Archive for July, 2011

Unique two-bladed turbine makes Wisconsin debut

Posted on July 28, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Jobs, Wind | Tags: , , |

Immediate release

July 28, 2011

More information
Randy Faller –
Maureen Faller –
Kettle View Renewable Energy

Unique Two-Bladed Turbine Debuts in Wisconsin

Wind turbines come with three blades, right? Not the unique Scottish-built Gaia turbine installed near Neenah by Kettle View Renewable Energy, LLC, of Random Lake.

“You might do a double-take when you first see it,” admits Randy Faller, owner of Kettle View.

The electricity production from the first two-blader installed in Wisconsin and fourth in the United States has been “incredible,” according to Faller, “even during last June, when winds were really light.” And it’s quieter than other small turbines.

At wind speeds between 9 and 14 miles per hour, the 11-kilowatt Gaia in the Town of Clayton, Winnebago County, will out perform a turbine rated at 20 kilowatts. With a little more fine-tuning, Faller expects even better production. “It’s only been up a month and a half,” Faller said.

“No single turbine on the market fills every need at every site. Every brand of turbines has advantages and disadvantages. The Gaia (pronounced GUY-ah) works well in locations with lower wind speeds,” commented Faller, “like we have at many Wisconsin locations.”

Part of the Gaia’s generating power comes from longer blades than those on a three-bladed turbine. With a rotor diameter of 42.6 feet, the two-bladed Gaia can capture up to 80% more energy, according to the U.S. distributors Web site (

“Hundreds of Gaia turbines have been installed throughout Europe since the turbine was first developed in Denmark in the 1990s,” explained Faller.

Equipped with a durable gearbox, well-built mechanics, and streamlined design, Faller expects the Gaia to perform reliably during Wisconsin’s winters.

However, Wisconsin’s future for wind energy doesn’t look bright for Gaia or any other turbine, according to Faller, who calls the current situation “scary.”

The Legislature suspended statewide standards for permitting wind energy systems. “The small wind section of those standards was a great thing. Towns and counties could use it as a guide. Now everything’s open to interpretation when a landowner applies for a permit,” Faller said.

He also expects his business to be hurt by budget cuts imposed by the Legislature on Focus on Energy, Wisconsin’s ratepayer-funded energy efficiency and renewable programs. Individual utility support for customer-sited renewable systems has also been cut back.

“My wife and I built the business to the point where we employ three other full-time employees, one part-timer, and occasionally subcontract some work. If we don’t have work in Wisconsin, we’ll go out of state. But why should I have to leave my own state to work?”

Prior to starting Kettle View in 2006, Faller “got tired of sitting behind a desk. It’s exciting,” he says, “to make our own power right in your own backyard.”

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State honors Michels Corp., contractor for wind project construction

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

While shutting down Wisconsin’s wind industry, the State of Wisconsin honored Michels Corp. for adding new jobs, such as the jobs created by Michels’ work on wind generation facilities. From an article in the Fond du Lac Reporter:

BROWNSVILLE — Michels Corp. in Brownsville was lauded for its job growth Tuesday morning.

Scott Baumbach, secretary of Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, visited the family-owned and operated construction company, according to a press release. He praised Michels for its longstanding apprenticeship training and success.

Michels Corp. has trained more than 150 apprentices since 1996, providing opportunities for construction electricians, operating engineers, cement masons, construction craft laborers and ironworkers.

“Over the past five decades, Michels has grown from a gas pipeline construction company to a major corporation employing over 4,000 workers nationwide,” Baumbach said in a statement. “Michels has created jobs, including many apprenticeship opportunities, and we want to help Michels and other employers expand and create more jobs.”

Michels Vice President Tim Michels told The Reporter that the company added about 1,000 jobs over the past year. A lot of small projects have added up, he said. . . .

Michels is also one of three state contractors hired by We Energies to build the Glacier Hills Wind Park in Columbia County. Glacier Hills will have 90 wind turbines, making it Wisconsin’s largest wind farm.

