Archive for November, 2011

State, UW researchers present biomass energy guidelines

Posted on November 30, 2011. Filed under: Biomass, Economic development | Tags: , |

From an article by Adrianna Viswanatha in The Badger Herald:

Several state agencies have unveiled guidelines created in congruence with University of Wisconsin researchers to promote the continued use of biomass energy in Wisconsin, despite the state’s current categorization as a leader in the field of biomass crop planting.

A statement released Tuesday by the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and the Department of Natural Resources outlined a system of guidelines put in place to assist in the implementation of biomass energy.

The “Wisconsin Sustainable Planting and Harvesting Guidelines for Nonforest Biomass” document is the result of a two-year joint effort by the DATCP, DNR and a tech team at UW to establish the guidelines.

Sara Walling, DATCP bioenergy policy advisor, said Wisconsin is the first state that has looked at the process of creating guidelines for biomass crop planting.

“Wisconsin wanted to make sure that when markets developed for biomass crop planting, we had guidelines set up in voluntary fashion so that landowners can make informed decisions about when and how to plant these crops,” Walling said.

Walling said the guidelines are multi-disciplinary and are intended to provide guidance at the field level for farmers and landowners for not only how to plant the crops, but also on how to remove them.

Biomass crop harvesting involves growing crops that are not meant primarily for food.

“To have cheap biomass, which is a necessary catalyst, you have to have more yield per acre, and we can’t figure that out until we start planning it out,” said Troy Runge, assistant professor of biosystems engineering at UW.

Runge said increasing biomass crop harvesting brings many ecological benefits to the environment.

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Small projects have wind in their sails

Posted on November 28, 2011. Filed under: Clean Air, Climate change, Energy independence, Wind | Tags: , , |

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

Companies working toward energy independence

The stalled state of wind farm development in Wisconsin has led to little development activity for large wind farms.

But on a much smaller scale, wind projects are moving ahead as companies fulfill commitments to environmental and energy independence.

In western Wisconsin, Organic Valley Cooperative and Gundersen Lutheran Health System have broken ground on a two-turbine wind project that will generate enough power to offset the energy use for Organic Valley’s corporate headquarters and distribution center, as well as meet 5% of Gundersen Lutheran’s energy needs.

In southeastern Wisconsin, S.C. Johnson & Son has proposed building two or three turbines that would generate 1.5 megawatts of power each. If the plans proceed on schedule, the turbines would be erected next year.

The co-op and health care system project, Cashton Greens, calls for roads and foundations for the $9.9 million project to be completed this fall, with the turbines scheduled for installation in spring 2012, said Cecil Wright, Organic Valley’s director of sustainability.

When completed, the turbines will generate about 12 million kilowatt-hours a year.

It’s a boost to a brand that has the word “organic” in its name, but this is about more than conveying a green image, Wright said.

“One of the main reasons we did is that it’ll help manage and fix our costs,” Wright said. “We’re not just doing it because it’s a nice thing to do. The higher the price of electricity goes up, the better we’ll do at paying off our project quicker, and that’ll be a profit center for us,” he said.

“In addition to providing renewable energy to Cashton and Organic Valley, the wind turbines will serve as a ‘living lab’ for research and education for students at Western Technical College,” Wright said.

Windmills and more
At S.C. Johnson, the wind proposal is the latest in a string of distributed generation and renewable energy initiatives for the company, which uses landfill methane gas to generate energy for the factory. The Waxdale factory will be able to produce 100% of its electricity on-site, with 60% of it from renewable sources, said Christopher Beard, S.C. Johnson spokesman.

The reasons for the projects are many – everything from a desire for energy security to a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions linked to energy use and a platform to showcase their brands as environmentally friendly.

“Both of those projects show that customers are demanding and making clean energy happen,” said Lee Cullen, a Madison energy lawyer who has been working with clients in the wind-energy sector. “There’s a groundswell of renewable energy production that’s happening because people understand its importance.”

Beard said the S.C. Johnson wind project “helps us address the fact that consumers are asking for products that are green and products that have been produced in a sustainable way. Manufacturing our products using on-site sustainable energy helps meet that consumer demand,” Beard said.

Projects to erect wind turbines and solar panels needs to be complemented with efforts to slash energy waste from a company’s buildings and production processes, said Tom Eggert, who runs the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council.

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Manitowoc wind factory to supply Caterpillar mining unit

Posted on November 23, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Jobs, Wind |

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

Wind energy supply-chain factories in Manitowoc and Texas will start making equipment for mining equipment made by Caterpillar, Broadwind Energy Inc. said Tuesday.

The former Tower Tech factory in Manitowoc makes wind towers, including those recently erected in Columbia County for the We Energies Glacier Hills Wind Park.

“This collaboration fits well with our strategic initiatives to leverage our core competencies beyond the wind industry and diversify our revenue base. We believe this is the first step in expanding our relationship with Caterpillar as we continue to collaborate,” said Paul Smith, president of Broadwind Towers, in a statement.

