Archive for November, 2010

Wisconsin Conservation Farmer of the Year Harvests Wind Energy

Posted on November 30, 2010. Filed under: Wind | Tags: |

For immediate release
November 30, 2010

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RENEW Wisconsin
Michael Vickerman

Wisconsin Conservation Farmer of the Year Harvests Wind Energy

Fall River, WI – John Priske and his wife Dorothy, the owners and operators of Fountain Prairie Farm, a 280-acre beef farm powered by a 50-kilowatt wind turbine earlier this year, will be honored as Wisconsin Conservation Farmer of the Year.

Since acquiring their Columbia County property more than 20 years ago, the Priskes replaced a row-crop farm with a grass-based, organic beef operation, restored a 61-acre wetland, and erected a 140-foot wind turbine that will produce about 50 percent more energy than is needed to power the farm.

“We congratulate the Priskes for integrating renewable energy with sustainable agriculture,” said Michael Vickerman, Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide, nonprofit renewable energy advocacy organization. “To farmers who are conservation minded and value energy self-sufficiency, Fountain Prairie demonstrates how all of the elements of sustainability can be put together on one farm.”

Since the Endurance turbine became operational in the fall, it has produced more than 14,000 kilowatt hours of electricity, which is enough to supply the energy needs of two households for one year.

This is the second organic farm in Wisconsin hosting a turbine installed by Madison-based Seventh Generation Energy Systems. The other turbine has been serving Full Circle Farm, a grass-based dairy operation, near Seymour in Shawano County, since February 2009. Both installations were supported with grants from Focus on Energy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Renewable Energy in American Program (REAP).

The Priskes will receive the award at the Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association’s annual conference to be held on December 9th and 10th in Wisconsin Dells.


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Wind projects scheduled for service before end of 2010

Posted on November 28, 2010. Filed under: Wind |

From Michael Vickerman’s testimony on We Energies’ request to build a biomass generation plant in Rothchild. He responds to an earlier witness’ assertion that “It is far from certain that wind generation should be considered a readily available source of renewable generation in Wisconsin.”

Q. What is the purpose of your testimony?
The purpose of my testimony is to address the issue of whether a wind project could be built in Wisconsin and placed in service before the end of 2012. . . .

The projects that have received permission from local governments to proceed are listed in and are highlighted in purple. That exhibit is the latest
S12.4 iteration of an ongoing RENEW initiative to track proposed projects involving utility-scale wind turbines. The projects in this group range in Exhibit 12.1 size from single-turbine installations up to 99 megawatts. . . .

The level of technology, financial and regulatory risks associated with this group of wind projects is very low. Turbine capacity factors are increasing, due to taller towers and larger rotor diameters of the newest turbine models. The most recent installation in Wisconsin, the Shirley Wind project near Green Bay, consists of eight turbines with 100-meter rotor diameters on 100-meter towers. The trend toward taller towers and longer blades will continue in 2011 with the Glacier Hills and Cashton Greens projects. Vestas America will supply both projects with turbine models larger than the V-82s operating in Blue Sky Green Field and Cedar Ridge. Several developers in this group, such as Horizon, E-Wind and Emerging Energies, have access to the very large wind turbines coming into the market in increasing quantities.

Q. Are you aware of any projects in this group that have received clearance from the Midwest Independent System Operator (MISO) to proceed?A. I do know that Horizon Wind’s Quilt Block, the largest project in this group, has acquired an Interconnection Agreement from MISO. I do not know about the other projects in this group. . . .

If Horizon were to install wind turbines at Quilt Block equipped with rotor diameters of 100 meters or more, project output would average over 300 million kWh annually.

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Two developments on manure digesters for small farms

Posted on November 22, 2010. Filed under: Biomass, Digesters |

From a news release issued by Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk:

Town of Springfield Farms Working to Share New Manure Digester, Generate $2-Million in Electricity Each Year

Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk announced today the county is working with several farmers northwest of Middleton on construction of a second “Cow Power” facility that will convert manure into electricity and stop the runoff of pollutants into local lakes.

Four dairy farm families in the Town of Springfield intend to partner with the county and Clear Horizons to develop the new facility. When complete, it’s expected to generate about $2-million worth of electricity each year – – enough to power roughly 2,500 Dane County homes.

From an article by Kevin Murphy in the Telegraph Herald, Dubuque, Iowa:

UW-Platteville to test demo of digester for small dairy farms

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — Pioneer Farm at University of Wisconsin-Platteville touts itself as a state-of-the-art agricultural research facility. However, it’s been lacking renewable energy systems that have become an increasing area of importance in agribusiness.

