Archive for September, 2010

Business, labor, renewable groups support evaluation of transmission line

Posted on September 30, 2010. Filed under: Transmission |

For Immediate Release
September 29, 2010

For More Information Contact:
Dave Poklinkoski: (608) 256-8896
Brandon Scholz: (608) 244-7150
Michael Vickerman: (608) 255-4044


MADISON, Wis. – American Transmission Co. (ATC) recently announced that, after two years of study, a 345-kilovolt transmission line from the La Crosse area to DaneCounty would provide multiple benefits to Wisconsin electric consumers. These benefits include improved electric system reliability, economic savings for Wisconsin utilities and electric consumers, and improved access to renewable energy resources. ATC is finalizing its planning evaluation of the 150-mile Badger Coulee Transmission Line project and began public outreach efforts this week with a series of open houses in eight
Wisconsin communities.

A broad group of organizations with a direct stake in Wisconsin energy issues today released the attached letters supporting ATC’s evaluation of the need and multiple benefits of the Badger Coulee Transmission Line. These organizations include:
+ The Utility Workers Coalition representing over 28,000 workers in the energy industry,
+ Several labor unions involved in Wisconsin’s utility industry (IBEW Local 2150, IBEW Local 953, IBEW Local 2304, IBEW Local 965, IUOE Local 310),
+ Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), a statewide advocate for the business community,
+ RENEW Wisconsin, the state’s leading renewable energy advocacy organization,
+ Wisconsin Grocers Association, the state’s representative and advocate of the
grocery industry,
+ Midwest Food Processors Association, a regional trade association advocating on behalf of food processing companies,
+ Wisconsin Technology Council, a statewide leader and catalyst for the development of science and technology-based businesses, and
+ Wisconsin Business Council, a statewide business group focused on improving the state’s business climate.

These organizations intend to participate actively in ATC’s continuing planning and public outreach activities for the Badger Coulee Transmission Line and in any subsequent regulatory proceedings regarding the project.

“ATC’s initial results show that this project has the potential for improving electric reliability in Wisconsin, reducing energy congestion, and saving electric customers money. This would provide multiple benefits to our members who rely on their electric supply and want to keep their costs down,” said Brandon Scholz, President and CEO of
the Wisconsin Grocers Association.

Dave Poklinkoski, President of IBEW Local 2304, commented, “A strong 345-kV connection to the west would give Wisconsin utilities increased access to the wholesale electric market enabling them to buy and sell electricity when pricing situations are advantageous. Such a high-voltage connection also delivers power where it’s needed
more efficiently and reduces line losses in the delivery of power.”

Michael Vickerman, Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin, explained, “Parts of Iowa, Minnesota, and the Dakotas are blessed with strong winds. Right now most of these areas are not well integrated into the regional transmission system. As Wisconsin transitions to increased use of renewable energy, we will need to expand regional transmission capacity to tap wind energy both inside and outside of Wisconsin.”

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Touring this year’s renewable energy crop

Posted on September 28, 2010. Filed under: Digesters, Energy Policy, Solar, Wind |

by Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin
September 27, 2010

One of the abiding pleasures of my job at RENEW Wisconsin is going out into the field to visit renewable energy installations. Many of the systems sprouting across the state owe their existence to state and federal policies that make these systems economically viable to their owners.

In turn, some of those policies owe their existence to RENEW, an advocacy organization that has elevated the Wisconsin renewable energy marketplace from a dreamy aspiration to a thriving marketplace employing hundreds of people and generating millions of dollars a year in local revenues.

Whenever I’m asked to describe our mission, I often say that we act as a catalyst for advancing a sustainable energy future in Wisconsin. Our vision of that future places small, entrepreneurial companies at the center of the transition toward clean, locally available energy resources that do not deplete over time.

RENEW endeavors to steer Wisconsin along this path through policy mechanisms that help renewable energy businesses establish themselves in an economy that for many decades has operated almost exclusively on fossil energy. Because of that dependence on concentrated energy sources like coal, natural gas and liquid hydrocarbons, which are still priced very cheaply, the shift to renewable energy has been an uphill battle. The incumbent energy sources are well-entrenched and will not hesitate to expend significant political capital to block policy initiatives aimed at putting renewable energy on a more equal playing field. (more…)

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Conference highlights solar energy progress

Posted on September 27, 2010. Filed under: Solar |

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

It was five years ago that renewable energy proponents dubbed this Wisconsin’s Solar Decade – the 10 years that would move solar energy from the fringe to the mainstream.

In 2010, solar remains a fraction of the state’s energy mix, but it’s growing. And with it, interest is intensifying in manufacturing products for the solar industry.

As solar advocates prepare to host industry conferences this week, the solar industry is installing larger projects, and the cost per project is shrinking.

“It’s not getting sunnier in Wisconsin, but prices are coming down and rates are going up,” said Niels Wolter, solar electric program manager at Focus on Energy, the statewide energy efficiency initiative that provides incentives for renewable energy installations.

