Archive for August, 2011

UWO partners in second dynamic biodigester project

Posted on August 30, 2011. Filed under: Biomass, Digesters | Tags: |

From a news release issued by the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh:

Wisconsin’s largest dairy farm will be home to one of Wisconsin’s most dynamic research, renewable energy production and public education facilities as part of an initiative involving the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s College of Letters and Science and UW Oshkosh Foundation.

On Aug. 24, the UW Oshkosh Foundation Board of Directors unanimously endorsed a proposal to pursue an innovative partnership with Milk Source’s Rosendale Dairy and renewable energy companies Viessmann Group and BIOFerm Energy Systems of Madison.

The proposal calls for construction of a large, wet anaerobic biodigester/biogas production facility at the Pickett dairy site. The plant would use the farm’s livestock manure to make energy. It would also operate as a dynamic, collaborative UW Oshkosh student-and-faculty biosolids research and teaching laboratory with an attached public education center. . . .

The multifaceted energy plant and facility will significantly enhance UW Oshkosh student learning and community outreach opportunities involving environmental and biosolids research. It will also:

* Feature a public education center operated by UW Oshkosh students and faculty. It will introduce Wisconsin K-12 students, educators and residents to the environmental science and engineering involved in harnessing a renewable energy source from a state-of-the-art, 21st Century dairy farming operation. Furthermore, UW Oshkosh is in the early stages of discussions with UW Extension and other constituent groups of using biodigester revenues to develop a new center on rural community development.
* Be available as a remote classroom and laboratory for UW Oshkosh microbiology, biology, environmental studies and chemistry classes. Revenues from the production and sale of energy will further fund the enhancement and growth of laboratories throughout the institution, including the University’s Environmental Research and Innovation Center. The ERIC is home to the institution’s collaborative, student-and-faculty aquatic and sustainability research initiatives.
* Fund a new student scholarship program under development by the UW Oshkosh Foundation.

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Wind turbine to produce electricity for Random Lake farm

Posted on August 26, 2011. Filed under: Energy independence, Wind |

From an article by Bob Petrie in the Sheboygan Press:

TOWN OF SHERMAN — It’s a tall order for the 120-foot wind turbine that towers over the Preder farm on county Highway I just outside Random Lake.

The turbine, installed this week on a small hill behind the farmhouse, is expected to produce all the power needed to run the household and the farming operation, with a little bit left over for the neighbors.

“We’re trying to make it so that we’re not relying on everybody else for energy,” said Mike Preder, 32, who helps his father, Jeff, and mother, Kathy, raise growth hormone free Piedmontese cattle and free-range chickens on the 140 acre property.

Ed Ritger, a Random Lake attorney and the Preders’ next-door neighbor, is financing the $500,000 tower, with about half of the cost covered through grants offered from the federal government and Focus on Energy. Ritger, who owns a hobby farm, looks at the turbine as an investment that will pay for itself during a 10- to 15-year period, and be around to produce energy for a lot longer.

“It’s an investment, but it’s also an opportunity to send a message that we need to do more renewable energy,” said Ritger, 64. “That’s a message I’ve been preaching for a long time. So my wife and I are putting some dollars behind that message.”

The building in Random Lake where Ritger’s law firm is housed was equipped about a decade ago with solar panels. The panels power the building, and the excess electricity goes back to the power grid. He thought it would be a good idea to try building a turbine out in the country, and the Preders were receptive to the idea.

“We’ve been neighbors for 40 years, and you can’t put a wind turbine in the valley, (you) put it on the best hill that you’ve got,” Ritger said. “So that’s how this joint venture was put together; the Preders providing the site and the Ritgers providing the capital.”

The Preders, whose energy bills run about $400 a month, worked with Kettle View Renewable Energy, a Silver Lake firm, to acquire and install the wind turbine. The company, which has been in business since 2006, has put in turbines for the Cascade wastewater plant and at Random Lake High School. The turbine, with its 34½-foot long blades, that serves the Preder property can produce up to 120,000-kilowatt hours per year, about 30,000 more than the Preders usually consume annually. The turbine generates energy in wind speeds of 7 mph or greater.

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RENEW Analysis Shows Wisconsin Wind Farm Productivity Comparable to Iowa’s

Posted on August 25, 2011. Filed under: Wind |

Immediate release
August 25, 2011

More information
Michael Vickerman
Executive Director

Wind Farm Productivity Comparable to Iowa’s

Production figures from wind energy projects owned by Wisconsin utilities reveal that there is no significant difference between wind farms in Iowa and the Badger State, according to an analysis of utility annual reports performed by RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide organization advocating for public policies and private initiatives that advance renewable energy.

