Archive for July, 2010

UW-Rock County turns to sun power

Posted on July 30, 2010. Filed under: Solar |

From an article by Frank Schultz in the Janesville Gazette:

JANESVILLE — The sun doesn’t always shine.

Such was the case during a recent week—wouldn’t you know it—as Bob McCallister was showing off UW-Rock County’s new solar-energy project.

The Janesville campus is home to three configurations of solar panels, all pumping out electricity that the power company is buying.

Even on an overcast day, there was enough light to generate juice, the UW-Rock geography professor noted.

Then the sun broke through the clouds.

McCallister was standing underneath a pole-mounted array, which can sense the brightest spot in the sky and turn towards it, like a sunflower.

“Oh look, look! You can really see it!”

Sure enough, the 9-by-12-foot array moved, ever so slowly, to the best light-absorbing angle.

“These things are quite a bit more expensive up front, but they’re also a lot more efficient,” said McCallister, who has been working to get the solar project up and running for the past four years.

In addition to the array that tracks the sun, there’s another pole-mounted array that can be adjusted manually to account for the angle of the sun as the seasons change.

A third set of solar panels is anchored like an awning along the south side of the school’s engineering addition.

Each array has nine identical photovoltaic panels that turn sunlight into electricity. The arrays produced direct current or DC. The DC runs through devices called inverters, which convert it to alternating current—AC. Alternating current is the kind of electricity everyone uses at home.

Planning began in 2006, but the panels didn’t start generating electricity until late last year.

In the first five months of this year, the panels generated $1,060 worth of electricity. The state, which pays UW-Rock’s utility bills, benefits from the arrangement.

If this average carries through for the year, the total net credit to the state would be over $2,500 for 2010.

The money is nice, but McCallister and his colleagues hope to generate more than electricity.

The prime objective is to teach, and UW-Rock professors are bursting with plans.

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Waukesha tech college turbine impact will be negligible

Posted on July 29, 2010. Filed under: Wind |

From an article by Jim Stevens in the Lake Country Reporter:

Village of Pewaukee — Residents in a subdivision near Waukesha County Technical College are objecting to a 95-foot tall wind turbine that school officials are proposing to be built behind the Electronics building.

WCTC officials will be holding an informational hearing Aug. 16 to address the neighbors’ concerns.

In a mass email from Village Heights subdivision, the residents are upset they were not notified by WCTC or village officials about the project. The village Plan Commission approved plans for the turbine in April.

The email states the residents object to an “11 story tower and wind turbine behind our homes. We are all of the belief that these types of machines have no place in a residential or urban setting.”

The email also expresses concern about noise, disrupting their lives, being close to the Pewaukee High School cross country trail and disturbing wildlife.

While the turbine is within 935 feet of the school’s property line, there is a hilly, wooded area between the residential area and the campus. Kaylen Betzig, WCTC executive vice president, said it is not known if the turbine will be visible from the residences. Betzig said WCTC has received all necessary approvals from the village and the Federal Aviation Administration. The project still needs approval by the WCTC board, which is holding the meeting to get more input from residents.

Ray Walters, manager of renewable energy and sustainability for WCTC, said people are confusing the proposed turbine with the kind that is visible off Highway 41 near Fond du Lac.

Those turbines are nearly 400-feet tall, with 200-foot long blades that produce megawatts. The proposed turbine has blades that are 11-½ feet long, said Walters and the noise will not be any louder than the natural ambient noise, like “wind rustling through the trees,” he said.

According to the environmental study posted on the WCTC website the turbine will have a noise level equivalent to a refrigerator at three feet distance. Given the turbine will be more than 200 feet from the nearest property line and WCTC building the “turbine will be virtually inaudible at these distances.”

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High-voltage power line would link Madison, La Crosse

Posted on July 27, 2010. Filed under: Transmission, Wind |

From a blog post by Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

American Transmission Co. announced Monday that it will seek to build a 345,000-volt power line linking Madison and La Crosse, with the cost of the project tentatively pegged at $425 million.

The Pewaukee-based power company says two years of study have shown that a 150-mile line would boost electric system reliability, savings for utilities buying power in the Midwest wholesale power market and improve access to wind power generated west of Wisconsin.

No route has yet been selected and the company will spend the next two years exploring routing alternatives in the corridor shown above. A detailed cost estimate will be available once potential routes for the line are selected, said ATC spokeswoman Anne Spaltholz.

