Coal Critic Coming to Madison to Speak on Effective Renewable Energy Advocacy, January 2012

Posted on December 7, 2011. Filed under: Coal, Economic development, Energy Policy, Jobs, Renewable energy - generally | Tags: , , , |

For immediate release
December 7, 2011

More information
Michael Vickerman

Leslie Glustrom, research director of Colorado-based Clean Energy Action, and an unwavering critic of utility reliance on coal for electricity generation, will be the featured speaker at RENEW Wisconsin’s Energy Policy Summit.

The Summit will be held on Friday, January 13, 2012, at the University of Wisconsin-Extension’s Pyle Center located on the UW-Madison campus. Summit attendees will spend the day discussing and selecting renewable energy strategies that make sense in the current political environment in Wisconsin. More information on the Summit can be found on the RENEW Wisconsin website at

As research director, Glustrom authored in 2009 an extensively referenced report on U.S. coal supplies titled, “Coal—Cheap and Abundant—Or Is It? Why Americans Should Stop Assuming that the US has a 200-Year Supply of Coal,” available for free at

Since 2009, Glustrom has traveled to numerous states helping them to understand the likely constraints on their coal supplies.
Glustrom’s on-going research illuminates a future in which coal prices will likely continue to escalate, driven by a combination of less accessible coal supplies, increasing demand from Asian countries, and rising diesel fuel costs for hauling coal to distant markets like Wisconsin.

Clean Energy Action is spearheading a campaign to shut down Colorado’s coal-fired power plants and replace them with locally generated renewable electricity.

“Leslie’s experiences with Clean Energy Action can help Wisconsin renewable energy advocates formulate effective strategies for 2012 and beyond,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide sustainable energy advocacy organization headquartered in Madison.

“Even though Colorado is a coal-producing state, it has adopted some of the most aggressive policies in the country for advancing renewable energy,” said Vickerman. “Colorado’s commitment to clean energy is driving its economy at a time when its coal output is diminishing. For example, Vestas, the world’s largest manufacturer of wind turbines with four plants employing 1,700 people in Colorado, supplied 90 turbines this year to Wisconsin’s largest wind project, the Glacier Hills Wind Park in Columbia County.”

“Leslie will inspire us to reverse the retreat from renewables and retake the initiative going forward,” Vickerman said.

In Boulder, Glustrom was part of the team that led the successful 2010 and 2011 ballot initiatives allowing Boulder to move ahead with plans to municipalize and break away from the long term commitment to coal plants made by their incumbent utility, Xcel Energy.

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Rep. Barca: Wind energy holds the key to rapid Wisconsin job growth

Posted on December 5, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Energy Policy, Jobs, Wind | Tags: , , , |

A news release issued by State Rep. Peter Barca (D-Kenosha):

Last year Wisconsin made great progress on wind energy and there was bipartisan enthusiasm for advancements in this cutting-edge industry. A wind energy bill was approved last session with a two-thirds majority in both houses – including the leaders of both parties. Organizations such as the Wisconsin Energy Business Association praised Wisconsin’s potential for success in wind energy.

We fully expected the bill would be implemented early this year and Wisconsin would begin catching up with its neighbors. Currently Iowa gets nearly 20 percent of its energy from wind, while Wisconsin generates a mere two percent of its energy supply from this renewable, local source. Minnesota and Illinois each currently produce four times as much. Other states in our region are benefiting from cheap and clean energy, huge private investments, and countless high-tech energy and construction jobs.

Wind energy creates jobs. And Wisconsin needs jobs.

When Gov. Walker took office, it was estimated that Wisconsin’s wind industry contributed between 2,000 and 3,000 direct and indirect jobs. There are 171 wind-power supply chain businesses in Wisconsin. And we are home to more than 20 manufacturing facilities that make components for the wind industry. This represents tens of millions of investment in wind-specific manufacturing infrastructure and equipment.

Inexplicably, Gov. Walker and legislative Republicans have used the rules process to cripple wind energy production in Wisconsin, leading to the cancelation of several major wind projects, which RENEW Wisconsin estimated would have produced a thousand jobs and $1.2 billion in investment.

