Energy Finance

Ritger-Preder Wind Turbine Powers Family Farm in Southeastern Wisconsin

Posted on February 16, 2012. Filed under: Energy Finance, Food, Sustainability, Wind |

“Sustainable family farm operation powered by renewable wind energy”
February 16, 2012

The rising cost of oil and fertilizers, coupled with growing concerns over the use of pesticides and hormones, have spurred the growth of sustainable farming operations across the United States.

Jeff and Kathy Preder—owners and operators of the Jeff-Leen Farm in Random Lake, Wisconsin—became part of that movement in the late 1990’s, when they set out “to produce the healthiest food products possible, in a sustainable manner, without the use of growth hormones, antibiotics, or steroids.”

But the Preder’s vision of a sustainable farming operation included more than just low-input food production. With the help of Random Lake attorney and renewable energy champion Ed Ritger, the Preders are now powering their farm with clean, renewable wind energy…Read more here.

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Solar energy makes gains, but policy puts future in question

Posted on December 1, 2011. Filed under: Energy Finance, Energy Policy, Solar | Tags: , , |

From an article by in the La Crosse Tribune:

When the sun shines, Al Schultz makes money. Specifically, the 32 photovoltaic panels on his roof turn the sun’s rays into electricity that powers his home in Ebner Coulee. If he doesn’t need the power, he sells it to Xcel Energy.

“There is a certain peace of mind,” said the self-employed contractor. “It’s kind of a nice thought to think all your power is paid for.”

Schultz is one of a small but growing number of area homeowners who’ve taken advantage of new, cheaper solar technology, which coupled with state and federal incentives have brought residential solar electric systems within reach of more regular folks looking to lessen their dependence on fossil fuels, lower their utility bills and even make some money.

But changes on the horizon have cast a shadow over the solar industry’s future in Wisconsin. . . .

“Right now it’s out of reach for 90 percent of the home-owning population,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a nonprofit that promotes economically and environmentally sustainable energy in Wisconsin. . . .

Money from Focus on Energy is still available this year, but rebates will be frozen in January as FOE implements new formulas used to evaluate cost effectiveness and rebalances its portfolio of energy savings and renewables.

Program administrator William Haas said next year’s renewable incentives won’t be decided until early spring.

Solar advocates like Vickerman say the energy policy hierarchy, which values efficiency – use reduction – over renewables in terms of cost effectiveness, is misguided.

“However much efficiency is injected, it doesn’t have any change in the resource mix,” he said. “Diversifying resource mix has value.”

Solar panels may reduce dependence on fossil fuels, but dollar for dollar, Haas said, high-efficiency lighting delivers better savings.

Dearing points out that his customers have already weatherized and bought high-efficiency appliances.

“Our customers call us after they’ve done the low-hanging fruit,” he said. “We’re expensive. This is big dollar stuff. This is the future.”

Vickerman says the future of the solar industry depends on policy.

“If we proceed without any policy changes there won’t be much happening,” he said. “You’ll see a number of solar installers go out of business.”

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The Importance of Doing the Math

Posted on April 8, 2009. Filed under: Energy Finance, Generation Plants |

From a commentary by Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin’s executive director:

The average American adult exhibits some proficiency with basic arithmetic–the adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing of numbers. With these tools we are able to calculate a baseball player’s batting average, the amount of interest income earned on a three-month certificate of deposit, the service tip on a $50 dinner, and the duration of a driving trip from Madison to Minneapolis. Very few motorists need a calculator to figure out the total cost of a fill-up when the per-gallon price of gasoline goes up by a dime.

Yet, when the subject turns to America’s energy future, a subject where some facility with number-crunching is essential for understanding the issues at stake, our native competence seems to desert us. How else to explain the preponderance of newspaper articles, radio and television programs and Internet sites that either fumble the numbers that represent reality, or simply ignore them altogether.

If, as participants in a democratic process, we believe in the concept of informed consent, it is incumbent on ourselves to acquire some familiarity with the numbers that matter. Absent a grounding in the realm of quantities, durations and physical properties, public discussions on energy cannot help but devolve into exercises in magical thinking.

