Archive for November, 2009

Module recycling facility to locate in DeForest, WI

Posted on November 30, 2009. Filed under: Economic development, Solar |

From an article by Stuart Weinberg in the Wall Street Journal:

TORONTO (Dow Jones)–5N Plus Inc. (VNP.T) has leased a 60,000-square-foot facility in DeForest, Wisc. where it plans to recycle solar modules.

The company was granted a conditional permit by the Board of Trustees of Deforest to use the facility for “photovoltaic module operations using chemical processing,” according to a transcript of a Sept. 8 board meeting.

5N’s initial plans call for the treatment of coated soda-lime glass contained in end-of-life solar modules and solar-module-production rejects. In a description of the project submitted to the town, the company said it expects to treat about 10,000 tons in the first phase of the project. It said that figure will increase as demand from its customers increases. In the project’s second phase, which will begin within 12 months after moving into the plant, the company plans to recycle fully laminated solar modules. The plant will initially have 17 employees.

5N, based in Montreal, is best known for its production of cadmium telluride, or CdTe, a key raw material used in thin-film solar panels. The company’s largest customer is First Solar Inc. (FSLR), which accounted for 85% of 5N’s first-quarter revenue.

5N’s recycling initiative in DeForest could represent an effort to reduce its reliance on First Solar by adding a new revenue stream, said National Bank Financial’s Rupert Merer. A First Solar spokesman said the company has no involvement in the project. “There’s no connection between the Wisconsin facility and the First Solar business,” First Solar’s Alan Bernheimer told Dow Jones.

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RENEW brief supports Glacier Hills Wind Park

Posted on November 24, 2009. Filed under: Wind |

From RENEW Wisconsin’s brief filed with the Public Service Commission in support of the Glacier Hills Wind Park:

The design of the proposed Project is in the public interest first and foremost because it will be powered by wind rather than fossil fuels. Wind energy is a locally available, self-replenishing, emission-free electricity source. Fossil fuels, on the other hand, must be imported, are available in limited quantities, and emit pollutants. Moreover, using wind energy furthers the State’s policy goal that all new installed capacity for electric generation be based on renewable energy resources to the extent cost-effective and technically feasible. Wis. Stat. § 1.12(3)(b).

In his direct testimony, RENEW Wisconsin witness Michael Vickerman outlined a number of other public policy objectives that would be advanced by the construction of Glacier Hills. These include:
1. Helping Wisconsin Electric Power Company (“WEPCO”) meet its renewable energy requirements under Wis. Stat. § 196.378(2)(a)(2)d;
2. Securing adequate supplies of energy from sustainable sources;
3. Protecting ratepayers from rising fossil fuel prices;
4. Reducing air and water emissions from generation sources;
5. Preserving working farms and pasture land;
6. Generating additional revenues for host towns and counties;
7. Reducing the flow of capital out of Wisconsin for energy purchases; and
8. Investing Wisconsin capital in a wealth-producing energy generating facility within its borders. (Tr. D7.3-7.4.)

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Wind Myths: Busted

Posted on November 23, 2009. Filed under: Wind |

From a post by Tom Gray on Into the Wind Blog hosted by the American Wind Energy Association:

[I recently] referred to a . . . special issue of Power & Energy on wind energy. Power & Energy is the magazine of the Power Engineering Society (PES) of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and in recent years, it has devoted one issue every two years to assembling many of the foremost experts in the field to examine the status of wind technology and its use by electric utilities.

The magazine’s editors have been kind enough to provide free access to two articles from the special issue here. Most significantly, one of the two is “Wind Power Myths Debunked,” by Michael Milligan, Kevin Porter, Edgar DeMeo, Paul Denholm, Hannele Holttinen, Brendan Kirby, Nicholas Miller, Andrew Mills, Mark O’Malley, Matthew Schuerger, and Lennart Soder.

The Milligan et al article looks at a variety of mythic questions (e.g., “Doesn’t wind power need backup generation?”) and addresses them in detail with appropriate graphics. I’m not going to go through them here, but I do want to call attention to the article’s conclusions, which I am going to list here in a modified, bulleted format for clarity:

– “Although wind is a variable resource, grid [utility system] operators have experience with managing variability that comes from handling the variability of load [customer electricity demand]. As a result, in many instances the power system is equipped to handle variability.