Michels said Baumbach’s visit was part of Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to recognize employers who’ve created jobs.

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RENEW Debuts Wisconsin Renewable Energy Map

Posted on July 26, 2011. Filed under: Renewable energy - generally | Tags: |

For immediate release

More information
Joe Friesen, Communications Assistant

RENEW Debuts Wisconsin Renewable Energy Map

Volunteer Joe Friesen started a “simple” task to organize basic information on Wisconsin’s wind farms. This task grew over time to become a database and map that documents the location of nearly every renewable energy generating system in the state. Highlighting over 1,300 installations that total more than 700 megawatts of renewable electricity, RENEW Wisconsin’s database has become the most comprehensive on-line compilation of in-state renewable energy systems.

Installations depicted on this on-line tool range from small customer-owned solar electric systems to the 162 MW Glacier Hills wind farm in Columbia County, the largest renewable energy installation in Wisconsin. The database also includes a county by county breakdown.

“The real power of this database is the ability to visually represent the data across Wisconsin,” said Friesen. “Being able to see the distribution of renewable energy systems from Racine to Ashland shows that these are proven technologies that play a critical role in Wisconsin’s energy mix.”

When Glacier Hills comes online this December, the combined output from Wisconsin’s commercial-scale wind farms will produce the equivalent energy needed to power 175,000 residences.

At 1,200 installations, more than 90% of RENEW’s database is comprised of solar electric systems placed on homes, churches, businesses and schools.

“The steady growth of small-scale renewables here is attributable to the state’s previous commitment to build a vibrant renewable energy marketplace,” Friesen said. “Unfortunately, the policies adopted years ago to accomplish that objective are now under attack from the Legislature and certain utilities. This is certain to result in a dramatic slowdown of renewable energy installation activity.”

“Legislators needn’t look any further than their own districts to see examples of renewable energy systems creating local jobs and contributing to Wisconsin’s energy security” Friesen said.

Individuals interested in helping should send details about their renewable energy installations to Joe Friesen. Pertinent details include: system capacity, name of installer, year of installation, and zip code of installation.

Joe Friesen’s volunteer work with RENEW is made possible through a program called Mennonite Voluntary Service. MVS is a nationwide program which seeks to match dedicated volunteers with deserving nonprofit organizations at a fraction of the cost of a normal full-time employee.


RENEW Wisconsin is an independent, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that acts as a catalyst to advance a sustainable energy future through public policy and private sector initiatives. More information on RENEW’s Web site at

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States cut programs to help poor cool their homes

Posted on July 25, 2011. Filed under: General |

From a story by Tom Coyne on Minnesota Public Radio:

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – Many states hit hardest by this week’s searing heat wave have drastically cut or entirely eliminated programs that help poor people pay their electric bills, forcing thousands to go without air conditioning when they need it most.

Oklahoma ran out of money in just three days. Illinois cut its program to focus on offering heating money for the winter ahead. And Indiana isn’t taking any new applicants. When weighed against education and other budget needs, cooling assistance has been among the first items cut, and advocates for the poor say that could make this heat wave even more dangerous.

“I’ve never seen it this bad,” said Timothy Bruer, executive of Energy Services Inc., which administers the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program in 14 Wisconsin counties. The group has turned away about 80 percent of applicants seeking cooling assistance.

The sizzling summer heat comes after a bitterly cold, snowy winter in many places and at a time when unemployment remains stubbornly high.

The cuts began after Congress eliminated millions of dollars in potential aid, forcing state lawmakers to scale back energy assistance programs. The agencies that distribute the money are worried that the situation could get even worse next year because the White House is considering cutting the program in half.

Joyce Agee, a retired secretary from South Beloit, Ill., said she typically receives about $300 in utility assistance each summer and up to $600 for the winter to supplement her Social Security income. After running her air conditioner constantly, she’s worried about her next electric bill.

“I’ve cut back on what I eat so that I can pay my light bills and everything else,” she said.

