Archive for February, 2011

Solar powers up former stockyards

Posted on February 28, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Solar | Tags: , |

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

Wisconsin’s first solar panel factory has opened in the Menomonee River Valley, on the site of stockyards that contributed to the city’s leadership in the meatpacking and processing industries more than 100 years ago.

Later this year, solar panels will go up on the roof of the building that replaced the stockyards, and the panels will be made downstairs in Steve Ostrenga’s factory.

Privately held Helios USA started making robots this month, using an automated production line to build high-efficiency solar panels. The goal: to help put an emerging, 21st-century industry on the map in the state.

That’s what excited Patrick Shaw of Cudahy about working at the plant, he said during a recent tour of the W. Canal St. factory.

“I wanted to get into the green field,” said Shaw, a former Marine. “All you hear about is how that’s up and coming.” Then he attended a veterans job fair where Helios was recruiting employees.

“Six months later, here I am,” Shaw said.

Production started this month after five weeks of 12-hour days getting the first manufacturing line ready.

Workers installed robots that largely automate the manufacturing process and began test production earlier this month. Finished panels sit in stacks in an area of the plant where future production lines are planned.

A ribbon-cutting at the plant is scheduled for Monday.

During the plant tour, Shaw showed pride in having helped set up the robots.

“They said people’s kids could name the robots,” Shaw said. Pointing to one hoisting a nearly complete panel, he added, “My 4-year-old named that one Buzz Lightyear.”

Shaw is one of 17 workers who, after working to open the plant, began operating its first production line two weeks ago. Ostrenga hopes to nearly triple employment by the end of the year.

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Committee set to vote on suspension of wind siting rules

Posted on February 23, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Wind | Tags: , , |

From the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA):

The Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules (JCRAR) has now scheduled a special meeting on March 1st to consider suspending the PSC128 Wind Siting rule that our industry worked on in 2009-2010 that are scheduled to take effect on March 1st. If the JCRAR suspends the PSC128 rule, before it otherwise would take effect that same day, we will be back where we started two years ago on wind siting reform in Wisconsin.

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Job openings likely in sustainable industries for executives, trades, scientists, engineers, planners

Posted on February 22, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Renewable energy - generally | Tags: , |

From an article by Cara Spoto in the Stevens Point Journal:

Two years ago, Stevens Point resident Rob Peck decided to make a career change.

“My kids were grown … and I thought I would really like to do something different,” Peck, 50, said. “I wanted to get into something that would be good for the community and society in general.”

So, after years of working in manufacturing and real estate sales, Peck applied to Mid-State Technical College to become a renewable energy specialist and energy-efficiency technician.

Now a design consultant at Northwind Renewable Energy in Stevens Point, which specializes in designing and installing renewable energy systems, Peck helps customers engineer the perfect solar energy system for their home or business.

Hired about a year ago, Peck was one of two MSTC students who interned with Northwind last summer. Josh Stolzenberg, one of Northwind’s owners, said the business plans to take on three new interns this summer. If things work out with the interns, Stolzenberg and his partner, Craig Buttke, plan to hire two of them.

Peck is one of many Wisconsinites looking toward sustainable technologies to shape his next career move. According to Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Chief Labor Economist Dennis Winters, sustainable industries and technologies have and will continue to play a key role in current and emerging job markets in Wisconsin.

The DWD projects that by the year 2018 “professional, scientific, and technical services” industry will be among the top 10 employers in the state.

“‘Green,’ as it were, actually permeates all industries and occupations,” Winters said.

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Wisconsin windpower means Wisconsin jobs!

Posted on February 21, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Wind |

To enlarge, click this ad which appeared in Sunday’s Milwuakee Journal Sentinel:

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Successful wind farm gets overlooked in current wind siting debate

Posted on February 17, 2011. Filed under: Wind |

Madison Gas and Electric issued a news release and a video on the tenth anniversary of the successful Rosiere Wind Farm:

MADISON, Wis. – (Business Wire) Wisconsin’s first large-scale wind farm began producing clean, renewable electric power 10 years ago today in Kewaunee County. The 17-turbine, 11.22-megawatt facility built and owned by Madison Gas and Electric (MGE) is located near Rosiere. Since 1999, the facility has produced over 215,000 megawatt-hours of electricity, enough power to supply 3,000 homes annually.

The facility was built in direct response to MGE customers who wanted to purchase green energy for their homes and businesses. The wind farm’s generating capacity available for green energy sales was sold out in less than four months. Over the last 10 years, MGE has increased its wind energy portfolio by 12 times as strong customer support for renewable energy continues. MGE customers have one of the highest participation rates nationally in green energy programming offered by investor-owned utilities.