– “Wind power is not expensive to integrate …

– “…nor does it require dedicated backup generation or storage.

– “Developments in tools such as wind forecasting also aid in integrating wind power.

– “Integration wind can be aided by enlarging balancing areas and moving to subhourly scheduling, which enable grid operators to access a deeper stack of generating resources and take advantage of the smoothing of wind output due to geographic diversity.

– “Continued improvements in new conventional-generation technologies and the emergence of demand response, smart grids, and new technologies such as plug-in hybrids will also help with wind integration.”

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The staggering cost of new nuclear power

Posted on November 20, 2009. Filed under: Nuclear |

From an article by Joseph Room on Center for American Progress:

A new study puts the generation costs for power from new nuclear plants at 25 to 30 cents per kilowatt-hour—triple current U.S. electricity rates!

This staggering price is far higher than the cost of a variety of carbon-free renewable power sources available today—and 10 times the cost of energy efficiency (see “Is 450 ppm possible? Part 5: Old coal’s out, can’t wait for new nukes, so what do we do NOW?”

The new study, “Business Risks and Costs of New Nuclear Power,” is one of the most detailed cost analyses publically available on the current generation of nuclear power plants being considered in this country. It is by a leading expert in power plant costs, Craig A. Severance. A practicing CPA, Severance is co-author of The Economics of Nuclear and Coal Power (Praeger 1976), and former assistant to the chairman and to commerce counsel, Iowa State Commerce Commission.

This important new analysis is being published by Climate Progress because it fills a critical gap in the current debate over nuclear power—transparency. Severance explains:

All assumptions, and methods of calculation are clearly stated. The piece is a deliberate effort to demystify the entire process, so that anyone reading it (including non-technical readers) can develop a clear understanding of how total generation costs per kWh come together.

As stunning as this new, detailed cost estimate is, it should not come as a total surprise. I detailed the escalating capital costs of nuclear power in my May 2008 report, “The Self-Limiting Future of Nuclear Power.” And in a story last week on nuclear power’s supposed comeback, Time magazine notes that nuclear plants’ capital costs are “out of control,” concluding:

Most efficiency improvements have been priced at 1¢ to 3¢ per kilowatt-hour, while new nuclear energy is on track to cost 15¢ to 20¢ per kilowatt-hour. And no nuclear plant has ever been completed on budget.

Time buried that in the penultimate paragraph of the story!

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Harvesting the sun for homegrown energy

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

From an article by Jim Massey in The Country Today:

RIDGEWAY — Penny Koerner said she thinks it’s ironic when people pull into her driveway in a $40,000 sport utility vehicle and ask what the payback is on the solar systems they have installed on their farm.

“The first question is always, ‘What’s the payback?'” Penny said. “You don’t drive that SUV out of the (car dealership) lot and ask what the payback is. We’re paying ahead for the kids, we’re not paying back.”

Penny and Jerry Koerner operate Sun Harvest Farm near Ridgeway in Iowa County. In the past five years they have installed two solar photovoltaic systems, a solar hot water system, improved the efficiency of their 100-year-old farmhouse and built and installed a hot air collector to provide heat in their barn workshop.

Sun Harvest Farm was the last of four stops on a Nov. 13 southwestern Wisconsin Homegrown Renewable Energy Bus Tour. Other stops were the Montfort Wind Farm, where wind energy and the low-carbon fuel standard were the topics of conversation; Meister Cheese in Muscoda, where the plant burns 27 tons of locally sourced wood chips a day to heat and power its plant; and Cardinal Glass in Mazomanie, where 54 employees were recently hired to make photovoltaic solar panels.

Margaret Krome, policy program director at the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute in East Troy, has been pushing policies to promote homegrown renewable energy production.

Some of the policies are being considered by the state Legislature as part of the Clean Energy Jobs Act.