The most productive wind project last year was Wisconsin Public Service’s Crane Creek project in Howard County, Iowa, followed closely by Wisconsin Power and Light’s Cedar Ridge project in Fond du Lac County. (See table below.) The output from both projects in 2010 exceeded 30 percent of their rated capacity. Capacity factor is a measure of actual output relative to potential output if the turbine ran 100 percent of the time at full capacity.

“These figures suggest that the winds in Wisconsin can deliver significant quantities of clean energy to nearby users,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW. “This is especially true of the newer turbines with taller towers and longer blades.”
“Clearly Wisconsin ratepayers are getting their money’s worth from Wisconsin’s newest wind projects,” Vickerman said. “Moreover, the host communities reap considerable economic benefits in the form of payments to local governments and landowners.”

Differences in output between wind projects in the same region can be attributable to causes other than the wind resource itself. These can include shutdowns caused by grid congestion and operating restrictions aimed at minimizing impacts on wildlife and project neighbors.

“The evidence suggests that Cedar Ridge is a standout performer among Wisconsin wind projects, and every bit as productive as the projects in Iowa owned by Wisconsin utilities,” said Vickerman.

Click table to enlarge.


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Utilities warn of higher rates because of pollution rules

Posted on August 24, 2011. Filed under: Carbon, Clean Air, Climate change, Coal, Utility rates |

From an article by Tom Content published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on August 19:

Two state utilities said this week new federal pollution rules will lead to higher electricity costs come January.

Wisconsin Public Service Corp. of Green Bay said its residential customers can expect an increase of more than $4 a month next year, including about $2 linked to the new rules designed to limit air pollution from coal-fired power plants.

The utility said it would see higher costs of about $32.6 million in 2012 from the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule that was finalized recently by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. That will result in rates going up by 6.8% instead of 3.4%, the utility said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last month finalized stronger regulations for Wisconsin and 26 other states aimed at curbing air pollution from long-distance sources.

Environmental groups praised the new rule because it would reduce acid rain and air pollution as well as help curb health effects from dirty air linked to coal plants. The EPA projected the rule will save up to 34,000 lives a year and prevent more than 400,000 asthma attacks as well as 19,000 admissions to hospitals. . .

The new rule has been in development for several years but the first phase of compliance hits utilities in 2012. WPS said it won’t have time to install pollution controls by next year at its plants, but will be able to comply by purchasing credits from other utilities that have cut emissions.

The utility also said it plans to operate its coal plants less next year than it otherwise would have, and will buy more power from the Midwest wholesale power market as a result, a move that it said is also a factor in higher costs for customers. . . .

On Thursday [August 18], Wisconsin Power & Light Co. [Alliant] of Madison said it would face an additional $9 million in costs linked to the air pollution rule. With the change, the utility is now seeking an increase in 2012 of $20 million, or 2%, utility finance manager Martin Seitz said in a filing with state regulators.

Todd Stuart, executive director of the Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group, criticized the increases, and he noted that large energy users like paper mills will see higher than average increases, compared with homeowners and small businesses. Paper mills served by WPS could see a 9% hike, he said. . . .

“Industry always cries wolf whenever EPA tries to reduce air pollution,” said Katie Nekola, lawyer with the conservation group Clean Wisconsin. “The fact is, the new rule will affect old, inefficient, unnecessary coal plants that should have been shut down long ago. The continued operation of those old units is costing ratepayers money, but you don’t hear industry complaining about that.”

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RENEW asks PSC to stop We Energies’ termination of renewable program

Posted on August 23, 2011. Filed under: Renewable energy - generally, Utility rates | Tags: , , |

From the testimony of RENEW presented by Michael Vickerman, who draws attention to the fact that We Energies is trying to defund its $6 million/year renewable energy development program without any justification. In fact We Energies doesn’t say anything about their actions. RENEW asks the PSC not to sanction this sleight of hand maneuver:

Q. What is the purpose of your testimony?
A. The purpose of my testimony is to discuss the May 2011 decision by We Energies to cancel a 10-year, $60 million commitment to support renewable energy development in its service territory. [***BEGIN CONFIDENTIAL***]  [***END CONFIDENTIAL***] (Exhibit __ (MJV-1)).

