Energy independence

Cashton community wind project under way

Posted on December 16, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Energy independence, Wind |

An article by Danielle Endvick in The Country Today:

The turbine foundations have been built and basic infrastructure is in place for Wisconsin’s first community wind project.

Cashton Greens Wind Farm, set to begin operation this spring near Highway 27 southwest of Cashton in Monroe County, is expected to generate nearly 5 megawatts of energy, enough to power 1,000 Cashton homes annually.

The $11 million renewable energy project is a collaborative effort of the Village of Cashton, Gundersen Lutheran Health System and Organic Valley, the nation’s largest cooperative of organic farmers.

Cecil Wright, Organic Valley director of sustainability, said planning on the wind farm, which is being erected on land near the cooperative’s distribution center, began in 2008.

“It’s taken a lot of discussion and a lot of learning,” he said.

The project is one of several Organic Valley has spearheaded in an effort to gain energy independence. Others included the use of biodiesel in its truck fleet, solar photovoltaic windows in its headquarters and solar hot water panels in its cheese packaging plant and cafe. (more…)

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Mount Pleasant approves SC Johnson wind turbines

Posted on December 13, 2011. Filed under: Energy independence, Wind | Tags: , |

From an article by Kimber Solana in the Racine Journal Times:

MOUNT PLEASANT – Amid some opposition from neighbors, SC Johnson is set to build two of the largest wind turbines in Racine County at its Waxdale manufacturing facility, a project expected to supply about 15 percent of the facility’s electricity usage.

In a 6-1 vote, the Village Board approved the conditional use petition on Monday to erect the turbines at the facility, 8311 16th St. Trustee Harry Manning dissented, expressing concerns over the size – about 415 feet tall – of the energy facilities.

“The noise is going to be there. There is going to be flickering. You read anywhere, they’ve had nothing but problems,” said Mount Pleasant resident Gail Johnson, 62. Johnson said her home is located on Willow Road, right across from where the turbines are expected to be built.

However, village officials said SCJ has gone “above and beyond” to address concerns by neighbors. Conditions set by the village include ensuring the wind turbines minimize noise decibel levels and shadow flickering.

Any noise would be no louder than traffic heard on Highway 20 or Highway 11, said Christopher Beard, reputation management director at SCJ.

The company has also offered to put in additional landscaping, if needed, such as trees that may block views of the turbines from residences, he added.

In addition, after meetings between the company and some residents, including those who opposed the project, SCJ has reduced the number of turbines from five to two.

Racine-based SCJ has said the wind turbines are the latest in a series of investments at Waxdale that will enable the site to produce 100 percent of its electrical energy on-site, with about 60 percent from renewable sources.

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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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RENEW Opposes Bill to Weaken State Renewable Energy Standard

Posted on September 8, 2011. Filed under: Carbon, Energy independence, General | Tags: , , |

At a September 6  hearing of the Assembly Energy and Utilities Committee,  Michael Vickerman testifies against AB146, a bill that would extend into perpetuity the shelf life of an unused renewable energy credit. Vickerman’s testimony explains how this seemingly innocuous change to Wisconsin’s renewable energy standard would allow utilities to put off the day when they would need to add more renewable energy to their resource mix.

Click Here for Testimony

Good morning, my name is Michael Vickerman. I am here to represent RENEW Wisconsin, a nonprofit advocacy and education organization based in Madison. Incorporated in 1991, RENEW acts as a catalyst to advance a sustainable energy future through public policy and private sector initiatives. We have over 300 total members, and more than 100 businesses around the state producing renewable energy or building renewable energy systems. A list of our business members accompanies this testimony

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 146. If passed as is, AB 146 would water down the state’s Renewable Energy Standard by extending the shelf life of an unused renewable energy credit to infinity. As the accompanying graphic shows, no other state in the Upper Midwest allows their utilities’ renewable energy credits to be banked in perpetuity. In the same graphic, one can also see how weak Wisconsin’s renewable energy standard has become in relation to those of neighboring states.

What is the problem here that this so-called “tweak” would solve? Other utilities in the region face stiffer renewable energy supply requirements than the utilities in Wisconsin, yet you don’t see them beseeching special treatment that allows them to bank unused renewable generation for decades. Giving into their request would effectively give utilities a 10-year vacation from actually adding a new renewable energy source to stay in compliance with their Act 141 requirements. All the Wisconsin utilities would need do to remain in compliance would be to fill out some paperwork at the end of the year and buy a new batch of elderly credits out of petty cash. How many jobs will that create? How many dollars in landowner and local government revenues will that generate?

The answer is none.

Another thing that extending the shelf life of unused renewable credits will not do is save ratepayers money. The bill lets the utilities put off the day when they would actually need to achieve a renewable energy content of 10% in real time, well into 2020’s by my calculations. In so doing, the benefits from continued investments in renewable generation, such as technology improvements, capital cost reductions and protection from fossil fuel cost increases, would not be passed along to ratepayers. Meanwhile, the Wisconsin businesses that generate renewable electricity for Wisconsin electricity customers in real-time—and there are many, as this table of biogas installations comprehensively shows– will in all likelihood downscale their presence in Wisconsin and deploy their resources in other states with livelier renewable energy markets. The impact of this bill’s passage will be particularly devastating to the state’s agricultural and food processing industries, because the renewable generation they produce from their wastes will not be needed as an energy source for years to come.

