Renewable Energy Installations in WI

Sunday, November 30, 2008

PSC denies MGE rate request amid pension problems

A story on WISC-TV:

MILWAUKEE -- Wall Street's troubles might mean higher utility costs for Wisconsin consumers.

Madison Gas & Electric Co. has asked the state Public Service Commission for permission to raise electric rates to generate $2.5 million to offset losses in its pension fund.

The PSC denied the request on Wednesday but agreed to let the utility ask again next year.

PSC chairman Eric Callisto said that's because "this is a once-in-a-lifetime crisis."

Callisto said rising pension costs as a result of the market's downturn also are likely to play into rate increase requests from Wisconsin Power & Light Co. of Madison and Wisconsin Public Service Corp. of Green Bay.

We Energies spokesman Brian Manthey said pension costs might play a small role in its spring rate proposal.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

UW System upgrades seek energy savings

From an article by Jason Stein in the Wisconsin State Journal:
When night falls on the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Chamberlin Hall, administrators can't save energy by turning off the air units that heat, cool and ventilate the building — they're afraid the aging units might not reliably switch back on in the morning.

But a project now in planning will replace those units with more efficient models that will help cut energy use in the physics department hall by an estimated 67 percent — saving a projected $900,000 a year in a single building.

In the face of tight budgets and rising energy costs, the state is spending borrowed money now to seek long-term savings on gas and electricity used by its vast system of buildings around Wisconsin.

For three years, the state has been working toward a target set by Gov. Jim Doyle to use 10 percent less energy per square foot in major state buildings. That effort has saved roughly $23 million over two years, state officials said.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Utility Web site helps area energy users determine carbon footprint

From a story by Anita Weier in The Capital Times:

Want to know your carbon footprint?

It just got a lot easier for Madison-area residents to calculate exactly how much heat-trapping carbon dioxide they produce.

Madison Gas & Electric partnered with the University of Wisconsin Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE) and 1000 Friends of Wisconsin to create, which was to be launched at 4 p.m. Thursday.

The site can be used to find exactly how much of the greenhouse gas has been produced by an individual or a household using electricity, natural gas and motor vehicle fuel. Users can calculate information for a year, and then follow up after making any changes to the way they use energy.

Visitors to the site can enter energy and transportation data, and charts are created to track use over time.

The site is especially easy for MGE customers to use, because they can get consumption history directly from MGE. Customers of the utility can sign in with the same user ID and password as they use on the MGE Web site.

Users of can also create a personal journal of actions they have taken to reduce energy use and participate in discussion groups.

"The Web site shows how much CO2 you save when you take action, for example -- turn the furnace down, car pool or buy Energy Star applicances," said Steve Hiniker, executive director of 1000 Friends of Wisconsin.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Run cars on green electricity, not natural gas

From an analysis of natural gas for vehicle fuel by Jonathan G. Dorn posted on Earth Island Institute:

On economics, driving with electricity is far cheaper than driving with gasoline or natural gas. The average new U.S. car can travel roughly 30 miles on a gallon of gasoline, which cost $3.91 in July 2008 (the latest date for which comparable price data for natural gas is available). Traveling the same distance with natural gas cost around $2.51, while with electricity, using the existing electrical generation mix, it cost around 73¢. . . .

Just like oil, natural gas is a finite, nonrenewable resource. This means that switching to a fleet of NGVs would be at best a short-term fix. As natural gas becomes more difficult to obtain and more costly, a fleet of NGVs and the 20,000 or so natural gas refueling stations that would be required to support them would simply be abandoned. . . .

Choosing natural gas to power our vehicles would send the United States down the same expensive and inefficient path that created our addiction to foreign oil and our dependence on a resource that will ultimately run out. Choosing green electricity can take us in a new direction—one that leads to improved energy security and a stabilizing climate.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Wisconsin utilities would consider buying electric cars

From an article by Rebecca Smith in the Wall Street Journal:

The auto industry's quest to launch a new generation of electric cars may get a big boost from a sector with much to gain from getting advanced vehicles on the road: U.S. electric utilities.

Top executives at several utilities are mulling the possibility of ordering thousands of the vehicles -- known as plug-in electric cars -- as an expression of support for the technology they fear could be derailed by the auto industry's financial traumas. The cars would run primarily on electricity, with gasoline to extend their range, and would recharge by plugging into standard electrical outlets.

Utilities stand to gain by selling the electricity needed to power the cars. Because power companies own tens of thousands of cars for their own company fleets, the idea under discussion involves putting in a substantial order to put weight behind development and, perhaps, persuade Congress to give the auto industry the assistance it needs.

"Our industry is interested in reducing carbon-dioxide emissions, and it seems like a good idea for auto makers and us to pull together," says Bill Johnson, chief executive of Progress Energy Inc., Raleigh, N.C.

Another reason the sector is keenly interested is that it has excess generating capacity at night when power plants mostly go to sleep because demand drops. A study by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, a federal energy lab, found that 73% of the nation's light vehicles could be recharged with the existing utility infrastructure if the vehicles were plugged in overnight. Such a shift from gasoline to electricity as a primary transportation fuel could displace an estimated 6.2 million barrels of oil a day, about 52% of current oil imports.

