State’s Hostility Toward Renewables Escalates; “Leaders” Lag Citizenry on Wind Support

Posted on June 24, 2011. Filed under: Biomass, Digesters, Energy Policy, Hydroelectric, Landfill Gas, Renewable energy - generally, Solar, Wind | Tags: |

Two articles from Catching Wind, a newsletter published by RENEW Wisconsin with funding from a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy:

State’s Hostility Toward Renewables Escalates
At the urging of Wisconsin utilities, several lawmakers have introduced a bill to allow a renewable energy credit (REC) to be banked indefinitely. If adopted, this measure (AB146) would constitute the most devastating legislative assault yet on the state’s renewable energy marketplace, which is already reeling from the suspension of the statewide wind siting rule this March and the loosening of renewable energy definitions to allow Wisconsin utilities to count electricity generated from large Canadian hydro projects toward their renewable energy requirements.

“Leaders” Lag Citizenry on Wind Support
Public support for wind energy development has held strong against the attacks launched by Governor Walker and the Legislature’s new Republican majority, according to a poll conducted between April 11 and April 18 by the St. Norbert College Survey Center for Wisconsin Public Radio.

Asked whether Wisconsin should “increase, decrease or continue with the same amount” of energy supply from various sources, 77% favored increasing wind power, the highest of any option (60% favored increasing hydropower, 54% biomass, 39% natural gas, 27% nuclear, and 19% coal).

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Sustainable energy jobs could boost economy, group says

Posted on June 14, 2011. Filed under: Biomass, Digesters, Economic development, Energy independence, Energy Policy, Hydroelectric, Jobs, Landfill Gas, Solar, Sustainability, Wind | Tags: , , |

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

Wisconsin should strive to do more to grow a renewable energy economy that creates jobs in the state, the author of a new sustainability report says.

The report was published by the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council, the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business and the state Department of Natural Resources’ green tier program.

The report seeks to emulate reports published by businesses that move beyond the fiscal bottom line to discuss the firms’ environmental and social impact.

Businesses in Wisconsin that have adopted a “triple-bottom line” approach – for social, economic and environmental benefit – include Kohl’s Corp., Johnson Controls Inc., Miron Construction and S.C. Johnson & Son Inc.

The report found opportunity for job creation awaits the state in the renewable energy sector, and emphasizes how much of the state’s energy spending takes place outside Wisconsin.

“Of the $19 billion that we spent last year, 87% of that money went out of state,” said Tom Eggert, the council’s executive director. “That’s going to help people’s economies in places other than Wisconsin.”

The state lacks coal mines and natural gas reserves but has ample opportunity to create jobs through development of wind, solar and biomass power, he said.

One option for the state to consider, he said, would be for the government to give renewable energy – and job creation – a push by expanding the state’s renewable energy standard.

The state Legislature, though, rejected a plan last year to expand renewable energy mandates in the state.

The Legislature last week gave final approval to a bill that would allow large dams such as those planned to be built in Manitoba to qualify for the state’s renewable energy standard.

Supporters said that access to the large hydro projects is good for the state’s economy because it would keep electricity rates affordable and help the state’s businesses create jobs.

But the direct result in terms of energy investment creates an economic impact for the Canadian province rather than here in the state, Eggert said.

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Fresh attack on Wisconsin voters’ desire for a renewable energy standard would kill wind projects and sap state’s economy

Posted on May 26, 2011. Filed under: Biomass, Digesters, Economic development, Energy independence, Energy Policy, Hydroelectric, Jobs, Solar, Wind | Tags: , , , , , |

From statements issued by three groups in opposition to Assembly Bill 146:

“Clearly, this bill is a drastic step in the wrong direction for our state. The Wisconsin Energy Business Association therefore opposes this attack on renewable energy in our state.” – Wisconsin Energy Business Association. Full statement.

We strongly recommend that this bill not be approved as it solves no known problem in Wisconsin and seeks only to roll-back policies on renewable energy that have served the state well and are otherwise benefitting Wisconsin residents with cleaner air and lower prices for electricity. – Wind on the Wires. Full statement.

Fresh attack on Wisconsin voters’ desire for a renewable energy standard would kill wind projects and sap state’s economy, say wind energy advocates – American Wind Energy Association. Full statement.