My testimony includes a recommendation to the Commission that it not allow We Energies to reallocate in 2012 the $6 million per year it had committed to spend on renewable energy development activities for other purposes. [***BEGIN CONFIDENTIAL***] [***END CONFIDENTIAL***]

Q. What is RENEW’s interest in this proceeding?
A. [***BEGIN CONFIDENTIAL***][***END CONFIDENTIAL***] RENEW is also a founding member of the We Energies Renewable Energy Collaborative (“WEREC”), the stakeholder body that has helped We Energies to achieve its voluntary renewable energy goal (5% by 2011) and maximize the value of its 10-year commitment to build, largely from scratch, a strong renewable energy infrastructure within its service territory. The collaborative, consisting of Midwest Renewable Energy Association, Citizens Utility Board, American Wind Energy Association, Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corporation, Customers First Coalition, and the 16th Street Community Health Center, has been working since 2002 to shape and guide We Energies’ renewable energy program. I think I can speak for all of the nonprofits in the collaborative when I say that our combined efforts and resources produced the strongest and most innovative utility-run renewable energy program in the state. Until We Energies announced its decision to terminate it, the program it had developed was widely regarded as one of the most successful utility-administered renewable energy initiatives in the nation.

Q. What was the basis of We Energies’ $6 million per year commitment to renewable energy?
A. I will quote from Jeff Anthony, who, as a We Energies manager in 2005, submitted testimony in the utility’s 2005 rate case (Docket No. 05-UR-102) providing details regarding We Energies’ request to recover $6 million per year in costs associated with planned renewable energy development activities:

 In its first “Power the Future” filing in early 2002, [We Energies] made several commitments to renewable energy. Among those commitments was that, subject to regulatory approval and cost recovery, the Company would spend an additional $6 million per year to achieve a target of 5 percent of Wisconsin retail load served by the year 2011. With reference to this commitment, the PSCW in its November 10, 2003, Order in the “Power the Future” docket, stated: “As part of the PTF proposal, WEPCO has committed to a goal of obtaining 5 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2011. This is more than twice the renewable portfolio standard set forth under Wis. Stats. § 196.378, which requires that at least 2.2 percent of each electric provider’s retail energy must be from renewable energy resources by this date. WEC has also declared its intent to spend up to $6 million per year for ten years on emerging technologies and activities, to encourage the development of renewable resources.

Q. We Energies launched its Renewable Energy Development program in 2002. Why did the utility wait until 2006 to begin spending $6 million per year on the program?
A. As a condition of its WICOR merger, the Commission imposed a five-year rate freeze on We Energies that expired on January 1, 2006.

Q. Did We Energies receive approval on its request to recover $6 million for renewable energy development costs?
A. Yes, it did. It also received approval from the Commission in 2007 to spend $6 million per year on its renewable energy development program in 2008 and 2009, and it also received approval in 2009 to spend $6 million per year on its renewable energy development program in 2010 and 2011. All told, We Energies has sought and received permission to spend up to $36 million on the renewable energy program it has developed in consultation with WEREC.

Q. Did We Energies produce a “Renewable Energy Development” program plan for the PSC’s review?
A. Yes. In 2006, We Energies created a fully fleshed-out program plan and presented it to the PSC that September, building on the summary table it had submitted in the previous rate case. The program plan contained a diverse portfolio of renewable energy projects and initiatives. We Energies also committed to hiring an outside firm to perform an independent assessment of all of the elements and initiatives set forth in the Renewable Energy Development program plan.

Q. What elements of We Energies’ Renewable Energy Development program do you consider to be particularly successful?
A. Several of We Energies’ customer incentives and tariffs were unique in the way they complemented Focus on Energy’s renewable energy program. For example, We Energies was the first utility to: (1) offer a solar energy-specific buyback rate; (2) increase the net energy billing capacity ceiling for small wind systems generators to 100 kW; and (3) support renewable energy-specific conferences and events such as Solar Decade held in Milwaukee. Perhaps the most innovative element in We Energies’ program, however, was its special incentive for nonprofit customers seeking to install renewable energy systems. Every three months, We Energies would solicit proposals from schools, religious institutions, local governments, nature centers and other nonprofit entities to co-fund new renewable energy systems on their premises. This We Energies incentive supplemented Focus on Energy grants and cash-back awards. It was designed to overcome the inability of these nonprofit entities to capture federal renewable energy tax credits to offset their own system acquisition costs. As a result of this unique incentive, there are more renewable energy systems serving nonprofit customers in We Energies territory than in any other utility territory. This initiative has an educational component to it as well; We Energies posts real-time production data from these systems on its web site. (Exhibit __ (MJV-2)).