Another report, by the Electric Power Research Institute, a utility-funded research group, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, concluded that if 60% of U.S. light vehicles were electrified by 2050, it would increase national electricity consumption by less than 8%. But it would cut total U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions by 450 million metric tons annually, equivalent to taking 82 million cars off the road. . . .

Utilities would take possession of vehicles when they debut, likely in 2010 or 2011 if development efforts stay on track for cars such as the Chevy Volt, Saturn Vue or Ford Escape.

"If we get enough of us together, we could put in a very large order and maybe a big down payment," says Dick Kelly, chief executive of Xcel Energy in Minneapolis.

"I would do it," says Gale Klappa, CEO of Wisconsin Energy, adding that his utility has about 3,000 vehicles in its fleet and replaces 20% each year.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Climate change a priority for Conservation Lobby Day, Feb. 25, 2009

From an announcement issued by the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters:

With a new legislative session comes new opportunities AND new Conservation Priorities! At the 11 Listening Sessions held around the state, local groups and citizens like YOU had a lot to say about which issues should be top priorities. In the end, only 4 can rise to the top.

In 2009-2010, the conservation community will be fighting to make sure:

+ Wisconsin adopts a strong statewide plan to tackle global warming.
+ Wisconsin returns to an Independent DNR Secretary and has timely DNR Board Appointments by the Senate.
+ Wisconsin develops a statewide plan to protect our drinking water.
+ Wisconsin creates standards for safe agricultural, industrial and municipal waste-spreading. . . .

On February 25th, 2009, join citizens from across Wisconsin at the state Capitol to tell legislators that you expect them to vote well on natural resource issues.

RSVP TODAY for Conservation Lobby Day on February 25th, 2009!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Boulder residents like smart grid

From an article posted on

Boulder, Colorado has long had a reputation for appreciating the natural environment. Bikes outnumber cars in this city of about 100,000 and biking and hiking trails, open spaces and parks take up a significant portion of the beautiful city.

Boulder's respect for the environment has taken a technological leap in 2008 as it began the transformation into America's first Smart Grid City. Before long, 50,000 Boulder homes will be fitted with the very latest in smart meter technology that supports solar power generation, plug-in hybrid cars, and automated heating, cooling and lighting systems. The smart meter reports the level of energy used at any point in time and how much that energy costs in both monetary and environmental terms.

"We like to think of Smart Grid as bringing the world of Thomas Edison together with the world of Bill Gates," said Ray Gogel of Xcel Energy, the utility company behind the effort in Boulder. Xcel has partnered with several other green high-tech companies to invest $100 million in the project that will make Boulder a guinea pig for the rest of the country. "We're doing something that the whole world is
looking at right now," added Gogel.

G.P. "Bud" Peterson, Chancellor at the University of Colorado, and his wife, Val, were the first Boulder residents to allow Xcel to transform their home into a smart home. Xcel installed solar panels on the house, furnished them with a plug-in hybrid vehicle, and equipped them with a smart meter that serves as the connection point
between the Petersons and their power supply.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Easy to understand fact sheets on energy tax credit

The Web site awkwardly called the Database for State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency hosts two useful fact sheets for any individual or business considering a renewable energy installation.

Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit covers these eligible renewable enrgies and technologies: Solar Water Heat, Photovoltaics, Wind, Fuel Cells, Geothermal Heat Pumps, Other Solar Electric Technologies

Business Energy Tax Credits covers these eligible renewable enrgies and technologies: Solar Water Heat, Solar Space Heat, Solar Thermal Electric, Solar Thermal Process Heat, Photovoltaics, Wind, Biomass, Geothermal Electric, Fuel Cells, Geothermal Heat Pumps, CHP/Cogeneration, Solar Hybrid Lighting, Direct Use Geothermal, Microturbines

Monday, November 17, 2008

Utility wants to spend $153 million on pollution controls at Sheboygan plant

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

Pollution controls would be installed at a 23-year-old coal-fired power plant in Sheboygan at a cost of $153 million under an application filed with state regulators Friday by Alliant Energy Corp.

Wisconsin Power & Light Co., a subsidiary of Alliant, is seeking permission from the state Public Service Commission to install pollution controls that would reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide by 75%, the utility said.

The Edgewater 5 power plant along Lake Michigan in Sheboygan is a jointly owned plant, with Alliant owning 75% and the remainder owned by We Energies of Milwaukee. That means that if the project is approved, WP&L electric customers would pay $115 million and We Energies customers would pay $38 million for the project.

The project has a six-year payback period and would keep the coal plant that opened in 1985 open for another 45 years, WP&L said. If the PSC approves the work, the project would be completed by 2011.

The filing comes days after the Public Service Commission denied an Alliant request to build a new coal-fired power plant in Cassville in southwestern Wisconsin at a cost of nearly $1.3 billion.

