provide jobs for Wisconsin.

Renewable energy buyback rates, the fourth component of the Homegrown Renewable Energy Campaign, will set utility payments for small renewable energy producers who want to feed energy into the electric grid. The tour will stop at a residential home in Ridgeway, Wis. using solar panels to feed electricity into the grid.

The bus will return to the Montfort Wind Farm at 5 p.m.

To register for the Homegrown Renewable Energy Campaign Bus Tour, contact Mike Stranz, WFU Government Relations Specialist, by Nov. 9 at 608-256-6661 or email A $10 registration fee, payable by cash or check the day of the event, covers the cost of the tour, lunch and snacks.

CLICK HERE for more information on the Homegrown Renewable Energy Bus Tour.

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Glacier Hills Wind Park hearing, Nov. 4

Posted on October 29, 2009. Filed under: Wind |

The Public Service Commission will take public testimony on We Energies’ proposed Glacier Hills Wind Park:

Wednesday, November 4
3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Randolph Town Hall
109 S. Madison St. – Friesland

Those opposed to wind projects will likely make arguments like the one below from letter-to-the-editor of the Manitowoc Times Herald. The writere offered this outrageous explanation for why the Legislature passed and the govenor signed the bill on wind siting reform:

Blinded by a feel-good solution for a problem that never existed [global warming], legislators are being misled into a belief that something like wind turbines will not have a negative effect on those who are left to live around them . . .

To understand the problem you needed to be at the hearing in Mandison on May 12, held by the Senate and Assembly Energy Committee. . . .

It was obvious that the pro-wind lobby, paid with your tax money from RENEW Wisconsin, had the minds of legislators on their side long before the hearing.

Read more wild assertions from the letter.

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Winds of change are blowing

Posted on October 28, 2009. Filed under: Wind |

From an article by Tom Content in the Wisconsin State Journal:

We Energies proposal in Columbia County runs into resistance over turbine noise, cost

We Energies has run into some headwinds in its bid to build the biggest wind farm in the state.

The Glacier Hills Wind Park project in Columbia County would consist of 90 turbines rising at least 400 feet above corn fields near the village of Friesland, northeast of Madison.

The Milwaukee utility proposed the project, its second large wind farm, as part of an expansion of renewable energy to comply with a state law that passed with bipartisan support in 2006. The law calls for wind turbines and other renewable energy systems to power 10% of the state’s electricity by 2015.

But this project has stirred more organized opposition than the utility’s first big wind project in Fond du Lac County.

Glacier Hills is being challenged by a fellow wind power developer and a property rights group concerned about the impact of turbines on nearby property owners.

Raising financial concerns about the project, pegged to cost up to $364 million to $435 million, is Invenergy LLC of Chicago.

The company is the developer of the Forward Wind Energy Center in Dodge and Fond du Lac counties, and it says it could build a project in Brown County that would generate as much power as Glacier Hills but be less costly for We Energies ratepayers.

Though exact cost estimates for the Invenergy proposal are confidential, Invenergy claims its proposal could save We Energies customers $50 million or more over 30 years, compared with the We Energies plan.

Invenergy has proposed a wind farm called Ledge Wind south of Green Bay. “The construction cost of Ledge Wind will be borne by Invenergy’s shareholders and will not be borne by (utility) ratepayers, as would be the case with Glacier Hills,” said Mike Leaman of Invenergy.

We Energies says its project is cost-effective over the long-term, and it noted that it ran into a series of delays with its first wind farm, Blue Sky Green Field, first proposed in 2004, when the original developer of that project failed to complete the wind farm and ending up selling it to the Milwaukee company.

In addition, Andy Hesselbach, the Glacier Hills project manager for We Energies, noted that Invenergy has not yet submitted a detailed application for its project, meaning it could not be built as quickly as Glacier Hills.

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Renewable energy policies would benefit farmers

Posted on October 27, 2009. Filed under: General |

From a column by Margaret Krome in The Capital Times:

President Obama toured renewable energy research facilities recently at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He wanted to drive home the point that homegrown, low-carbon energy sources and energy conservation strategies are crucial to steer the planet toward a safer climate and the nation toward greater energy security. In addition, policy based on renewable energy and conservation creates jobs.

The president could just as well have toured Wisconsin to make his point. Wisconsin’s researchers are forging ahead on many fronts, such as ways to grow biomass crops in a sustainable manner; economically viable processes to convert biomass into transportation fuels; and the siting, processing, and transportation protocols associated with using biomass for heat and power. Given the state’s large biomass capacity in forests and crops like switchgrass, researchers are making an investment in the state’s future.

