Archive for May, 2011

Siting Windpower: The View From the Minefield

Posted on May 31, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Energy independence, Energy Policy, Jobs, Wind | Tags: |

From a presentation by Michael Vickerman Wind Powering America All States Summit in Anaheim, CA, May 26, 2011:

In January 2011, All Hell Broke Loose:
PSC 128 [statewide wind siting rule] clears legislative review in December;
• Gov. Walker introduces bill Jan. 11 in special session (SB 9) that threatens to bring wind development to a standstill;
• Most important provision in SB 9: greatly extends minimum setback requirement;
• PSC rule: 1.1 x total height from property lines (400-500 ft.);
• SB 9: 1,800 feet from property lines.

How Problematic Are 1,800 ft. Setback Requirements to SitingWind Turbines?
Consider Glacier Hills – a 90-turbine wind project under construction in two townships in Columbia County characterized by a low density of population:
• No. of turbines beyond a 1,250 ft. setback requirement from non-participating residences: 75 to 80;
• No. of turbines beyond an 1,800 ft. setback requirement from property lines: 2 to 5.

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Wind farm tower segments ready to go up at Glacier Hills

Posted on May 27, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Jobs, Wind | Tags: , , |

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

TOWN OF SCOTT – How’s this for irony? The construction of the state’s largest wind energy facility is on hold, on account of wind.

The towers – the lower two components of them, anyway – were supposed to start piercing the skyline of northeastern Columbia County this week.

Instead, the components were, as of Thursday morning, lying on their sides, while the anemometers at the top of the cranes clocked wind speeds at about 40 mph. That’s about 15 mph too brisk for the safe construction of the towers.

It’s no surprise to Mike Strader of We Energies that breezes can get a tad gusty in these parts. That’s a key reason why We Energies is building the 90 turbine towers that will comprise Glacier Hills Wind Park on about farmland occupying about 17,300 acres in Columbia County’s towns of Randolph and Scott.

But, if the wind gusts to 25 mph or more, as it has all week, it’s not safe to erect the towers.

“What we can’t do is what we would love to do – put up those towers,” Strader said.

Starting Monday, plans had called for the arrival of the components of eight towers per day. The four segments of each tower would arrive, one at a time, from Manitowoc on trucks with about eight axles to distribute the weight evenly.

Many of the turbine blades have already arrived by rail from Colorado; most are being stored, for now, on a town of Courtland parcel approved by Columbia County’s planning and zoning committee as a temporary staging area for the Glacier Hills project.

We Energies spokeswoman Cathy Schulze said that, for the most part, gawking at the construction will be discouraged, for the safety of the public and the workers, and because much of the technology is proprietary.

But the curiosity is understandable, she said, and an open house Wednesday is intended to satisfy that curiosity.

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Fresh attack on Wisconsin voters’ desire for a renewable energy standard would kill wind projects and sap state’s economy

Posted on May 26, 2011. Filed under: Biomass, Digesters, Economic development, Energy independence, Energy Policy, Hydroelectric, Jobs, Solar, Wind | Tags: , , , , , |

From statements issued by three groups in opposition to Assembly Bill 146:

“Clearly, this bill is a drastic step in the wrong direction for our state. The Wisconsin Energy Business Association therefore opposes this attack on renewable energy in our state.” – Wisconsin Energy Business Association. Full statement.

We strongly recommend that this bill not be approved as it solves no known problem in Wisconsin and seeks only to roll-back policies on renewable energy that have served the state well and are otherwise benefitting Wisconsin residents with cleaner air and lower prices for electricity. – Wind on the Wires. Full statement.

Fresh attack on Wisconsin voters’ desire for a renewable energy standard would kill wind projects and sap state’s economy, say wind energy advocates – American Wind Energy Association. Full statement.

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WI utility agrees to buy Canadian hydroelectric power

Posted on May 25, 2011. Filed under: Hydroelectric |

While RENEW opposes counting hydro toward a utility’s renewable portofio standard, Wisconsin Public Service agreed to buy 100 MW from Manitoba Hyrdo, according to an article in The Lac du Bonnet Leader:

Premier Greg Selinger announced today that Manitoba Hydro has signed agreements for a 250megawatt (MW) sale of electricity to Minnesota Power and a 100-MW sale to Wisconsin Public Service. Combined with a previously completed 125 MW sale to Northern States Power, these sales total 475 MW with an estimated value of $4 billion, Selinger said.