Under the deal with Caterpillar, Broadwind will supply the former Bucyrus International Inc. of South Milwaukee with welded sub-assemblies for large draglines, crawlers and excavating equipment.

The move is expected to add 50 jobs, spread between Manitowoc and Abilene, Texas, Broadwind said in a statement.

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Twenty-four governors, not including Walker, ask Obama to extend tax credits for wind project investments

Posted on November 18, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Energy Policy, Jobs, Wind | Tags: , , , |

From a news release on the Web site of the American Wind Energy Association:

Iowa, Aug. 24—A coalition of 24 governors from both major parties and each region of the country has asked the administration to take a series of steps to provide a more favorable business climate for the development of wind energy, starting with a seven-year extension of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) and the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) to provide stable, low tax rates for wind-generated electricity.

A letter from the governors, sent last month to the White House, has since been made public by the Governors Wind Energy Coalition. Signed by coalition chair Gov. Lincoln Chafee (I-RI), and vice chair Gov. Terry Branstad (R-IA), the letter says:

“Although tax credits for wind energy have long enjoyed bipartisan support, they are scheduled to expire next year. Wind-related manufacturing will slow if the credits are not extended, and some of the tax credits’ benefit will be lost if Congress pursues a last-minute extension. It is important to have consistency in policy to support the continued development of wind manufacturing in the United States. Extending the production tax credit and the investment tax credit, without a gap, is critical to the health of wind manufacturing in our nation. The wind manufacturing industry in the U.S. would benefit even greater if the extension of these credits would be for at least seven years.”

“Governors have always focused on jobs and economic development as their main responsibility. Now that Washington is following suit, it helps for these Governors to tell Washington what has been putting people to work in their states,” said AWEA CEO Denise Bode. “It is also helpful for them to support the removal of roadblocks that can occur in administrative agencies, so that deployment objectives are not unintentionally thwarted.”

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RENEW applauds first community wind project in Wisconsin

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

A news release from RENEW:

Construction is now proceeding on the Cashton Greens Wind Project, Wisconsin’s first community wind project. Consisting of two 2.5 megawatt turbines, this innovative installation will serve two well-known western Wisconsin organizations – Organic Valley, La Farge, and Gundersen Health System, La Crosse. The two organizations are partnering in the development and ownership of this project.

“We at RENEW salute Organic Valley and Gundersen for demonstrating the viability of a large-scale wind turbine project in Wisconsin as a strategy for controlling their energy expenses and reducing their reliance on fossil fuels,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide sustainable energy advocacy organization headquartered in Madison.

According to the two companies, the generated electricity will account for five percent of Gundersen’s energy independence goal and more than offset the electricity usage at both Organic Valley’s distribution center in Cashton and its headquarters facilities in La Farge.

“This is leadership by example at its finest. In this case, two economic linchpins in their region have joined forces to incorporate on-site renewable energy production into their base operations,” said Vickerman.

“Organic Valley and Gundersen join a group of farsighted Wisconsin businesses that are taking great strides toward energy independence and sustainability, among them Epic Systems (Verona), Johnson Controls (Milwaukee), and Montchevré, a goat cheese producer in Belmont.”

Erecting wind turbines using in-state contractors, in this case Michels Corporation (Brownsville), will generate jobs for workers and business for local suppliers and subcontractors.

This project was supported with incentives from Focus on Energy, the statewide energy efficiency and renewables program funded by Wisconsin’s utility ratepayers.

“Ironically, this project occurs at a time when our state government is back-pedaling on policies and incentives to boost renewable energy as a means of moving toward energy independence. In contrast to Wisconsin’s elected officials, leading Wisconsin companies certainly ʽget it’ when it comes to the economic and environmental values of renewable energy,” said Vickerman.

For more information about this project and its owners/developers visit Organic Valley’s news room at

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New research shows relatively few bird and bat deaths from wind turbines

Posted on November 16, 2011. Filed under: Wind | Tags: |

From a news release issued by Great Lakes Wind Collaborative:

New research shows relatively few bird and bat deaths from wind turbines

Mortality rates for birds flying into the turbines of Great Lakes wind farms vary, but are generally low, according to a recently completed analysis of wind energy impacts on birds, bats, fisheries and wildlife.

The report by the Great Lakes Wind Collaborative (GLWC) reviewed data from a number of wind turbine sites in the Great Lakes region and found mortality rates for songbirds ranging from 2.5 bird deaths per year per turbine at an Ontario, Canada site to 11.8 at a Wisconsin site. Additional research on raptors and waterfowl found them to be less prone to turbine collisions than songbirds, while bat mortality was very similar to songbirds, ranging from two to 11 bat deaths a year per turbine.

