Wood

AWEA’s Bode: Iowa is a model for wind-energy development

Posted on August 12, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Jobs, Wood |


From an article by on EcoSeed.com:

Days before Iowa’s straw polls, the American Wind Energy Association is sending out a message that it hopes the rest of the nation will notice: Iowa is a wind energy state.

This weekend, Iowa will hold its nationally significant straw polls for the Republican Party’s presidential primaries, which AWEA will attend.

“With Iowa standing tall as the first state to produce 20 percent of its electricity with wind power, the Straw Poll is a terrific opportunity to share the power of wind to support local economies as well as generate clean energy,” AWEA chief executive Denise Bode said.

There are several reasons for appreciating wind energy in the state according to the association.

They said Iowa has been deriving a fifth of its power from wind farms built in the state. It has also reportedly built a booming manufacturing sector for the Hawkeye State.

The association said over 200 wind-related businesses now operate in 56 Iowa counties, adding over $5 billion to the Iowa economy.

In 2010 alone, wind farm owners paid $16.5 million in property taxes and an additional $11 million in land lease payments to property owners, it added.

All of these, AWEA said, stem from good planning.

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Learning curve steep for Cassville plant now burning wood biomass

Posted on April 26, 2011. Filed under: Biomass, Economic development, Energy independence, Jobs, Wood |


Frm an article by Ron Seely in the Wisconsin State Journal:

A small wood burner helps fire the boiler
to heat the Barron, Wiscosnin schools.

From smoking piles of wood chips in the countryside to dust on kitchen counters in Cassville, the difficulties posed by the conversion of the E.J. Stoneman Electrical Station in Grant County to burn wood instead of coal have challenged both village residents and plant engineers.

But the adventures and misadventures of the conversion stand as an informative and cautionary tale of what may lie ahead as Wisconsin and the rest of the country struggle to find alternative renewable fuels to help wean us from dirtier, nonrenewable combustibles such as coal.

Even so, Rich Nelson, plant manager, is more convinced than ever that the plant, one of just a few in the country that burn only wood, represents a future that will see much less dependence on nonrenewable fuels. After all, he said, it makes perfect sense to be turning demolished buildings in Milwaukee into power for more than 28,000 homes in the Cassville area.

“If we weren’t here,” Nelson said, “then all that construction material would be going into a landfill.”

The 60-year-old power plant, which rises next to the Mississippi River, was converted last year by Michigan’s DTE Energies, which has owned the plant since 2008. Its two boilers are now heated by wood rather than coal, a process known in the trade as “repowering.”

The transition has had its rough spots. Nearby residents have complained about problems such as ash on their window sills and kitchen counters, and wood chip piles stored in quarries that spontaneously combust and fill scenic valleys with blue haze.

“It’s frustrating sometimes,” Nelson said. “I think the expectation was that we’d push a button and then everybody’s feet would be up on their desks and we’d be making power.”

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Will Wisconsin’s emerging technologies survive under Walker?

Posted on February 3, 2011. Filed under: Biomass, Economic development, Solar, Wind, Wood | Tags: , , , |


From an article by Mike Ivey in The Capital Times:

When President Obama toured the state last week, he visited two companies in Manitowoc to promote Wisconsin’s high-tech, clean-energy economy.

First, the president stopped at Tower Tech Systems, which manufactures utility-scale wind towers. Then he toured Orion Energy Systems, which makes high-efficiency lighting and solar-focused products.

“These aren’t just good jobs that can help you pay the bills and support your families,” the president told some 200 workers at Orion. “They’re jobs that are good for all of us; that will make our energy bills cheaper; that will make our planet safer; that will sharpen America’s competitive edge in the world.”

But some are wondering whether Gov. Scott Walker, despite his “open for business” mantra, and the new Legislature share the same enthusiasm for emerging technologies and the promise of high-paying jobs.

During his first month in office, Walker has proposed strict rules that could hamper the wind power industry, nixed the Charter Street Biomass Project on the UW-Madison campus and returned more than $800 million in federal money for upgrading Wisconsin’s passenger and freight rail infrastructure. There’s also talk about limiting embryonic stem cell research, an issue that’s more symbolic than substantive.

Put together, it’s not exactly what economic development advocates were hoping to see from a governor who’s vowed to create 250,000 new private sector jobs.

“I don’t want to get in trouble here … but there’s some hand-wringing among our members,” says Bryan Renk, who heads BioForward, a trade association for the state’s bioscience and biofuel industry.

Both Gov. Tommy Thompson and Gov. Jim Doyle were big supporters of emerging technologies. Doyle in particular backed clean-energy initiatives and pushed a sweeping renewable energy bill in his last term that eventually died in the Legislature.