This will also cause Wisconsin to fall further behind our neighboring states.

Democrats pushed to allow the wind siting rules to go into effect – giving more certainty to developers and allowing major wind energy projects to go forward and would have certainly created hundreds, or possibly thousands, of jobs. But Republicans refused, despite the prior bipartisan agreement last session on this issue. (more…)

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Manitowoc wind factory to supply Caterpillar mining unit

Posted on November 23, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Jobs, Wind |

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

Wind energy supply-chain factories in Manitowoc and Texas will start making equipment for mining equipment made by Caterpillar, Broadwind Energy Inc. said Tuesday.

The former Tower Tech factory in Manitowoc makes wind towers, including those recently erected in Columbia County for the We Energies Glacier Hills Wind Park.

“This collaboration fits well with our strategic initiatives to leverage our core competencies beyond the wind industry and diversify our revenue base. We believe this is the first step in expanding our relationship with Caterpillar as we continue to collaborate,” said Paul Smith, president of Broadwind Towers, in a statement.

Under the deal with Caterpillar, Broadwind will supply the former Bucyrus International Inc. of South Milwaukee with welded sub-assemblies for large draglines, crawlers and excavating equipment.

The move is expected to add 50 jobs, spread between Manitowoc and Abilene, Texas, Broadwind said in a statement.

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Twenty-four governors, not including Walker, ask Obama to extend tax credits for wind project investments

Posted on November 18, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Energy Policy, Jobs, Wind | Tags: , , , |

From a news release on the Web site of the American Wind Energy Association:

Iowa, Aug. 24—A coalition of 24 governors from both major parties and each region of the country has asked the administration to take a series of steps to provide a more favorable business climate for the development of wind energy, starting with a seven-year extension of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) and the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) to provide stable, low tax rates for wind-generated electricity.

A letter from the governors, sent last month to the White House, has since been made public by the Governors Wind Energy Coalition. Signed by coalition chair Gov. Lincoln Chafee (I-RI), and vice chair Gov. Terry Branstad (R-IA), the letter says:

“Although tax credits for wind energy have long enjoyed bipartisan support, they are scheduled to expire next year. Wind-related manufacturing will slow if the credits are not extended, and some of the tax credits’ benefit will be lost if Congress pursues a last-minute extension. It is important to have consistency in policy to support the continued development of wind manufacturing in the United States. Extending the production tax credit and the investment tax credit, without a gap, is critical to the health of wind manufacturing in our nation. The wind manufacturing industry in the U.S. would benefit even greater if the extension of these credits would be for at least seven years.”

“Governors have always focused on jobs and economic development as their main responsibility. Now that Washington is following suit, it helps for these Governors to tell Washington what has been putting people to work in their states,” said AWEA CEO Denise Bode. “It is also helpful for them to support the removal of roadblocks that can occur in administrative agencies, so that deployment objectives are not unintentionally thwarted.”

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Most are supportive of new Michigan wind farm near Breckenridge

Posted on November 2, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Jobs, Wind |

Unlike the small minority of anti-wind fearmongers in Wisconsin, residents near the Michigan wind farm unerstand the economic impact of turbines, according to an article by Lisa Satayut in the Midland Daily News:

Most Gratiot County residents who live near the turbines are optimistic about the state’s largest wind farm being in their hometown. Local businesses are even happier.

“They are very helpful to us,” Julie Turner, owner of the Anschutz Café in Breckenridge, said of the workers hired to install the turbines.

Turner does not have a turbine on her property but said she is excited about the project and what it can do for the county.

“The turbines are going to be great for Gratiot County,” she said.

Bethany Township resident Felix Ramirez said the project is going to be a “good deal” but was hoping it would offer jobs to the community.

“It didn’t bring any work for the local people,” he said.

As Ramirez pointed across the street to a local business, Katts Sales, he mentioned how a collection line would be installed under their property.

“They pay this guy to go under his property. I underground it’s here to clear across the railroad tracks,” he said of the line as he pointed to a small piece of land next to his house where it starts.