The report, State of the Science: An Assessment of Research on the Ecological Impacts of Wind Energy in the Great Lakes Region, was compiled from research presented at a GLWC-sponsored workshop. Wind turbine impacts on wildlife, particularly birds and bats, have figured prominently in the public discussion of wind energy and the siting of wind farms. While the information collected for the new report adds to the science of wind energy impacts, the report also identified several data gaps to be filled. Impacts of offshore wind turbines in the Great Lakes, for instance, can only be theorized as there are no offshore wind farms in the Lakes as yet.

“This compilation of the current state of knowledge is intended to give a head start to all parties dealing with these issues, and to help them make well-informed decisions in the real world,” said Steve Ugoretz, past co-chair of the GLWC Siting and Planning Workgroup.

Priorities for research going forward, as laid out by the report, include more data on the effects of wind farms on migratory corridors, establishment of ecologically defensible mortality thresholds and setbacks, and research on potential impacts from artificial reef habitat creation for offshore installations.

As more data on wind energy impacts is accumulated, according to the report, the policy issues that will emerge include such questions as: What are acceptable levels of mortality caused by a wind turbine for a particular species, and what are appropriate buffers from important ecological areas?

Said Jeff Gosse, Hydro & Wind Power Coordinator of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and co-chair of the GLWC Siting and Planning Workgroup, “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service supports the development of renewable energy, including wind power. Our objective is to ensure that such development is ecologically sustainable, with minimal impact to wildlife resources such as birds and bats, and in the case of offshore development, fish. This report is a critical milestone toward achieving that objective in the Great Lakes Region.”

The full report is available at the Great Lakes Wind Collaborative web site.

Contact: Becky Pearson, 734-971-9135,


The Great Lakes Wind Collaborative is a multi-sector coalition of wind energy stakeholders working to facilitate the sustainable development of wind power in the binational Great Lakes region. For more information on the Collaborative, visit

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Gen. Wesley Clark on wind, veterans and energy security

Posted on November 11, 2011. Filed under: Wind | Tags: , |

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It’s not easy going green

Posted on November 9, 2011. Filed under: Energy Efficiency, Renewable energy - generally | Tags: |

From a well-done article by Todd Finkelmeyer in The Capital Times:

The earth’s population hit the 7 billion mark last week.

Perhaps just as eye opening is the fact that the planet is adding more than 200,000 people to that total every 24 hours. That’s nearly another Madison each day.

“We need to start thinking proactively about energy use and other sustainability issues, or we’ll be forced to face the consequences of having to be reactive,” says Craig Benson, who this summer was named UW-Madison’s first director for sustainability research and education. “Resources are no longer plentiful, so it behooves us to think much more strategically about our energy resources.”

I remember my fourth-grade teacher making similar statements after the 1979 oil crisis. Several book reports on wind and solar energy followed in the next couple of years. It wasn’t difficult finding material on this issue because it was a mainstream topic of interest. And yet, here we are more than three decades later, and renewable energy still is struggling to gain serious traction.

If we can find ways to expand the use of renewable energies such as solar and wind, we’ll not only tap into supplies that are basically limitless but simultaneously curb the production of pollutants and greenhouse gases that contribute to respiratory ailments and, most believe, global warming. The U.S. Department of Energy recently calculated the global output of heat-trapping carbon dioxide jumped by the biggest amount on record last year and that 2010 levels of greenhouse gases are now higher than the worst-case scenario predicted by climate experts only four years ago.

But even if saving the planet isn’t your thing, what red-blooded American could be in favor of continuing to send roughly $1 billion per day in U.S. currency to foreign oil producers — especially when that transfer of wealth often goes to nations we’re not exactly buddy-buddy with?

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Facts on wind installations trump myths

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

Michael Vickerman’s letter-to-the-editor of the Racine Journal Times:

Dear Editor:

In his November 3rd letter opposing S.C. Johnson’s proposed wind development in Mt. Pleasant, a reader rattles off a number of myths about wind turbines that populate the Internet. However, the facts on the ground in Wisconsin paint a very different picture of wind generation than what the letter writer represents.

First, there is no medically credible study out there that concludes or suggests that wind generation is a threat to human health. According to Dr. Jevon McFadden, a public health professional serving on Wisconsin’s Wind Siting Council, “Evidence does not support the conclusion that wind turbines cause or are associated with adverse health outcomes.”

If the experience elsewhere in Wisconsin is any guide, the proposed wind turbines will have no discernible effect on neighboring property values. But don’t just take RENEW’s word for it. Ask any and all assessors in townships that host large wind turbines, and to a person they will confirm that finding. Moreover, in Kewaunee County, home to the oldest commercial wind projects in Wisconsin, new homes are going up within sight of the 31 turbines operating there.

S.C. Johnson’s proposed project has been carefully designed to meet the strict performance standards specified in Wisconsin’s wind siting rule. We have little doubt that this project, once placed in service, will very quickly become a source of pride for the surrounding community.


Michael Vickerman
Executive Director
RENEW Wisconsin

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Wind Energy – Now happening in Milwaukee

Posted on November 7, 2011. Filed under: Wind |

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