We Energies was also the first Wisconsin utility to field a large solar initiative which supported a total of one megawatt of photovoltaic generating capacity on seven customer rooftops. All told, We Energies’ support of solar energy, including solar hot water systems, helped foster the convergence of a solar industry cluster in southeast Wisconsin consisting of such companies as Helios USA, Johnson Controls, Caleffi Solar, Hot Water Products, and Sunvest.

Q. In what other ways did We Energies’ program benefit ratepayers?
A. We Energies has a number of renewable energy systems 10 kW and above that are interconnected to its distribution system. (Exhibit __ (MJV-3)). Depending on the specific tariff through which We Energies acquires the generation, many of these installations, including most if not all of the biogas generation facilities in its service territory, are a source of Renewable Energy Credits, that, beginning in 2012, can be banked to help the utility meet its 2015 target under Wisconsin’s Renewable Energy Standard. That supply cushion could become very valuable to We Energies if an extended interruption occurs with a major supply source of renewable electricity. Also, the preponderance of solar PV systems in We Energies territory was a contributing factor enabling We Energies to weather July’s heat waves without setting a new record for system-wide peak demand.

Q. Did RENEW have any advance knowledge of We Energies’ unilateral decision to prematurely terminate its Renewable Energy Program?
A. At WEREC’s May 11, 2011 meeting, We Energies representatives disclosed to the collaborative the company’s internal decision to unilaterally and prematurely terminate the program. There had been no discussion of such an outcome between We Energies and any of the other collaborative members prior to the meeting. We Energies’ representatives assured us that the decision was final and irrevocable. Indeed, by the time We Energies got around to dropping this particular bombshell on WEREC participants, program termination was already a fait accompli. One day later, an announcement on the termination appeared on We Energies’ web site.

Q. Has We Energies provided any information to the Commission explaining its unilateral decision to prematurely terminate its program?
A. No, it has not. We Energies has yet to offer an explanation for its decision in this proceeding. In fact, We Energies is not explicitly asking for permission to discontinue funding for this initiative at this time. Instead, the program’s suspension is merely assumed within its proposed suspension of certain regulatory amortizations for 2012. This suspension for the test year would appear to set the stage for termination of the program pursuant to Wis. Admin. Code ch. PSC 137.

Q. Why should the Commission reject We Energies’ decision to prematurely and unilaterally terminate its Renewable Energy Development program?
A. There are several persuasive reasons for not sanctioning We Energies’ decision to unilaterally and prematurely terminate its Renewable Energy Development program. One, this proceeding, to date, is devoid of any justification by We Energies for this abrupt change of course. Two, the Commission has in three previous rate cases approved the $6 million per year earmarked for supporting renewable energy development activities. Nothing has happened between the most recent approval of funds for this initiative and today that warrant a lesser amount of funding for this initiative, let alone its outright termination. [***BEGIN CONFIDENTIAL***][***END CONFIDENTIAL***] In other words, there is a trust issue here that should not be summarily dismissed.

Five, the Commission staff audit in this proceeding revealed excess revenue for the test year of more than $85.8 million under the proposal submitted by WEPCO compared with adjustments proposed by Commission staff. “In other words, these proposed adjustments indicate that applicants are proposing to defer $85.8 million more than is necessary to achieve no change in base rates.” Accordingly, there is no valid basis for We Energies to contend that it must terminate or suspend its renewable energy program with a relatively small annual budget of $6 million. We Energies could cover program costs 14 times over with its revenue surplus. Six, this initiative is an important source of renewable energy development and innovation throughout We Energies’ service territory, providing support for customer-sited renewable energy installations, conferences, workshops, research and development activities, demonstration projects, and advanced renewable buyback rates. Although the accomplishments of this program over the past five years are a good start, there is still much to be achieved. Termination of this program would be a severe blow to area contractors, businesses, and manufacturers that invested in new production capacity and expanded their workforce in direct response to the favorable climate for renewable energy that We Energies had created in its service territory. Allowing We Energies to abruptly terminate its renewable energy initiative without cause would send a strong signal to these businesses and other prospective market actors that they should focus their renewable energy development work in out-of-state markets, where policy commitments are durable enough to survive the whims of utility managers.

Q. Does this complete your direct testimony?
A. Yes it does.

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AWEA’s Bode: Iowa is a model for wind-energy development

Posted on August 12, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Jobs, Wood |

From an article by on

Days before Iowa’s straw polls, the American Wind Energy Association is sending out a message that it hopes the rest of the nation will notice: Iowa is a wind energy state.

