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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State, UW researchers present biomass energy guidelines

Posted on November 30, 2011. Filed under: Biomass, Economic development | Tags: , |

From an article by Adrianna Viswanatha in The Badger Herald:

Several state agencies have unveiled guidelines created in congruence with University of Wisconsin researchers to promote the continued use of biomass energy in Wisconsin, despite the state’s current categorization as a leader in the field of biomass crop planting.

A statement released Tuesday by the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and the Department of Natural Resources outlined a system of guidelines put in place to assist in the implementation of biomass energy.

The “Wisconsin Sustainable Planting and Harvesting Guidelines for Nonforest Biomass” document is the result of a two-year joint effort by the DATCP, DNR and a tech team at UW to establish the guidelines.

Sara Walling, DATCP bioenergy policy advisor, said Wisconsin is the first state that has looked at the process of creating guidelines for biomass crop planting.

“Wisconsin wanted to make sure that when markets developed for biomass crop planting, we had guidelines set up in voluntary fashion so that landowners can make informed decisions about when and how to plant these crops,” Walling said.

Walling said the guidelines are multi-disciplinary and are intended to provide guidance at the field level for farmers and landowners for not only how to plant the crops, but also on how to remove them.

Biomass crop harvesting involves growing crops that are not meant primarily for food.

“To have cheap biomass, which is a necessary catalyst, you have to have more yield per acre, and we can’t figure that out until we start planning it out,” said Troy Runge, assistant professor of biosystems engineering at UW.

Runge said increasing biomass crop harvesting brings many ecological benefits to the environment.

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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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Gen. Wesley Clark on wind, veterans and energy security

Posted on November 11, 2011. Filed under: Wind | Tags: , |

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Wind energy driving down electric rates, posts big construction numbers

Posted on October 31, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Utility rates, Wind | Tags: , , |

From an article in Wind Energy Weekly:

Wind energy is more affordable than ever, and new installations across the country are saving consumers money on their electric bills, as utilities rush to lock in long-term favorable rates, AWEA said in its third-quarter market report this week.

“This is what a successful business looks like with stable tax policy. Utilities are locking in a great deal for their electric customers while it’s available. We’re keeping rates down all across the U.S., even in the heart of the South,” said AWEA CEO Denise Bode, pointing to recent wind power purchases by the Southern Company in Alabama, Austin Energy in Texas, and Xcel Energy in Colorado as examples.

The U.S. wind industry installed just over 1,200 MW in the third quarter, and about 3,360 MW on the year so far—but has more than 8,400 MW under construction. That is more than in any quarter since 2008, as the federal Production Tax Credit has driven as much as $20 billion a year in private investment.

“This shows what we’re capable of: adding new, affordable electric generation,” said Bode. “Traditional tax incentives are working. There’s a lot of business right now, people are employed, and manufacturers are looking to expand here in the U.S.”

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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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Rosendale Dairy partners with UWO for New Biodigester Research

Posted on September 12, 2011. Filed under: General | Tags: , |

From an article written by Patricia Wolff of the Northwester

Who would have known an opportunity to turn cow poop into cash would be right under everyone’s noses? Or that the effort would not only reduce the odor of manure at an area mega-farm but could also result in a learning and research lab and public education center at the same time?

University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Chancellor Richard Wells on Friday let out a robust laugh at the notion that all of those things could be accomplished with cow manure as the main component.

A proposal for the university and partners to build a large, wet anaerobic biodigester and biogas facility at Rosendale Dairy at Pickett in Fond du Lac County would turn cow manure into energy that could be sold to power companies.

If the proposal plays out, Wisconsin’s largest dairy farm — Rosendale Dairy — will be home to what UWO officials call one of the state’s most dynamic research, renewable energy production and public education facilities in an initiative involving the UWO’s College of Letters and Science and UW-Oshkosh Foundation.

Rosendale Dairy, owned by Milk Source, Inc., has 8,400 milking cows, which each year produce millions of gallons of manure. Last year the cows at the dairy produced enough manure to spread as fertilizer on 8,656 acres of farm land. The land-spreading has been an irritant to neighbors who claim the odor is so strong on some days that they can not venture out of doors.

The biodigester would address some of the odor problems that crop up now, a company spokesman said.

It would work by anaerobically decomposing the cow manure in the odor-controlled environment of a large digester. The decomposition of organic matter produces methane gas that is burned in engines to produce electricity that can be sold to local power companies, said Greg Kleinheinz, professor of microbiology and associate dean of the College of Letters and Science.

“One of the big benefits is that as the odor portion of the manure is essentially removed, it does not lose the nutritional value. It’s still a value to farmers on fields,” Kleinheinz said.

The digester would reduce the volume of the manure by about a third, Kleinheinz said. But because the manure contains more nutrients per pound once it’s been through the biodigester, farmers can apply less manure per acre. An added bonus is that in this form there is less chance of manure run-off from fields.

Kleinheinz called the project a great example of the University in a private partnership to help address a need. It converts manure to green energy and provides an opportunity for students to learn.

“It’s a great, big piece of research and teaching equipment for us,” Wells said. “Students will be doing all kinds of experiments to maximize the energy produced.”

The multifaceted energy plant and facility will significantly enhance UWO student learning and community outreach opportunities. It will house a public education center operated by university students and faculty. It will introduce K-12 to the science and engineering involved in harnessing renewable energy. It will be available as a remote classroom and lab for UWO students taking microbiology, biology, environmental studies and chemistry.

“Through this one proposed facility and partnership, there is the potential for much good for our campus, region and state,” Wells said.

The cost of building the system has not been released but it would be borne by the university and the foundation. The plan would be to finance the project over a 10-year period, but annual proceeds from selling energy are anticipated exceed the amount needed for loan repayment, even in the first year. The excess money would be used for scholarships and programs, according to Alex Hummel, associate director of news and public information, integrated marketing ad communication for UWO.

Milk Source, which operates several large dairies in the state, had been talking about digesters for years and had been in discussions with several potential providers. The company knew an outside source would provide one at some point, said Bill Harke, director of public affairs for Milk Source.

“The UWO proposal was almost too good to believe. This is a marvelous idea, the best plan we’ve heard,” Harke said.

About a week ago, the foundation board of directors unanimously endorsed the proposal that would form a partnership with Rosendale Dairy and the renewable energy companies Viessmann Group and BIOFerm Energy Systems of Madison.

The proposed biodigester is not the first for UWO. Viessmann and BIOFerm collaborated with the UWO foundation and the university to build a dry fermentation anaerobic facility, dedicated in May and now in operation off Witzel Avenue. It uses grass clippings, plant refuse and campus food waste to produce electricity and garbage food particles. It supplies about 10 percent of the University’s electrical needs.

Engineering and business plans for the new biodigester will be reviewed in the coming months and construction could begin in spring, with a projected startup in 2013.

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