That changed Wednesday when the State Building Commission approved a $1.18 million bio-energy project that will produce about 7.5 percent of the campus’ electricity needs from the university’s 160-head dairy herd.

Anaerobic digesters, which turn manure into methane used to generate electrical power, typically need 600 cows to reach a break-even point. The Pioneer Farm digester will show that process can be economically feasible on a much smaller scale.

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The mysterious minds of wind-energy opponents

Posted on November 19, 2010. Filed under: Wind | Tags: |

How can a homeowner protest wind turbines (in the distance) and seem to have no problem with the communication tower only a few feet away?

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Menasha Corp. will add Renewegy turbine as power source

Posted on November 18, 2010. Filed under: Economic development, Wind | Tags: |

From an article by Kathleen Gallagher in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

A little more than two years after it was founded, and a month after starting full-scale production, an Oshkosh manufacturing company expects to have as many as 30 of its wind turbines up and running for customers by the end of the year.

Renewegy LLC’s most recently-announced sale was to Menasha Corp.

Privately held Menasha plans to install five wind turbines to generate electricity for its offices in Neenah, along Highway 41. The five 20-kilowatt turbines stand 115 tall, about the height of a stadium light pole. The cost of the plan was not disclosed.

The project will be the largest wind installation at a business in northeastern Wisconsin, said Nancy Whitton, Menasha’s corporate communications director.

Other Wisconsin organizations that have turned to Renewegy for turbines include Orion Energy Systems Inc. in Manitowoc, SCA Tissue in the town of Menasha, Bergstrom Corp.’s new Mini Cooper dealership, Kaukauna High School and Neenah-based J. J. Keller.

Renewegy, which has 17 employees, also recently signed agreements with distributors in Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska and is looking for more in other states, said Jeff Ehlers, the company’s president.

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Permitting Wind Turbines: What Have We Learned Over 12 Years

Posted on November 17, 2010. Filed under: Wind |

From a presentation by RENEW executive director Michael Vickerman at the November 15-16, 2010, in St. Paul, MN:

•Understand that demographics matter – there is a deep cultural divide between farm households and commuter households
•Developers who operate in a transparent, above-board, even-handed manner will eventually earn the community’s trust
•Maintain an active presence in the community – figure out a way to support youth groups and local charities
•How one responds to complaints in the first year of project operation will make a lasting impression
•While it not possible to please all the people all the time, strive to stay on the good side of the most influential residents
•Eventually, wind turbines will become an accepted part of the landscape
•Good neighbor payments are helpful, but they’re no panacea
45 dBa sound thresholds are here to stay
•Sensitivities to environmental impacts vary widely – how individuals may respond to environmental changes can’t be predicted accurately
•Opposition to wind energy capture is as old as Don Quixote
•Some individuals are intrinsically put off by tall structures and continuous motion
•Public acceptance of WI’s smallest projects has been very high

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Rising electricity cost has jolted state

Posted on November 16, 2010. Filed under: Coal, Generation Plants, Renewable energy - generally | Tags: , , |

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

The price of electricity has shot up faster in Wisconsin than in all but five other states since 2000, which could pose a threat to the state’s economic competitiveness, a new analysis by the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance says.

Wisconsin businesses and homeowners are paying more than most surrounding states, as the state continues to pay for power plant upgrades that followed near-brownouts in the late 1990s.

That, coupled with rising natural gas and coal prices, has pushed rates up. The state’s electricity prices, which ranked 11th-lowest in the nation in 1990, now rank 20th-highest, the report found.

“We need to recognize that energy prices really do have an effect on the competitiveness of the state,” said Kyle Christianson, policy research analyst at the nonpartisan Taxpayers Alliance. “We’re talking about trying to attract employers and adding new jobs, and particularly in a manufacturing-intensive economy like Wisconsin, energy prices are a major cost of doing business.”

Utilities regulators defend Wisconsin’s power plant building boom as important to keeping the state’s economy competitive over the long run.

“A manufacturing state simply cannot survive without a reliable electric infrastructure,” said Bob Norcross, administrator at the state Public Service Commission. “Wisconsin responded to its reliability crisis by making necessary investments that were in large part supported by the state’s business community, and they were sound. The rebuilding period that accompanied those infrastructure investments is now reaching an end, but we need to pay for them – and that’s why we have rate pressure. . . .”

Charlie Higley, executive director of the Wisconsin Citizens’ Utility Board, is concerned that rate increases will continue for residential customers.

