Heating the Midwest, April 25-27

Posted on April 5, 2012. Filed under: Biomass |

“Heating the Midwest: Building the Vision” Conference on April 25 – 27, 2012. Learn more.

**Early-bird rates extended until April 9**

Heating the Midwest (HTM) is a group of volunteers with a serious interest in growing awareness and usage of biomass thermal fuel for heat in the Midwest.

Our Mission:
“To advance biomass thermal heating in the Midwest for a more sustainable future, while improving the economic, environmental and social well-being of the region.”

Driven and directed by a Steering Committee, Heating the Midwest includes industry, government, non-profit organizations, university representatives and tribal representatives. It is an efficient group of biomass advocates working to promote biomass to a larger constituency, including government policy makers and entities, consumers and businesses in the Midwest.

HTM featured on webinar hosted by the Biomass Thermal Energy Council: Regional Developments of Biomass Energy – Midwestern Region
November 21, 2011. Presenters included HTM Steering Committee Members Michael Curci, Becky Philipp, and Pamela Porter, with Gregg Mast serving as moderator.

Why biomass?
Energy supply and use is a national priority and a major policy focus in the United States. Driving this is the need to reduce reliance on foreign oil, create clean energy jobs, increase our overall energy efficiency and address climate change. Biomass energy, harvested from forests and farms, provides an important source of renewable, sustainable energy for the United States.

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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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State urged to beef up clean energy policies to create jobs

Posted on October 26, 2011. Filed under: Biomass, Digesters, Economic development, Energy Policy, Jobs, Renewable energy - generally |

From an article by Judy Newman in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Two reports show Wisconsin has a significant renewable power industry, but with a stronger state commitment, it could be saving more energy and creating more jobs.

Wisconsin has more than 300 businesses involved in wind or solar energy, providing more than 12,000 jobs, according to a study by the Environmental Law and Policy Center in Chicago.

It found 171 Wisconsin companies that either produce, sell or install wind power equipment or plan wind development.

Another 135 companies are part of the solar energy industry. For example, Cardinal Glass makes solar panels in Mazomanie; Helios recently opened a solar panel factory in Milwaukee.

“These are real jobs; these are real businesses. Many are existing businesses that are branching out into new product lines,” said Howard Learner, the center’s executive director. (more…)

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Switch flipped: UWO biodigester producing energy

Posted on October 17, 2011. Filed under: Biomass, Digesters, Sustainability |

From an article in the UW Oshkosh Today:

The switch has effectively been flipped on the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s groundbreaking alternative power plant that generates energy from plant and food waste.

The UW Oshkosh anaerobic dry fermentation biodigester, first of its kind in the western hemisphere, began producing energy on Oct. 3.

Gas produced as a result of decomposition of agricultural plant and food waste loaded into and stored in the facility’s airless chambers since late summer reached an optimal point for energy-production startup. On Oct. 3, the faculty, staff and student team running the plant activated on-site turbine engines, combusting the gas and harvesting and selling energy.

The renewable energy facility is expected to initially produce up to 5 percent of the campus’ electricity and heat.

Greg Kleinheinz, UW Oshkosh professor of microbiology, said the biodigester has been running in an off-and-on mode over the course of its startup. Plant overseers continue to work with partner engineering firms to calibrate computer software and to fine tune energy production.

“The facility is producing quite a bit of gas right now, so it is a computer-control issue and not a mechanical or biological issue limiting the CHP (combined power and heat) usage,” Kleinheinz said.

Energy produced by the power generation is being sold back to the grid through regional utilities. The revenue realized over time will vary based on the level of gas production and power purchase agreements with Wisconsin Public Service, Kleinheinz said. It will ultimately support student scholarship and academic program enhancements at UW Oshkosh.

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Walker refuses to break wind-siting deadlock

Posted on October 10, 2011. Filed under: Biomass, Economic development, Jobs, Wind |

From an article by Clay Barbour in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in potential economic development are stuck in limbo as officials continue to argue over new wind siting rules.

The new rules, more than a year in the making, were suspended earlier this year just before they were to go into effect. A legislative committee sent them back to the Public Service Commission, which was tasked with finding a compromise between both sides.

Now, some seven months later, PSC officials say they are no closer to a deal than when they started. Meanwhile, wind farm developers such as Midwest Wind Energy and Redwind Consulting are sitting on their hands, and their money.