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Supreme Court denies Calumet County wind turbine review

Posted on November 18, 2009. Filed under: Wind |

From an article by Jim Collar in the Appleton Post- Crescent:

CHILTON — Calumet County supervisors jumped the gun on new wind turbine rules this summer even while asking the state Supreme Court to consider whether its old ordinance met legal muster.

A denial from Wisconsin’s justices will now require the county to put that early work to action.

The state Supreme Court on Friday denied Calumet County’s petition for review of an appeals court decision that invalidated the county’s wind turbine rules. The ordinance dictated setbacks and maximum heights and sound levels for all turbine construction within its zoning jurisdiction.

Wisconsin’s 2nd District Court of Appeals struck down the ordinance in July, saying each proposed project has to be reviewed on its own merits. . . .

Chester Dietzen, chairman of the county’s planning, zoning and farmland preservation committee, said supervisors made good use of their time since asking the Supreme Court for review. The committee already held a public hearing on proposed ordinance changes, which clears the path to forward compliant rules to the county board for consideration.

“We’re ahead of the game,” he said.

The decision stemmed from a 2006 lawsuit filed against Calumet County by a Town of Stockbridge farmer who sought to add four turbines to his property. The county, however, placed a moratorium on construction after Marvin Ecker Jr. declared his intention, and then passed the ordinance that tightened requirements.

The appeals court found the County Board overstepped its authority. . . .

A new ordinance will also become moot in time due to a newly passed law that directed the state’s Public Service Commission to draft statewide regulations for turbine placement.

While those rules will override local ordinances, Dietzen said passage of a new ordinance would protect county interests in the meantime.

Dietzen said it could be up to a year before the statewide rules are enacted.

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Solar energy field remains strong in Wisconsin

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

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

Given our climate, Wisconsin would never be mistaken for the best solar state in the country.

But among non-Sun Belt states, the state is staking a claim in providing power from the sun.

Except for California and Texas, Wisconsin is the only state with two cities – Milwaukee and Madison – in the national Solar America Cities program.

A $19.6 million project for Roundy’s Corp. in Oconomowoc would become the largest solar power project in the Midwest, if it gets $8.8 million in federal stimulus funding.

And the state has more certified solar installers per capita than nearly every state in the country, according to Tehri Parker, executive director of the Midwest Renewable Energy Association. Even with the recession, the number of solar installations is expanding – and so is training for solar-contracting jobs, Parker said.

On a recent weekend in Milwaukee, trainees from Wyoming, Virginia and Missouri were on a rooftop in Milwaukee’s central city installing solar panels on a Habitat for Humanity home.

Habitat is partnering with We Energies and the Midwest Renewable Energy Association to provide much-needed training for solar technicians – a job that’s expected to be in high demand given the growth trajectory that solar enjoys.

John Price, a firefighter with the Brookfield Fire Department, is looking to switch careers into a greener line of work.

He’s getting trained in solar installation, working on installing solar panels at Habitat for Humanity homes in Milwaukee, and forming a Waukesha business, Access Solar, with his sons.

He was leading an installation at a Habitat house a few weeks back and learned his students hailed from across the country.

“It’s people who’ve been laid off, or are people who are in their 40s who are changing careers or laid off and looking for something else,” said Price, 50.

Small fraction
Solar represents a fraction of the energy supply puzzle. If the state’s energy supply in 2007 were a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle, coal would account for more than 300 pieces, and renewable energy would account for about 20 pieces. All the solar power in the state wouldn’t add up to a piece.

But the growth rate for solar has been something to behold, even as advocates concede the numbers are small in total.

“It’s been a remarkable year,” said Niels Wolter, who heads solar programs at the state Focus on Energy program. “We’re projecting out 73% growth over last year. Before that it was growing at about 80% per year since 2002. So it’s slowed down a little bit in the growth rate, but it’s still a booming market. . . .”

Even with all these projects and announcements, some renewable energy advocates say the growth rate will slow considerably in 2010 because electric utilities no longer are offering extra incentives to give the solar market a boost.

We Energies had a generous solar buyback rate in place two years ago, and replaced it with a different program this year. That program is fully subscribed, and no more applications are being accepted.

