Archive for April, 2011

Southeastern Minn. could become hotbed for ‘frac sand’

Posted on April 28, 2011. Filed under: Natural gas |

From a story on WEAU-TV, Eau Claire:

RED WING, Minn. (AP) — Under the forested bluffs of southeastern Minnesota lies an increasingly sought-after resource. It’s called “frac sand.” And it’s prized by the energy industry, which uses it to extract gas and oil from underground rock in a process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Minnesota Public Radio reports an increasing number of companies are eying Minnesota for the sand, prized for its perfectly round, hard and chemically inert grains. One energy company recently purchased land near Red Wing for sand mining, sparking opposition from residents and environmentalists.

From an article in the Star Tribune, Minneapolis-St. Paul:

The fracking process pumps a mixture of frac sand, water and chemicals into underground rock formations to break up the stone and release oil and natural gas. It allows affordable access to fossil fuel supplies that once were too expensive to tap.

But it’s been a contentious issue in some states that have fracking operations. Critics argue that chemicals used in fracking may be contaminating water supplies.

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GE Healthcare seeks OK for wind turbines

Posted on April 27, 2011. Filed under: Energy Efficiency, Energy independence, Wind |

From an article by Laurel Walker in the Milwaukee journal Sentinel:

Waukesha – GE Healthcare is seeking city permission to install 10 wind turbines up to 155 feet tall on its 662-acre Waukesha campus on county Highway T north of I-94.

The project, if approved, would be built next year or later, said Annette Busateri, public relations manager. It is part of the company’s 2015 goal of reducing electrical usage by 15% and improving building energy efficiency by at least 10%, she said.

The Waukesha Plan Commission is scheduled to consider a conditional use permit for the project at its 6 p.m. meeting Wednesday. The city has no wind turbines, planner Michael Hoeft said.

City planner Jennifer Andrews said the company has lined up letters indicating state and federal agencies likely have no objections.

“They seem to have all their ducks in a row,” she said.

Although the proposed turbines are about a mile from the runways of Waukesha County’s airport, Crites Field, their height would be below the limit set by the county’s zoning ordinance that protects airspace around the airport from encroaching structures.

The plan calls for turbines on towers ranging from 135 to 155 feet tall. Three would be behind the former headquarters building, now an assembly building for medical imaging equipment that’s the farthest north of three buildings. The other seven would be between the two other buildings farther south.

Waukesha County Parks and Land Use Director Dale Shaver said there are no commercial wind turbines in the county. Not only would this project be the first, but they would be near a high-traffic, very visible interchange.

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Learning curve steep for Cassville plant now burning wood biomass

Posted on April 26, 2011. Filed under: Biomass, Economic development, Energy independence, Jobs, Wood |

Frm an article by Ron Seely in the Wisconsin State Journal:

A small wood burner helps fire the boiler
to heat the Barron, Wiscosnin schools.

From smoking piles of wood chips in the countryside to dust on kitchen counters in Cassville, the difficulties posed by the conversion of the E.J. Stoneman Electrical Station in Grant County to burn wood instead of coal have challenged both village residents and plant engineers.

But the adventures and misadventures of the conversion stand as an informative and cautionary tale of what may lie ahead as Wisconsin and the rest of the country struggle to find alternative renewable fuels to help wean us from dirtier, nonrenewable combustibles such as coal.

Even so, Rich Nelson, plant manager, is more convinced than ever that the plant, one of just a few in the country that burn only wood, represents a future that will see much less dependence on nonrenewable fuels. After all, he said, it makes perfect sense to be turning demolished buildings in Milwaukee into power for more than 28,000 homes in the Cassville area.

“If we weren’t here,” Nelson said, “then all that construction material would be going into a landfill.”

The 60-year-old power plant, which rises next to the Mississippi River, was converted last year by Michigan’s DTE Energies, which has owned the plant since 2008. Its two boilers are now heated by wood rather than coal, a process known in the trade as “repowering.”

The transition has had its rough spots. Nearby residents have complained about problems such as ash on their window sills and kitchen counters, and wood chip piles stored in quarries that spontaneously combust and fill scenic valleys with blue haze.

“It’s frustrating sometimes,” Nelson said. “I think the expectation was that we’d push a button and then everybody’s feet would be up on their desks and we’d be making power.”