“Right now, we just don’t have a path forward in Wisconsin,”said Tim Polz, vice president of Midwest Wind Energy, a company that suspended work earlier this year on a large wind farm in Calumet County. “The uncertainty is just too much now.”

Polz said Chicago-based Midwest already spent three years and about $1 million on the Calumet County project. In full, the company expected to spend upward of $200 million on the project, employ 150 to 200 construction workers for up to 18 months and five to eight people full time after that. . . .

Walker said he is aware of the stress caused by the delay but feels it is important any rules be fair to both sides, respecting property rights and the future of the wind industry.

Meanwhile, state Sen. Frank Lasee, R-De Pere, plans to introduce a bill Monday to call for a moratorium on wind turbines until the PSC receives a report from the Department of Health Services on possible health effects of wind farms.

“It is more important to fully vet, understand and communicate to the public the potential changes than the specific timing of when they are adopted and enacted.” Walker said. “It is important to note that whatever proposed changes are made, there are effects on a number of different areas of the economy.”

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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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State’s Hostility Toward Renewables Escalates; “Leaders” Lag Citizenry on Wind Support

Posted on June 24, 2011. Filed under: Biomass, Digesters, Energy Policy, Hydroelectric, Landfill Gas, Renewable energy - generally, Solar, Wind | Tags: |

Two articles from Catching Wind, a newsletter published by RENEW Wisconsin with funding from a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy:

State’s Hostility Toward Renewables Escalates
At the urging of Wisconsin utilities, several lawmakers have introduced a bill to allow a renewable energy credit (REC) to be banked indefinitely. If adopted, this measure (AB146) would constitute the most devastating legislative assault yet on the state’s renewable energy marketplace, which is already reeling from the suspension of the statewide wind siting rule this March and the loosening of renewable energy definitions to allow Wisconsin utilities to count electricity generated from large Canadian hydro projects toward their renewable energy requirements.

“Leaders” Lag Citizenry on Wind Support
Public support for wind energy development has held strong against the attacks launched by Governor Walker and the Legislature’s new Republican majority, according to a poll conducted between April 11 and April 18 by the St. Norbert College Survey Center for Wisconsin Public Radio.

Asked whether Wisconsin should “increase, decrease or continue with the same amount” of energy supply from various sources, 77% favored increasing wind power, the highest of any option (60% favored increasing hydropower, 54% biomass, 39% natural gas, 27% nuclear, and 19% coal).

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Sustainable energy jobs could boost economy, group says

Posted on June 14, 2011. Filed under: Biomass, Digesters, Economic development, Energy independence, Energy Policy, Hydroelectric, Jobs, Landfill Gas, Solar, Sustainability, Wind | Tags: , , |

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

Wisconsin should strive to do more to grow a renewable energy economy that creates jobs in the state, the author of a new sustainability report says.

The report was published by the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council, the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business and the state Department of Natural Resources’ green tier program.

The report seeks to emulate reports published by businesses that move beyond the fiscal bottom line to discuss the firms’ environmental and social impact.

Businesses in Wisconsin that have adopted a “triple-bottom line” approach – for social, economic and environmental benefit – include Kohl’s Corp., Johnson Controls Inc., Miron Construction and S.C. Johnson & Son Inc.

The report found opportunity for job creation awaits the state in the renewable energy sector, and emphasizes how much of the state’s energy spending takes place outside Wisconsin.

“Of the $19 billion that we spent last year, 87% of that money went out of state,” said Tom Eggert, the council’s executive director. “That’s going to help people’s economies in places other than Wisconsin.”

The state lacks coal mines and natural gas reserves but has ample opportunity to create jobs through development of wind, solar and biomass power, he said.

One option for the state to consider, he said, would be for the government to give renewable energy – and job creation – a push by expanding the state’s renewable energy standard.

The state Legislature, though, rejected a plan last year to expand renewable energy mandates in the state.

The Legislature last week gave final approval to a bill that would allow large dams such as those planned to be built in Manitoba to qualify for the state’s renewable energy standard.

Supporters said that access to the large hydro projects is good for the state’s economy because it would keep electricity rates affordable and help the state’s businesses create jobs.

But the direct result in terms of energy investment creates an economic impact for the Canadian province rather than here in the state, Eggert said.