The government provided $4.7 billion for low-income energy assistance for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, down $400 million from the year before. The money is primarily used by states to help with heating bills in winter, which lasts longer and generates higher utility bills.

But dozens of states, particularly those in the South and Midwest, have traditionally used a portion of the money to provide help during the summer — especially for elderly people and those with medical conditions that could be fatal in high heat.

“Energy assistance helps vulnerable people. If they can’t turn their air conditioner on because they’re afraid to pay the bill, there’s documented cases of people dying over time. It’s totally preventable,” said Mark Wolfe, executive director of the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association, which is made up of state officials who give out the federal money.

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Wisconsin turns inhospitable to green businesses

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

From an article by Nathan J. Comp in The Isthmus:

A new report from the Brookings Institution sizing up the health of the nation’s green economy shows Wisconsin ranks 13th in the number of green jobs, with Madison ranking fifth among cities.

Problem is that many of these jobs will likely disappear as a result of recent policy rollbacks and funding cuts that critics say have already begun to decimate the state’s clean energy infrastructure.

“There is a concerted effort to drive out clean energy jobs,” says state Rep. Brett Hulsey (D-Middleton). “Companies specializing in renewable energy are getting creamed right now.”

Since taking office in January, Gov. Scott Walker’s administration and the GOP-controlled Legislature have, among other things, suspended the wind turbine siting rule, cut millions of dollars from a statewide program that helps bring down costs of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects for companies and local governments, and enacted a law allowing utility companies to satisfy renewable energy requirements by importing hydroelectric power from Canada.

A pending bill would allow utilities to bank renewable energy credits in perpetuity, which would effectively extend the 2015 deadline for adding new sources of renewable energy indefinitely.

Walker’s spokesman didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Michael Vickerman of RENEW Wisconsin, a nonprofit devoted to clean energy strategies, says the industry’s mood “varies from contractor to contractor, but it’s pretty grim. We’re the only state to drive out its renewable energy businesses.”

Vickerman says that many companies have contracts that will sustain them through the end of the year, but with funding and policy support drying up, many will be forced to close their doors.

“We’re going to document situations where there are layoffs or where companies relocate to states where their prospects are unchanged,” he says. “Walker should be congratulated by governors of other states for pushing business into their greener pastures.”

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Iowa leads the Midwest in reaping wind energy benefits, Wisconsin heads backward

Posted on July 20, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Energy independence, Energy Policy, Renewable energy - generally, Wind |

By contrast, an article by Michael Vickerman details Wisconsin’s Widening War on Renewable Energy.

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Wisconsin & Midwest Economies Would Get Boost From Clean Energy Investment, Study Finds

Posted on July 19, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Energy Policy, Renewable energy - generally |

From a news release issued by the Union of Concerned Scientists:

By Adopting Stronger Renewable Energy and Efficiency Targets, States in Region Would Create Jobs and Save Consumers Money

CHICAGO (July 19, 2011) – Midwest residents would pay less for electricity, have more job opportunities, and breathe healthier air if their state adopted stronger clean energy standards, according to a peer-reviewed report released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

The report, “A Bright Future for the Heartland: Powering the Midwest Economy with Clean Energy,” shows that Midwest states have tremendous potential to produce electricity from renewable resources, particularly wind, biomass (plant material such as corn stalks and switch grass), and solar and to cut utility bills by reducing energy use in homes and businesses.

Tapping the Midwest’s clean energy potential would drive billions of dollars in new business investment, create thousands of jobs, and save families and businesses billions through lower utility bills, while reducing the state’s dependence on coal and associated carbon emissions that contribute to climate change. . . .

Besides creating [11,500] jobs, the stronger renewable electricity and energy efficiency standards in the Energy Roadmap would provide other important boosts to Wisconsin’s economy by 2030. These
economic benefits include:
• $2.7 billion in new capital investment in renewable energy and
energy efficiency
• $20 million in new income for farmers and rural landowners who
produce biomass energy or lease their land to wind developers
• $80 million in new property tax revenues, which would help
communities pay for schools and vital public services . . .