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Another coal plant converts to wood

Posted on October 26, 2010. Filed under: Biomass, Coal, Generation Plants, Wood | Tags: , , |


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

Efforts to add more renewable energy in Wisconsin from burning wood waste moved ahead Monday with the completion of one biomass power plant and the start of construction on another.

A 40-megawatt biomass power plant has opened in southwestern Wisconsin.

The power plant, the E.J. Stoneman Station in Cassville, is producing electricity by burning wood waste including residue from forestry and tree trimming work as well as railroad ties, demolition waste and sawdust.

Ann Arbor, Mich.-based DTE Energy Service Inc. owns and operates the plant and sells the power to Dairyland Power Cooperative of La Crosse.

“DTE Energy Services is proud to be able to give the Stoneman plant new life as a generator of renewable energy,” David Ruud, president of DTE Energy Services, said in a statement. “We also are pleased that the plant will provide employment for 32 members of the Cassville community and support the local economy through our relationships with fuel suppliers and other local businesses.”

Dairyland built the former coal-fired power plant in 1951 and operated it for more than 40 years.

“We are pleased to see this major renewable energy resource come online for our cooperative membership,” said Dale Pohlman, Dairyland vice president of strategic planning. “Our ‘green’ partnership with DTE Energy Services will supply the energy needs to power 28,000 homes across our system by utilizing a natural resource – wood waste – as fuel.”

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Audience applauds end to coal at Charter plant

Posted on August 12, 2010. Filed under: Biomass, Coal, Wood | Tags: |


From an article in the Wisconsin State Journal by Ron Seely:

Compliments far exceeded complaints at a hearing Wednesday night on a plan by the state and UW-Madison to rebuild the Charter Street Heating Plant, eliminating the use of coal and replacing it with natural gas and Wisconsin-grown alternative fuels such as wood chips and switch grass.

Nearly 100 people attended the hearing on the final version of the environmental impact statement for the $250 million project.

Though the plan will bring some challenges for the neighborhood around the plant — more train traffic and noise, for example — most comments at the hearing focused on the positives of getting rid of the dirty pile of coal that now towers over North Mills Street.

In fact, when Al Fish, head of facilities and planning management for the UW-Madison, mentioned that no coal will be burned at the plant a year from now, the audience erupted in applause. He seemed shocked.

“I don’t think there has ever been applause at a environmental impact statement hearing before,” Fish said. “This truly is a historic moment.”

Nearly all of the comments from the public were regarding some aspect of the plan to burn biofuels, which will be hauled by train from farms and forests across the state. The plant will require 250,000 tons of biofuels a year.

Gary Werner, with the John Muir chapter of the Sierra Club, praised the switch to cleaner fuels.

“I’m happy and proud that the University of Wisconsin chose to use this as an opportunity to move into a whole new era of energy generation,” said Werner.

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Wood chips may pose problems when Charter Street plant converts to biomass

Posted on August 9, 2010. Filed under: Biomass, Clean Air, Coal, Wood |


From an article by Jessica VanEgeren in The Capital Times:

For decades, pollution spewed from factories and power plants across Wisconsin.

As a result, air and water became polluted. Now it seems, so did the trees.

At a time when state-owned power plants are ditching coal and going green by including biomass such as switch grass, compost, and wood chips into the fuel mix, it is becoming evident that even trees may release harmful chemicals when burned for energy.

“We have so much mercury in our air that you do see mercury in the wood from our trees,” says Jennifer Feyerherm of the Sierra Club’s Midwest office and its national Beyond Coal Campaign. “The air was polluted for so long that our ecosystem has absorbed the pollution. When wood is burned, the mercury is going to come out.”

Burning anything but coal or other fossil fuels appears to be such a new concept that the Environmental Protection Agency is only beginning to catch up. Earlier this summer, the EPA began efforts to update the Clean Air Act by releasing preliminary, first-of-a-kind numbers on what sort of pollution, if any, is emitted from burning biofuels. An early finding: Burning too many wood chips can release too much mercury into the air.

With construction soon to begin to convert the Charter Street Heating Plant, the largest state-owned power plant, from a coal-fired power facility to one that primarily burns biomass, state officials are paying attention to what is happening in Washington.

“To ignore what is going on (at the EPA) … is to do so at our own peril,” says John Melby, air management bureau director with the Department of Natural Resources. “After spending $250 million on the Charter Street facility, we don’t want to be violating EPA rules.”