But more is happening. The Legislature will soon consider recommendations from the Governor’s Global Warming Task Force, some of which offer opportunities for new jobs across the state, in small towns as well as cities. Inevitably, vested interests always fight even obviously necessary change. So it should surprise nobody when coal companies and others who depend on fossil fuels mount campaigns to oppose renewable energy policies. But many objections are borne of fear and misinformation.

For example, some farm groups express concerns about the low carbon fuel standard, a policy that is actually likely to benefit Wisconsin’s farmers. This policy uses a market mechanism to require fuel providers to reduce the total carbon content of fuels sold in the state. Rather than deprive farmers of fuels currently available, it would diversify farmers’ fuel options and reduce volatility. And because the state does not produce fossil fuels but does produce biomass-based energy, this policy plays to the state’s agricultural strengths.

Another policy being considered that supports farmers and rural communities as well as municipalities is the renewable energy buyback program. To meet demand for renewable energy, Wisconsin needs many people to become small-scale renewable energy producers. Some have already done so by installing wind turbines, methane digesters, or solar panels and selling the extra energy back into the grid. But the amount these small-scale producers get paid varies greatly, often making that energy unprofitable to produce.

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Experts rip anti-wind “research”

Posted on October 23, 2009. Filed under: Wood |

Even though the quotes below from pre-filed statements take the form of rebuttal testimony in the PSC proceedings on We Energies’ Glacier Hills Wind Park, they can stand on their own. You need not read the filings they rebut in order to make sense out of what they’re saying.

The pre-filed testimony stands among the strongest redupiation of anti-wind arguments.

These filings will be formally entered into the record when the technical hearings begin on November 2nd, but they (and all other filings) are available online at the Web site of the Public Service Commission and link directlyi to case 6630-CE-302.

Richard Larkin, a state certified real estate appraiser, rebuts a “study” of property values paid for by the Coaliton for Wisconsin Environmental Stewardship (CWESt), a group opposing the Glacier Hills project:

I am responding to testimony submitted by Kurt Kielisch on behalf of CWESt, in 1 which he claims that paired sales analyses at the Blue Sky Green Field and Forward wind projects shows that proximity to wind turbines results in a significant negative impact on residential real estate values. There are significant (and probably fatal) problems with his analysis, which I will explain in my testimony. . . .

. . .it is my opinion that Appraisal One’s Wind Turbine Impact Study is significantly flawed, and in my opinion, likely meaningless.

Read all of Larkin’s testimony here.

Mark Roberts, PhD in Epidemiology, former faculty member with the Medical College of Wisconsin (Dept. of Preventative Medicine), former Oklahoma State Epidemiologist dissects Dr. Nina Pierpont’s “research” and rebuts CWESt’s acoustical consultant. He summarized his testimony as follows:

+ “Wind Turbine Syndrome” is not a medical diagnosis supported by peer reviewed, published, scientific literature;
+ The materials presented to support “Wind Turbine Syndrome” are not of sufficient scientific quality nor have they received the rigorous scientific review and vetting that is customarily part of the peer review and publishing process;
+ The tried and true scientific method of developing a hypothesis, testing that hypothesis, publishing the results and having others attempt to repeat the research has not been done to test the existence of a health condition called “Wind Turbine Syndrome;”
+ An accumulation of anecdotal interviews with self-selected persons living near a wind turbine does not constitute an epidemiological study and is not sufficient to determine causation;
+ The bases for claimed adverse health effects due to wind turbines cited by Mr. James either cannot withstand scientific scrutiny or have nothing to do with wind turbines; and
+ Siting a wind turbine within view of a residence and the operation of that turbine could be a source of annoyance to those living in the residence.

Read all of Roberts’ testimony here.

Geoff Leventhall, acoustical consultant, PhD in acoustics, presented testimony to rebut CWESt’s acoustical consultant.

Based on my experience of infrasound and low frequency noise, it is my belief that the infrasound from wind turbines is of no consequence. Attempts to claim that illnesses result from inaudible wind turbine noise do not stand up to simple analyses of the very low forces and pressures produced by the sound from wind turbines. Additionally, the body is full of sound and vibration at infrasonic and low frequencies, originating in natural body processes. As an example, the beating heart is an obvious source of infrasound within the body. Other sources of background low frequency noise and vibration are blood flows, muscle vibrations, breathing, fluids in the gut and so on. The result is that any effect from wind turbine noise, or any other low level of noise, which might be produced within the body is “lost” in the existing background noise and vibration. This is considered in more detail in my Appraisal of Wind Turbine Syndrome, which is submitted as Exhibit 18.