Consider a recent article in The New York Times titled “Cost Works Against Alternative and Renewable Energy Sources in Time of Recession.” In that article, reporter Matthew Wald states that solar and wind electric generating capacity sources are more expensive than new coal, natural gas or nuclear power plants. The yardstick Wald uses to compare the cost-effectiveness of different energy sources is their estimated kilowatt-hour cost, which is the same measure used to calculate the monthly electric bill.

However, Wald makes no mention of the size of the generating stations that are being compared, a critical omission. Coal and gas are relatively inexpensive fuels if an electric utility is looking to build one large power plant, say, 500 megawatts (MW). But what if the utility only needs 100 MW of additional capacity? In those situations, the large size of a typical coal plant becomes an economic liability, unlike a wind power plant, which can be easily adjusted to fill any gap up to 200 MW.

This isn’t rocket science, just simple math.

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State to start issuing energy grants, loans

Posted on March 29, 2008. Filed under: Biomass, Digesters, Energy Finance, General, Solar, Vehicles - Ethanol, Vehicles - Vegetable oil, Wind, Wood |

From an article by Rick Barrett in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Businesses and researchers may soon apply for state grants and loans aimed at developing renewable energy, Gov. Jim Doyle said Tuesday.The state expects to award about $15 million per year for 10 years from the newly created Wisconsin Energy Independence Fund, Doyle said at a news conference at Johnson Controls Inc.The money will be used to support research and development of renewable fuels and encourage businesses to adopt new technologies that save energy and use renewable energy.

Typical grants are expected to range from $100,000 to $500,000. Matching funds of at least 50% of total project costs must come from other sources, according to the state Department of Commerce.

Doyle laid out a long-term strategy that he hopes will make Wisconsin a leader in renewable energy. He repeated his call for the state to generate 25% of its electricity and motor fuels from renewable resources by 2025.

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Governors urge extension of production tax credit for wind

Posted on December 5, 2007. Filed under: Energy Finance, Energy Policy, Wind |

Governor Doyle joined with other Midwestern governors to urge congressional leaders to approve an extension of the production tax credit for wind energy projects.

In the letter to Sen. Harry Reid, Majority Leader; Rep. Nancy Pelosi; Speaker; Sen. Mitch McConnell; Rep. John Boehner, Minority Leader, the governors said:

As Governors of states where the wind industry has had a tremendous impact on our economies, we know that uncertainty of the future of the wind Production Tax Credit (PTC) must be avoided if this burgeoning industry is to thrive in the years ahead. Accordingly, we respectfully ask that Congress act to extend the PTC prior to its expiration in December of 2008, and that the PTC be extended for up to eight years. A longer extension will bring needed stability to the wind industry and spur more wind development at lower overall costs than would otherwise be possible with repeated short-term extensions.

Energy security, energy independence, dependable energy pricing, and positive climate change impact are all compelling reasons why wind energy deserves to be a national priority and receive national support. Transforming the economies of our states is an even more compelling reason. An April 2007 study, “Projections of Wind Generation in the Upper Midwest” states that 11,829 Mega Watts (MW) of wind energy generation worth $22.5 billion will be built in a 12-state region in the next seven years, 2007 to 2013.

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Midwest renewable energy tracking system begins operations

Posted on August 10, 2007. Filed under: Energy Finance, Energy Policy |

A story from Yahoo business:

SANTA CLARA, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–APX, Inc., the leading infrastructure provider for North American environmental and energy markets, is pleased to announce that the Midwest Renewable Energy Tracking System (M-RETS) commenced operations on July 2, one week after the Western Renewable Energy Generation Information System (WREGIS) commenced operations. Both regional implementations were delivered by APX on time, as promised.

Registration is open now for power generators, utilities, marketers and qualified reporting entities wishing to participate in the M-RETS market, subject to verification and approval of the M-RETS administrator. The geographic scope of the environmental market served by M-RETS includes Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, and the province of Manitoba. Several other states and provinces in the region are also expected to join the program. For more information on the program visit

The first Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) under M-RETS will be issued October 15, 2007. A web-based hosted system, APX technology creates and tracks a unique, traceable digital certificate for every MWh of renewable energy generated by generating units registered with M-RETS or imported into M-RETS. Retail electric suppliers use the system’s certificates to report compliance with regulatory requirements set by the states and provinces, including power purchases to meet Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), Renewable Energy Standards, or voluntary renewable energy program requirements. The system also records ownership and facilitates transfers of the certificates to support the effective operation and integrity of renewable energy and environmental markets.