So far this year, the typical cost of a solar-electric system installed at a business with the help of Focus on Energy incentives has fallen 13% from a year ago. The price of these same systems installed on homes has fallen by 7%.

“We’re seeing that it may cost $6,000 to $9,000 to install a solar hot water system on a home, and the payback may be around 12 to 14 years,” said Amy Heart, Milwaukee solar coach and head of Midwest Renewable Energy Association’s Milwaukee office.

A solar-electric, or photovoltaic, system may cost $15,000, but it has a payback of about 10 years, she said.

The main hurdle to broader deployment of solar remains the high upfront cost, as well as the complexity of the incentives available to bring down the cost, Wolter said.

In recent months, though, attention to solar has intensified in the area:

• Construction started this summer on the state’s first solar panel factory, Helios USA, in Milwaukee’s Menomonee Valley. Helios expects to employ 50 people by next summer.

“That’s a good sign for Wisconsin, that there are going to be some jobs here on the manufacturing side in addition to the installation side of things,” said Carl Siegrist, senior renewable energy strategist at Milwaukee utility company We Energies.

• The largest solar project to date in the state opened in Milwaukee. It’s the Milwaukee Area Technical College PV Educational Laboratory, generating more than 500 kilowatts of power, all with the aim of training students for careers in renewable energy.

• The number of businesses engaged in solar is increasing. Two years ago, seven companies were installing solar in a 20-mile radius of Milwaukee. This year, that number has more than tripled, to 24.

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Take action! U.S. senators introduce stand-alone RES

Posted on September 24, 2010. Filed under: Energy Policy, Renewable energy - generally |

Urge Your Senators to Support the Renewable Electricity Promotion Act

Take action!

[Tuesday] afternoon, Senators Bingaman (D-NM), Brownback (R-KS), Dorgan (D-ND), Collins (R-ME), Udall (D-NM), and Udall (D-CO) introduced a 15% by 2021 renewable electricity standard (RES) bill, The Renewable Electricity Promotion Act. This opens the door for us to move a national RES into law this year. For this RES-only bill to move forward, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will need to allow this bill to come up for a floor vote, and at least 60 Senators will need to vote in favor of it. Please call or e-mail your two U.S. Senators and ask them to co-sponsor and support The Renewable Electricity Promotion Act.

Congress has an extremely narrow window of opportunity to pass a national RES this year. Your efforts to express the urgency of passing this policy to your Senators are greatly appreciated.

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Federal aid helping rural Wisconsin power itself

Posted on September 23, 2010. Filed under: Wind |

From a story on WQOW, Eau Claire:

Dunn County (WQOW) – Millions of dollars in federal aid are heading to rural Wisconsin to help our farms and businesses. Part of the goal is for them to become more energy efficient. It’s part of a program to reduce energy consumption and stir the economy.

Deborah Dillaway hopes to lead the way with her 90-foot wind turbine.

“We see people driving a car that’s fuel efficient,” Deborah says. “We see people with solar panels. As it comes more commonplace, more people will think of supplementing the use or dependence they have on fossil fuels.”

This tower does just that, sitting on Deborah’s 200-acre farm in Dunn County.

The turbine produces electricity, which is then transferred to the local energy cooperative, where it’s used by other customers on the grid. For that, Deborah gets a credit on her bill.

She’s one of the first in the area to make this investment.

“It has to start somewhere and people will see it,” Deborah says.

And with a $93,000 dollar price tag, it is an investment. But the USDA helped, giving a $19,000 grant through a program meant to reduce rural energy consumption and stimulate local economies.

Forty-five farms and businesses in Wisconsin have received similar funding, totaling nearly $3 million in aid for projects.

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Doyle announces $1.5 million for turbine component manufacturer

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

From a news release issued by Governor Jim Doyle:

CUBA CITY – Governor Jim Doyle today announced up to $1,506,000 in assistance to Wausaukee Composites and Grant County to support the company’s efforts to create 200 full-time jobs. The funding comes from the Community Development Block Grant for Economic Development program overseen by the Department of Commerce.

My top priority this year has been to help move companies and communities forward and create good-paying jobs for our citizens,” said Governor Doyle. “I’m pleased that we could help Wausaukee Composites expand its business and bring these new jobs to Grant County.”

Wausaukee Composites will use the state funding to build and equip an addition to their Cuba City facility. The company has committed to creating 200 new full-time positions to manufacture wind turbine components. The total project cost is $5,023,000.

Wausaukee Composites manufactures highly engineered composite components for original equipment manufacturers in the construction equipment, agricultural equipment, mass transportation, wind energy, medical imaging, commercial site furnishings, therapeutic systems, corrosion-resistant materials handling and recreation industries. They are a subsidiary of Sintex Industries, headquartered in India, with textile and structural plastics plants on four continents.