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WI utility agrees to buy Canadian hydroelectric power

Posted on May 25, 2011. Filed under: Hydroelectric |

While RENEW opposes counting hydro toward a utility’s renewable portofio standard, Wisconsin Public Service agreed to buy 100 MW from Manitoba Hyrdo, according to an article in The Lac du Bonnet Leader:

Premier Greg Selinger announced today that Manitoba Hydro has signed agreements for a 250megawatt (MW) sale of electricity to Minnesota Power and a 100-MW sale to Wisconsin Public Service. Combined with a previously completed 125 MW sale to Northern States Power, these sales total 475 MW with an estimated value of $4 billion, Selinger said.

The premier said these sales will require the construction of new hydroelectric generating capacity in Manitoba. They will trigger the development of the 695-MW Keeyask (Cree for gull) Generating Station located on the lower Nelson River 175 km northeast of Thompson in the Split Lake Resource Management Area. Keeyask is to be developed by a partnership consisting of Manitoba Hydro and the Keeyask Cree Nations-Tataskweyak Cree Nation, War Lake First Nation, Fox Lake Cree Nation, and York Factory First Nation. The $5.6-billion project will provide some 4,500 person-years of construction employment, said Selinger. . . .

The 250-MW power sale to Minnesota Power over a 15-year period from 2020 to 2035 requires an additional interconnection between Manitoba and the United States which will provide increased export capability and reliability benefits for Manitoba, said Selinger.

The 100-MW power sale agreement to Wisconsin Public Service covers the 2021-2027 period. Negotiations are continuing to expand the Wisconsin sale to 500 MW which would require construction of the Conawapa Generating Station, the premier said, adding with these sales, Manitoba Hydro and its partners are reviewing scheduling and other requirements for moving forward with Keeyask.

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RENEW opposes legislation to count Canadian hydro toward Wisconsin renewable standard

Posted on May 3, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Energy Policy, Hydroelectric, Jobs, Renewable energy - generally |

Testimony delivered by Michael Vickerman, RENEW executive director, to the Senate and Assembly committees that handle energy legislation:

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 60 businesses around the state, including Biogas Direct (Prairie du Sac), Bubbling Springs Solar (Menomonie), Crave Brothers Farm (Waterloo), Convergence Energy (Lake Geneva), Emerging Energies (Hubertus), Energy Concepts (Hudson), Full Circle Farm (Seymour), Full Spectrum Solar (Madison), GHD, Inc. (Chilton), H&H Solar (Madison), Kettle View Renewable Energy (Random Lake), Michels Wind Energy (Brownsville), North American Hydro (Neshkoro), Northwind Renewable Energy LLC (Stevens Point), Pieper Power (Milwaukee), Organic Valley (LaFarge), Quantum Dairy (Weyauwega), Renewegy (Oshkosh), and Seventh Generation Energy Systems (Madison).

More on North American Hydro later.

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 114 (and its companion SB 81), and urges the Legislature not to pass this bill. If passed as is, AB 114 would allow electric utilities to use generation from hydro facilities larger than 60 megawatts to satisfy their renewable energy requirements under 2005 Act 141. Manitoba Hydro could easily become Wisconsin’s largest supplier of statutorily sanctioned renewable energy in the next decade.

Because no increase to the state’s Renewable Energy Standard is contemplated in this bill, the outwash of kilowatt-hours from Manitoba in the next decade will crowd out opportunities for utility-scale renewable energy development opportunities in Wisconsin. The window was already closing for in-state renewable energy sources before this bill was introduced. According to Platt’s Electric Daily, Wisconsin Power & Light and WPPI Energy have already accumulated enough renewable electrons and credits to meet their 2015 targets. The same is true of Madison Gas & Electric. The Platt’s article also quotes a Wisconsin Public Service Corporation official stating that the utility can meet its 2015 renewable energy requirements with what it has acquired to date until 2020. AB 114 would enable those utilities to enter into contracts with Manitoba Hydro to supply them with post-2015 renewable energy, thereby sparing these utilities from ever having to invest another nickel in a Wisconsin renewable energy project again. (more…)

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The nuclear option: Safety concerns are only one big reason wind and solar better

Posted on April 4, 2011. Filed under: Hydroelectric, Nuclear, Solar, Wind |

From a commentary by Mark Z. Jacobson in the New York Daily News:

The powerful earthquake and tsunami that caused reactors at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant to shut down – releasing radiation and endangering workers and evacuees – have many Americans asking whether nuclear energy is worth the investment and risk.