The company will host open houses with the public and stakeholders beginning this fall to explore routing choices, she said.

The line, which has been given the name Badger Coulee Transmission Line, is expected to offset the need for about $140 million in lower-voltage upgrades in western Wisconsin communities, ATC said, citing its own studies.

ATC is a transmission-line company that is owned primarily by the local electric utilities in eastern Wisconsin.

Details about the location and cost of the line will be announced when ATC submits a formal application for the line to the state Public Service Commission in 2013. At that time, the company will submit detailed routing information about two alternatives for the commission to consider.

If approved, the line would be built by 2018.

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Jefferson aims to capitalize on location with solar farm

Posted on July 26, 2010. Filed under: Solar |

From an article by in the Wisconsin State Journal:

A 110-acre farm proposed for the north side of Jefferson won’t grow corn, raise chickens or produce milk.

Instead, its harvest will come from the sun.

A Florida company wants to build a $100 million, 20-megawatt solar farm capable of producing enough power for 3,500 homes and generating about $10 million in revenue a year with its 100,000 photovoltaic modules.

Construction on the project, the company’s first, could start this fall and be completed by the fall of 2011 or spring of 2012.

And now the question that begs to be answered: Why Jefferson?

“We see an opportunity where the regulatory environment is very reasonable,” said Jeff Lord, chief executive officer of Green States Energy in Deerfield Beach, Fla. “We are interested in doing more projects in Wisconsin and we’ve been exploring that as well as in other states as well.”

States such as Nevada, California and Arizona have some of the best environments for producing electricity from solar farms but communities and power companies in those states are being inundated with solar proposals, which has slowed development, Lord said. Environmental studies required for the fragile desert ecosystem also have delayed projects.

“It’s very complicated and the process takes a long time,” Lord said. “You add all that up and you have an elongated time line, a lot of red tape and a lot of cost.”

The project, dubbed Jefferson Sun 1, would be built on farmland purchased over the last 15 years by the city for development. The land is just north of the former Briggs & Stratton plant and just south of the Valero Energy Corp. ethanol plant.

Green States would sell power to Sun Prairie-based WPPI Energy, which provides electricity to city-owned Jefferson Utilities, among others. Green States is negotiating a power purchase agreement with WPPI and what could be a 30-year lease agreement with the city for the land. It also needs an inter-connectivity agreement with the city to get power to the city-owned substation and a conditional-use permit from the plan commission. Agreements and city approval are expected by the end of next month, said Tim Freitag, city administrator.

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Seats still available on the Fond du Lac energy efficiency and renewable energy tour

Posted on July 23, 2010. Filed under: Digesters, Energy Efficiency, Renewable energy - generally |

From a news release issued by UW-Cooperative Extension, Fond du Lac County:

The public is invited to attend a Local Energy Tour on Saturday, July 31st from 8:30 am – noon organized by the Fond du Lac County and the Green Lake County UW-Extension offices.

Fond du Lac County businesses have made this area a unique place to learn about cutting edge energy technologies, and the tour allows participants a chance to see these technologies in action and learn what difference they are making in the financial, environmental, and social bottom lines of these companies. Participants will also discuss the land use consequences of energy production and ways to minimize the negative consequences and maximize the economic benefits.

This guided bus tour will visit:
• Mercury Marine
• Wildlife Acres subdivision
• Vir-Clar Dairy
• Cedar Ridge Wind Farm
• Pheasant Run
• a home with a geothermal pond system installed.

Energy use is a serious economic concern for our region, state, and nation.

• Wisconsin residents spent $22.5 billion in 2008 on imported fossil fuels. This amounts to $9000 per household.

• Unfortunately, it is the energy sources on which we are most dependent right now (coal, oil, & natural gas) that are becoming increasingly volatile in price and limited in availability around the world.

• The only energy expenditures that stay in-state is the amount spent on renewables, because that is the only type of energy we are able to produce locally.

• Only 4.5% of our total energy use in Wisconsin comes from renewable, locally-produced fuels.

A virtual tour including pictures, video, and fact sheets about the sites is available online at

Limited seating is available. The tour will begin at and return to Prairie Fest on the campus of UW-Fond du Lac, rain or shine. Email or call 920.929.3173, 920.748.7565, or 920.324.2879 to register.

