Energy Efficiency

GE Healthcare seeks OK for wind turbines

Posted on April 27, 2011. Filed under: Energy Efficiency, Energy independence, Wind |

From an article by Laurel Walker in the Milwaukee journal Sentinel:

Waukesha – GE Healthcare is seeking city permission to install 10 wind turbines up to 155 feet tall on its 662-acre Waukesha campus on county Highway T north of I-94.

The project, if approved, would be built next year or later, said Annette Busateri, public relations manager. It is part of the company’s 2015 goal of reducing electrical usage by 15% and improving building energy efficiency by at least 10%, she said.

The Waukesha Plan Commission is scheduled to consider a conditional use permit for the project at its 6 p.m. meeting Wednesday. The city has no wind turbines, planner Michael Hoeft said.

City planner Jennifer Andrews said the company has lined up letters indicating state and federal agencies likely have no objections.

“They seem to have all their ducks in a row,” she said.

Although the proposed turbines are about a mile from the runways of Waukesha County’s airport, Crites Field, their height would be below the limit set by the county’s zoning ordinance that protects airspace around the airport from encroaching structures.

The plan calls for turbines on towers ranging from 135 to 155 feet tall. Three would be behind the former headquarters building, now an assembly building for medical imaging equipment that’s the farthest north of three buildings. The other seven would be between the two other buildings farther south.

Waukesha County Parks and Land Use Director Dale Shaver said there are no commercial wind turbines in the county. Not only would this project be the first, but they would be near a high-traffic, very visible interchange.

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Energy programs get Walker ax

Posted on March 4, 2011. Filed under: Energy Efficiency, Energy Policy | Tags: , |

From an article by Mike Ivey in The Capital Times:

If you like burning fossil fuels – hey, aren’t those Koch brothers in the pipeline business? – then you’ll love Gov. Walker’s proposed budget.

The 1,345-pager takes a whack at scores of environmental efforts, from nixing the state Office of Energy Independence to actually encouraging state vehicles to use more gasoline.

Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up. And with pump prices marching toward $4 a gallon, you wonder if any thought went into the long-term fiscal impacts.

But here’s the skinny.

Walker wants to eliminate the Office of Energy Independence, which works to reduce the state’s annual energy bill. Launched by Gov. Doyle in 2007, it has 10 staffers and an office at 201 W. Washington Ave.

Since Wisconsin has no coal, natural gas or oil reserves, its citizens send over $20 billion out of state every year to Wyoming, the Gulf of Mexico and the Middle East evil-doers who hate America.

The OEI was designed to work with the biofuels industry, renewable energy markets and alternative energy researchers here at home.

Instead, Walker wants the Department of Administration to develop a “cost-effective, balanced, reliable, and environmentally-responsible energy strategy to promote economic growth.” As in growth for the oil and gas guys?

The state has also been operating under a directive that by 2015 it reduce gasoline use by at least 50 percent from 2006 levels. Walker wants to eliminate the requirement and drop the reduction goal to 20 percent.

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Focus on Energy feels the heat

Posted on December 16, 2010. Filed under: Economic development, Energy Efficiency, Energy Policy | Tags: , , , , |

Though the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance approved funding for Focus on Energy, an article by Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel describes Republican reservations about the program:

Lawmaker calls for audit; business groups against added funds
With a decision possible Tuesday [December 14] on an increase in funding for the state Focus on Energy program, a lawmaker called for an audit of the energy efficiency initiative and several business groups came out against what they criticized as “a $340 million energy tax hike.”

Business groups including Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group, the Wisconsin Paper Council, Midwest Food Processors Association and the Wisconsin chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses issued a letter opposing increased funding for energy efficiency.

“Energy conservation and efficiency is a great idea, which is why so many businesses, like paper companies, already do it,” said Ed Wilusz, vice president of government relations for the Wisconsin Paper Council, in a statement. “But the existing state program appears to be working well. We doubt that the massive spending increase called for in this proposal is necessary or would be effective.”

Supporters of energy efficiency say it’s the least-cost alternative to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and a way to help the state postpone costlier expenses like investments in power plants.

The opposition by business groups comes even though large manufacturers in Wisconsin are exempt under state law from paying more to the Focus on Energy program.