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Poll finds strong support for wind energy in Wisconsin

Posted on April 22, 2011. Filed under: Energy independence, Energy Policy, Wind | Tags: , |

From an article in the Chicago Tribune:

MADISON, Wis.— A poll of Wisconsin residents finds strong support for increasing the use of wind energy, even if doing so would raise electricity bills several dollars per month.

The Wisconsin Public Radio poll was released Friday. It shows that 77 percent of respondents want to see the state invest more in wind energy. Reasons included decreasing the nation’s reliance on foreign oil and helping the environment.

A majority, 69 percent, wouldn’t mind eight to 10 wind-energy machines being placed closed to where they live, and 79 percent favor placing the machines offshore in Lake Michigan.

Click here for poll results.

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Wind: The New Cash Crop on an Iowa Family’s Farm

Posted on April 21, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Jobs, Wind | Tags: , |

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Wind energy development and jobs grow in the Midwest, but not Wisconsin

Posted on April 20, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Energy Policy, Jobs, Wind |

From an article by Dan Piller in the the Des Moises (Iowa) Register:

State grants West Branch wind facility $3 million

The Iowa Power Fund on Thursday awarded Acciona Wind Energy a $3 million grant to help finance a $19.9 million demonstration project near Mechanicsville that will show off Acciona’s new three-megawatt wind energy system.

“One tower will be steel and the other concrete. We’ve had requests for both,” said Joe Baker, president of Acciona’s plant at West Branch.

The four-year-old West Branch operation makes the nacelles, or the box behind the blade that houses the gears and generation capacity.

Acciona has focused on building 1.5-megawatt wind systems, but the larger units are becoming more standard in the industry, Baker said.

MidAmerican Energy’s wind farms in west-central Iowa have three-megawatt turbines.

“Within seven to 10 years most of the wind turbines will be three megawatts,” he said. A megawatt of electricity can power 200 to 500 standard-sized homes.

Iowa has 3,675 megawatts of wind generation capacity, ranking second behind Texas in total capacity and first as a percentage of its total electricity generation capacity

Acciona is a century-old Spanish company with roots in construction and water treatment. The West Branch facility, opened in 2007, is its only U.S. wind equipment factory, but Acciona operates five wind farms in Illinois, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Nevada and California.

From an article by Laurenne Ramsdell on

Goss in Durham (MA) delivers first turbine to Chicago-area

DURHAM — Goss International unveiled its newly developed wind turbine components to area officials and state representatives on Thursday morning.

Goss, primarily a printing press company, has worked throughout the past year with Aeronautica Windpower, a Massachusetts-based licensing company, to cross train employees in order to produce the massive turbines.

According to Greg Norris, marketing communications manager for Goss, the first wind turbine that Goss has manufactured will be ready for shipment to Illinois next week. Norris said the eco-friendly equipment will be delivered to Testa Produce, a Chicago-based wholesale produce distributor.

Norris stressed the turbines are midscale electromechanical pieces of equipment that will be used for warehouses, farms, schools and universities, factories, small housing developments and an array of commercial sites.

Those who attended the update session had the opportunity to tour the area of Goss where the 750 kilowatt and 225 kilowatt machines are being manufactured. Wearing safety goggles, the representatives stood in awe at the size and power of the turbines being created.

As of Thursday, the 750 kilowatt turbine going to Illinois was in pieces for shipping purposes. Once the pieces are assembled, the machine is comparable in size to a small school bus.

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Full Spectrum Solar: Green business success story

Posted on April 19, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Jobs, Solar | Tags: , , |

From an article by Mike Ivey in The Capital Times:

It’s taken a bit longer than planned but a fast-growing Madison-based solar energy company is finally settling into new digs.

On Wednesday, Full Spectrum Solar will celebrate its move to 1240 E. Washington Ave., the former Quality Collision auto body repair shop.

Full Spectrum has been working on the new location for nearly a year, including purchasing the real estate. It was formerly located in the Madison Enterprise small business incubator at 100 S. Baldwin St.

“We started moving in early February but it was a rolling process,” says company co-owner Burke O’Neal. “We did a lot of work ourselves and with small subcontractors, so it took a while.”

The company — which designs and installs solar energy systems on both residential and commercial scales — will “Flip the Switch” on its solar-electric powered awning at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Newly-elected Dane County Executive Joe Parisi will offer remarks along with outgoing Mayor Dave Cieslewicz and other renewable energy advocates.

Tours of the new facility will follow from 10:30 a.m. until 7 p.m.

