Economic development

Wind turbine issue turns slowly

Posted on October 25, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Jobs, Wind | Tags: , , |

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

In Columbia County, the biggest wind farm in the state is nearly complete.

Ninety turbines are being erected by Wisconsin contractors including the Boldt Co., Edgerton Contractors and Michels Corp., in a $367 million project. On a typical day this year, about 175 workers have been on the job, pouring foundations, constructing towers and hoisting turbines and blades into place.

The activity comes despite a stalemate on wind turbine siting that wind power supporters say threatens to make the We Energies Glacier Hills Wind Park not only the largest but the last major wind farm to go up in the state.

But wind developers are expressing hope that a logjam can be broken, after recent conversations between the governor and several wind development firms.

Since this year, wind industry representatives say five companies have suspended or canceled work on projects in Wisconsin.

At issue is the Walker administration’s work to address pressure from opponents of wind farms, including the Wisconsin Realtors Association, who say that wind projects are interfering with private property rights of homeowners who live near turbines – and the effects of noise and shadow flicker from the turbines.

Gov. Scott Walker was backed by wind farm opponents in his 2010 election campaign and included a bill to restrict wind farm development in the jobs package he unveiled in his first weeks in office.

But concern about stalling all development and business for Wisconsin firms resulted in pushback against the Walker bill, which ended up being the only piece of legislation that was left to die out of the initial jobs special session.

Criticism of wind turbine siting persists, with state Sen. Frank Lasee, a possible candidate for U.S. Senate, recently unveiling a bill calling for a statewide moratorium on wind turbine construction until more research is done on the health effects of the devices.

“We met with Gov. Walker to discuss how we can work together to allow the economic benefits of wind energy to help boost Wisconsin’s economy,” said Mike Arndt, a Wisconsin native who now is vice president of Element Power, a company developing projects around the country. Arndt was one of the wind industry representatives who met with Walker two weeks ago.

Among Element’s projects is $300 million to $400 million wind farm in Manitowoc and Kewaunee counties.

The Walker administration is now sending signals that it’s seeking middle ground on the wind controversy.

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Wind power amendment shot down

Posted on October 24, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Jobs, Wind | Tags: , , , |

From an article by Mike Ivey in The Capital Times:

An effort to push forward with new rules for siting wind towers in Wisconsin has failed.

On a largely party-line 60-30 vote, the Republican-controlled Assembly on Thursday voted down an amendment that would have cleared the way for an expansion of wind generated electricity here.

The rules for siting of wind turbines were approved by the state Public Service Commission under former Gov. Jim Doyle. But implementation of those rules has been suspended under a directive from Gov. Scott Walker.

Walker and others, including Rep. Frank Lasee, R-Ledgeview,have said the rules should be reviewed again, with more consideration given to those living near wind farms. Some residents have complained of noise and visual impacts from wind turbines, which can be up to 300 feet tall.

Rep. Gary Hebl, D-Sun Prairie, had co-sponsored the wind amendment that was attached to a bill that allowed for larger trucks on Wisconsin highways, including trucks that carry equipment for electric transmission lines.

In a statement, Hebl said it was ironic that the wind amendment was shot down just as new figures showed Wisconsin lost more jobs in September.

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Solar jobs should grow, but maybe not in Wisconsin

Posted on October 19, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Jobs, Solar | Tags: , , |

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

The solar sector is expanding nationwide, a new report out Monday found, but a renewable energy advocate warned that Wisconsin could see a pullback in solar projects and growth next year.

“Our report shows that there are over 100,000 solar jobs at over 17,000 employment sites nationwide, and despite an extremely sluggish economy, the solar industry is creating jobs nearly 10 times faster than everyone else,” said Andrea Luecke, executive director of The Solar Foundation in Washington, D.C., and former director of the Milwaukee Shines program.

The solar industry’s job growth has been 6.8% over the past year, at a time when the economy was growing by less than 1%.

The solar jobs census also found that solar employers expect to increase the number of solar workers by 24%, representing nearly 24,000 net new jobs by August 2012. Over the next 12 months, nearly half of solar firms expect to add jobs.