Cumulative savings on electricity and natural gas bills for Wisconsin consumers would total $1.5 billion by 2020, and grow to $6 billion by 2030, with all sectors of the economy sharing in the savings.

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National Study Vindicates Wisconsin’s Clean Energy Policies

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

Immediate release
July 18, 2011

More information
Michael Vickerman
Executive Director

National Study Vindicates Wisconsin’s Clean Energy Policies

Nearly a decade of forward-looking strategies propelled investments in Wisconsin’s clean jobs economy above other Midwest states, according to an economic study issued by The Brookings Institution, a nonpartisan public policy organization in Washington, D.C.

Reviewing data gathered between 2003 and 2010, the Brookings analysis pegged the number of clean economy jobs in the state at 76,858, a net increase of nearly 4,000. Measured as a percentage, Wisconsin’s clean economy accounted for 2.7% of all jobs in the state, compared with 2.5% for Iowa, 2.1% for Minnesota, 1.9 % for both Indiana and Michigan, and 1.8% for Illinois. Overall, Wisconsin ranked 8th among all states and the District of Columbia in the relative size of its clean economy.

The report categorizes clean economy jobs as those in energy efficiency and renewable energy; sustainable forestry products; recycling and reuse; waste management and treatment; organic food and farming; energy efficient appliance and building manufacturing; and more.

“Clearly, Wisconsin’s commitment to clean energy has paid dividends, attracting new businesses and creating high-paying jobs that could have easily gone elsewhere,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide organization advocating for public policies and private initiatives that advance renewable energy.

These policies and initiatives include the establishment of Focus on Energy, the region’s first ratepayer-funded energy efficiency and renewable energy program, attractive buyback rates offered by utilities for renewable energy, and innovative incentives to encourage customer installation of renewables.

In addition, Wisconsin’s adoption of a 10% renewable energy standard back in 2006 spurred new utility-scale installations built by skilled tradesmen employed by local contractors. During the study period, the number of wind-related jobs in Wisconsin doubled from less than 450 to 900.

As documented in the Brookings report, the wages for these clean economy jobs run higher than the statewide average ($37,931 vs. $35,906).

“Unfortunately, Wisconsin’s clean economy is in danger of losing a good deal of its steam as a result of policy rollbacks and funding cutbacks in the renewable energy arena,” Vickerman said. “The short-sighted attacks we’ve seen in 2011 could throw the state’s clean economy into reverse next year.”

So far this year, the Legislature has reduced funding for Focus on Energy, suspended the statewide rule regulating the permitting of wind turbines, and weakened the state’s renewable energy standard by allowing utilities to count Canadian hydropower toward their requirements.

“On top of that, We Energies, the state’s largest utility, announced that it will discontinue what had been an effective renewable energy initiative,” Vickerman said. “Among other accomplishments, it was instrumental in enabling Helios USA to build a solar-electric manufacturing facility in Milwaukee’s Menomonee River Valley.” The plant now employs 50 workers.


RENEW Wisconsin is an independent, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that acts as a catalyst to advance a sustainable energy future through public policy and private sector initiatives. More information on RENEW’s Web site at

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Wind farm plan gets green light — in Illinois

Posted on July 14, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Energy independence, Jobs, Wind | Tags: , , , |

While Wisconsin’s hostility toward wind generation kills projects in the state, wind generation projects continue to create jobs and energy independence in surrounding states, according to this article in The News Gazzette, Champaign, IL:

DANVILLE — The Vermilion County Board authorized construction of the first wind turbine farm in the county Tuesday night despite objections from several local residents and incomplete information in the developer’s application.

The 27-member board voted 21-1, with four members absent and one seat vacant, to grant Chicago-based Invenergy a building permit to construct 104 wind turbines in west central Vermilion County.

Invenergy also submitted on July 1 its application to the Champaign County zoning board for a special-use permit to build 30 wind turbines as part of the same project in east central Champaign County. Invenergy officials said they hope construction in Vermilion County can start by the end of the year.