The purpose of M-RETS is to support and stimulate a regional trading market and to help participants meet their renewable energy standards and objectives. M-RETS will ensure that goals are achieved in establishing a more balanced energy portfolio for the region. Like many market-oriented systems, renewable energy credit tracking and trading helps keep costs of developing renewable energy down and encourages renewable energy generation. It will also provide the states an ability to further reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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U.S. small wind needs tax credits

Posted on July 31, 2007. Filed under: Energy Finance, Energy Policy, Wind |

From a study released by the American Wind Energy Association:

AWEA’s newly released 2007 Small Wind Turbine Global Market Study finds that U.S. manufacturers continue to dominate the world market share of small-turbine sales globally. . . .

Demand for small wind, defined as systems having 100 kW in capacity and less, is being driven by concerns about global warming, volatile and rising costs of fossil fuel energy, energy security, and the desire or need for local and independent power. While demand is high and the industry is growing, the AWEA study indicates that the high purchase price of a small wind system is the single largest market barrier. A residential-scale turbine can cost $10,000 to $55,000 installed, which is simply out of reach for many consumers.

“The industry remains strong, but without a federal investment tax credit to help consumers buy these systems, small wind could be hard pressed to keep up with the solar industry,” said Ron Stimmel, AWEA’s small-wind advocate. “Small wind remains the only renewable energy technology without a federal-level tax credit.”

Go to AWEA’s small wind homepage, and link to 2007 AWEA Global Small Wind Market Study.

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House Farm Bill Boosts Clean Energy Investments

Posted on July 30, 2007. Filed under: Biomass, Digesters, Energy Efficiency, Energy Finance, Energy Policy, Solar, Wind |

From a press release issued by the Environmnetal Law and Policy Center:

The House Farm Bill [passed July 27] improves existing energy programs and creates several new programs. Key programs include:

The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) – expands and improves the Farm Bill’s successful Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency incentives for locally-owned wind power, energy efficiency, solar energy, and other clean energy projects.

Biorefinery expansion – critical to jumpstart advanced biofuels production.

Biomass Research and Development – new research investments for advanced crop-based fuel and power expansion.

Biomass energy reserve – will catalyze sustainable development of energy crops to help meet our nation’s fuel needs and reduce reliance on imported oil.

However, some key programs remain completely unfunded or underfunded. For example the Section 9005 energy technical assistance program, which could save farmers over a billion dollars in energy costs, is completely unfunded. Other programs, such as REAP, require more funding to realize their potential for the country.

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Madison home features 8.4 kW solar installation

Posted on July 10, 2007. Filed under: Energy Finance, Solar |

From a story by Alec Luhn in the Wisconsin State Journal:

When he got to what he calls “the mid-life crisis age,” Madison resident Jim Taylor, 45, said he figured “Well, I’m going to have to either buy a sports car or do something.'”

For Taylor, that something was installing an 8.4-kilowatt solar panel array on his roof in April — the largest solar-energy system on a Madison residence.

Although he originally intended to supply only his family’s energy needs, he has been selling his excess energy to Madison Gas & Electric the last two months and now could increase his earnings under a new buyback rate proposed by the utility.

Under the proposal, Taylor would sell all of his energy to MGE at a rate of 25 cents per kilowatt-hour and buy back the portion he needs from the utility’s overall pool of renewable energy at about 10 cents per kilowatt-hour.

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Senate Dems improve energy provisions in state budget bill

Posted on June 25, 2007. Filed under: Energy Finance, Energy Policy |

RENEW supports the senate action, as reported in a story by Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Senate Democrats on Friday announced that they had removed a controversial renewable energy provision from the state budget.

They also restored funding for a renewable energy grant program that’s a key priority of Gov. Jim Doyle.

The moves would result in changes to energy provisions included in the budget by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee.


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