Milwaukee is seeing job growth from solar components manufacturing – including the panel factory Helios USA, which opened this year, and the Ingeteam factory that will soon being producing solar inverters.

But the picture for installations isn’t as bright for next year in Wisconsin, despite incentive programs launched in Milwaukee and Madison. There is a flurry of activity this year, but 2012 activity could “fall off the cliff,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of Renew Wisconsin.

Setbacks for solar projects include the suspension of funding incentives for nonresidential solar by the Focus on Energy program, as well as the cancellation of a program by We Energies that provided incentives for renewable projects.

“There are still a few projects in the pipeline and the second half of this year will be a good one for the industry and installation contractors – as long as they don’t pay any attention to the cliff, the abyss, that’s in store for them this January,” Vickerman said.

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No excuse to stall rules on wind farms

Posted on October 18, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Jobs, Wind |

From an editorial in the Racine Journal Times:

The wind turbines have stopped turning in Wisconsin, figuratively speaking. For months, the rewrite of rules governing the siting of wind energy farms has been stalled. New investments and new jobs also have been stalled because of that, and there is no good reason for it.

When Gov. Scott Walker took office in January he worked to short-circuit the rule-making process which was then almost complete after two years. The Public Service Commission had reached a compromise with interest groups which would have placed the wind turbine towers about 450 feet away from the nearest property line but no less than 1,250 feet from the nearest residence. Walker wanted the property line setback increased to 1,800 feet.

Ultimately, a legislative committee didn’t act on a bill containing Walker’s proposed standard and instead ordered the PSC to start over. That’s where the process remains. A member of the agency told the Wisconsin State Journal that talks have made no progress and are stuck over the same old issues: noise, setback distance and effect on the value of neighboring properties.

If there is no progress by March the PSC’s original regulations will take effect anyway, but wind farm opponents have no incentive to negotiate. All they have to do is wait. Either wind energy proponents capitulate and give them what they want, or the Legislature writes a new law which gives them what they want or Walker, with his new power to review regulations first, will give them what they want.

There is a high price for this stalling. Since the rules were becalmed, five major wind energy projects have been suspended or canceled. Those would have infused about $1.6 billion in economic development and created about 1,000 temporary full-time jobs. By contrast, the proposed northern Wisconsin iron mine which the Legislature is looking to accommodate is supposed to bring a $1.5 billion investment and 700 jobs.

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Walker opposition to wind power shows “open for business” is just hot air

Posted on October 11, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Jobs, Wind |

From an editorial in The Northwestern, Oshkosh:

Since taking office in January, Gov. Scott Walker’s administration has breathlessly reminded anyone who’d listen that Wisconsin is “Open for Business.” That is beginning to sound like little more than hot air. The willingness of the administration to speed job creation appears tied to the willingness of job creators to see to it that the governor’s campaign war chest is stocked enough to help him hold onto his job.

New rules for wind farms operating in Wisconsin were supposed to go into effect earlier this year. After the governor submitted a bill to dramatically increase the setback requirement, a legislative committee put the rules on hold and sent them back to the Public Service Commission for reconsideration, where they’ve sat in limbo since March.

Meanwhile, the state is losing out on millions of dollars in economic investment and hundreds of jobs, the Wisconsin State Journal reports. Midwest Wind Energy, for example, already invested about $1 million on a wind farm project in Calumet County. In all, it expected to spend more than $200 million on the project, and hire 150 to 200 construction workers over 18 months and five to eight permanent workers.

“Right now, we just don’t have a path forward in Wisconsin,” Tim Polz, vice president of Midwest Wind Energy, told the State Journal. “The uncertainty is just too much now.”

According to the newspaper, five utility farm projects have been suspended or canceled since March, costing the state $1.6 billion in lost economic development and almost 1,000 temporary, full-time jobs.

It’s a safe rule of thumb that most policy inconsistencies can be traced to campaign donors. The governor’s more stringent property setbacks were supported by the real estate industry, which donated more than $598,000 to his campaign.