While Melby says he “does know that mercury may be an issue with tree bark,” he and other state officials question the thoroughness of the EPA’s methods. In short, Melby and others believe different sizes of boilers need to be tested along with varying amounts of wood chips and other wood products before the EPA updates the Clean Air Act.

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UW-Madison’s Charter Street coal plant embarks on its transition to cleaner fuels

Posted on August 6, 2010. Filed under: Biomass, Carbon, Clean Air, Climate change, Coal, Wood |


From an article by Ron Seely in the Wisconsin State Journal:

It’s not easy going green.

Just ask John Harrod Jr., who is helping guide the $250 million green makeover of UW-Madison’s Charter Street Heating Plant.

The coal-burning plant will be converted so that it burns natural gas and cleaner, farm-grown fuels such as switchgrass. The changeover that has won praise from the plant’s many critics, including the Sierra Club, which sued the university for violating the Clean Air Act. Gone will be the giant, dust-generating pile of coal that has become a symbol of the plant and its grimy history.

But Harrod, director of the UW-Madison Physical Plant, said getting rid of that coal pile and moving to cleaner biofuels has brought its own set of problems to solve — accommodating longer and more frequent trains, for example, or expanding the plant’s footprint in its already squeezed urban setting, or figuring out new air standards for burning biofuels when even environmental regulators aren’t quite sure what those final standards will be.

Those issues and others will be up for discussion Wednesday when UW-Madison hosts a hearing on the final version of the environmental impact statement for the project. The hearing is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. in Room 1106 of the Mechanical Engineering Building, 1513 University Ave.

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With biomass, green and not-so-green lines blur

Posted on June 3, 2010. Filed under: Biomass, Wood |


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

Wisconsin power projects spark questions about emissions from biomass vs. fossil fuels

How green can the energy produced by a biomass power plant be if it releases carbon dioxide into the air just like a coal or natural gas-fueled plant?

That’s the question being raised about biomass projects, including one proposed by We Energies in Rothschild and another Xcel Energy Corp. is considering in Ashland.

“You can’t assume that biomass is carbon-neutral. It depends on how many trees you plant and how fast they grow, and all sorts of variables,” said Katie Nekola, energy program director at the conservation group Clean Wisconsin. “It’s right to look at it case by case to see exactly what the carbon balance is going to be for any plant. . . .”

Milwaukee-based We Energies is proposing a $255 million, 50-megawatt power plant at the Domtar Corp. paper mill in Rothschild. Some residents in Rothschild, south of Wausau, have objected to the project because of concerns about air pollution that would be released by a new power plant located not far from a $770 million coal-fired power plant in Weston and south of Rothschild.

The utility said it proposed the biomass project as a way to help it comply with Wisconsin’s renewable power mandate because it can generate electricity around the clock, unlike a wind farm. The project would supply steam to Domtar’s paper mill and create up to 150 jobs, the utility said.

Critics call for a review

Critics of the project are asking the state Public Service Commission and Department of Natural Resources to do a full environmental review of the project.

A detailed review is not required and was not performed for the proposed Xcel Energy biomass plant in Ashland.

The agencies have not decided whether the review, known as an environmental impact statement, will be done for the We Energies project.

“Stop this biomass project now, please,” Rebecca Simms of Rothschild said in a public comment filed with the state. “Biomass should no longer be considered an alternative to fossil fuels and should no longer be considered carbon-neutral, because it is not.”

In a filing last week in response to an inquiry by state regulators, We Energies disclosed that carbon dioxide, or CO2, emissions from the Rothschild plant would be about 590,000 tons a year.

The utility says that will be offset by the replanting of trees in the forest that will absorb carbon dioxide. . . .

In Madison, the state of Wisconsin has proposed a $250 million biomass and natural gas plant to replace a coal-fired plant that serves the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

In Ashland, Xcel Energy would replace a coal-fired power plant with a biomass gasifier. The status of that project is uncertain, however, after the utility’s cost estimate for the project ballooned by nearly 37% to $79.5 million.

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RENEW testifies in support of Clean Energy Jobs Act bill

Posted on February 3, 2010. Filed under: Biomass, Climate change, Energy Policy, Solar, Wind, Wood |



Michael Vickerman (left), Josh Stolzenburg (center), owner of North Wind Renewable Energy, LLC, Stevens Point, and Dave Miller, Wave Wind, LLC, Sun Prairie, testify in support of the Clean Energy Jobs Act bill before the Special Assembly Committee on Climate Change. Vickerman leans forward to show the committee members a map of renewable energy installations.

