RENEW’s blog moved!

Posted on May 16, 2012. Filed under: General |

For RENEW’s current blog go here.


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Small Businesses Request Resumption of Renewable Energy Support

Posted on January 31, 2012. Filed under: Energy Efficiency, Energy Policy, Focus on Energy/Public Benefits, General, Renewable energy - generally |


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Fracking industry executive says 90% of Americans are ‘nuts

Posted on January 30, 2012. Filed under: General |

From a column by Lyle Hopkins in The Capital Times:

Wall Street and CEO culture in America is out of touch, arrogant, condescending, and those are probably their good qualities. Recent examples run the gamut, from snooty finance employees sipping champagne while mocking Wall Street protesters to a sign posted in the Chicago Mercantile Exchange proudly stating “we are the 1%.” It’s clear that our titans of industry are in dire need of an attitude adjustment.

One of the worst offenders is the energy industry. Case in point, the CEO for the Colorado Oil & Gas Association reportedly said of fracking opponents: “These nuts make up about 90 percent of our population, so we can’t really call them nuts any more. They’re the mainstream.”

Lyle Hopkins is an energy and security analyst at the nonprofit and nonpartisan Civil Society Institute. He is also a former intelligence officer for the U.S. Air Force and led a 150-person watch center providing threat warning information to national leadership. He has a masters degree in Environmental Management and Sustainability from Harvard. This column was provided by the American Forum, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, educational organization.

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PV’s levelized cost drops to 11.5 cents per kWh with incentives

Posted on January 25, 2012. Filed under: Energy Policy, General, Solar | Tags: , |

An analysis by Don Wichert, Director, Renewable Energy Services,
Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corporation (WECC):

My recent (simplified) levelized cost analysis for commercial PV, at $5,252 a kW installed in WI, over 25 years and with a 5% loan (no shading, no maintenance, no output degradation), is 13.8 cents per kWh as shown on the slide below. This includes a 56% reduction in the installed price due to the ITC and depreciation. With the previously available $600 a kW Focus base incentive, the levelized cost drops to 11.5 cents per kWh.

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Presentations from RENEW Energy Strategy Summit

Posted on January 18, 2012. Filed under: General |

Leslie Glustrom
Renewable Energy’s Day Will Come: Coal is Not Cheap, Plentiful, or Clean

Leslie Glustrom
US Coal Supply Constraints: The “Sweet Imperative” that Will Help Drive the Repowering of the United States for the 21st Century

Mick Sagrillo
How To Frame The Debate or Tips and Tricks from Karl Rove

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Policy Briefs from Energy Strategy Summit

Posted on January 18, 2012. Filed under: General |

RENEW Wisconsin Policy Issue Briefs

Prepared for Policy Summit – January 13, 2012

Topic Area: Expanding Market Access

Authorizing Renewable Energy Sales from Third Parties to Host Customers
BACKGROUND: There are many households and businesses around the state that desire to host a renewable energy system, but can’t afford the up-front costs associated with these installations. More than two dozen states expressly allow such customers to contract with third parties to install a renewable energy system and sell the output from that equipment, be it electricity or heat, to the system hosts. In those states, that allow such arrangements, a system host simply purchases the electricity or heat from the installation, often at a lower cost than what would be provided by the utility. Read more.

Aggregating REC’s from Local Installations
BACKGROUND: Along with the energy they produce, renewable system owners can also sell the attributes associated with their output to a different entity than the one acquiring the energy. These secondary markets can accommodate a wide range of renewable energy producers, from nationally prominent wind developers to residential owners of PV systems. In Wisconsin, utility-run “green pricing programs’, which are voluntary in nature, funnel customer dollars to support renewable energy installations that would not otherwise ave been constructed, due to their higher cost. In fact, several Wisconsin utilities were, until recently, active aggregators of solar electricity generated by their customers, acquiring their attributes through special buyback rates. But with the discontinuation of these solar initiatives, renewable energy producers must look to other entities to aggregate their REC’s and market them effectively. Read more.