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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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Renewable energy puts Wisconsin to work

Posted on October 5, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Jobs, Wind |

We Energies' Blue Sky/Green Field Wind Farm. Boldt provided design/build services for the 7,000-sq.-ft. building, essential preconstruction civil engineering and the 440-ton Manitowoc 16000 crane used to set the towers in place.

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

It’s hard to find an energy project in Wisconsin that doesn’t involve the Boldt Co. of Appleton.

Among projects Boldt is working on are two for We Energies that would add more renewable energy to its mix. Boldt also worked on the Milwaukee utility’s first big wind farm several years ago and is converting a Madison power plant to burn natural gas instead of coal.

A combination of cost-effective bids and attention to safety are among the reasons it’s been selected for the energy projects, Boldt said.

At a time when the construction business is slow, Boldt has almost 600 people on job sites around the state, as well as about 1,200 people working for its subcontractors.

The company is ranked 24th among the state’s largest privately held employers on the Wisconsin 75 list prepared by Deloitte.

We Energies employs state firms whenever possible, said Allen Leverett, who runs the utility’s fleet of power plants. The utility worked with turbine supplier Vestas to steer fabrication of towers to Broadwind Energy’s wind tower division in Manitowoc.

Though it tries to hire Wisconsin firms, Leverett said, “It’s important that those companies are competitive, and Boldt has shown that they are very competitive with other companies in their field.”

The downturn in the commercial construction industry has led to more companies bidding on energy projects, said Tom Boldt, chief executive of Boldt.

“This isn’t for amateurs, this is very technical work,” he said. “The developers or the utilities, depending on who is responsible for the job, have very high safety and quality requirements. They want to make sure they’re dealing with responsible people.”

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One Step Forward, 10 Steps Back?

Posted on October 4, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Energy Efficiency, Focus on Energy/Public Benefits, Jobs, Wind |

From an article by Ronnie Garrett in Corporate Report Wisconsin:

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

Those are words my kids hear a lot. We think about what we buy, opting for recyclable materials or recycled content instead. We think about what we throw away, opting instead to find someone who can use it or a place to recycle it. And we think about the energy we use. In our home you don’t get air conditioning 24/7 during the summer — even when it’s 98 degrees outside — and you don’t get to jack up the heat to 80 because you’re cold during the winter.

So it frustrates me a great deal when I hear about things that show our state legislature isn’t taking conservation efforts as seriously as it should.

Take for instance the fact that in the past six months, three wind farm developers with a combined investment of more than $600 million, have stopped operations in Wisconsin. The developers cited regulatory uncertainty and a perception that Wisconsin offers a hostile business environment for “green” energy as the reasons why.

And while Gov. Scott Walker’s effort to end Wisconsin’s recycling as we know it was denied by the state Legislature, the budget bill did cut funding for local recycling by 40 percent, which will result in communities making cuts to their services or charging fees to make up the lost revenue.

In June a coalition of 124 businesses signed a letter asking the governor to veto the portion of the state budget that rolled back funding to Focus on Energy, a statewide energy efficiency and renewable energy program. In spite of this grassroots effort, that claimed the focus also created jobs for the state, the cuts remained in the state budget.

Ironically, these things came to fruition around the same time that a report issued by The Brookings Institution reported Wisconsin’s clean energy jobs at nearly 77,000. Among the clean energy jobs categorized in the report were those in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and recycling and reuse. The report also cited Focus on Energy for the attractive buyback rates offered by utilities for renewable energy and the innovative incentives that encourage customer installation of renewables.

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Montfort wind farm marks 10th anniversary

Posted on September 28, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Wind |

News release
Renew Wisconsin
September 27,2011

More information:
Michael Vickerman
Executive Director

The Montfort Wind Energy Center, a popular attraction in western Iowa County along U.S. Highway 18, turned 10 years old this summer. The 30-megawatt (MW) project, which for many years was Wisconsin’s largest commercial wind energy installation, began generating electricity in 2001, and thus far has produced over 500,000 megawatt-hours of electricity. In a typical year, Montfort’s output serves more than 5,000 households.