The premier said these sales will require the construction of new hydroelectric generating capacity in Manitoba. They will trigger the development of the 695-MW Keeyask (Cree for gull) Generating Station located on the lower Nelson River 175 km northeast of Thompson in the Split Lake Resource Management Area. Keeyask is to be developed by a partnership consisting of Manitoba Hydro and the Keeyask Cree Nations-Tataskweyak Cree Nation, War Lake First Nation, Fox Lake Cree Nation, and York Factory First Nation. The $5.6-billion project will provide some 4,500 person-years of construction employment, said Selinger. . . .

The 250-MW power sale to Minnesota Power over a 15-year period from 2020 to 2035 requires an additional interconnection between Manitoba and the United States which will provide increased export capability and reliability benefits for Manitoba, said Selinger.

The 100-MW power sale agreement to Wisconsin Public Service covers the 2021-2027 period. Negotiations are continuing to expand the Wisconsin sale to 500 MW which would require construction of the Conawapa Generating Station, the premier said, adding with these sales, Manitoba Hydro and its partners are reviewing scheduling and other requirements for moving forward with Keeyask.

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Ted Turner: I’ll lobby for you.

Posted on May 24, 2011. Filed under: Energy independence, Energy Policy, Wind |

From a conversation with Ted Turner at Windpower2011, the annual meeting and expo of the American Wind Energy Association.

Read more about what Turner said here.

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Japan says farewell to nuclear; welcomes wind power

Posted on May 23, 2011. Filed under: Energy Policy, Geothermal, Nuclear, Wind | Tags: , , |

From an article on Green Optimist via New Science:

Japan is planning to switch from nuclear power to renewable energy in the near future. This news probably doesn’t come as a surprise, given the country’s recent nuclear disaster. The population itself is so shaken with the events that two thirds of it are now supporting the government’s project to invest in wind and solar power. The idea is to make Japan rely entirely on renewable sources by 2050, which is a pretty high standard from what it has today.

Currently Japan has a 30% nuclear input and just a 3% clean power generation. The government is putting a stop on any new construction of reactors and is currently reorienting towards other horizons.

Anyone who knows a bit of geography knows that Japan stands very well at the geothermal energy chapter: it has 120 active volcanoes and 28,000 hot springs that go along. So it seems only natural that it should take advantage of nature’s gifts. Because of national parks and spas that block developments in those areas, the government could only come up with 14 GW of geothermal energy.

There’s nothing to worry about, though. Japan’s long coastline and the north-east region have it all going for them in terms of a profitable installation of wind turbines. Up there the wind is strong and there is plenty of land, making it the perfect location for any offshore farms that might venture in the area. Thus, one could see 24 to 140 GW-capacity turbines pop up during the next few years.

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Azar to leave Public Service Commission to join U.S. Department of Energy

Posted on May 23, 2011. Filed under: Energy Policy |

For Immediate Release – Monday May 23, 2011
Contact: Matthew Pagel, (608) 266-9600

Azar to Leave Public Service Commission to Join United States Department of Energy

Today, Public Service Commissioner Lauren Azar informed Governor Walker and Public Service Commission Chairman Phil Montgomery of her resignation from the Public Service Commission to work as Senior Advisor to Secretary Steven Chu at the United States Department of Energy in Washington, D.C.

“It has been a great honor to serve the people of Wisconsin for the past four years,” said Commissioner Azar. “While I look forward to the challenges of serving the nation, I will look back to Wisconsin fondly. This is one of the greatest laboratories of regulatory policy, and I will be taking with me to Washington my Wisconsin sensibility and commitment to the public interest,” Azar continued.

Secretary Chu has asked Commissioner Azar to drive the administration’s initiatives on the electric transmission grid. Commissioner Azar will work with industry, states, and other federal agencies to facilitate the development our nation’s electrical infrastructure; an infrastructure that will keep our nation competitive in the global economy with an engine fueled by independent and clean energy. Her initial work will be focused on the transmission grid, transmission-related technologies (such as energy storage) and on the federal power marketing administrations.

While at the Wisconsin PSC, Commissioner Azar was recognized as an independent, fair and strong regulator with a command of the utility industry, working to protect ratepayers as well as the financial integrity of Wisconsin’s public utilities. During her tenure, Commissioner Azar led an in-depth study on the potential for developing wind generation on the Great Lakes and served as the President of the OMS, which is the Organization of MISO States. As OMS President, Azar led two processes that resulted in a FERC-approved tariff that allocates the cost of new transmission developments in the Midwest. Commissioner Azar also co-founded and served as the first President of the Eastern Interconnection States’ Planning Council, a 39-state collaboration on transmission planning. As Commissioner, Azar was appointed by Secretary Chu to serve as Vice Chair of the DOE’s Electricity Advisory Council.