It’s worth repeating that no other state in the Upper Midwest has adopted such relaxed terms for banking renewable energy credits. These states understand that the principal effect of such a change would be to diminish the pace and scale of renewable energy installation activity. They have no desire to put a brake on one of the few economic sectors with the potential for additional growth. But they’re not going to complain if a misguided neighboring state commits this folly.

Let me put this in simple terms: this bill is nothing more than a utility-led effort to drain all the life out of Wisconsin’s renewable energy standard while leaving the law on the books. Under this bill, 2005 Act 141 will effectively become a sham law, devoid of any discernible effect. It will undermine the renewable energy marketplace, which in the last five years has been a source of vitality and confidence for the state’s economy. Once this particular marketplace goes away, there is nothing to stop the state’s energy economy from becoming a lifeless backwater. Is this the vision you have for Wisconsin’s future?

Respectfully submitted,

Michael Vickerman,
Executive Director

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Wind turbine to produce electricity for Random Lake farm

Posted on August 26, 2011. Filed under: Energy independence, Wind |

From an article by Bob Petrie in the Sheboygan Press:

TOWN OF SHERMAN — It’s a tall order for the 120-foot wind turbine that towers over the Preder farm on county Highway I just outside Random Lake.

The turbine, installed this week on a small hill behind the farmhouse, is expected to produce all the power needed to run the household and the farming operation, with a little bit left over for the neighbors.

“We’re trying to make it so that we’re not relying on everybody else for energy,” said Mike Preder, 32, who helps his father, Jeff, and mother, Kathy, raise growth hormone free Piedmontese cattle and free-range chickens on the 140 acre property.

Ed Ritger, a Random Lake attorney and the Preders’ next-door neighbor, is financing the $500,000 tower, with about half of the cost covered through grants offered from the federal government and Focus on Energy. Ritger, who owns a hobby farm, looks at the turbine as an investment that will pay for itself during a 10- to 15-year period, and be around to produce energy for a lot longer.

“It’s an investment, but it’s also an opportunity to send a message that we need to do more renewable energy,” said Ritger, 64. “That’s a message I’ve been preaching for a long time. So my wife and I are putting some dollars behind that message.”

The building in Random Lake where Ritger’s law firm is housed was equipped about a decade ago with solar panels. The panels power the building, and the excess electricity goes back to the power grid. He thought it would be a good idea to try building a turbine out in the country, and the Preders were receptive to the idea.

“We’ve been neighbors for 40 years, and you can’t put a wind turbine in the valley, (you) put it on the best hill that you’ve got,” Ritger said. “So that’s how this joint venture was put together; the Preders providing the site and the Ritgers providing the capital.”

The Preders, whose energy bills run about $400 a month, worked with Kettle View Renewable Energy, a Silver Lake firm, to acquire and install the wind turbine. The company, which has been in business since 2006, has put in turbines for the Cascade wastewater plant and at Random Lake High School. The turbine, with its 34½-foot long blades, that serves the Preder property can produce up to 120,000-kilowatt hours per year, about 30,000 more than the Preders usually consume annually. The turbine generates energy in wind speeds of 7 mph or greater.

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Iowa leads the Midwest in reaping wind energy benefits, Wisconsin heads backward

Posted on July 20, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Energy independence, Energy Policy, Renewable energy - generally, Wind |

By contrast, an article by Michael Vickerman details Wisconsin’s Widening War on Renewable Energy.

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Wind farm plan gets green light — in Illinois

Posted on July 14, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Energy independence, Jobs, Wind | Tags: , , , |

While Wisconsin’s hostility toward wind generation kills projects in the state, wind generation projects continue to create jobs and energy independence in surrounding states, according to this article in The News Gazzette, Champaign, IL:

DANVILLE — The Vermilion County Board authorized construction of the first wind turbine farm in the county Tuesday night despite objections from several local residents and incomplete information in the developer’s application.

The 27-member board voted 21-1, with four members absent and one seat vacant, to grant Chicago-based Invenergy a building permit to construct 104 wind turbines in west central Vermilion County.

Invenergy also submitted on July 1 its application to the Champaign County zoning board for a special-use permit to build 30 wind turbines as part of the same project in east central Champaign County. Invenergy officials said they hope construction in Vermilion County can start by the end of the year.

The lone no vote at Tuesday’s Vermilion County Board meeting came from member Terry Stal, D-District 4, who said after the meeting that he voted that way because the county should have all its agreements with Invenergy in place before the permit is issued. He said his vote reflected a procedural objection.