The project’s 20 turbines are divided into two arrays. The main array, consisting of 17 turbines, runs along the southern side of U.S. 18 between Cobb and Montfort. The output from those 17 turbines is sold to Milwaukee-based We Energies. The other three turbines, located to the south of the main array, produce electricity under contract to Alliant Energy’s Wisconsin Power & Light subsidiary, whose service territory covers Iowa County.

Originally developed by Enron Wind, the Montfort project was purchased in 2001 by NextEra Energy Resources, a Juno Beach, Florida-based company. Residents of Cobb and Montfort have been strongly supportive of this project. “Montfort has a gas station called Windmill Mobil,” said Carol Anderson, a project landowner. “Most commonly, I hear people ask ‘When we’re going to get more’?” Just east of the Windmill Mobil, an informational kiosk on the project stands prominently in front of the Tower Junction restaurant, located directly across the highway from Montfort’s westernmost turbines.

Carol Anderson holds a map of Wisconsin to show a group the topography with the best wind resource for projects similar to the Montfort Wind Farm.

“People are also surprised at how quiet the turbines are,” Anderson said. “Some family members still live in our homestead only 2,000 feet from the turbines, and they don’t have any problems with noise or anything else.

This project has brought economic development to Iowa County,” Anderson said. “Conservation is a big value in this area. All of us appreciate the conservation aspects of the clean energy.” Montfort is not the first Wisconsin wind project to complete 10 years of continuous operation. Others include the Rosiere and Lincoln projects in Kewaunee County, totaling 31 turbines, and the two-turbine Byron project south of Fond du Lac along U.S. Highway 41.

“Wind generation is proving to be a reliable source of clean energy over the long haul,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide organization promoting Wisconsin’s renewable energy marketplace. “Furthermore, unlike coal-fired generators, wind projects will never need expensive retrofits to comply with federal clean air regulations because they don’t produce particulates, sulfur compounds or greenhouse gases.”

“Wisconsin utilities are now in the process of spending more than a billion dollars to clean up their older coal-fired power stations,” Vickerman said. “This is a considerable expense that utility ratepayers will fully absorb. By contrast, Montfort’s owner will never have to spend a dime on pollution control technology over its entire operating life.”

“When you add the cost of retrofitting older coal-fired units to the cost of supplying these generators with fuel transported from Wyoming, windpower is hands down the better economic choice,” Vickerman said.

In addition to Montfort, NextEra Energy Resources also owns and operates the 36-turbine, 54 MW Butler Ridge project near Iron Ridge in Dodge County. That project started commercial operations in 2009.

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Germantown company erects 100 ft Wisconsin-built wind turbine

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

From an article on

It was like the Egyptian obelisk going up in “The 10 Commandments,” only it was a lot faster, and the slaves were replaced by portable hydraulics. Oh, and there was a 32 ft diameter fan at the top.

This was the scene on a sunny, early-September afternoon as Wago installed a 100 ft tall wind turbine next to its U.S. headquarters in Germantown, Wis. And, as if the gleaming white tower wasn’t impressive enough, it was “tipped up” in an amazing 8-10 minutes by a portable hydraulic unit hooked up right next to the tower. After that, it took only another 15 minutes to bolt down the tower, hook up its electronics, and get it spinning in the breeze of Wisconsin’s famous “dairy air.”

Capable of generating 20 kW for Wago’s multi-function facility, the small-scale, commercial-grade VP-20 turbine was built by Renewegy in nearby Oshkosh, Wis. The turbine employs Wago’s 787 Series power supplies, 756 Series cables/connectors, 288 Series fuse blocks and backup capacitor module.

The wind turbine’s initial cost was $80,000, but state and federal incentives allow Wago to reduce its bill by about $35,000. Other VP-20s have been installed at SCA Tissue in Neenah, Wis., and at the North Texas Job Corp Center in McKinney, Texas. Renewegy reports that it can install single 20 kW units on farms, 40 kW dual units to serve schools, and 100 kW five-unit systems for small wind farms and commercial applications.

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