Archive for August, 2010

New turbine site rules unlikely to affect Invenergy project in Brown County

Posted on August 31, 2010. Filed under: Wind |

From an article by Tony Walter in the Green Bay Press Gazette:

Wind turbine siting rules approved today by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission likely will have little impact on a Chicago-based company’s attempts to build a 100-turbine wind farm in southern Brown County.

The PSC established guidelines for local governments to set restrictions on projects less than 100 megawatts in generating capacity.

However, the Ledge Wind project proposed by Invenergy LLC in the towns of Morrison, Holland, Glenmore and Wrightstown exceeds 100 megawatts. The company submitted its application to the PSC last year but was told to make some changes.

Invenergy is expected to resubmit its application soon.

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Vickerman: Wisconsin poised to adopt the strictest statewide siting rule on large wind turbines in the nation

Posted on August 30, 2010. Filed under: Wind |

From a news release issued by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin:

MADISON – The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (Commission) today finished its work on administrative rules governing the siting of wind turbines in Wisconsin. The rules were drafted in response to 2009 Wisconsin Act 40, recently-enacted legislation directing the Commission to promulgate rules that specify the restrictions local units of government may impose on the installation or use of wind energy systems.

“I am happy to have these rules completed,” said Commission Chairperson Eric Callisto. “Establishing clear and consistent siting standards is critical to removing the confusion that currently surrounds non-utility wind projects in Wisconsin.”

The Commission’s rules will function as a uniform ceiling of standards to guide the local regulation of wind siting, operation, and decommissioning for projects less than 100 megawatts in generating capacity. The rules specify how a political subdivision can establish setback requirements, noise and shadow flicker standards, and mechanisms that give non-participating landowners a stake in wind energy projects sited in their area.

The rules include the following provisions:
Notice Requirements. At least 90 days before filing an application, the wind energy system owner must give notice to landowners within one mile of proposed wind turbine locations.
Noise Performance Standards. A political subdivision can require wind energy systems to be sited and operated in a manner that does not exceed 45 dBA during nighttime hours and 50 dBA during daytime hours. Noise limits will be measured from the outside wall of non-participating residences and occupied community buildings.

Shadow Flicker Performance Standards. A political subdivision can require wind energy systems to be sited and operated in a manner that does not cause more than 30 hours per year of shadow flicker for non-participating residences or occupied community buildings. If a wind energy system causes more than 20 hours per year of shadow flicker, a political subdivision can require the wind energy system owner to install mitigation measures for affected landowners, at the expense of the wind turbine owner.

Setbacks. A political subdivision can impose minimum safety setbacks of 1.1 times the maximum blade tip height of a wind turbine for participating residences, non-participating property lines, public road rights-of-way, and overhead communication and electric transmission or distribution lines. Setbacks of up to 3.1 times the maximum blade tip height of a wind turbine may be established for nonparticipating residences and occupied community buildings.

Good Neighbor Payments. The rules allow local units of government to require wind energy system owners to provide monetary compensation to non-participating landowners located within one-half mile of a wind turbine site. A political subdivision may not require these payments for non-participating landowners to exceed 25% of the payments being made to a landowner hosting a wind turbine in the project.

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New wind turbine powers up in Evansville

Posted on August 27, 2010. Filed under: Wind |

From an article in the Wisconsin State Journal:

A new wind turbine on the grounds of Evansville’s wastewater treatment plant could be providing some of the power used to run the plant.

Installed July 1, the wind turbine is expected to generate as much as 125,000 kilowatt hours a year, enough for the equivalent usage of 12 to 15 average homes.

The turbine does not send power directly to the water treatment plant; it is hooked into the electric transmission grid that sends power around the state, Evansville Mayor Sandy Decker said.

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Utilities building dozens of old-style coal plants

Posted on August 26, 2010. Filed under: Clean Air, Climate change, Coal | Tags: , , |

From an Associated Press article by Matthew Brown published in The Washington Post:

WYODAK, Wyo. — Utilities across the country are building dozens of old-style coal plants that will cement the industry’s standing as the largest industrial source of climate-changing gases for years to come.

An Associated Press examination of U.S. Department of Energy records and information provided by utilities and trade groups shows that more than 30 traditional coal plants have been built since 2008 or are under construction.

The construction wave stretches from Arizona to Illinois and South Carolina to Washington, and comes despite growing public wariness over the high environmental and social costs of fossil fuels, demonstrated by tragic mine disasters in West Virginia, the Gulf oil spill and wars in the Middle East.