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International peak oil speaker in Madison, Sept. 22

Posted on September 21, 2010. Filed under: Peak Oil & the End of Cheap Fossil Fuel |

Building Local Resilience in an Era of Economic Turmoil & Resource Depletion

Wednesday, September 22nd, 7:00 PM
Room 180 Science Hall, 550 N. Park St., Madison

Peak Oil and the implosion of high-leverage finance schemes around the world are converging into a “perfect storm” that may threaten prosperity and social cohesion. The consequences are frightening: “hallucinated wealth” is vanishing, real unemployment is rising, and social unrest is growing amid global tensions over energy resources, water and land. Families and communities should prepare for the challenging times ahead.

A Presentation By
Nicole M. Foss
(a.k.a. “Stoneleigh”)
Energy Industry Consultant and Financial Analyst at

Free and open to the public. Donations welcome.

Sponsored by: Energy Hub, UW Madison WISPIRG/Big Red Go Green,
Madison Peak Oil Group, and Transition Madison Area

Info: or contact Hans Noeldner, 608-444-6190,

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Wind turbine will power a Fountain Prairie beef cattle operation

Posted on September 20, 2010. Filed under: Wind |

From an article by Lyn Jerde in the Portage Daily Register:

Town of Fountain Prairie – John and Dorothy Priske kept their eyes on the sky.

The town of Fountain Prairie farmers had waited four months to see a three-blade wind turbine on their skyline, and on Friday afternoon, their wait was over – almost.

The 140-foot tower went up Friday morning, a project that had been delayed since May, when workers from Madison-based Seventh Generation Energy Systems discovered that the base for the tower didn’t fit its footing.

The base was rebuilt, and the tower went up. Then, a crane was affixed to the 9,000-pound apparatus, which includes the turbine, three blades and a cone. . . .

Workers debated on Friday whether the gusts from the south were too strong to risk hoisting the turbine to the top of the tower and sent a worker up the tower’s ladder to affix the turbine.

“When we try to get this thing on top of the tower, it’ll get really windy,” said Seventh Generation worker Andrew Herr. Hopefully, it’s windy up there, because that’s why we’re putting up a turbine.”

The turbine went up successfully on Friday afternoon, partly with the help of guests from the Priskes’ Fountain Prairie Inn bed and breakfast, who held the blades steady while the turbine was being raised.

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Webinar — Rethinking Biogas: An Emerging Energy Source in the Midwest

Posted on September 17, 2010. Filed under: Biomass, Digesters |

From an announcement issued by the Energy Center of Wisconsin:

Free live webinar
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
1:00pm – 2:00pm CDT

Presented by Peter Taglia, Staff Scientist, Clean Wisconsin

The Midwest contains the world’s largest concentration of productive agriculture and food processing, and produces enormous amounts of animal and food waste. The Midwest is also rich in woody biomass and other forestry resources that can be sustainably harvested.

However, only a tiny portion of these wastes is converted to biogas, a renewable substitute for natural gas that reduces fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas pollution. For agricultural waste alone, the Midwest’s 55 anaerobic digesters pale in comparison to Germany’s, which exceed 4,000 despite its significantly smaller agricultural output.

This webinar explores the potential for this renewable energy resource to grow by examining biogas sources, conversion technologies, and outputs together with energy policies needed to support them. With appropriate policy and deployment, biogas can become a substantial source of energy in the Midwest.

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MGE Rate Filing Rewards Fossil Fuel Use, Penalizes Renewable Energy

Posted on September 16, 2010. Filed under: General, Renewable energy - generally, Utility rates |

September 16, 2010

RENEW Wisconsin
Michael Vickerman

MGE Rate Filing Rewards Fossil Fuel Use, Penalizes Renewable Energy

RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide renewable energy advocacy organization, today called on Madison Gas and Electric (MGE) to scrap its pending request to substantially increase the cost of participation in its voluntary renewable energy subscription program.

RENEW contends that MGE does not need a higher renewable rate because the cost of energy supplying its award-winning Green Power Tomorrow program has not changed over the last 18 months and will not for the foreseeable future. The utility is seeking permission from the Public Service Commission (PSC) to increase the renewable energy rate from 1.25 cents to 2 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), a 60% increase.

If approved, the voluntary premium that MGE customers will pay for sponsoring more wind and solar electricity production will be significantly higher than what other Wisconsin utilities charge. In contrast, Milwaukee-Based We Energies charges a 1.38 cents/kWh premium to participate in its Energy for Tomorrow program. That rate, which received a slight upward adjustment in 2009, will remain in effect through 2011.

“Nothing about this price hike makes any sense,” said Michael Vickerman, Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin. “Program costs haven’t changed. Wind and solar energy is no more costly this year than it was in 2009, and next year it will be more of the same. Therefore, Green Power Tomorrow’s premium should remain where it is today.” (more…)

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