Archive for February, 2010

Wind park offers significant benefits to the state

Posted on February 26, 2010. Filed under: Economic development, Wind |

From the written decision of the Public Service Commission on We Energies’ Glacier Hills Wind Park:

WEPCO’s [We Energies’] wind-powered electric generating facility is a renewable resource that offers significant benefits to the state of Wisconsin. The air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions it avoids, the lack of solid waste, and the fact that it consumes virtually no water are important environmental benefits. This project will support the state’s goal of increasing its reliance upon renewable resources and will help diversify Wisconsin’s pool of electric generating facilities. It fits well with existing land uses, will help preserve the agricultural nature of the project area, will impose no reliability, safety, or engineering problems upon the electric system, and will create no undue adverse impacts on environmental values. After weighing all the elements of WEPCO’s project, including the conditions imposed by this Final Decision, the Commission finds that issuing a CPCN will promote the public health and welfare and is in the public interest. The Commission also finds that, while members of the public are concerned about possible health effects associated with the project, there is not sufficient evidence in the record to conclude that the project would cause adverse health effects. (Page 45 of the Order, Docket 6630-CE-302.)

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Citizens show overwhelming support for Clean Energy Jobs

Posted on February 25, 2010. Filed under: Climate change, Economic development, Energy Policy |

From a news release issued by Clean Wisconsin:

Madison, Wis – Despite big oil and coal spending hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to confuse and turn the public against the Clean Energy Jobs Act, Wisconsin residents and businesses demonstrated overwhelming support for the bill in recent legislative hearings, with supporters outnumbering opponents by more than a 2 to 1 ratio, according to data recently obtained from the Wisconsin State Legislature.

“Attendance at the hearings shows that Wisconsinites support the Clean Energy Jobs Act, despite the attempts of big oil and coal lobbyists to sour public perception with misinformation and deceptive
advertising,” said Keith Reopelle, Senior Policy Director at Clean Wisconsin. “Energy independence may be bad for the big oil and coal companies, but it’s good for the hard-working people of Wisconsin.

Supporters of this bill realize that greater energy independence means higher profits for Wisconsin businesses, more jobs, and a cleaner, healthier environment.”

In an attempt to weaken the Clean Energy Jobs Act, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) and big oil and coal companies have flooded the capital with lobbyists and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertisements and studies that use biased, outdated and discredited information to attack the bill.

Despite this misinformation campaign, individuals supported the bill 2 to 1 at recent legislative hearings, with actual businesses supporting the bill by a 3 to 1 margin.

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Wind Turbine Syndrome: Myths and Facts Webinar

Posted on February 24, 2010. Filed under: Wind |

From a recent Webinar now available online at the Web site of Windustry:

This webinar was hosted by Windustry and the Great Lakes Regional Wind Energy Institute with support from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory on February 11, 2010. The webinar provided a discussion of the myths and facts behind wind turbine syndrome and how scientific research is used to both support and deny the claims made.

Presenters for Wind Turbine Syndrome: Myths and Facts included:.
•W. David Colby, M.D.: Chatham-Kent Medical Officer of Health (Acting); Associate Professor, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, University of Western Ontario
•Geoff Leventhall, Ph.D.: Consultant in Noise Vibration and Acoustics, UK

Download slides from the webinar:.
“Sound and Health” – Dr W. David Colby
“Wind Turbine Syndrome – an Appraisal” – Geoff Leventhall

The Web site also has a link to play the Webinar.

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Milwaukee council panel approves solar power revolving loans

Posted on February 23, 2010. Filed under: Solar |

Anews release issued by Alderman Tony Zielinski:

The Community and Economic Development committee unanimously approved an ordinance today that allows the City of Milwaukee to create the state’s first property assessed solar power revolving loan program to make solar power a more attractive option for homeowners.

Alderman Tony Zielinski, primary sponsor of the ordinance says promoting solar power is critical for environmental reasons as well as job creation. “Encouraging solar power options creates job opportunities for solar panel installers and also helps to increase a need for manufacturing the panels and the jobs related to that process,” Ald. Zielinski said.

“Historically, one of the barriers to installing solar power in homes has been the upfront costs. This loan program reduces that impediment and for as little as a few hundred dollars, a homeowner can create energy efficiency in their home and begin saving money immediately,” Ald. Zielinski said.

Homeowners who take advantage of the loan program have 15 years to repay the installation costs; money they can easily earn in energy savings, Ald. Zielinski notes.

Co-sponsor of the ordinance, Alderman Nik Kovac said “Creating this energy efficiency improvement fund is one way the City of Milwaukee can help its residents increase the efficiency of their own home while simultaneously creating a specific job market within the city.”

“Homeowners are looking for green solutions,” Ald. Terry Witkowski, co-sponsor, said, “and the City of Milwaukee can only stand to benefit by exploring alternatives like the solar power loan program.”