I say not. In fact, it should not have taken a disaster of this kind to move us decisively away from nuclear and toward safe, clean, renewable energy. . . .

If the world’s energy needs were converted to electricity for all purposes – and nuclear supplied such energy – 15,800 large nuclear reactors, one installed every day for the next 43 years, would be needed. The installation of even 5% of these would nearly double the current number of reactors, giving many more countries the potential to develop weapons. If only one weapon were used in a city, it could kill 1 to 16 million people.


Why do we need nuclear energy when we have safer, cleaner options that can provide greater power for a much longer period and at lower cost to society? These better options are called WWS, for “wind, water and sunlight.” The chance of catastrophe caused by nature or terrorists acting on wind or solar, in particular, is zero.

During their lifetimes, WWS technologies emit no pollution – whereas nuclear does, since continuous energy is needed to mine, transport and refine uranium and reactors require much longer to permit and install than do WWS technologies. Overall, nuclear emits 9 to 25 times more air pollution and carbon dioxide than does wind per unit energy generated.


Some argue that nuclear is more reliable than WWS systems. This is not true. A nuclear reactor affects a larger fraction of the grid when it fails than does a wind turbine. The average maintenance downtime of modern wind turbines on land is 2%. That of France’s 59 reactors is 21.5%, with about half due to scheduled maintenance.

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Vickerman responds to anonymous “Greenie”

Posted on September 9, 2008. Filed under: Biomass, Digesters, Hydroelectric, Solar, Wind |

RENEW’s Executive Director wrote the following response to a post by “Greenie” on a local forum:

Forumite Greenie writes: “The biggest problem with the federal production tax credit for renewable energy is that it only covers wind and solar. In the state of Wisconsin where our wind resource is low, the production tax credit is what’s driving wind developers to put turbines where they don’t belong.”

Inaccuracies abound in that statement. One, the federal production tax credit covers wind and closed-loop biomass and biogas from livestock manure. Two, it does not cover solar. There is a 30% investment tax credit specific to most solar energy systems (not solar pool heaters). Three, the wind resource in Wisconsin is pretty good in certain locations, like along the Niagara Escarpment. At the two recently completed wind projects—Blue Sky Green Field and Forward—capacity factors should average 30%. The same should be true of the two wind projects under construction, Cedar Ridge and Butler Ridge. Fourth, the tax credit is based on output. The greater the amount of kilowatt-hours produced at a particular site, the greater the value of the tax credits. Furthermore, the tax credits are good for 10 years. After that, the turbines on their own, Since they are built to last 25 to 30 years, there had better be a decent resource where they are located, which is the case with every wind turbine operating in Wisconsin

Greenie continues: “They [manure digesters] would take nitrates out of the water, help farmers with their high electrical bills and provide power to the surrounding community. The Crave Brothers who produce excellent cheese on their farm put in a manure digester that not only took care of their $6,000 a month electrical bill, but also supplies electricity to the 126 homes around them. The nitrates no longer go into the ground water. They’re left with very clean compost material which can be used for many things. So why won’t they get any production tax credit money?”

Not only are manure digesters eligible for the federal production tax credit, they are also eligible for State of Wisconsin financial incentives through the Focus on Energy program. A manure-to-methane electric generation system can receive up to $250,000 in financial support from Wisconsin utility ratepayers. Generally, these incentives account for 10% to 25% of the installed cost of these systems, depending on their size.

RENEW Wisconsin strongly supports generating electricity or renewable natural gas from livestock manure. In several rate cases, RENEW argued that the utility should provide a higher buyback rate for manure-to-methane electric generation system. Several utilities have raised their buyback rates, though they still fall short of what is needed to cover installation costs. Having said that, Wisconsin has more livestock biogas generation systems than any other state. And several companies that are active in this market, including Clear Horizons, the company that installed the system at the Crave Brothers farm, are RENEW members,

More from Greenie: “For Wisconsin, industrial scale wind farms will always depend on coal burning power plants to operate.”

This is simply false. As any utility grid operator can confirm, a new wind farm does not need new baseload capacity to back it up. There is an abundant amount of reserve generating capacity in Wisconsin to absorb many new windpower installations.

Greenie again: “The production tax credit makes it so developers turn profit on inefficient and inappropriately sited turbines which are destroying so many Wisconsin communities.”

Name one Wisconsin community that has been “destroyed” by wind turbines.