More broadly, my testimony establishes that the claims of health effects from the low levels of infrasound and low frequency noise from wind turbines, as described in the Wind Turbine Syndrome and Vibroacoustic Disease hypotheses, fail. However, higher frequency noise from wind turbines, if it is audible, can cause disturbance to some residents, but this effect is no different from that of noise from another source.

Read all of Leventhall’s testimony here.

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Solar outlook set to dim in 2010

Posted on October 23, 2009. Filed under: Energy Policy, Solar |

A news release issued by RENEW Wisconsin:

Utilities’ voluntary incentives hit limits

(Madison, WI – October 23, 2009) In contrast to the rapid growth experienced in the last three years, a leading state renewable energy advocacy group expects a sharp decline in installed solar electric capacity in 2010.

In statements directed to the Public Service Commission (PSC), three utilities – Wisconsin Electric Power (WE), Wisconsin Power and Light (WPL), and Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) – acknowledged yesterday that their voluntary solar incentive programs will be discontinued for new customers. All three had offered, on a limited basis, a special buyback rate for the generated electricity, which effectively cut in half the payback period for the systems.

“These three incentive programs spurred homeowners and businesses to install nearly 2.5 megawatts of solar electric capacity,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin. “But for those incentives, we wouldn’t not have reached the milestone that PSC Chair Eric Callisto recently celebrated at the installation of a system serving the Town of Menasha.”

“Though voluntary initiatives are certainly welcome, they cannot by themselves sustain a vibrant solar marketplace. By far the most effective way to maintain solar’s momentum is for the Legislature to require utilities to purchase a set amount of renewable energy from their own customers at a reasonable price,” said Vickerman.

Going into 2010, the only investor-owned utility that has a special buyback rate is Madison Gas and Electric (MG&E), which pays its customers 25 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity generated from their solar systems. MG&E’s voluntary program still has room for another 600 kilowatts of customer-owned solar.

Until their voluntary initiatives had reached capacity, both WPS and WPL had been paying the same rate as MG&E, while WE had offered a 22.5 cents for each kilowatt-hour generated.

“If renewable energy is to drive job growth in Wisconsin, lawmakers must create favorable marketplace conditions to support new installations going forward. No policy will accomplish that goal more effectively than a state initiative to establish higher buyback rates,” Vickerman said.

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We have reached a limit to growth, and its name is Peak Oil.

Posted on October 23, 2009. Filed under: Peak Oil & the End of Cheap Fossil Fuel |

From an address by Richard Heinburg to the ASPO International Conference 2009:

As we all know, the global economy began contracting last year—though that’s just a nice, abstract way to put it. Industrial production fell. Corporations downsized or disappeared. Fifty trillion dollars in global capital vaporized in stock market crashes, bankruptcies, foreclosures, and defaults. Millions of people lost employment and housing. Globalization went into reverse.

Also, in 2008 the oil price spiked 50 percent higher, in inflation-adjusted terms, than at any point in previous history. It would be an enormous oversimplification to say that the oil price spike “caused” the world recession, but the fact that the price spike and the economic crisis occurred at the same time is hardly meaningless coincidence.

In effect, we are seeing a vindication of what many of us have been predicting for a long time. Even if it is still technically possible in the next few years for the oil industry to exceed its July 2008 production levels, the world economy has entered a trap from which there is no exit. The oil price that the petroleum industry needs in order to justify developing a new marginal barrel’s worth of production capacity is now nearly as high as the price that is known, on the basis of recent history, to trigger further economic contraction. We have reached a fundamental limit to growth, and its name is Peak Oil.

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RENEW opposes recommendation to raise MGE’s green power rate

Posted on October 22, 2009. Filed under: General |

From RENEW Wisconsin’s comments on a recommendation (see page 9) from Public Service Commission staff to increase the premium rate from 1 cent/kWh to 2.3 cents/kWh for MGE’s Green Power Tomorrow program:

To the Commission:

I would like to comment on the recommendations from PSC staff (witnesses John Feit and Jerry Albrecht) to increase the premium charged to Green Power Tomorrow subscribers. I approach this issue from a multiple of perspectives: (1) as a professional renewable energy advocate; (2) as a 100% program subscriber (since 1999); and (3) as a proud owner of a 1.7 kW solar electric system that was installed after Madison Gas and Electric launched its Clean Power Partners program in 2008.

All of MGE’s Clean Power Partners, (including me) sell the output from our solar systems to Green Power Tomorrow program subscribers through a 25 cents/kWh buyback rate. Among these customer-producers of clean energy are TDS Custom Construction, Goodman Community Center, City of Madison, Dane County Regional Airport, Madison No Fear Dentistry, and Isthmus Engineering.