Topic Area: Economics of Renewable Energy

The Renewable Energy Incentives Puzzle
PROBLEM: Incentives for renewable energy systems have been substantially removed from Wisconsin’s marketplace. The majority of utility advanced renewable tariffs (ARTs) are fully subscribed and We Energies’ $6 million/year renewable energy development program is now shut down. Moreover, Focus on Energy has removed incentives for renewables from current program offerings, nearly all within the last 12 to 24 months. As one might easily imagine, the market for customer-driven renewable energy systems is contracting without incentives, which are needed to overcome a utility market structure that discounts the value of local, renewable generation. Indeed, it should be noted that traditional sources of energy thrive with their own hidden incentives, which are not accounted for in the comparison of costs comparing renewable energy to traditional energy sources. The outcome is a highly skewed marketplace that favors traditional energy sources and market actors. Read more.

Press for Advanced Renewable Tariffs
PROBLEM: Worldwide, Feed-in Tariffs (FITs) are widely credited for expanding distributed renewable energy development to a greater extent than other tax or financial incentives. FITs, known in Wisconsin as Advanced Renewable Tariffs (ARTs), have been approved in the last few years by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) and have been implemented by electric providers as part of their renewable energy acquisition strategies. Apart from net energy billing, the use of ARTs has also been a major income driver for many customer-sited distributed renewable projects in Wisconsin. Read more.

Topic Area: Regulatory Environment of Renewable Energy

Uniform Wind Permitting Rules and PSC 128
PROBLEM: Under current law, the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) reviews proposed wind energy installations only if they exceed 100 megawatts (MW). All other proposals are reviewed by the responsible local permitting authority. For developers of such proposals, the local permitting landscape resembles a minefield. In some cases, the local permitting process has resulted in moratoria or excessively stringent ordinances that make wind development impossible within that jurisdiction. In the vast majority of instances, these restrictions go well beyond the scope of review allowed under Wisconsin Statute 66.0401, which limits municipal review of wind energy systems matters involving public health and safety. Onerous restrictions have even been placed on small wind systems, despite the modest nature of their impacts. Read more.

Improved Net Energy Billing Policy
DEFINITION: Net energy billing (or net metering) is an arrangement that allows utility customers to install and operate renewable generating systems for their own use, and receive full retail value for electricity not consumed on site (up to 100% of their internal usage). Read more.

Topic Area: Towards Community Energy

Community-Owned Energy Generation and Distribution
PROBLEM: From its earliest roots, utility services have been organized by citizens interested in controlling their own access to energy. Initially, many of these utilities relied on local sources of renewable energy (hydro) for their energy. Over time, however, all utilities outgrew their renewable roots and invested heavily in large-scale generation of fossil fuels. Their preference for fossil fuels continues to this day; three new coal plants have been added in the last 10 years. Meanwhile, increasing numbers of citizen-customers now question the economic and environmental sustainability of these investments. They are taking matters into their hands by investing in on-site renewable generation and/or purchasing renewable electricity from their local providers. Read more.

Repairing Wisconsin’s RPS to Benefit Local Renewables
BACKGROUND: Wisconsin’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requires electric providers to source, by 2015, 10% of the electricity they sell from qualified renewable energy resources. The law allows these providers to (1) build and own the generation sources themselves; (2) acquire renewable electricity from other generators; and (3) acquire renewable energy credits (the attributes, not the electricity) that meet certain requirements in the law. Wisconsin’s investor-owned utilities have demonstrated a pronounced preference to own the generation used to comply with the RPS. Read more.

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Editorial: Wisconsin must grow cleaner energy jobs

Posted on October 28, 2011. Filed under: General |

From an editorial in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Renewable energy can help the state develop new jobs. Wisconsin should be open to those businesses, too.

If Wisconsin really wants to be open for business, it can’t shut the door on developing clean energy jobs. Right now, thanks to legislative and gubernatorial foot-dragging, that’s the case for the development of new wind farms.

That’s a mistake that Gov. Scott Walker and the Legislature should correct. The good news is that it might be corrected; wind energy developers say they are more optimistic after recent conversations with the governor, according to an article this week by the Journal Sentinel’s Thomas Content.

The wind industry in Wisconsin is becalmed in part because Walker and the Legislature sent a message last January that they weren’t much interested in wind farms. They did that by putting on hold wind farm siting rules developed by the state Public Service Commission after much work and compromise.