The owner of Katts Sales, Scott Katt, said he received $45,000 to have five collection lines run below his business. His brother, Dave, also owns the property and the payment was split.

Scott believes the majority of local residents don’t mind the wind turbines, given the revenue they will bring to the county and landowners. He also said some aren’t so happy.

“Some are against it, they don’t want to see these things. They want to sit on their back porch and look at a pine tree and not a windmill,” he said.

“It’s progress — my store’s benefiting from it,” he said.

“How else could my brother and I afford to go to the Detroit Lions game on Monday?” he said, laughing.

His brother Dave lives in Midland County, a few miles from the county border, and said he can see the turbines from his front window.

“When I look out my picture window I can see two of them. I’m not thrilled about looking at them. But, I understand the economic impact it’s going to have,” Dave said.

Scott said in about a year or so no one will even notice the turbines.

“It’s just going to be another part of the landscape,” he said.

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State urged to beef up clean energy policies to create jobs

Posted on October 26, 2011. Filed under: Biomass, Digesters, Economic development, Energy Policy, Jobs, Renewable energy - generally |

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

Two reports show Wisconsin has a significant renewable power industry, but with a stronger state commitment, it could be saving more energy and creating more jobs.

Wisconsin has more than 300 businesses involved in wind or solar energy, providing more than 12,000 jobs, according to a study by the Environmental Law and Policy Center in Chicago.

It found 171 Wisconsin companies that either produce, sell or install wind power equipment or plan wind development.

Another 135 companies are part of the solar energy industry. For example, Cardinal Glass makes solar panels in Mazomanie; Helios recently opened a solar panel factory in Milwaukee.

“These are real jobs; these are real businesses. Many are existing businesses that are branching out into new product lines,” said Howard Learner, the center’s executive director. (more…)

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Wind turbine issue turns slowly

Posted on October 25, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Jobs, Wind | Tags: , , |

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

In Columbia County, the biggest wind farm in the state is nearly complete.

Ninety turbines are being erected by Wisconsin contractors including the Boldt Co., Edgerton Contractors and Michels Corp., in a $367 million project. On a typical day this year, about 175 workers have been on the job, pouring foundations, constructing towers and hoisting turbines and blades into place.

The activity comes despite a stalemate on wind turbine siting that wind power supporters say threatens to make the We Energies Glacier Hills Wind Park not only the largest but the last major wind farm to go up in the state.

But wind developers are expressing hope that a logjam can be broken, after recent conversations between the governor and several wind development firms.

Since this year, wind industry representatives say five companies have suspended or canceled work on projects in Wisconsin.

At issue is the Walker administration’s work to address pressure from opponents of wind farms, including the Wisconsin Realtors Association, who say that wind projects are interfering with private property rights of homeowners who live near turbines – and the effects of noise and shadow flicker from the turbines.

Gov. Scott Walker was backed by wind farm opponents in his 2010 election campaign and included a bill to restrict wind farm development in the jobs package he unveiled in his first weeks in office.

But concern about stalling all development and business for Wisconsin firms resulted in pushback against the Walker bill, which ended up being the only piece of legislation that was left to die out of the initial jobs special session.

Criticism of wind turbine siting persists, with state Sen. Frank Lasee, a possible candidate for U.S. Senate, recently unveiling a bill calling for a statewide moratorium on wind turbine construction until more research is done on the health effects of the devices.

“We met with Gov. Walker to discuss how we can work together to allow the economic benefits of wind energy to help boost Wisconsin’s economy,” said Mike Arndt, a Wisconsin native who now is vice president of Element Power, a company developing projects around the country. Arndt was one of the wind industry representatives who met with Walker two weeks ago.

Among Element’s projects is $300 million to $400 million wind farm in Manitowoc and Kewaunee counties.

The Walker administration is now sending signals that it’s seeking middle ground on the wind controversy.

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Wind power amendment shot down

Posted on October 24, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Jobs, Wind | Tags: , , , |

From an article by Mike Ivey in The Capital Times:

An effort to push forward with new rules for siting wind towers in Wisconsin has failed.