The solar buyback rate is supported through voluntary purchases of renewable electricity. When the Clean Power Partners program was announced, MGE envisioned a 300 kilowatt ceiling on solar energy purchases through the special tariff. All Clean Power Partners must subscribe to Green Power Tomorrow. At the same time Clean Power Partners was launched, MGE reduced the subscription premium to a penny per kWh. The declining premium sparked a significant upsurge in subscribership, which enabled MGE to carve out a larger space for solar electric production supported by the program. The ceiling on the Clean Power Partners program is now one megawatt.

I mention Clean Power Partners to highlight the link between subscription volume and solar electric production. The larger the volume of electricity flowing through Green Power Tomorrow, the greater the amount of solar generation that the program can support. The reverse, however, is also true. . . .

Let’s summarize the consequences of a higher premium:

1) Decline in program participation rate, due to a combination of economic impacts and negative reinforcement.
2) Decline in program revenues, forcing MGE to compensate through higher rates on all customers.
3) Premature seizing up of the solar electric marketplace in the Madison area.

It is highly ironic that the PSC would consider inflicting such a cascading sequence of perverse outcomes to a nationally recognized renewable energy program like Green Power Tomorrow. Just last month, MGE’s renewable energy program received the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Utility Green Power Program of the Year Award. The award was announced at the Green Power Leadership Awards banquet in Atlanta, Georgia. The honor bestowed to MGE was well-deserved . . .

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Group seeks to re-open renewable energy site

Posted on October 21, 2009. Filed under: Biomass, Digesters |

From a news release issued by DF-1:

Yorkville, Wis. – When Maple Leaf Farms, a large duck producer, closed the doors on its Yorkville Plant in 2008, the region lost more than jobs. A unique, first-of- its-kind waste treatment facility, which We Energies celebrated as Wisconsin’s first duck manure-to energy methane digester in 2002, was also shut down, apparently destined for decommissioning and demolition.

Now, a group of local businessmen and renewable energy advocates called DF-1 Associates want to bring new life to this shuttered facility by converting it to a renewable energy site – a site that could generate enough electricity to power up to 800 Wisconsin homes.

“The food processing industry is an essential part of Wisconsin’s industrial base and is vital to the state’s economy,” said Penny McDonough, spokesperson for DF-1 Associates. “Our group’s goal is to give Wisconsin food processors and agricultural industries an environmentally friendly way of dealing with the by-products they generate by turning these organic materials into renewable energy rather than sending them to area landfills. SEH, Inc., a regional engineering firm taking the lead in renewable energy services has joined the project as well. The initial feasibility study to reopen this site and convert it to use organic food byproducts was made possible by a grant from Focus on Energy making this project a part of Focus on Energy’s commitment to making Wisconsin less dependent on fossil fuels and more on renewable sources of energy.

DF-1 Associates is proposing to open a renewable energy facility that brings in organic food processing by-products and send this material through an anaerobic digester, which is an oxygen-free system containing naturally-occurring bacteria that break down the organic material. This process produces a biogas that is approximately 55-70% methane. The contained methane is then used to power an engine-generator and produce electricity, which is sold back to the local utility company. Leftover biosolids from this process are used for bedding for livestock and the leftover liquid is further treated to Wisconsin DNR standards allowing discharge for replenishment of the local aquifer.

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Competitive industrial grants available for energy efficiency efforts

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

From a news release issued by Focus on Energy:

MADISON, Wis. (October 19, 2009) – Focus on Energy, Wisconsin’s statewide resource for energy efficiency and renewable energy, announced competitive grants today to help industrial businesses and manufacturers throughout the state to complete energy efficiency projects.

“In today’s economy, many companies are severely capital constrained,” said Ken Williams, Focus on Energy’s business programs director. “Focus on Energy is committed to providing the financial incentives needed to get large projects off the shelf and on the table.”

These grants will fund up to $500,000 or 50 percent of project costs per company for large energy efficiency projects that have been stalled due to lack of available internal capital. Applicants must document a need for funding to overcome the financial barrier to be selected. Approved projects must be completed December 15, 2010 and offer savings of 200,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity or 20,000 therms of natural gas annually.

“Focus offered a similar program in 2007 that was very popular,” Williams explained. “We are pleased to offer an expanded version of the program for 2010 and give companies the opportunity to complete stalled projects.”

Interested businesses should visit for more information. Applications must include a list of potential projects as funding is based on the energy savings from those projects and is paid when projects are completed. Applications must be received by December 4, 2009. For more information about large industrial grants call Craig Schepp at (608) 277-2948.

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