“Our households are paying a high price for electricity, and it’s hurting their ability to make ends meet,” Higley said.

Wisconsin now has a power glut that prompted the state Public Service Commission to launch an investigation into whether some of the state’s older power plants should be mothballed or shut down.

Shutting down coal would help the state’s customers from having to cover the rising coal prices, Higley said.

“Since we get most of our power from coal that means we’re very susceptible to paying higher rates because of higher coal prices,” Higley said. “It underlies our calls for moving toward cleaner energy solutions like renewable energy and energy efficiency, which don’t have fuel costs.”

But Klappa said the record power use this summer – in the midst of an economy that’s slow to emerge from the Great Recession – underscores that Wisconsin doesn’t have a power glut.

“We never had a 95-degree day this summer and we set two energy consumption records for customers, July for residential customers and August for small commercial and industrial customers,” he said. “There’s not a lot of excess.”

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WPL is penalized for unclear information about wind-farm project

Posted on November 15, 2010. Filed under: Transmission, Wind | Tags: , , |

From an article by Judy Newman in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Wisconsin Power & Light got a slap on the wrist from state regulators for not making it clear that there will be problems getting electricity out to consumers from a major wind farm the Madison utility company is building in Minnesota.

Last April, WPL requested a $35.4 million rate boost for 2011, primarily to help pay for the Bent Tree wind farm near Albert Lea, Minn., which is expected to cost more than $450 million. The rate request was later reduced to $16 million in an agreement between the utility and regulators.

On Thursday, the state Public Service Commission, in a preliminary decision, agreed to an increase of about $12 million, then penalized WPL $3 million, reducing the amount the utility could charge ratepayers to $9 million.

“The PSC said the utility was not keeping the commission adequately informed of developments on transmission constraints,” said Bob Norcross, administrator of the PSC’s gas and electric division. The problem involves over-burdened high-voltage lines to carry electricity from the wind farm to the power grid, Norcross said. The PSC voted 2-1 for the penalty, with commissioner Mark Meyer opposed.

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Solar jobs census ranks Wisconsin fifth in nation

Posted on November 12, 2010. Filed under: Economic development, Solar | Tags: , |

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

Wisconsin’s leadership in installing solar power compared with other Midwest states has made this source of alternative energy a bright spot on the employment front.

That’s the finding of the National Solar Jobs Census report, which ranks fifth in the nation in the number of jobs linked to solar energy.

The census was conducted by The Solar Foundation and Green LMI Consulting with technical assistance from Cornell University.

The census found Wisconsin has 2,885 solar jobs at contractors installing solar panels, as well as wholesalers and manufacturers. Wisconsin trails California, Pennsylvania, Texas and Michigan.

The census is also forecasting job growth of 9%, or about 250 jobs, at Wisconsin solar employers, in 2011.

“Over the next 12 months, over 50% of solar firms expect to add jobs, while only 2% expect to cut workers,” the report said.

“This is the first time anyone has tried to quantify solar jobs along the entire value chain by speaking directly with employers or projected with any certainty solar job growth over the next 12 months,” said Andrea Luecke, acting executive director of The Solar Foundation. “The fact that a national census is needed to examine the size and nature of the workforce signals that the solar industry is having a substantial and positive impact on the U.S. Economy.”

Luecke joined the Solar Foundation this year after serving as program manager for the Milwaukee Shines solar initiative. The report was released locally by the environmental group Wisconsin Environment and Planet Earth Solar of La Crosse.

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Shirley Wind: An Auspicious Debut for Emerging Energies

Posted on November 10, 2010. Filed under: Economic development, Wind | Tags: |

by Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin
November 10, 2010

Earlier this week, I had the privilege of attending a celebration of Shirley Wind, Wisconsin’s newest commercial wind installation. Located in the Brown County township of Glenmore, a mere 15 miles southeast of Lambeau Field, the project consists of eight Nordex N100 turbines rated at 2.5 megawatts (MW) apiece. All eight turbines are fully erected and will be turned on individually as part of the commissioning process. Commercial operation should begin in a few weeks.

There are many features of this project that stand out. The most obvious one is the turbines themselves, which are the tallest in Wisconsin and are among the tallest in North America. The nacelle is perched on a 100-meter tower (330 feet). Attached to the rotor are three blades extending 50 meters (165 feet). For comparison purposes, the tower is more than 60 feet taller than the next largest turbine in Wisconsin, the Vestas V82, and the blades are about 30 feet longer. According to Michels Wind, the general contractor for Shirley Wind, the spread foundations supporting these turbines are the largest in North America. (more…)

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