On a largely party-line 60-30 vote, the Republican-controlled Assembly on Thursday voted down an amendment that would have cleared the way for an expansion of wind generated electricity here.

The rules for siting of wind turbines were approved by the state Public Service Commission under former Gov. Jim Doyle. But implementation of those rules has been suspended under a directive from Gov. Scott Walker.

Walker and others, including Rep. Frank Lasee, R-Ledgeview,have said the rules should be reviewed again, with more consideration given to those living near wind farms. Some residents have complained of noise and visual impacts from wind turbines, which can be up to 300 feet tall.

Rep. Gary Hebl, D-Sun Prairie, had co-sponsored the wind amendment that was attached to a bill that allowed for larger trucks on Wisconsin highways, including trucks that carry equipment for electric transmission lines.

In a statement, Hebl said it was ironic that the wind amendment was shot down just as new figures showed Wisconsin lost more jobs in September.

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Solar jobs should grow, but maybe not in Wisconsin

Posted on October 19, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Jobs, Solar | Tags: , , |

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

The solar sector is expanding nationwide, a new report out Monday found, but a renewable energy advocate warned that Wisconsin could see a pullback in solar projects and growth next year.

“Our report shows that there are over 100,000 solar jobs at over 17,000 employment sites nationwide, and despite an extremely sluggish economy, the solar industry is creating jobs nearly 10 times faster than everyone else,” said Andrea Luecke, executive director of The Solar Foundation in Washington, D.C., and former director of the Milwaukee Shines program.

The solar industry’s job growth has been 6.8% over the past year, at a time when the economy was growing by less than 1%.

The solar jobs census also found that solar employers expect to increase the number of solar workers by 24%, representing nearly 24,000 net new jobs by August 2012. Over the next 12 months, nearly half of solar firms expect to add jobs.

Milwaukee is seeing job growth from solar components manufacturing – including the panel factory Helios USA, which opened this year, and the Ingeteam factory that will soon being producing solar inverters.

But the picture for installations isn’t as bright for next year in Wisconsin, despite incentive programs launched in Milwaukee and Madison. There is a flurry of activity this year, but 2012 activity could “fall off the cliff,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of Renew Wisconsin.

Setbacks for solar projects include the suspension of funding incentives for nonresidential solar by the Focus on Energy program, as well as the cancellation of a program by We Energies that provided incentives for renewable projects.

“There are still a few projects in the pipeline and the second half of this year will be a good one for the industry and installation contractors – as long as they don’t pay any attention to the cliff, the abyss, that’s in store for them this January,” Vickerman said.

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No excuse to stall rules on wind farms

Posted on October 18, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Jobs, Wind |

From an editorial in the Racine Journal Times:

The wind turbines have stopped turning in Wisconsin, figuratively speaking. For months, the rewrite of rules governing the siting of wind energy farms has been stalled. New investments and new jobs also have been stalled because of that, and there is no good reason for it.

When Gov. Scott Walker took office in January he worked to short-circuit the rule-making process which was then almost complete after two years. The Public Service Commission had reached a compromise with interest groups which would have placed the wind turbine towers about 450 feet away from the nearest property line but no less than 1,250 feet from the nearest residence. Walker wanted the property line setback increased to 1,800 feet.

Ultimately, a legislative committee didn’t act on a bill containing Walker’s proposed standard and instead ordered the PSC to start over. That’s where the process remains. A member of the agency told the Wisconsin State Journal that talks have made no progress and are stuck over the same old issues: noise, setback distance and effect on the value of neighboring properties.

If there is no progress by March the PSC’s original regulations will take effect anyway, but wind farm opponents have no incentive to negotiate. All they have to do is wait. Either wind energy proponents capitulate and give them what they want, or the Legislature writes a new law which gives them what they want or Walker, with his new power to review regulations first, will give them what they want.

There is a high price for this stalling. Since the rules were becalmed, five major wind energy projects have been suspended or canceled. Those would have infused about $1.6 billion in economic development and created about 1,000 temporary full-time jobs. By contrast, the proposed northern Wisconsin iron mine which the Legislature is looking to accommodate is supposed to bring a $1.5 billion investment and 700 jobs.

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