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Now online: Wisconsin Renewable Quarterly

Posted on June 6, 2011. Filed under: Biomass, Digesters, Energy independence, Energy Policy, Solar, Wind |

The Wisconsin Renewable Quarterly, the newsletter of RENEW Wisconsin, features these article:

Siting Rule Suspension Rocks Wind Industry
In a move that sent shock waves through the wind industry in Wisconsin, a joint legislative panel voted on March 1 to suspend the wind siting rule promulgated by the Public Service Commission in December 2010.

Community Biogas Project Fires Up
Home to 400 dairy farms, Dane County recently dedicated a community-scale manure-to-methane generating system designed to reduce nutrient runoff into the Yahara Lakes.

Insty Prints: Mpower ChaMpion
But if I can help other businesses make some of the harder choices by being more vocal, then I’m willing to help.

Manitoba Hydro: A Washout?
On behalf of our members and the many businesses and individuals who support the continued expansion of Wisconsin’s renewable energy marketplace, RENEW Wisconsin is here to express opposition to AB 114 (and its companion SB 81), and urges the Legislature not to pass this bill.

Verona Firm Begins Work on “Epic” PV
With the commissioning of its 1,300-module solar electric canopy spanning its parking deck, Epic Systems joins an elite group of Wisconsin companies embracing on-site energy capture to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels. At 360 kilowatts (kW), Epic’s new photovoltaic system is the largest solar array in Dane County and the third largest in Wisconsin.

Calendar of Renewable and Energy Efficiency Events
June 17-19, 2001 The Energy Fair. Custer, WI. The nation’s premier sustainable energy education event. Three days of workshops, demonstrations, and exhibits highlighting renewable energy and sustainable living. For details see

July 8-10, 2011 EcoFair360. Elkhorn, WI. Join hundreds of exhibitors and presenters and thousands of attendees who will Make Green Happen for three days of education, exploration and inspiration. For details see

July 16, 2011 Western Wisconsin Sustainability Fair. Menomonie, WI, Dunn County Fair Grounds. Exhibitors from business, government, and non-profi t groups, speakers, workshops, music, energy effi cient vehicles, a photo contest, and a tour of the Cedar Falls Dam. See for more information.

July 30, 2011 8th Annual Kickapoo Country Fair. LaFarge, WI. The Midwest’s Largest Organic Food and Sustainability Festival. Food, music, bike and farm tours, cooking demonstrations, theater, kids’ activities, dancing. More information at

October 1, 2011 Solar Tour of Homes and Businesses. All across Wisconsin. Owners open their doors to let people see how renewable energy is practical, reliable, and affordable in today’s economy. The homes and businesses often include other energy efficiency and renewable technologies. For details see

October 26, 2011 Wisconsin’s Solar Decade Conference. Milwaukee, WI. Now in its seventh year, the Wisconsin
Solar Decade Conference is your opportunity to see fi rsthand the latest developments in the world of solar energy. For details see

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Green garbage: State recognizes La Crosse County’s landfill energy initiative

Posted on June 3, 2011. Filed under: Biomass | Tags: |

From an article by Betsy Bloom in the La Crosse Tribune:

It is “the most gorgeous landfill in the state of Wisconsin,” La Crosse County Solid Waste Director Hank Koch says. He could be considered a bit biased.

But state Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp didn’t disagree after seeing the site Wednesday.

“I never imagined I could be so impressed with a landfill operation,” Stepp later said.

With wind ruffling the tall grass on the surrounding hillsides, Stepp on Wednesday recognized the 300-acre complex as the first publicly owned landfill admitted to the state’s Green Tier program.

The ceremony also included a groundbreaking on the estimated $4 million gas-to-energy partnership that will pipe landfill methane about 1.6 miles to provide virtually all the heat and electrical needs at Gundersen Lutheran’s Onalaska clinic.

Contractor McHugh Excavating and Plumbing of Onalaska is expected to begin work next week, and the gas could begin flowing as early as October, officials said Wednesday.

“The happiest day is going to be when they turn that flare off,” Koch said, referring to the flame now burning off the landfill gas.

While the gas-to-energy arrangement isn’t unique, the partnership with a health care system is, said Jeff Rich, Gundersen’s executive director of efficiency improvements.

“This is just a win-win-win for everybody,” the entire community included, Rich said.

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