If that message isn’t changed, We Energies’ Glacier Hills project could be the last big project for quite a while in the state. That would be bad for jobs, business and the environment. While renewable energy can’t yet fill the base load needs of Wisconsin energy consumers, the more power generation that can be pushed into renewables such as wind and solar, the better off the state will be.

And not least because clean energy is a job growth area. A study by the Environmental Law and Policy Center in Chicago found that there are more than 300 businesses in Wisconsin related to solar and wind power, employing more than 12,000 people. One-hundred seventy-one businesses are involved in wind energy.

But don’t expect that to grow: Content reported that five companies have suspended or canceled work on projects in Wisconsin this year. Michael Vickerman of Renew Wisconsin, a nonprofit group that supports development of renewable energy, reports that companies in Wisconsin are now developing projects – in other states. That’s no way to grow the clean energy economy in Wisconsin.

Those opposed to wind farms often talk about a loss of property values and health concerns for neighbors. But Vickerman says there isn’t a shred of evidence for either. Property values in Kewaunee County and Fond du Lac townships with wind farms have kept pace with townships without. And that’s over 12 years of operation.

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Integrys sees solar as “an area of growth”

Posted on October 21, 2011. Filed under: General |

From an interview with Dan Verbanac, president of Integrys Energy Services (parent company of Wisconsin Public Service, De Pere), in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Q. Let’s shift now to your solar development business. What got that going?

A. We had a power development unit and were looking for niches where we could use our expertise in the power development area. We had done some work putting stand-alone generation in for industrial customers. And so we had this team and, at the time, wind was taking off.

NextEra was one of the big entrants in wind, and they started a group similar to our solar group and built a lot of wind across the U.S. We were a late entrant to that. But we thought renewables, with the greenhouse gas concerns, we thought that long term that could be an area of growth.

We started looking at solar to do a couple projects to understand that business and what it would take to move forward. A lot of states have special carve-outs that require them to do a certain amount of renewable generation from solar. We thought it was a great opportunity.

Today, we have 37 projects that we’ve done in six states, and what we target is commercial buildings. We go to the building owners and we bear the capital costs. We install the solar panels, and we’ll do a long-term power purchase agreement back to the owner of the building – usually 10 to 15 years, typically at rates lower than they’re paying to the utility. Then the solar renewable energy credits we’ll sell back to the state or into the market.

Q. So there’s still a lot of demand out there?

A. Oh, it’s tremendous. We have a pretty good pipeline of opportunities. At the end of 2010, we announced a joint venture with Duke Energy, called INDU Solar Holdings, where we committed to invest $45 million each year over a two-year period – $180 million total in 2011 and 2012 – for solar projects.

We’re starting to bring these projects on right now. So we have two things going. We have projects that we’re doing as Integrys Energy Services and projects that we have under INDU.

One thing that’s happening is the cost of solar panels has come down drastically. Since we’ve been building solar facilities – almost three years now – the cost has come down 40 to 45%. Actually, that’s part of the problem with Solyndra and others going out of business. The problem is that the cost of the solar panels is so competitive that they can’t make it work, can’t compete with China and some of the other lower-labor countries.

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NWTC Students “Solarize” the Kress Library

Posted on September 19, 2011. Filed under: General |

From an article written by Casey Fryda on the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College website

NWTC Solar Energy Technology students helped a library in De Pere adopt solar energy.

Students in the Photovoltaics – Design and Site class evaluated the site of the Kress Library and presented recommendations for including solar energy panels in the library’s energy system.

Under the instruction of instructor Michael Troge, the students met with library staff, collected information on energy use at the facility, and performed a solar site assessment. They used the information they collected to put together proposals for solar systems on the building. These proposals included specifications and cost estimates. They also made a presentation to the Library Board of Directors.

NWTC was one of several partners in the project. The story below was provided by the Center for Sustainability Living at Kress; the Brown County Library; and SEEDs for De Pere, which is part of the De Pere Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

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Convergence Energy Creates “Networked Solar” in Delavan

Posted on September 19, 2011. Filed under: General |

This article was written by Thomas Content of the Journal Sentinel

Delavan – Welcome to the field where sun power and the sunflower meet.

Well, not just one sunflower. More like thousands. And not just one solar panel, either. Thousands there, too.