The expansion, the industry’s largest in two decades, represents an acknowledgment that highly touted “clean coal” technology is still a long ways from becoming a reality and underscores a renewed confidence among utilities that proposals to regulate carbon emissions will fail. The Senate last month scrapped the leading bill to curb carbon emissions following opposition from Republicans and coal-state Democrats.

“Building a coal-fired power plant today is betting that we are not going to put a serious financial cost on emitting carbon dioxide,” said Severin Borenstein, director of the Energy Institute at the University of California-Berkeley. “That may be true, but unless most of the scientists are way off the mark, that’s pretty bad public policy.”

Federal officials have long struggled to balance coal’s hidden costs against its more conspicuous role in providing half the nation’s electricity.

Hoping for a technological solution, the Obama administration devoted $3.4 billion in stimulus spending to foster “clean-coal” plants that can capture and store greenhouse gases. Yet new investments in traditional coal plants total at least 10 times that amount – more than $35 billion.

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Oconomowoc students to ride on plug-in hybrid school buses

Posted on August 25, 2010. Filed under: Solar, Vehicles - Hybrid |

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

Town of Oconomowoc — Sandy Syburg has driven school buses for years – but none like these.

When they start rolling on their routes next week, these hybrid electric school buses won’t lurch forward the way conventional school buses do.

A diesel engine is least efficient when it’s trying to get a 27,000-pound vehicle moving from a full stop, Syburg said. Thanks to the hybrid technology, the electric motor kicks in first, with lithium-ion batteries powering the bus forward from a stop.

“It’s very smooth. It’s like a gust of wind when you’re sailing,” said Syburg, chief executive of Oconomowoc Transport Co.

In the bus terminal, Syburg can plug an electrical cord into the side of the bus so that solar panels can charge the batteries that run the vehicle’s electric motor.

To date, more than 100 hybrid school and commercial buses have rolled off of the IC Bus LLC assembly line since 2007. Eleven of them are plug-in hybrid electric school buses in Oconomowoc, ready to start the school year next week.

The investment, aided by a state grant through the federal stimulus package, aims to reduce diesel fuel use by 7,500 gallons a year. That would provide savings of $26,000 in fuel costs for the Oconomowoc Area School District at today’s diesel prices.

When they’re done with their morning school run, the buses will return to the bus company on Brown St. and their batteries will be recharged with the help of 224 solar panels that were erected by Renewable Energy Solutions of Waukesha.

It’s the first solar-electric charging station in the state, and it’s ready to power the biggest fleet of plug-in hybrid school buses in the country.

The buses are projected to result in saving because of a 50% gain in fuel economy. A typical bus gets 7 miles per gallon, but the hybrid technology will boost that to 12.

“It’s a little glimpse of the future; it’s very impressive,” said Mike Barry, assistant superintendent of the district. The district will seek to incorporate the solar-powered hybrids into its curriculum.

“We’re trying to make some links between the curriculum that the students learn about in school and the real world,” he said. “When the connection is as immediate as the very bus that takes you to and from school, that’s a powerful connection.”

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Staff’s draft of wind siting rules is too restrictive

Posted on August 24, 2010. Filed under: Economic development, Wind |

From an article by Bill Opalka on

In about a week wind developers in Wisconsin will have a pretty good answer to their questions about doing business in the state for smaller projects.

The questions are being asked the rest of this week as the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) is holding open meetings on a task force’s recommendations for wind siting regulations.

I recently spoke with Michael Vickerman, the executive director of wind energy advocate RENEW Wisconsin and a member of the task force to understand how the state reached this point. He admitted that Wisconsin is gaining a reputation as a tough place to do business.

“Leaving it up to local governments to interpret siting standards has become totally impractical,” Vickerman said. “All have chosen to go their own way and the results vary widely.”

So the legislature last year directed the PSC commission to draft statewide siting standards. Part of the process was to appoint a 15-member task force from the energy industry, environmental organizations, real estate and the public to adopt recommendations.

The task force endorsed a package of recommendations by an 11-4 vote. That process has occurred since March, with the PSC now conducting open meetings, with its decision due early next week.

The PSC can modify or amend the draft as it sees fit and then submit a final document to legislative committees. Those committees can call hearings that could lead to a vote before the legislature, or the committees can let the PSC be the final say on the proposed rulemaking.
In short, there are still are ways in which the can be changed.

“At this point we can’t say whether we will support it” Vickerman said.

A draft of recommendations by PSC staff is also part of the process, but Vickerman said that is too restrictive.