“We are grateful to the landowners and communities that support this project,” said Lynn Hobbie, MGE senior vice president. “We also thank the customers who have made our green pricing program so successful.”

“In 10 years, wind generation has completed the transition from boutique energy to a bulk power,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin. “Early commitments to wind power from utilities like MGE helped make that happen and were instrumental to that industry’s subsequent growth and maturation.”

At the time, MGE’s Rosiere facility was the largest wind farm in the Eastern United States. Today the wind farm is one of nine commercial facilities in Wisconsin. Wind-generating capacity in Wisconsin totals nearly 450 megawatts.

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Gov. Walker trying to subvert property rights

Posted on February 17, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Wind | Tags: , , |

From a guest column by Mark Hirsch of Platteville in the Dubuque Telegraph Herald:

In 2009, after years of acrimonious debate regarding the impact of wind-energy facilities on local communities, the Wisconsin Legislature directed the Public Service Commission to review public concerns, scientifically analyze the issues and develop guidelines for uniform wind-siting regulations throughout the state.

This lengthy process culminated in the creation of PSC-128, a set of rules drafted to create a level playing field for developing our wind resources while still protecting the health and safety of our citizens and neighbors.

The Legislature’s Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules held a public hearing Feb. 9 about PSC-128. I attended with hopes of sharing my voice on this controversial issue, but due to the large turnout, I did not get a chance to speak. Like many Wisconsin residents, I am strongly opposed to Gov. Walker’s efforts to stop the development of wind energy in Wisconsin.

Gov. Walker attempted to subvert this set of rules in January by introducing language in his reform bill to radically alter the siting parameters set by PSC-128. The resulting legislation, SB-9, failed Advertisement

to receive any support during the governor’s special session. As a result, the governor is trying to subvert these rules again by putting it before the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules. This is not standard operating procedure.

The governor claims that his modification will protect property owners’ rights. Under the guise of protecting property owners’ rights, what he is really doing is bowing to a special-interest group (the Wisconsin Realtors Association).

An important fact that Gov. Walker is overlooking when he says his rules will protect property owners’ rights is that he seems only interested in protecting the rights for those who are neighbors to a wind farm. He needs to argue for the rights of all landowners.

What about the rights of the landowners who support these developments and want the wind farm on their property? These people have paid taxes, farmed their land and, in many cases, sold off small housing parcels to their neighbors. Now the governor wants to empower the neighbors and a minority of landowners with the authority to tell the large property owners what they can do with their land?

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Fond du Lac County says wind farms support local businesses

Posted on February 15, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Wind |

From a letter to the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules from Fond du Lac County in support of PSC proposed wind siting rules, not the rules proposed by Gov. Scot Walker:

Utility scale wind farms in Wisconsin have meant a lot to local
businesses. Farmers that want to continue working their farmland have additional income to support their operations. Land rental payments for turbine sites bring farmers $5,000 each year for each turbine site. Farmers invest these dollars, $829,900 in 2010, into growing crops or their dairy herds. One of our local contractors, Michels Corporation of Brownsville, Wisconsin, has been the prime contractor in several utility scale wind farms. Michels was the prime contractor and paid living wages to just over 200 employees in the Fond du Lac/Dodge County area during the construction of the Forward Energy Center and the Blue Sky/Green Filed wind farm. Michels was also part of the construction team for both Butler Ridge and Glacial Ridge projects elsewhere in Wisconsin. Michels has been in discussions with 4 other wind developers each with 100 MV projects around Wisconsin.

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No controversy over wind energy in Muskegon, MI

Posted on February 14, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Wind | Tags: , , , |

From an article by Dave Alexander in the Muskegon (MI) Chronicle:

MUSKEGON – When the head of the Grand Valley State University alternative energy center asked for the city of Muskegon’s help in establishing an offshore wind research buoy in Lake Michigan, there was no controversy.

Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center Director Arn Boezaart asked the Muskegon City Commission for the city to be a co-applicant on state and federal environmental permit applications.

Commissioners quickly voted the city’s support and heaped praise on Boezaart for the activities of the energy center in downtown Muskegon.

Anyone who sat through last year’s hearings on offshore Lake Michigan wind farms proposed by Scandia would be hard-pressed to see the Ludington City Council or the Pentwater Village Council taking such quick action.

The offshore wind turbine issue simply is not as controversial in Muskegon County as it has been in Oceana and Mason counties. County boards in both Oceana and Mason voted against the Scandia proposal, while Muskegon officials remained relatively supportive.

So when Boezaart approached the city of Muskegon this week for a hand on a $3.7 million offshore wind research buoy project, no one asked if the wind testing effort would eventually lead to huge wind turbines being placed on Lake Michigan off the coast of Muskegon.

There was no debate about turbine blades killing birds or about low-frequency turbine noise — topics that would have likely been part of the conversation with Muskegon’s northern neighbors.