We Energies, which owns the 88-turbine Blue Sky Green Field installation, is hosting an open house this Saturday. At the open house you’ll have the opportunity to see and hear the turbines with your own sensory apparatus. While you’re in that part of Fond du Lac County, ask the locals for their opinion of the installation. You’ll discover that the project is quite popular with Marshfield and Calumet township residents.

Greenie’s on a roll: “ If you feel like looking deeper into this if you follow the roots of the wind industry, state mandates for renewable energy standards (almost all of it going to WIND) the production tax credit (almost all of it going to wind) and the green credits (Wind again) you’ll end up at ENRON — once one of the biggest wind developers in the country.”

There is a simple reason why wind has become the dominant resource among renewable resources—it’s the only one that can produce power in bulk. Let’s compare the scalability of wind with dairy cattle manure. A Vestas V-82 turbine at Blue Sky Green Field has a capacity of 1.65 MW and will average about 4 million kWh/year (probably more), which is 28% of its rated capacity. How many cows does it take to produce the same amount of energy? Biogas producers agree that the energy value of dairy cow manure equates to 0.2 kW. It takes five cows to constitute one kW of generating capacity, 5,000 cows to constitute 1 MW. If you take the manure from one cow and put it into a digester/generation system that operates 90% of the time, it will produce an average of 1,577 kWh/year. Divide four million into that number and you’ll see that it takes 2,536 dairy cows to produce the same amount of energy as one commercial wind turbine. There are perhaps a dozen dairy operations in Wisconsin that have 2,500 cows, as compared with the 88 wind turbines at the 10,000-acre Blue Sky Green Field project, which should produce about 350,000,000 kWh/year. By my calculations, one would need 223,168 dairy cows to produce enough livestock manure to equal the output from Blue Sky Green Field. To put number that in perspective, we’re talking about nearly 20% of the state’s entire population of dairy cows (currently estimated at 1,252,000, according to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board [www.wisdairy.com]), all located in specialized dairy operations where their manure is captured and fed into anaerobic digesters.

How many residential solar electric systems is needed to produce 4,000,000 kWh. About 1,700.

By the way, Enron’s wind division was one of the few divisions in the company that generated a profit, which is why GE bought it after Enron filed for bankruptcy.

Greenie closes with this gem: “Why do lobbying groups like Renew Wisconsin carry the flag for wind and almost nothing else? Where is their money coming from?”

In addition to the wind industry, RENEW Wisconsin advocates on behalf of solar energy (electric and hot water), hydro, biomass, and biogas. We do this in many forums: at the Public Service Commission, at the State Legislature, in schools and at numerous county board and town hall meetings. We count among our members such companies as North American Hydro, H&H Solar, Full Spectrum Solar, GHD, Inc., Pieper Power, Lake Michigan Wind and Sun, and Lake Breeze Dairy. Our 330 members contribute about 20% of our revenues in a typical year. The other 80% of our funding comes from foundation grants and Focus on Energy work.

Allow me to ask a question of you, Greenie: Where do you get your misinformation from?

Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin

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Company seeks to install electricity-generating hydro-turbines in Mississippi River

Posted on April 16, 2008. Filed under: Hydroelectric |

From an article by Jeffrey Tomich in the La Crosse Tribune:

ST. LOUIS — For more than a century, the Mississippi River has been one of the nation’s most important transportation corridors, a muddy, winding pathway for moving bulk commodities such as grain and coal and other goods.

Now, a New England startup company wants to harness the mighty river for a secondary purpose — generating electricity.

The company, Free Flow Power Corp., is pursuing a $3 billion plan to install thousands of small electric turbines in the river bed, reaching from St. Louis to the Gulf of Mexico, that would collectively generate 1,600 megawatts of electricity — enough to power 1.5 million homes.

Gloucester, Mass.-based Free Flow Power is among a number of developers of so-called hydrokinetic projects, defined as those that produce electricity from river currents or ocean waves and tides — not dams.

Like the dozens of young companies building wind farms across the Great Plains or putting solar panels on roofs in California, interest in hydro-kinetic projects is a response to a growing appetite for renewable energy as the nation tries to wean itself off crude oil and reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping gas linked to global warming.

“Necessity is the mother of invention, and what’s really driving this is the need to develop alternatives to fossil fuels,” said Daniel R. Irvin, 48, the company’s chief executive.


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