Convergence Energy of Lake Geneva is building one of the largest solar projects in the state, and the first that allows individual investors to buy a stake in the project.

The Convergence Energy Solar Farm began construction last year on 14 acres near Dan Osborn’s wholesale nursery.

The idea, said Steve Johnson, vice president of business development, is to provide a green-power investment opportunity for people who live in a condo or have too much shade to make solar power workable on their own home’s roof.

By the time it’s finished this year, it will be the second-largest solar project in Wisconsin, after Epic Systems’ corporate campus solar project in Verona.

But instead of being developed by one large company, this project is being built, piece by piece, as investors take a stake in the project.

“It’s a way for a small investor to have a part in it all,” said investor Dave Smith of Libertyville, Ill. “When you live in a town home like I do, there’s nothing you can really do.”

Smith bought one of the Convergence systems at a time when the economy and stock market were in rough shape.

“I thought, why should I invest in anonymous equities and bonds when I can invest in a local company that I can keep an eye on, that’s doing something good and will probably pay returns?” he said. “So I was very excited about it.”

Johnson said, “We call it networked solar. It allows people whose homes aren’t oriented toward the sun properly to take part. They might be in the woods. Or some may not like the aesthetics of the panels on the roof.”

The project allows those people to still have a stake in something they believe in, Johnson said.

Convergence developed the project, obtaining funding from the state’s Focus on Energy program as well as a U.S. Treasury Department financing program authorized by the federal stimulus package.

Now, the company offers investors a stake in the project by investing at least $16,000 for a system, which amounts to 80 or so panels erected across three tracking towers. Each system of three towers generates up to 20 kilowatts of electricity, and dozens of the towers stretch across the land.

One advantage, compared with conventional rooftop solar systems, is that these panels are erected on dual-axis trackers, so they rotate during the day to follow the sun. That generates about 30% more power than a fixed solar system, Johnson said.

Convergence leased the land from Osborn, who opted to grow sunflowers this summer in between the rows of panels. He wants to press the sunflower seeds into oil that could be used in biodiesel.

Osborn’s business has been running a tractor on biodiesel for years, so this just made sense, he said. Osborn estimates he could end up with 600 gallons of fuel from the sunflowers that are now in full bloom and face toward the sun each morning.

Osborn has invested in several of the tracking systems and says he did it to offset the power used by his business, his home and the homes of his children, who live nearby.

“This is my little part, you know. It’s clean and it’s the sun, and it’s what we should all be doing,” he said.

Power produced by the project is sold to We Energies, with Convergence in turn passing that income on to its investors.

“It wasn’t all about the money,” Smith said. “I wanted to paint my own corporation’s name on the pole and say, ‘Look, we’ve invested in solar.’ We’re offsetting our carbon footprint.”

We Energies has been a strong supporter of the project, Johnson said.

Ryan Logterman is proud to be a part of the project, which helped create jobs for his firm, Logterman Heating and Cooling, more than doubling its workforce in the past few years.

Logterman also is an investor in the project.

“We’re all in. We are all investing in this ourselves. I’ve got the end of the second row,” he said, gesturing across the field. “I’m on System No. 10.”

Logterman’s heating, ventilating and air conditioning business employed three people five years ago when he began work in the industry as a solar thermal installer.

Today, Logterman’s business has 10 employees, one crew working exclusively digging trenches, building foundations and wiring Convergence Energy’s solar panels.

“It’s a good feeling. We’re doing something positive. We’re generating renewable power, and I’m hiring more people and helping the local economy,” Logterman said. “We try to buy as much material as we can from local wholesalers.”

Convergence is keeping it local, too, buying panels from the Helios Solar Works factory that opened this year in Milwaukee’s Menomonee Valley. Convergence was Helios’ first customer, and that firm has been adding more workers as it builds its customer base.

Customers and investors alike appreciate the made-in-Wisconsin flavor of the project, Johnson said, adding that Helios panels were selected because they’re more efficient than the typical photovoltaic panel.

“The whole thing about renewables is about local economies. We’re really striving to build local economies,” Johnson said. “It’s providing an opportunity for people who want to invest in solar and put a little more clean energy on the grid.”

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