The Focus on Energy program is funded through a surcharge on most customers’ electric bills. Under the PSC proposal, funding would ramp up over the next four years, raising $20 million more than current levels in 2011 and $60 million more in 2012. The increase would result in an average rate increase of 0.2% in 2011 for utility customers, and 0.7% in 2012.

Increases in funding are also proposed for 2013 and 2014 under the PSC proposal that will be reviewed Tuesday by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee.

Sen. Robert Cowles (R-Allouez) said Monday he wants the Legislative Audit Bureau to conduct an audit of Focus on Energy before lawmakers agree to an increase in funding.

“Our economy is still in bad shape, and families and businesses in our state are hurting,” he said in a statement. “We need to make sure that this program is providing the benefits that it claims it is before we agree to add more funding.”

Although not audited by the Legislative Audit Bureau, the Focus on Energy program is audited regularly by independent consulting firms.

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Lawmakers back plan to scale up energy efficiency

Posted on December 15, 2010. Filed under: Economic development, Energy Efficiency, Energy Policy | Tags: , , , , |

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

In a vote along party lines, the Joint Finance Committee adopted a proposal on Tuesday to collect more money from utility ratepayers in order to expand the incentives to make businesses and homes more energy efficient.

The higher spending is projected to deliver savings to utility customers as they take advantage of stepped-up incentives to reduce energy waste, according to projections by the state Public Service Commission and the energy-efficiency research group Energy Center of Wisconsin.

The proposal will enable the PSC to collect more money on electricity bills beginning in 2011. The $20 million increase in 2011 will raise $120 million for the state’s Focus on Energy program. Further increases would boost that to $160 million in 2012, $204 million in 2013 and $256 million in 2014.

The PSC projected the increase would result in a 0.2% increase in electric bills in 2011, and that by 2013 bills would be 0.6% higher than current levels. The forecast assumes the average customer would then start to see savings on electricity bills that would drop the average customer’s bill by 1% from today’s levels by 2016.

For a typical We Energies customer now paying $99.53 a month, that would mean an increase of 20 cents a month in 2011 and another 40 cents a month in 2012, but bills on average would fall by nearly $1 a month by 2016 as homeowners take advantage of bigger efficiency incentives.

Rates for large factories and paper mills would not rise. They are exempt from paying more into the Focus on Energy program under state law.

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Sierra Club urges Joint Finance Committee to support increased energy efficiency investments

Posted on December 14, 2010. Filed under: Economic development, Energy Efficiency, Energy Policy, Focus on Energy/Public Benefits, General, Utility rates | Tags: , , |

From a news release issued by the Sierra Club – John Muir Chapter:

Madison: The Joint Finance Committee will consider the Public Service Commission’s (PSC) recent recommendation to increase Focus On Energy Funding today in the State Capitol. The PSC recently voted to
increase investment in Focus on Energy (FOE) and set new goals that together would decrease energy use 1.5 percent annually by 2014.

The Sierra Club strongly supports this common-sense investment in energy efficiency that will create thousands of jobs and save customers money on their utility bills. For every dollar invested in energy efficiency, homeowners and businesses have saved around $3. FOE has created over 16,000 jobs and saved homeowners and businesses over $275,000,000 since its inception in 2000.

Under the proposed Focus on Energy investment, ratepayers can expect to save about $15 per month on their energy bills over the next 4 years. Increasing Wisconsin’s commitment to energy efficiency programs will also create at least 4,000 jobs each year. Approving goal-based increases in energy efficiency will reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

“Creating goal-based energy efficiency funding for Focus on Energy will create thousands of jobs and decrease the $16 billion we sent to other states to fuel our energy needs in 2008,” said Shahla M. Werner, PhD, Director, Sierra Club John Muir Chapter. “Supporting the Public Service Commission’s ecommendations will clean up Wisconsin’s air and create thousands of jobs at a time when our economy most needs this type of forward-thinking invest investment,” said Caryl Terrell, Energy Efficiency Team Chair, Sierra Club – John Muir Chapter.

The Sierra Club strongly disputes the negative claims by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce. There is a key provision for industrial users that caps contributions at 2005 levels, and investing in efficient equipment protects industries from price spikes. Independent analysis also shows that although rates may go up with increased energy
efficiency investment, bills go down. The Sierra Club urges the media to check the claims of the opposition.