Michael Vickerman, executive director of the advocacy group Renew Wisconsin, said the expiration of those incentives is unfortunate. He’s urging the state to move aggressively to require utilities to offer generous buyback rates.

“We are clearly the leading state in the Midwest, but that momentum is in danger of dissipating,” said Vickerman. “Because what really attracts customers and would-be system owners is the buyback rate.”

And developers of large solar projects aren’t coming to Wisconsin, said green-energy consultant Brett Hulsey, because Wisconsin hasn’t followed states such as California and New Jersey in adopting tax credits to bring down the price of solar projects.

Utilities say that the incentives are being subsidized by other utility customers. Other incentives are still available, including a 30% federal tax credit and rebates from Focus on Energy, said We Energies spokesman Brian Manthey.

In addition, the prices for solar panels themselves have dropped by 15% in recent months, shortening the number of years it would take to pay back the investment in solar from about 23 years to about 20 years, depending on the project.

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Milwaukee a finalist for Spanish wind energy company

Posted on November 16, 2009. Filed under: Economic development, Wind |

From a post by Tom Content on his blog at JSOnline:

Milwaukee and one other city are in the running for a Spanish wind energy supplier as it considers its first manufacturing plant in the United States.

The name of the firm and the name of the city competing against Milwaukee haven’t been disclosed, but Tim Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, said the company was in the alternative energy business.

State and city economic development leaders were in Spain this week for meetings with the Spanish firm. Brian Manthey, a spokesman for We Energies, said the team that headed to Spain brought along a representative of the utility who has expertise about wind energy.

The company would be expected to create 100 to 200 jobs here, Sheehy said.

Milwaukee is a finalist for the investment, after earlier competing against more than a dozen cities that the firm was considering.

Representatives of the company have been to the city twice to evaluate potential suppliers and the availability of skilled manufacturing workers, he said.

Representatives of the state at the meeting this week were state Commerce Secretary Dick Leinenkugel, city development director Rocky Marcoux, and Pat O’Brien and Jim Paetsch from the Milwaukee 7 economic development group.

“It’s fair to call this a significant investment,” Sheehy said. “We’ve got a lot of manpower on the ground over there – not that we’re not going to chase every possible job out there – but I think the manpower is appropriate to the potential in this deal.”

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Online now: Renewable Energy Quarterly, Fall 2009

Posted on November 13, 2009. Filed under: Biomass, Energy Policy, Solar, Wind, Wood |

RENEW Wisconsin’s newsletter features these articles:

+ Doyle Signs Wind Siting Reform Bill into Law
+ Solar Outlook Set to Dim in 2010
+ PSC Approves Coal to Wood Conversion
+ Producer Profile: Rick Adamski
+ Educating Schools on Solar Air Heating
+ RENEW Slams Anti-Wind Article
+ Calendar

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Sun Harvest Farm: Solar hot water and more

Posted on November 12, 2009. Filed under: Biomass, Energy Efficiency, Solar |

From a description by Jerry and Penny Kroener of Sun Harvest Farm, Ridgeway, WI, one stop on the Renewable Energy Tour, November 13, 2009:

In 2005 we embarked on major renovations and additions to our old farmhouse. This included working with Focus on Energy to have site assessments performed for Solar Photovoltaic, Solar Thermal and Wind Turbine Systems. We also investigated wood burning systems because we have substantial quantities of firewood on our property. Our decisions included the following:
1. Add additional insulation, all new windows and new doors.
2. Replace our old oil burning furnace with a high efficiency propane boiler (our little Munchkin).
3. Install a Solar Photovoltaic grid-connected system to produce electricity.
4. Install a Solar Thermal (hot water) system to preheat domestic hot water and provide some house heat.
5. Install a counter-flow masonry heater fireplace using our own limestone for the masonry cladding.
6. In 2008 we built and installed a hot air collector to provide some heat in our barn workshop.
7. In 2009 we installed our 2nd Photovoltaic grid-connected system.
8. In 2009 we also upgraded our solar hot water storage tank

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