“I would like to applaud Commissioner Azar on her federal appointment and express thanks for her service at the Public Service Commission” said Chairperson Montgomery. “Commissioner Azar has worked diligently to protect the ratepayers as well as the public utilities of Wisconsin. Her hard work and dedication will be missed at the PSC but will be a great asset at the United States Department of Energy.”

“Congratulations to Commissioner Azar on her federal appointment” said Commissioner Eric Callisto. “Her intellect, her work ethic, and her skills at coalition building were of great benefit to Wisconsin, and they will well serve the nation in her new position.”

Commissioner Azar’s resignation is effective at the close-of-business on June 3, 2011. Appointed by Governor Doyle in 2008, her term was set to expire in March of 2013.


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UWO, partners dedicate innovative biodigester

Posted on May 19, 2011. Filed under: Biomass, Energy independence |

Dedication ceremony attendees take a look inside one of four concrete biodigester chambers.
From an article by Amanda Wimmer on UW Oshkosh Today:

Once up and running, the nation’s first commercial-scale dry fermentation anaerobic biodigester — an innovative system transforming heaps of food waste and lawn clippings into renewable energy — will produce enough electricity for at least 210 homes per year.

It will also pump out enough energy to heat another, at least, 180 homes per year.

And it will accomplish all this from its modest corner at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh campus, which itself expects to benefit, with about 10 percent of its electricity and heat emanating from the innovative plant.

UW Oshkosh hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony and dedication May 18 to celebrate one more of the institution’s many renewable and sustainable energy initiatives.

“We need to expand the notion of sustainability so it gets highlighted and integrated into all we do,” said Chancellor Richard Wells. “This facility really represents that…it allows us to enhance the state-of-the-art teaching and research happening here.”

Photo by Jason Toney, UW Oshkosh

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Central Library renews environment via green roof, including solar

Posted on May 18, 2011. Filed under: Energy independence, Green Building, Solar |

From an article by Bobby Tanzilo on

There are always exciting things going on in Milwaukee Public Library’s Downtown Central Library, 814 W. Wisconsin Ave. But, these days, there is also some excitement on the building’s roof, too.

When the library needed to replace its 25-year-old roof last year, instead of going for a conventional roof, a 30,000-square foot green roof was constructed and 132 solar electric panels were added to generate about 36,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year. That’s enough to power four homes annually.

“Everyone’s very enthused about it,” says the library’s public services manager Christine Arkenberg, on a recent visit that begins on the library’s first floor, where there is an area dedicated to the green roof initiative.

There, visitors can see books about green issues, view explanatory materials, see a monitor with status updates on how much electricity is being generated, watch a video screen slide show and pick up brochures.

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State clean energy mandates have little effect on electricity rates so far

Posted on May 17, 2011. Filed under: Wind | Tags: |

From an article by Don Huagen in Midwest Energy News:

One of the larger reviews of renewable portfolio standards was a 2008 report (PDF) from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The study looked at data on a dozen state renewable policies enacted before 2007. The estimated impact on electricity rates varied by state, but it was a fraction of a percent in most cases and just over 1 percent in two states, Connecticut and Massachusetts. “There is little evidence of a sizable impact on average retail electricity rates so far,” the report concluded.

One of the report’s co-authors, Galen Barbose, said in an interview that they are collecting data for an updated version of the report. So far he said he hasn’t seen any new information to suggest their conclusion about rate impacts will change significantly in the next edition.

A 2009 study by the U.S. Energy Information Administration modeled the potential impact of a 25 percent nationwide renewable electricity standard. It, too, noted that rate impacts would vary by state, with renewable-rich regions like the Great Plains and Northwest meeting the targets more easily. Overall, though, it projected no impact on rates through 2020, followed by a less than 3 percent increase by 2025. By 2030, however, it projected little difference in rates with or without a national renewable mandate.

The Minnesota Free Market Institute and American Tradition Institute reached a very different conclusion in an April 2011 report (PDF), which claims Minnesota’s renewable electricity standard is going to cause rates in the state to skyrocket by as much as 37 percent by 2025.

Utilities’ experiences vary
Xcel Energy, the state’s largest utility, has come up with a much smaller number: $0.003. That’s the difference Xcel forecasts between its projected per-kilowatt-hour energy price in 2025 under its proposed wind expansion plan compared to a hypothetical scenario in which it stopped adding new wind capacity after 2012.

Asked to comment on the Free Market Institute’s study, Xcel Energy spokesman Steve Roalstad said, “It doesn’t seem to be moving in that direction.” The cost of adding renewable energy sources, especially wind, continues to fall and has become very competitive with traditional generating sources, he said.

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