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Wisconsin creating jobs, harnessing wind power

Posted on July 22, 2010. Filed under: Economic development, Wind |

From a news release issued by the Department of Workforce Development:

TOWN of MENASHA – Department of Workforce Development Secretary Roberta Gassman said today Governor Doyle’s investments in Wisconsin’s clean energy future are showing gains in manufacturing, job opportunities, a cleaner environment, and a more energy independent Wisconsin.

“Under Governor Doyle’s leadership, Wisconsin is harnessing the wind to power economic growth, creating clean energy jobs,” Secretary Gassman said. “As the economy improves from a deep national recession, the steps Wisconsin has taken to encourage efficiency and renewable energy will continue to pay dividends in the long term.”

Secretary Gassman highlighted Governor Doyle’s successful clean energy efforts during a visit to SCA Tissue. At SCA’s Service Excellence Center in the Town of Menasha, she joined the global manufacturer of tissue and paper products in dedicating four wind turbines, the first commercial units built by Renewegy, LLC. The Renewegy turbines will generate 100 to 125 megawatt-hours per year to help power SCA Tissue’s operations. The turbine-generated electricity will complement other energy-saving steps at the company, including heat recovery systems, energy-saving light bulbs, auto lighting systems and low-energy computer screens.

In operation for two years, Renewegy received a $525,000 grant from Governor Doyle last December to purchase manufacturing equipment and create 40 new jobs. The grant was funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Renewegy is one of more than 300 companies in Wisconsin that provide products and services to the wind industry, employing thousands of people.

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Sisters’ monastery, topped by solar electric system, defines sustainability, gains LEED Platinum

Posted on July 21, 2010. Filed under: Solar |

From an article by Candace Roulo on

MADISON, WIS. — The Benedictine Women of Madison work toward environmental solutions and teach the importance of nature in daily life as part of their mission, thus, it was natural that they aimed for a high level of sustainability when building their new monastery, which recently received U.S. Green Building Council LEED Platinum certification. The monastery earned 63 out of a possible 69 points under the LEED for New Construction Version 2.2 Rating System, making it the highest rated LEED Platinum building for new construction in the U.S. . . .

According to Mark Hanson, director of sustainable services, Hoffman LLC, the building is connected to the grid, and over the course of the year, the future goal when the photovoltaic system is expanded is to produce as much energy as is utilized in the building. There are times when the building will import energy from the grid and other times when the building will export energy to the grid.

“They want to be net-zero energy,” said Hanson. “Once the sisters reach that goal, their peak production of power will coincide with that time of the year when there are peak loads on the grid. So this is actually grid friendly since the monastery will produce the most power when the grid needs it the most. The monastery may be able to help the grid when the power system is being stressed. In a sense, the monastery is being community friendly by being connected to the grid.”

The monastery is also participating in Madison Gas and Electric’s Clean Power Partner Program in which the utility company buys up to 10kW of green power at a premium price and then sells it to customers who want to use renewable energy and reduce their environmental footprint. The monastery sells its solar power to Madison Gas and Electric for $0.25 per kWh.

Photovoltaic system
The 20 kW photovoltaic system is made up of 88 Sharp 224 solar panels located on the chapel roof, which faces southwest. Three Fronius inverters, which convert DC to AC power, are located in the utility room. The 10 kW inverter is for the power being sold directly to Madison Gas and Electric via the Clean Power Partner buyback program, and the two 5 kW inverters are for the power that the building is using or is being sent back into the utility transmission grid.

According to Burke O’Neal, co-owner and director of Full Spectrum Solar, Madison, Wis., the photovoltaic system took approximately 23 days to install with three people working on the installation.

“The people on this project were really great to work with, the sisters and all the subcontractors were very enthusiastic,” said O’Neal. “It was exciting to be involved in the overall project. Sometimes projects are done and solar is added at the end. This project was different. The Sisters and project team knew they were going to use solar, so we got a nice large area on the south facing roof to incorporate solar into the project.

“This was the initial photovoltaic system, and I think they plan to add more solar to the project down the line, added O’Neal. “This can be a good component for a fundraiser. There is an initial investment with solar, but it gives back and reduces a building’s operating costs too.”

“Adding more panels would get us [the monastery] up to zero-net energy,” said Hanson. “Once the original project is paid off and fundraising is done for additional PV, hopefully there will be more panels for the rest of the monastery roof and for the roof on the adjacent retreat house.”