From a summary of Michael Vickerman’s (RENEW Wisconsin)
testimony before the Assembly Special Committee on Clean Energy
February 2, 2010:

RENEW Wisconsin strongly supports the provisions in SB450/AB649 to expand the state’s Renewable Energy Standard to 25% by 2025, which includes a 10% in-state renewable energy set-aside. RENEW has evaluated the availability of specific resources to reach that standard and has concluded that meeting such a target is technically feasible. If adopted, the in-state set-aside will become the most powerful engine for job development and capital investment over the next 15 years.

We expect such a requirement to be achieved through a combination of utility-scale power plants and smaller-scale generating units dispersed throughout Wisconsin. With respect to distributed renewable generation, we note the following:

1. The vast majority of the distributed renewable generating units installed in Wisconsin serve schools, dairy farms and other small businesses, churches and local governments.

2. Utilities are not in the business of installing these systems themselves.

3. In many cases the renewable energy installation went forward because there was a special buyback rate available to accelerate the recovery of the original investment made by the customer. Last week, I gave the example of the Dane County community anaerobic digester project that, once operational, will treat manure taken from several nearby dairy farms in the Waunakee area and produce two megawatts of electricity with it. The electricity will be purchased by Alliant Energy through a voluntary biogas tariff worth 9.3 cents/kWh. Unfortunately, Alliant’s biogas program is fully subscribed and is no longer available to other dairy farmers, food processing companies and wastewater treatment facilities served by Alliant.

4. Companies that install solar, wind and biogas energy systems are quintessentially small businesses, many of them family-owned. Renewable energy contractors and affiliated service providers constitute one of the few market sectors where young adults who have acquired the necessary skills to do the job well can find meaningful work at decent pay.

5. By its very nature, distributed renewable energy delivers nearly 100% of its economic punch to the local economy.

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RENEW: Hearing trivialized Advanced Renewable Tariffs

Posted on January 29, 2010. Filed under: Biomass, Climate change, Digesters, Economic development, Landfill Gas, Solar, Wind, Wood |


From a letter from RENEW Wisconsin to Senators Jeff Plale and Mark Miller, co-chairs of the Select Senate Committee on Clean Energy, who held a hearing on the Clean Energy Jobs Act bill on January 27:

Dear Senators Miller and Plale:

Thank you for holding a hearing yesterday of the Select Committee on Clean Energy on SB 450 (the Clean Energy Jobs Act bill). You heard a great deal of substantive commentary about much of the bill, particularly the sections dealing with energy efficiency and the expanded Renewable Energy Standard.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the discussion on the proposal to institute Advanced Renewable Tariffs in Wisconsin. Early in the hearing, a speaker framed the issue as “asking a little old lady in Cudahy to subsidize an expensive system in Mequon.” From that point, the discussion devolved into a kind of semi-orchestrated gang-tackling on this issue that continued unabated until I was called upon to speak, some seven hours and forty five minutes after the hearing began. While RENEW members who work for or with solar, wind and biogas energy installation companies were present during the hearing and had registered to speak, none were called prior to myself. All but two (Full Spectrum Solar and Ed Ritger) had to leave before the hearing ended.

Now, I don’t believe the first speaker, a labor leader, had intended to belittle the companies that install customer-sited renewable energy systems or dismiss their contribution to Wisconsin’s economy and environment. Nevertheless, the “little old lady from Cudahy” theme took a life of its own, and as a result, the very important issues of how to support these systems through utility rates and whether these rates should be mandated had become thoroughly trivialized by the end.

Allow me to repeat some of the points I made at yesterday’s hearing:

1. The vast majority of the distributed renewable generating units installed in Wisconsin serve schools, dairy farms and other small businesses, churches and local governments.

2. Utilities are not in the business of installing these systems themselves.

3. In many cases the renewable energy installation went forward because there was a special buyback rate available to accelerate the recovery of the original investment made by the customer. Yesterday, I gave the example of the Dane County community anaerobic digester project that, once operational, will treat manure taken from several nearby dairy farms in the Waunakee area and produce two megawatts of electricity with it. The electricity will be purchased by Alliant Energy through a voluntary biogas tariff worth 9.3 cents/kWh. Unfortunately, Alliant’s biogas program is fully subscribed and is no longer available to other dairy farmers, food processing companies and wastewater treatment facilities served by Alliant.

4. Companies that install solar, wind and biogas energy systems are quintessentially small businesses, many of them family-owned. Renewable energy contractors and affiliated service providers constitute one of the few market sectors where young adults who have acquired the necessary skills to do the job well can find meaningful work at decent pay.

5. By its very nature, distributed renewable energy delivers nearly 100% of its economic punch to the local economy.

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