“Examining their shaky claims will reveal that the facts related to real Wisconsin jobs, real energy savings, and real reduced operating costs are with us,” added Werner.

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Madison’s City Row Apartments earn Energy Star award

Posted on November 5, 2010. Filed under: Energy Efficiency, Solar | Tags: |

From an article by Karen Rivedal in the Wisconsin State Journal:

On Thursday, Stone House Development’s newly built City Row Apartments in Madison will be announced as the first Energy Star-qualified multifamily high-rise building in Wisconsin, and only the 17th in the nation.

Tours of the $15 million, 83-unit, refurbished three-building complex at 602-626 East Johnson Street will start immediately after an 11:30 a.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring remarks by Ted Leopkey, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star representative.

Also on hand will be Mike Plunkett, program manager for Focus on Energy, which is Wisconsin’s statewide program for energy efficiency and renewable energy, and Rich Arnesen, vice president of Madison-based Stone House Development.

The developer incorporated many energy-efficient components into the Near East Side apartment project to earn the Energy Star designation, with the help of Focus on Energy. The tours from about noon to 1 p.m. Thursday will highlight those features, including:

•High-efficiency heating and cooling equipment.
•Energy-efficient lighting systems.
•Solar electric and solar hot-water systems.

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Fighting for the ‘Right to Dry’

Posted on October 20, 2010. Filed under: Energy Efficiency | Tags: |

From a story on WDIO-TV, Duluth, Minnesota:

It may surprise you but 44 states–including Minnesota and Wisconsin—don’t guarantee their residents the right to line dry their laundry. But a Superior lawmaker is making sure his clothesline-using constituents aren’t hung out to dry.

There’s a million different ways Northland residents can enjoy a Sunny sunday, but at Jan Conley’s household perfect weekend weather is reserved for hanging the laundry.

“There’s something iconic about hanging clothes out,” said Jan Conley of Lake Nebagamon. “I think there’s something really nice about it you know you feel good you’re outside you’re hanging clothes you’ve accomplished something and then when you’re done great I washed these clothes and they’re hanging out.”

A movement, dubbed the “Right to Dry” revolution by followers, began some years ago in Oregon, when homeowners’ associations began banning residents from line drying their laundry. Although none of those communities exist here, Representative Nick Milroy wants to protect those rights for his Wisconsin residents before they’re taken away.

“People really cherish their freedom in this country and I think taking away something as simple as allowing people to line dry their clothes is save money save energy it just doesn’t make send to me,” said Wisconsin State Representative, Nick Milroy of Superior.

Conley joined the “Right to Dry” movement a few years ago. She said using a dryer is a waste of energy and she wishes more of her neighbors would let the wind to handle the job.

“It’s a part of America. Its part of who we are,” said Conley.

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Political gridlock not likely to forestall energy regulation

Posted on September 1, 2010. Filed under: Carbon, Energy Efficiency, Sustainability |

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

Bayside — The partisan divide on Capitol Hill means cap-and-trade legislation is all but dead, so businesses need not worry about their carbon footprint, right? Wrong, speakers at a summit on energy efficiency said Tuesday.

The Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and global corporations such as Wal-Mart are leading the nation down a path of “quiet regulation” of greenhouse gases, despite the political rhetoric and battles that have created gridlock in Congress, Mark Thimke, environmental lawyer at Foley & Lardner, said during the Green Manufacturing Summit at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center.

But corporate initiatives have gone beyond Wal-Mart, he said.

Suppliers to 62 corporations must provide information as part of a greenhouse gas supply chain initiative launched this year. That effort includes Racine County-based manufacturers S.C. Johnson & Son Inc. and Diversey Inc., formerly JohnsonDiversey.

Thimke said that means a host of companies that may have thought they didn’t have to worry about greenhouse gases should start paying attention.

“Even if you aren’t one of the big companies and you are selling to these people, you need to know where you’re at,” Thimke said.

Energy efficiency is a carbon strategy because emissions are linked to energy production.

Efficiency opportunities abound for many manufacturers, said Jon Dommissee of Bradley Corp., a manufacturer of commercial plumbing fixtures, which co-sponsored the event.

“There’s a lot of energy wasted – and there’s a lot of money wasted,” he said.