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7th Annual Kickapoo Country Fair, July 24-25, 2010

Posted on July 20, 2010. Filed under: Food, Renewable energy - generally, Sustainability |

Now in its seventh year, the Kickapoo Country Fair is the Midwest’s largest organic food and sustainability festival. In La Farge, Wisconsin, nestled among the ancient hills of the Kickapoo Valley, the fair serves up a generous helping of fun for all in celebration of family, culture, and community, all the while looking toward a healthy, sustainable future.

Held July 24-25, 2010, on the grounds of Organic Valley headquarters Kickapoo Country Fair will bring together thousands of attendees for two fun-packed days of food, music, bike and farm tours, cooking demonstrations, theater, kids’ activities, dancing, author readings, and speakers—all offered at an affordable price for families.

*Authors, activists and innovators including Temple Grandin, author of Animals Make Us Human
*Live music all weekend on two stages
*Musical headliner Miles Nielsen — Good ol’ heartland rock ‘n’ roll, main stage, Saturday night
*Wisconsin Author Michael Perry reading from his latest book Coop and performing with his band, the Long Beds
*”Green Village,” green building and lifestyle workshops
*Delicious local and organic food
*Farmers market
*Farm tours and exhibits
*Vendors and artisans
*Fourth-annual Butter Churn Bike Tour
*Children’s activities
*Stiltwalkers and other surprises!

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Wind power might require a costly grid expansion

Posted on July 19, 2010. Filed under: Transmission, Wind |

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

The Midwest could be crisscrossed with a new network of high voltage power lines to move wind-generated power from the windiest spots in the Dakotas, Iowa and Minnesota.

A group of utilities in 11 states, including Pewaukee-based American Transmission Co., is studying three alternatives, each of which would cost at least $23 billion over the next 20 years.

What’s unclear: How much it will end up costing for Wisconsin’s share of the projects. A more detailed analysis has been launched to help determine what the payoff could be in savings from increasing the flow of low-cost power around the region, said Flora Flygt, ATC’s director of strategic projects.

The studies are in response to public policy moves that could result in a dramatic increase in wind energy development. More than 30 states have moved to spur utilities to add more renewable energy. Federal energy legislation pending in Congress could set a national renewable mandate as well.

Pewaukee-based ATC, along with Dairyland Power Cooperative and Xcel Energy, are also studying a high-voltage 345,000-volt power line that would link La Crosse with Madison, with studies slated to be completed by the end of the year.

There’s no question that building essentially a brand-new extra-high voltage system for power will cost a lot. A study by ATC, Xcel Energy and other Midwest utilities, known as the Smart Transmission study, pegs the total cost at $23 billion to $25 billion, by 2029.

The 20-year planning document identifies several projects that would come into the state – some of them by 2019 – including 345,000-volt lines or 765,000-volt lines that would cross southern Wisconsin. It also identifies a direct-current power line across Lake Michigan to create another west-to-east corridor for power.

The utilities’ report, the Strategic Midwest Area Renewable Transmission study, follows the unveiling last year of a plan by ITC Holdings of Novi, Mich., that proposed a high-voltage network in the Midwest at a cost of $10 billion to $12 billion. Earlier this year, planners at the Midwest wholesale power market produced a report detailing a variety of options that cost upward of $16 billion.

Key questions remain about the plans to add a renewable power “overlay,” most notably, who would pay.

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Solar energy being used to help cleanup landfill

Posted on July 15, 2010. Filed under: Solar |

From a story on WKOW-TV, Channel 27, Madison:

TOWN OF MIDDLETON (WKOW) – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is teaming up with the U.S. Department of Energy to study solar energy while cleaning up contamination at the former Refuse Hideaway Landfill in the Town of Middleton.

The Refuse Hideaway Landfill operated from 1974 to 1988 and caused environmental contamination of the groundwater in the area. The state took over cleanup efforts in 1992. State officials say the cleanup will take decades to complete and with that comes a yearly $6,000 price tag to power the process.

44 solar panels have been built at the former landfill site which will save the state about 25-percent of the $6,000 yearly costs to power the decontamination process. “In addition to the savings, these solar panels are the kind of sustainable practices we need to limit greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change,” DNR Secretary Matt Frank said. “How this country handles remediations may mean more work for companies like the one that installed these solar panels, and help grow the green economy nationwide. That, in turn, will help this country become more energy independent.”

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