Founded in 2002, Full Spectrum Solar is owned and operated by Madison-natives and UW-Madison engineering alumni, brothers Burke and Mark O’Neal. Over the past five years, the company has increased sales eight-fold and currently employs 12 full-time and one part-time employee.

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Commerce secretary pushes alternative energy, exports

Posted on April 18, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Energy Policy, Jobs, Renewable energy - generally |

From an article on by Jim Cryns:

MILWAUKEE — U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke told a Milwaukee audience the United States — and Wisconsin — needs to invest in alternative energy or it risks being left behind by other world powers.

“America doesn’t want to wake up five years from now asking itself how China was able to make the transition to alternative energy and not the United States,” Locke said during a speech to the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce on Tuesday. “If you don’t develop your industries in alternative energies here in the state, then those jobs will be created in another state. I can tell you countries like China are spending billions of dollars to create energy alternatives.”

Locke said one way to improve the economy is to break America’s “oil addiction.” Locke said the Obama administration has made major new investments in next-generation clean energy sources like wind, solar and biofuels, as well as a national smart grid that can deliver that energy to homes and businesses across the country.

In keeping with White House push to “win the future,” Locke said Obama’s 2012 budget would increase the nation’s R&D investments as a share of GDP to its highest levels since President Kennedy’s administration.

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Rising Diesel Prices Fuel Higher Electric Rates

Posted on April 15, 2011. Filed under: Coal, Economic development, Generation Plants, Jobs, Peak Oil & the End of Cheap Fossil Fuel, Renewable energy - generally |

For immediate release
April 15, 2011

More information
RENEW Wisconsin
Michael Vickerman

We Energies Customers Will Pay the Higher Cost of Hauling Coal

We Energies’ electricity customers can look forward to coughing up an additional $25 million in 2011 due to the Public Service Commission’s approval yesterday [April14] of a rate increase to cover the escalating cost of transporting coal to Wisconsin power plants.

Milwaukee-based We Energies, Wisconsin’s largest electric utility, imports coal from such distant locations as Wyoming and Pennsylvania to generate electricity. Transportation now accounts for two-thirds of the delivered cost of coal to Wisconsin.

Diesel fuel costs have jumped to approximately $4.00 a gallon this year, propelled by political unrest in the Middle East, declining petroleum output from Mexico, a weakening dollar, and other factors. We Energies’ request predated the ongoing civil war in Libya.

“While we cannot control any of those price drivers, we can more effectively cushion their effects by diversifying our energy generation mix with locally produced wind, solar, small hydro, and biogas electricity,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide organization advocating for public policies and private initiatives that advance renewable energy.

“The coal mines aren’t getting any closer to Wisconsin. Therefore we have to be serious about reducing our dependence on fossil fuels that are tied to the global oil supply picture. Now is not the time to skimp on investments in conservation and renewable energy that will help stabilize the utility bills of businesses and residents,” Vickerman said.

“Do we have the will to pursue energy policies that take us off of the fossil fuel price escalator? Doing nothing will bake these rate increases into our future without any corresponding boost to Wisconsin’s job market and sustainable energy economy.”

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Iowa leads all states in use of wind energy

Posted on April 13, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Jobs, Wind |

While Wisconsin officials drive wind energy development out of the Badger state, next-door Iowa leads, according to anarticle by Dan Piller in the Des Moines Register:

About 15 percent of Iowa’s electricity generation capacity now comes from wind, maintaining the state’s national leadership in figures released Thursday by the American Wind Energy Association.

With a major expansion by MidAmerican Energy, Iowa stands to rise to 20 percent this year.

“That’s a percentage close to what we see in Europe, and it’s exciting,” said Jessica Isaacs, senior analyst with the wind association.

Iowa still ranks second nationally in wind capacity with 3,675 megawatts, behind Texas’ 10,085 megawatts but still ahead of California’s 3,177.

Because of Texas’ larger electricity grid, Iowa’s 15 percent of total capacity coming from wind exceeds Texas’ 7.8 percent percentage of wind to total electricity.

Iowa’s total will grow this year with the addition of 593 megawatts by MidAmerican in Calhoun, Cass, Adams, Adair and Marshall counties.

The expansions will bring Des Moines-based MidAmerican to 2,316 megawatts of capacity, the largest utility-owned and operated wind generation portfolio among investor-owned utilities.

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