The ordinance will appear before the full Council on Tuesday, March 2 for approval. Residents who would like to learn more about the property assessed solar loan program or access the program manual should contact Andrea Luecke, project manager of the Milwaukee Shines program, at For more information about how the City of Milwaukee supports solar energy, click on

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Of Molehills and Renewable Energy Purchases

Posted on February 22, 2010. Filed under: Energy Policy, General |

From a commentary by Michael Vickerman, RENEW executive director:

As the Legislature mulls over the pending comprehensive energy bill known as the Clean Energy Jobs Act (SB 450/AB 649), both supporters and opponents have been keeping their artillery banks busy, peppering the airwaves and cyberspace with press releases, position papers, radio advertisements and economic impact studies. It’s a veritable war of words out there.

In pursuit of the larger objective of undermining public support for that bill, several opponents of the energy bill are attempting to manufacture a controversy out of the State of Wisconsin’s purchasing of renewable electricity, an outgrowth of the state’s current energy policy law (2005 Act 141). That law directed the State of Wisconsin to source 10% of its electrical usage from renewable resources by 2007 and 20% by 2011. In the initiative’s first year, the purchase of renewable energy added $1.4 million, or 1.7%, to the state’s overall electric bill.

The critics, led by Rep. Brett Davis (R-Oregon), contend that the state’s purchase is a budget-straining extravagance that taxpayers cannot afford at this time. In a letter sent to the Department of Administration, Davis insinuated that one of the energy purchase contracts amounts to a sweetheart deal for the utility provider, WPPI Energy, because it charged higher premiums than the other two utilities. Davis has asked the Legislative Audit Bureau to review the WPPI contract. WPPI, it should be noted, is a nonprofit wholesale energy provider serving more than 40 municipal electric utilities in Wisconsin.

Before we plunge into the politics behind this puffed-up molehill, a brief primer little on energy pricing is in order.

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Clean Energy Jobs Act would boost economy and employment

Posted on February 19, 2010. Filed under: Climate change, Economic development, Energy Policy |

From a news release issued by the Center for Climate Strategies:

Implementation of the recently introduced Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) would expand the state’s economy and create thousands of additional new jobs for Wisconsin. These impacts are reported in a recent Center for Climate Strategies (CCS) analysis of the macroeconomic effects of the proposed law, conducted by Michigan State University and the University of Southern California in association with the State of Wisconsin. The analysis focuses on nine proposed policy actions that address clean and renewable energy, energy efficiency, industrial processes, transportation and agriculture.

Based on a state-of-the-art macroeconomic analysis, implementation of these CEJA actions would result in the following outcomes for Wisconsin:
 Create a net increase of more than 16,200 new jobs in the state by 2025;
 Boost the state’s economy (Gross State Product) by
o $254 million in the near term (2015),
o more than $700 million in 2020,
o $1.41 billion by 2025, and
o $4.9 billion total over the 2011-2025 period.

Reactions to the study: Governor Doyle and CREWE.

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Study projects minimal impact from renewable buyback rates

Posted on February 18, 2010. Filed under: Climate change, Economic development, Energy Policy |

From a letter to State Rep. Spencer Black and State Sen. Mark Miller:

RENEW is pleased to provide the enclosed copy of the narrative and appendix of tables from an economic analysis that we commissioned.

The analysis concludes that special buyback rates (sometimes called Advanced Renewable Tariffs) designed to stimulate small-scale renewable energy installations would have negligible impact on residential utility bills, averaging about $10 a year. That’s less a dollar a month for the typical customer. And it’s less than a household’s cost of purchasing the smallest block of green power from Madison Gas and Electric, for instance.

Compared with other forms of economic stimulus, promoting small-scale renewables through utility buyback rates would deliver a substantial and long-lasting economic punch with minimal impact on the Wisconsin citizen’s pocketbook.

Prepared by Spring Green-based L&S Technical Associates, the study modeled rate impacts from the legislation’s provisions for ARTs on the state’s five largest utilities. The modeling predicts cost impacts ranging from a low of $8.12 a year for a residential customer of Wisconsin Public Service to as high as $11.07 for a Wisconsin Power and Light (Alliant) customer. The projected impact would amount to $8.81 a year for a We Energies customer, $9.71 for a Madison Gas and Electric customer, and $10.11 for an Xcel Energy customer.

The projections assume that when each utility reaches its maximum threshold of 1.5 percent of total retail sales. In the aggregate, this percentage equates to 1/70th of total annual sales. That’s one billion kilowatt-hours a year, out of total annual sales of 70 billion kilowatt-hour.

Though the principals of L&S Technical Associates serve on RENEW’s board of directors, they have prepared numerous renewable energy studies for other clients, including the U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Center of Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. L&S has also co-authored renewable energy potential studies in response to requests from the Wisconsin Public Service Commission.

The bill’s renewable energy buyback provisions would unleash a steady flow of investment that would lead to new economic activity and jobs while moving us toward energy independence – exactly what we all hope to accomplish by passage of the Clean Energy Jobs Act legislation.

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Clearing up Wisconsin’s lakes with clean energy

Posted on February 17, 2010. Filed under: Biomass, Climate change, Digesters, Energy Policy |

From a commentary by Michael Vickerman, RENEW’s executive director:

In the next six weeks the Legislature will make a truly momentous decision on the state’s energy future. Either it can embrace an ambitious 15-year commitment to invigorate the state’s economy through sustained investments in clean energy or decide to coast along on current energy policies until they lapse and lose their force and effect.