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Seats still available on the Fond du Lac energy efficiency and renewable energy tour

Posted on July 23, 2010. Filed under: Digesters, Energy Efficiency, Renewable energy - generally |

From a news release issued by UW-Cooperative Extension, Fond du Lac County:

The public is invited to attend a Local Energy Tour on Saturday, July 31st from 8:30 am – noon organized by the Fond du Lac County and the Green Lake County UW-Extension offices.

Fond du Lac County businesses have made this area a unique place to learn about cutting edge energy technologies, and the tour allows participants a chance to see these technologies in action and learn what difference they are making in the financial, environmental, and social bottom lines of these companies. Participants will also discuss the land use consequences of energy production and ways to minimize the negative consequences and maximize the economic benefits.

This guided bus tour will visit:
• Mercury Marine
• Wildlife Acres subdivision
• Vir-Clar Dairy
• Cedar Ridge Wind Farm
• Pheasant Run
• a home with a geothermal pond system installed.

Energy use is a serious economic concern for our region, state, and nation.

• Wisconsin residents spent $22.5 billion in 2008 on imported fossil fuels. This amounts to $9000 per household.

• Unfortunately, it is the energy sources on which we are most dependent right now (coal, oil, & natural gas) that are becoming increasingly volatile in price and limited in availability around the world.

• The only energy expenditures that stay in-state is the amount spent on renewables, because that is the only type of energy we are able to produce locally.

• Only 4.5% of our total energy use in Wisconsin comes from renewable, locally-produced fuels.

A virtual tour including pictures, video, and fact sheets about the sites is available online at

Limited seating is available. The tour will begin at and return to Prairie Fest on the campus of UW-Fond du Lac, rain or shine. Email or call 920.929.3173, 920.748.7565, or 920.324.2879 to register.

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The Oil Spill and You

Posted on July 12, 2010. Filed under: Energy Efficiency, Peak Oil & the End of Cheap Fossil Fuel |

From a commentary by Michael Vickerman:

by Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin
July 12, 2010

About 100 people gathered in downtown Madison in early July to take part in “Hands Across the Sands,” an internationally organized protest against continued oil drilling in and along the world’s coastal waters. Against the backdrop of the weed-choked waters of Lake Monona, they joined hands for 15 minutes to express their fervent desire to see a cleaner, less destructive energy future emerge from the liquid melanoma spreading across the Gulf of Mexico.

No doubt the protestors would like to do more, much more, than simply engage in ritualized protest in front of a few camera crews. But we live in a society that is organized around the expectation of a limitless supply of nonrenewable hydrocarbons feeding concentrated energy into our economic bloodstream. Most of us have not bothered to comprehend the yawning gulf that lies between our best intentions and our abject dependence on the wealth-producing properties of petroleum. Nor how this addiction fills us with delusions of godlike mastery over our environment while blinding us to the reality that we humans have grossly overshot our planet’s carrying capacity.

For those who read and still remember the science fiction classic Dune, the “spice” on Arrakis remains the quintessential literary analogy to the reality of Earth’s oil. Like our oil, the spice held a special place in that world as the ultimate prize worth waging wars and plundering hostile environments for. . . .

Need I mention that once you begin to appreciate the finitude of the Earth’s endowment of petroleum, there’s nothing to stop you from taking immediate steps to curb your personal consumption of this irreplaceable fuel. Whatever you do to lessen your dependence on petroleum will turn out to be a much more satisfying and meaningful response to our energy predicament than any canned protest promoted through Facebook.

As for myself, I made two resolutions since the Macondo well erupted. The first is to go through this summer without activating the household air-conditioner. So far, so good, I can report. (Luckily, we were spared the triple-digit temperature swelterfest that gripped the East Coast last week). It wasn’t that long ago that life without air-conditioning was the norm rather than the exception. If we all resolved not to turn on air-conditioners, we could force the retirement of two to three coal-fired plants in this state.

The other change was to ratchet up my reliance on my bicycle and make it the default vehicle for all my local travels, irrespective of weather conditions. I have been a fair-weather bicycle commuter for many years, but after watching everyone on TV blame someone else for the catastrophe, I felt the need to push myself a little harder. My objective here is to regard my car as a luxury that one day I might do without.

Though the extra perspiration and the occasional dodging of raindrops may take some getting used to, you are going to sleep better at night. Trust me on this.

If the oil spill has prompted a similar response from you, feel free to describe them and send them to the moderator of our Peak Oil blog or post them in a response.

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