The lone no vote at Tuesday’s Vermilion County Board meeting came from member Terry Stal, D-District 4, who said after the meeting that he voted that way because the county should have all its agreements with Invenergy in place before the permit is issued. He said his vote reflected a procedural objection.

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Wisconsin’s Widening War on Renewable Energy

Posted on July 11, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Energy Policy, Jobs, Renewable energy - generally | Tags: , , , |

Dramatic Slowdown in Market Activity Anticipated
By Michael Vickerman
July 11, 2011

What started out as an opening salvo from the Walker Administration to shackle large-scale wind projects has in six months turned into a systematic campaign to dismantle the state policies that support renewable energy development. Joining the executive and legislative branches in pursuing policy rollbacks and/or funding cutbacks against renewables are various utilities and, surprisingly, Focus on Energy, Wisconsin’s ratepayer-funded energy efficiency and renewable programs.

Since January 1st, Wisconsin has seen a series of assaults against utility-scale projects and smaller renewable systems serving both residences and businesses. These include the following actions:

  • The Legislature suspended PSC 128, the statewide rule developed by the Public Service Commission last year in response to a law passed by the Legislature in 2009 ordering the agency to establish uniform standards for permitting wind energy systems. Since the March 1 suspension vote, wind development in Wisconsin has slowed to a standstill.
  • The Legislature adopted SB 81, a bill that RENEW Wisconsin describes as the “Outsource Renewable Energy to Canada Act.” SB 81 allows Wisconsin utilities to meet their renewable energy requirements beginning in 2015 with electricity generated from large hydropower plants in other states and Canada. By allowing Wisconsin utilities to become even more dependent on energy imports than they are today, SB 81 turns Wisconsin’s Renewable Energy Standard on its head. Importing large-scale hydropower exports the very dollars that could have been used to harness Wisconsin’s renewable energy resources.
  • We Energies, the state’s largest electric utility, abruptly decided in May to walk away from an agreement with RENEW to dedicate $60 million over a 10-year period in support of renewable energy development in its territory. The decision came in the sixth year of this program. We Energies plans to reallocate the unspent dollars (totaling about $27 million) to general operations.
  • Green Bay-based Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) instituted in April a new net energy policy designed to discourage new customer-sited renewable energy systems. Until recently WPS had been paying its customers the full retail rate for electricity that flows back on the wires, which is now about 12 cents/kWh. But under the new rate, WPS only pays three cents/kWh for electricity exported to the grid. Moreover, the utility calculates the net each month, which penalizes customers whose loads vary significantly depending on seasonal factors. Right now, the new policy only covers systems installed after March 2011, but WPS has said that it plans to apply that rate to older systems effective January 2013.
  • In its deliberations on the biennial state budget passed in June, the Legislature appended a rider to tie Focus on Energy’s annual budget to a percentage (1.2% of gross utility revenues). This action will mean a cut of $20 million in the program’s 2012 budget relative to this year’s allocation of $120 million. The Focus on Energy program provides grants and cash-back awards supporting customer investments in solar electric, solar thermal systems, small wind, biogas and biomass energy systems.
  • Last, but certainly not least, as of July 1, Focus on Energy stopped accepting applications for business program incentives to help customers install renewable energy systems. These incentives, which average about $7 million per year, had been available since 2002 to businesses, farms, schools, local governments and other nonprofit customers. It is not clear when these incentives will be resumed and in what quantity.
  • This one-two punch of policy rollbacks and funding cutbacks has cast a pall over the state’s renewable energy marketplace. At this year’s Energy Fair in Custer, Wisconsin, the prevailing mood of contractors and exhibitors was one of bewilderment tinged with anger. It is dawning on these companies that their state, which once took pride in its efforts to nurture a thriving renewable energy market, is becoming an inhospitable place to do business. The transformation is occurring with stunning speed; no business is likely to be spared from this abrupt reversal of fortune, which will hit home soon and continue for several months, if not years.


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