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Milwaukee solar panel maker lands deal with U.S. military, adds 2nd shift

Posted on July 6, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Energy independence, Jobs, Solar | Tags: , , |

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

Solar panels produced by Helios Solar Works of Milwaukee will be used by the U.S. Army, the FBI and other government customers under a strategic partnership announced Tuesday by Arista Power Inc.

Arista is a manufacturer of wind turbines and renewable energy storage systems based in Rochester, N.Y.

Financial terms of the partnership weren’t disclosed.

Helios will supply Arista with panels and will refer solar business opportunities to Arista. Arista has agreed to distribute Helios products to the military.

“One of the major benefits of our high-performance modules is their flexibility, which makes it possible to design systems that satisfy a variety of needs, from residential, commercial and governmental applications,” said Steve Ostrenga, Helios chief executive. “We view this as a perfect fit with Arista Power’s products, which are scalable and can be adapted to serve a variety of markets.”

The announcement comes as Helios is seeing demand for made-in-Milwaukee solar panels from the military, Ostrenga said in an interview. Helios is making panels for military bases in Arkansas, New York and Virginia.

“We’re getting a lot of movement in the military because the military has made a stance that, because of energy security, they want to be energy independent,” he said.

A large order for a military base in San Diego began production this week.

As a result of the demand, the company recently added a second shift, and employment is now at about 30 people, Ostrenga said. Plans are in the works for a third shift.

The Department of Defense released an energy strategy last month that incorporates greener technologies as a way to protect soldiers. Thousands of U.S. servicemen have lost their lives in attacks on fuel and other supply convoys in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“As long as U.S. forces rely on large volumes of energy, particularly petroleum-based fuels, the vulnerability and volatility of supplies will continue to raise risks and costs for the armed forces,” the Pentagon said in a report to Congress.

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Merrill dairy farmer studies feasibility of wind energy site

Posted on June 29, 2011. Filed under: Energy independence, Wind | Tags: |

From an article by in the Karina Gonzalez:

MERRILL — A local dairy farmer might soon take advantage of a windy hill on his property to generate renewable energy.

Hans Breitenmoser Jr. has a meteorological tower on his southwest Merrill property that measures wind capacity. In late July 2010, Madison’s Seventh Generation Energy Systems installed the tower to begin a one-year study that would look into the feasibility of using the windy hill to power the farm.

“I’ve lived here all of my life and it’s always been windy,” Breitenmoser Jr. said. “And I’ve always had an interest in green energy.”

Breitenmoser said he expects the study will help him determine what kind of wind energy equipment is the most suitable to offset traditional energy costs at his farm.

Ry Thompson, systems division manager for Seventh Generation, said the Northwoods is generally not a great area for wind turbines because of the vast number of trees that block and slow breezes. However, because Breitenmoser’s property is elevated, it appears to be a good site for generating power.

Seventh Generation will have a report ready by late summer that will include a cost analysis and wind estimates, Thompson said.

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Small businesses hit hard by energy program cuts and changes

Posted on June 28, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Energy Efficiency, Energy independence, Energy Policy, Jobs, Renewable energy - generally |

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

Focus on Energy, a statewide program that promotes energy efficiency, is in the midst of big changes: new management by an out-of-state corporation, suspension of a popular rebate program, and sharp funding cuts in the pending state budget.

Nearly 20 people already have lost their jobs, mostly in Madison, as a result of the management change.

Meanwhile, dozens of small Wisconsin businesses that specialize in setting up solar panels and wind turbines fear for their futures because of the slashed allocation and rebate removal.

“It’s a lot of economic activity and jobs in Wisconsin. It’s a lot of energy efficiency, as well,” said Keith Reopelle, policy director for Clean Wisconsin.

Focus on Energy was created in 2001 to provide education, resources and cash incentives to Wisconsin residents and businesses to increase the use of energy-efficient products and systems, from furnaces to solar panels to vending machines.

In the past 10 years, more than 91,000 businesses and more than 1.7 million residents used the program and saved $2.20 for every dollar spent, according to Focus data. . . .

Since taking over Focus on Energy on May 9, one of Shaw’s first decisions, with PSC support, was to suspend payments to businesses that install renewable-energy systems, as of June 30.

Contractors like Seventh Generation Energy Systems were stunned.“It’s pretty devastating,” said James Yockey, chief executive officer. “It probably took out six to 10 projects that we were looking to close … for work in the fall and the coming spring.”

Several of the projects were wind turbines for farmers. “I think the incentives are decisive in people saying yes,” Yockey said . . . .

Program supporters have appealed to Gov. Scott Walker to veto the Focus budget cut, including a letter signed by 124 Wisconsin businesses. As of Friday, there was no word on his response. Walker is scheduled to sign the budget today.

“Cutting Focus on Energy will result in higher electricity bills and fewer jobs,” Randy Johnson, president of U.S. Lamp, a Green Bay energy-efficient lighting design company, said in the letter.

Seventh Generation’s Yockey said he hopes to avoid laying off any of his 16 employees by aiming his business at other states, and that could mean moving the company. “We prefer to be located in Madison but the bottom line is: we’ll see where the business takes us,” he said.

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