Arguably the most innovative feature in the Clean Energy Jobs Act, as it’s now called, is a proposed requirement on larger electric providers to acquire locally produced renewable electricity with Advanced Renewable Tariffs (ARTs). These are technology-specific buyback rates that provide a fixed purchase price for the electricity produced over a period of 10 to 20 years, set at levels sufficient to recover installation costs along with a modest profit. Now available in more than a dozen nations in Europe as well as the Province of Ontario, ARTs have proven to be singularly effective in stimulating considerable growth in small-scale production of distributed renewable electricity. . . .

Consider the much-vaunted Dane County Cow Power Project, which should be operational before the end of the year. Using anaerobic digestion technology, this Waunakee-area installation will treat manure from three nearby dairy farms and produce biogas that will fuel a two-megawatt generator. This community digester project, the first of its kind in Wisconsin, will be built with private capital and a State of Wisconsin award to support a technology that reduces the flow of phosphorus into the Yahara Lakes. A second digester project is also planned for Dane County.

The key element that makes the financing of this project work is the special biogas buyback rate that Alliant Energy, the local utility, voluntarily put in place a year ago. With the higher rate, the project’s return on investment was sufficient to interest outside investors. . . .

If we are serious about neutralizing the algae blooms that turn the Yahara lakes green each year, we’ll need to adopt a clean energy policy, including ARTs, that facilitates the development of biodigesters in farm country.

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Wind energy firm picks Milwaukee for plant

Posted on February 16, 2010. Filed under: Economic development, Wind |

From an article by Larry Sandler in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Politicians and business leaders were quick to celebrate – and claim credit for – Monday’s announcement that a Spanish company will bring hundreds of new jobs to Milwaukee.

Wisconsin’s current governor, two candidates to succeed him, and not one but two regional economic development alliances all lined up to score points from a new Menomonee Valley plant for Ingeteam, a Spanish manufacturer of wind-turbine generators.

About 270 manufacturing jobs will be created by the plant, said Greater Milwaukee Committee President Julia Taylor. Building the plant will bring construction jobs as well, said Patrick Curley, chief of staff to Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

It will be Ingeteam’s first North American factory, said Gale Klappa, co-chairman of the Milwaukee 7 economic development coalition.

Ingeteam chose the valley because of its proximity to workers, I-94 and Spanish-speaking neighborhoods, as well as Milwaukee’s “great reputation for manufacturing,” said Barrett, also a Milwaukee 7 co-chairman.

The plant will be built near the western end of the valley, Barrett said. The exact site will be announced Tuesday, Curley said.

Barrett called on Klappa, the chief executive officer of We Energies, to make the announcement during the mayor’s “state of the city” address at the downtown headquarters of Manpower. He also introduced five Ingeteam executives, who he said had just flown in from Spain for the announcement.

In January, President Barack Obama’s administration announced that Ingeteam had been awarded $1.66 million in clean-tech manufacturing tax credits to make wind turbine generators as well as power converter and control systems in Milwaukee. Further indications surfaced last week that the company had picked Milwaukee.

Ingeteam is a privately held, diversified manufacturer based in Zamudio, Spain, a suburb of Bilbao, the city visited last fall by state Commerce Secretary Richard Leinenkugel, City Development Commissioner Rocky Marcoux and Milwaukee 7 representatives. Outside Spain, the company has operations in seven countries, including an office in Mequon.

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Debate over Clean Energy Jobs Act centers on prices

Posted on February 15, 2010. Filed under: Climate change, Economic development, Energy Policy |

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

In the rhetoric of the energy bill debate in Madison, energy prices will go up – either because the Legislature passes the Clean Energy Jobs Act or because the Legislature fails to pass it.

Rising energy prices are a familiar refrain to many in Wisconsin, where energy expenditures total $16 billion a year. A review of electricity price increases by the Journal Sentinel found residential customers across the state pay 39% to 70% more than they paid in 2001.

Advocates on both sides of the debate over the Clean Energy Jobs Act are raising fears about higher costs.

Opponents say utilities will have to invest billions of dollars in wind farms and other projects to comply with an aggressive renewable energy mandate proposed by the bill. Supporters say billions of dollars are at risk because of Wisconsin’s heavy reliance on coal.

A new analysis by the state Public Service Commission found that utility bills are likely to be less in 2025 if the bill passes and there’s a carbon tax or cap-and-trade system that penalizes coal.

Public Service Commission Chairman Eric Callisto testified at a recent hearing that power prices for a typical Wisconsin customer would fall nearly 7% if the bill is passed and there’s a $20-per-ton price on carbon. Prices would fall 1% if there’s a $10-per-ton price on carbon and would rise nearly 6.6% if there’s no carbon price, he said.

“But that’s not reality,” he said. “I don’t believe for a second that we’re going to see a future where carbon doesn’t have a price on it.”

In its studies over the last several years, the commission has been banking on the fact that there will be a price on carbon, he said.

Under that scenario, “there are dollars left on the table by the status quo,” Callisto said.

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