This weekend, Iowa will hold its nationally significant straw polls for the Republican Party’s presidential primaries, which AWEA will attend.

“With Iowa standing tall as the first state to produce 20 percent of its electricity with wind power, the Straw Poll is a terrific opportunity to share the power of wind to support local economies as well as generate clean energy,” AWEA chief executive Denise Bode said.

There are several reasons for appreciating wind energy in the state according to the association.

They said Iowa has been deriving a fifth of its power from wind farms built in the state. It has also reportedly built a booming manufacturing sector for the Hawkeye State.

The association said over 200 wind-related businesses now operate in 56 Iowa counties, adding over $5 billion to the Iowa economy.

In 2010 alone, wind farm owners paid $16.5 million in property taxes and an additional $11 million in land lease payments to property owners, it added.

All of these, AWEA said, stem from good planning.

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Iowa Straw Poll to shine spotlight on the economic power of wind

Posted on August 11, 2011. Filed under: Wind |

From a news release issued by the American Wind Energy Association:

AMES, IOWA, Aug. 10 – As the nation’s eyes turn to the Hawkeye State for this weekend’s Iowa Straw Poll in the Republican presidential race, they will catch a glimpse of what wind power has already done for Iowans—from providing 20 percent of the state’s electricity to creating a new manufacturing sector—and what wind power can do for America.

Gov. Terry Branstad (R-Iowa) and other state officials will join the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) in sharing wind’s powerful message this week in Ames: wind works for Iowa, which has become a national leader since adopting the first renewable electricity standard in 1983.

What’s telling about Iowa is that these people who know wind power the best are big fans of the clean, renewable energy source. A full 81 percent of Iowa voters believe that the growth of the wind industry has been good for Iowa’s economy, according to a recent poll by GOP pollster Neil Newhouse. Further, Iowa voters chose wind, by a 3-to-1 margin, as their preferred energy source to power their state.

“With Iowa standing tall as the first state to produce 20 percent of its electricity with wind power, the Straw Poll is a terrific opportunity to share the power of wind to support local economies as well as generate clean energy,” said AWEA CEO Denise Bode. “Iowa is reaping the economic benefits of being a wind power leader because it had the foresight to plant a seed over 20 years ago with the implementation of strong, sound policy. Iowa is showing the nation how it can be done.”

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MGE showcases its program for solar in schools

Posted on August 10, 2011. Filed under: Solar |

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Statement of Michael Vickerman on Alliant’s Iowa Wind Project

Posted on August 8, 2011. Filed under: Wind |

Immediate release
August 8, 2011

More information
Michael Vickerman
Executive Director

Statement of Michael Vickerman
Executive Director – RENEW Wisconsin on
Alliant’s Iowa Wind Energy Project

Alliant Energy, parent company of Wisconsin Power and Light, disclosed its intention last week to build a 100-megawatt wind energy facility in Franklin County, Iowa, and place it in service before December 2012. For the moment at least, the costs of this investment will not be borne by Alliant’s Iowa or Wisconsin ratepayers, but rather the parent company’s shareholders.

Moving forward now on this project locks in the favorable pricing terms for the wind turbines that Alliant had negotiated several years ago with Vestas, a Danish turbine manufacturer with a plant in Colorado.

We at RENEW support Alliant’s renewable energy venture so long as it operates as either a merchant plant, selling the electricity into the Midwest wholesale market, or a dedicated source of renewable electricity serving Alliant’s Iowa ratepayers.

However, RENEW firmly believes that utility-owned generating assets should be located in the same state where the ratepayers who are underwriting the project reside. In other words, if there comes a time when Alliant needs a new wind project to meet its Wisconsin renewable energy requirements, it should either build that installation in Wisconsin or purchase electricity from a new nonutility-owned installation located in Wisconsin.

There is a fully permitted wind project in Alliant’s Wisconsin territory that is ready to serve Wisconsin Power and Light customers. Located in Lafayette County, the Quilt Block project, developed by EDP Renewables, an independent wind developer, is licensed to be a 99-megawatt facility that could be operational before the end of 2012. The economic benefits to Lafayette County and Wisconsin as a whole from pursuing local wind projects like Quilt Block far exceed what can be obtained from more distant sources of renewable electricity.


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UW-Oshkosh tops in state for solar thermal panels

Posted on August 5, 2011. Filed under: Solar |

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