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La Crosse County board approves gas to energy project

Posted on August 23, 2010. Filed under: Biomass, Landfill Gas |

From an story on WEAU-TV, La Crosse:

The La Crosse County Board has approved moving forward with a solid waste project that could bring about $3.5 million to La Crosse County.

The county has been working with Gundersen Lutheran on a gas to energy project. Right now the methane gas that’s taken from the decomposing garbage in the landfill is wasted as it’s burned off.

The new project would send that gas through a pipeline directly to Gundersen’s Onalaska Clinic where it can be used to create electricity and heat.

From a news release issued by Gunderson Lutheran:

Gundersen Lutheran and La Crosse County are moving forward on a unique green project that will turn garbage into renewable energy. The project will use waste gas that is created from garbage at the La Crosse County Landfill to create electricity and heat. The La Crosse County Board unanimously approved moving forward on the combined heat and power project, which is expected to offset about 12 percent of Gundersen Lutheran’s total energy use.

“This is a great use of a currently unused natural resource and it is an excellent example of what a public-private partnership can achieve in our community. We considered many partners for this project, and Gundersen Lutheran was a logical fit with their experience in renewable energy projects,” says Hank Koch, solid waste director, La Crosse County.

“We are very pleased to be entering into this partnership with La Crosse County,” adds Jeff Rich, executive director of Business Services, Gundersen Lutheran. “This project will help Gundersen Lutheran reduce the cost of healthcare, but beyond that, it’s good for the environment and it will be beneficial for the taxpayers of La Crosse County.”

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RENEW opposes WPS’ proposed green-pricing increase and asks for small-wind tariff

Posted on August 20, 2010. Filed under: Utility rates, Wind | Tags: , |

From the testimony of Michael Vickerman in opposition to the request of Wisconsin Public Service Corporation to increase the cost of renewable energy purchased by customers in the NatureWise green-pricing program:

The purpose of my testimony is threefold: (1) to discuss how basing buyback rates on locational marginal pricing (LMP’s) penalizes low-risk renewable energy sources; (2) to encourage Wisconsin Public Service Corporation (WPS), with the support of the Commission, to establish a net energy billing tariff for small wind energy systems up to 100 kilowatts and (3) to urge the Commission to hold WPS’s NatureWise premium at 1.25 cents/kWh.

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Science says wind power is safe

Posted on August 18, 2010. Filed under: Wind |

From an editorial in the Wisconsin State Journal:

The Wisconsin Division of Public Health has reviewed more than 150 scientific and medical reports related to wind turbines and public health.

Division staff have listened and responded to concerns about wind turbines from the public, municipal leaders and local health officers. The division has sought the expertise of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and health departments in states with heavier reliance on wind energy.

So what did the Wisconsin Division of Public Health determine from all of that careful inspection?

“We conclude that current scientific evidence is not sufficient to support a conclusion that contemporary wind turbines cause adverse health outcomes in those living at distances consistent with current draft rules being considered by the Public Service Commission,” wrote Dr. Seth Foldy, state health officer and administrator, in a July 19 letter to wind farm critics who claim all manner of ailments from wind turbine noise, vibrations and shadow flicker as the sun sets behind turbines.

Dr. Jevon McFadden, an epidemiologic intelligence service officer with the CDC, offered similar reassurance in May to the Wisconsin Wind Siting Council that he serves on.

“Evidence does not support the conclusion that wind turbines cause or are associated with adverse health outcomes,” McFadden wrote in his presentation.

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Wisconsin companies expand to accommodate wind energy

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

From an article by Nathan Phelps in the Green Bay Press Gazette:

Vorpahl Fire & Safety did not build its business with commercial wind generation in mind, but it’s one of many companies that consider that industry a key opportunity for expansion.

For the last few months, Vorpahl has sold protective gear designed for workers in the wind energy sector, including safety harnesses, hard hats, gloves, high-visibility vests and tool bags.

Wind energy is a market the business is banking on for continued growth in the coming years.

“We’ve been trying to figure out creative ways to break into other, untapped, segments, and wind energy came up because it is really big in other parts of the country and it’s starting to catch on in Wisconsin,” said Chris Vorpahl, marketing coordinator. “Love it or hate it … wind turbines are going to be here, and we want to provide the protection for the people maintaining, installing it and assembling it.”

Throughout the area, sectors that are one or more rings down the supply chain from the manufacture of wind turbines are grabbing a piece of the burgeoning industry.

New North, a nonprofit economic development organization, is setting up an October event in Milwaukee aimed at identifying business opportunities in the wind sector, said Jerry Murphy executive director of New North.

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