“Muskegon has had a willingness to look at offshore wind,” Boezaart told The Chronicle after receiving the city’s support on the research buoy project. “It goes right back to what we saw with the Scandia issue. In Muskegon, offshore wind is viewed as a potential source of jobs and represents new business for the region.”

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Fond du Lac County, host of 168 wind turbines, supports PSC siting rules

Posted on February 11, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Wind |

Testimony of Sam Tobias
Director of Planning and Parks
Fond du Lac County

Before the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules
February 9, 2011

(starts at 3:45:30 pm on Wisconsin Eye)

Thank you for the opportunity to speak before you today — chairs and committee members as well.

I’ve been with Fond du Lac County for 25 years in a couple of different roles but at this point I’m with the county planning and parks director. You have to know just a bit about Fond du Lac County to understand where I’m coming from and what’s been happening in Fond du Lac. In our county we do not have county zoning, every town in our county, all 21, each has their own individual zoning ordinance. They administer their zoning ordinances. At times, with wind siting issues especially, they depend heavily on their attorney, and they all pretty much use the same attorney. They’ve come up with pretty much the model that’s being used in the PSC rule. And it’s worked very well, and that’s my point here today is we’ve been a test-bed so to speak in Fond du Lac.

The program has worked in Fond du Lac County. Why do I say that? The six town boards in Fond du Lac County that are the six towns that are host to wind turbine projects are all still in place. If this were truly a monumental issue, and truly had widespread health effects, and hazards, nature hazards, those types of things, I don’t think those six town boards would be in place today, but they are.

We’re home to three major utility scale wind turbine projects — 168 turbines, 268 MW of electricity capacity. Again, the towns, the 8,000 to almost 9,000 town residents, that are involved in these facilities. We don’t have 8,000 to 9,000 people here today protesting against the rules. There are people with concerns, but it’s not the majority by any stretch of the imagination.

Town government took the lead, as I said previously. In permitting, in regulating wind farms in Fond du Lac County and I think they’ve done a very great job. Again, our setbacks are very similar in our towns as to what’s in our state rule. Utility-scale wind farm in Wisconsin mean a lot to local businesses — from the sandwich supply lunch truck, that comes out to construction sites, to Michels Corporation in Brownsville that’s got 200 people that have been involved in developing wind projects in our county and elsewhere around the state. By their estimations, there are probably four projects out there that are being discussed and are in the works, 100 MW or more each, so there’s projects queued up that need some predictability in outcome, and that’s what this rule does.

I’ll go back to creating a level playing field. This is the same kind of thing that the Wisconsin Realtors Association asked for in ’99 and 2000 – the Wisconsin Smart Growth law. I’m a planner so I supported them in those efforts and that was a big thing that they really wanted. They wanted a level playing field. And I think in this situation, the same rule applies, the same situation applies. Let’s provide a level playing field. We’re not going to have turbines in every corner of the state of Wisconsin. These companies are going to go where the resource is. The resource is fairly limited in our area. . . . (more…)

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Polls: Anti-Wind NIMBYs Are Small Minority

Posted on February 11, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Wind | Tags: , , |

From an article by Brian Keene on The Huffington Post:

I’ve written before about the pseudo-controversy that NIMBYs kick up over wind projects. And it’s too bad that the media indulge them. It’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease — and news stories about overzealous anti-turbine activists feed on unfounded fears that wind energy does not have the support it needs to get off the ground.

In fact, the media frenzy over unhappy wind-turbine neighbors is downright irresponsible — mainly because multiple studies show that wind turbine critics fall squarely in the minority.

Wind turbine critics tend to make general claims that, within their communities, a silent majority opposes wind farms in the area, and this should be reason enough to pull the plug on such projects . . . .

Look no further than a poll of 1,200 urban and rural residents across Oregon, Idaho, and Washington, which measured public opinion on wind energy in residents’ backyards. According to one pollster, “An overwhelming percentage — 80 percent actually of residents of rural areas of the Northwest — support wind farms being developed within sight of their homes. What’s more interesting is that 50 percent strongly — not just somewhat — but strongly support this.”

The study, a collaboration between the Northwest Health Foundation, a polling firm, and several public radio stations, hit the news at the same time as “nagging opposition to some new wind farms from some neighbors.” Perhaps not surprisingly, the numbers of wind project supporters were even higher in urban areas.

Wind energy will be critical to building America’s clean energy economy in the long term. In the short term, it represents one of the best options for communities hoping to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels while still meeting electricity demand. Momentum is gathering behind the movement toward clean energy, including wind. It would be foolish to let this motivation fall victim to anti-wind rhetoric and NIMBYs who keep wishing for the old days.

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