Nitrogen oxide is a contributor to ground-level ozone, a contributor to smog that has been linked to asthma and other respiratory problems, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Eligibility relaxed for energy-efficiency assistance

From a media release issued by Focus on Energy:

More Wisconsin residents may now be eligible for Focus on Energy's assistance program which offers limited-income homeowners low-cost efficiency improvements to improve the comfort, safety and affordability of their homes. The assistance program called Targeted Home Performance with ENERGY STAR®, is now seeking applications from homeowners with incomes between 150-250 percent of the poverty level, which is a significant increase from the past maximum of 200 percent. To put the new maximum into perspective, a family of four's maximum eligible annual income increased to $53,000 from the previous $42,400. . . .

Targeted Home Performance with ENERGY STAR, is part of Focus on Energy, Wisconsin's energy efficiency and renewable energy program. Targeted Home Performance with ENERGY STAR offers qualifying homeowners a no-cost energy evaluation performed by a qualified program provider. Depending on the results of the evaluation, the home may receive energy efficiency improvements, such as adding insulation, finding and eliminating drafts, replacing an inefficient heating system, installing compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and more. Targeted Home Performance with ENERGY STAR will pay 90 percent of the costs of the energy efficiency improvements - the homeowner pays just 10 percent.

Energy efficient homes save energy and money all year long. In summer, a home that's properly sealed and insulated stays cooler and more comfortable, reducing the need for fans and air conditioners during hot daylight hours. In winter, energy efficient homes keep warm air inside, improving comfort and reducing heating costs during Wisconsin's coldest months.

Homeowners wishing to apply for Targeted Home Performance with ENERGY STAR are encouraged to call Focus on Energy at (800) 762-7077 or visit to download an application.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ethical Obligations and Considerations: Working with the Public Service Commission, Dec. 5

From the introduction to the workshop hosted by the Wisconsin Public Utility Institute:

Over the past 10 years, the energy industry has become far more complex. There are more stakeholders interested in and actively participating in what happens at the regulatory level. New issues such as GHG are now more urgent concerns for commissions. This seminar will address the past and future for commissions, ethical rules and protocols, and perspectives on how to prepare a persuasive case before a commission. . . .

+ What might the PSC of the future look like, structurally and/or procedurally?
+ What issues might trigger the need for the change in agency structure or procedures?
+ How do you decide what agency structure best suits Wisconsin's situation?
+ What are the options in use by other commissions?
+ Procedural Process Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) options and possible commission uses
+ Use of ALJ Staff as mediators outside mediators
+ How to comply with ethical challenges inherent in representations before administrative agencies while effectively representing your client

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Alliant won't close Sheboygan coal plant

From a story by Doug Carroll in the Sheboygan Press:

Alliant Energy's plans to shut down one of three coal-fired generators at its Sheboygan power plant have been scrapped in the wake of Tuesday's rejection of the company's proposal to build a new facility in southwestern Wisconsin.

Unit 3 at the Edgewater Generating Station in Sheboygan had been scheduled to be closed by 2013, but it will stay up now, according to Alliant spokesman Rob Crain. The generator, built in 1951, is Alliant's oldest coal-fired plant in the state.

Three state regulators voted unanimously Tuesday to deny Alliant's plan to build a coal-fired plant at its Nelson Dewey Generating Station property in Cassville, in Grant County. The $1.26 billion cost and concerns over future carbon-dioxide regulations were cited as factors in the decision.

"The proposal before the Public Service Commission was contingent upon the approval of Norton Dewey," Crain said. "Given our needs, we'll continue to use Edgewater (Unit) 3."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

State panel rejects proposed coal-fired power plant

From a story by Anita Weier in The Capital Times:

The state Public Service Commission on Tuesday unanimously rejected a proposed 300-megawatt mostly coal-fired power plant proposed by Wisconsin Power & Light at Cassville.

In justifying their decision, commissioners cited the cost, inefficiency and carbon dioxide emissions of the plant.

"Based on the evidence, I find this particular project is not in the public interest," said PSC Chairman Eric Callisto.

"Public comment was really significant," said Commissioner Mark Meyer, praising the extent of public participation after he stated that he could not support the application because it did not meet fundamental requirements.

Commissioner Lauren Azar said the proposal would lock the state into a coal technology that may soon be obsolete.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Obama's plan to reduce energy use and lower costs

From the energy plan of President-elect Barack Obama:

Commitment to Efficiency to Reduce Energy Use and Lower Costs

According to the United Nations, America is only the 22nd most energy efficient country among the major economies in the world, which means we spend more on energy than we need to because our lifestyle and our built environment are wasting too much excess energy. Since 1973, the average amount of electricity each of us uses has tripled. We can do better. An Obama administration will strive to make America the most energy efficient country in the world.

• Deploy the Cheapest, Cleanest, Fastest Energy SourceEnergy Efficiency. The Department of Energy (DOE) projects that demand for electricity will increase by 1.1 percent per year over the next few decades. Cutting this demand growth through efficiency is both possible and economically sound. Barack Obama will set an aggressive energy efficiency goal—to reduce electricity demand 15 percent from DOE’s projected levels by 2020. Implementing this program will save consumers a total of $130 billion, reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 5 billion tons through 2030, and create jobs. A portion of this goal would be met by setting annual demand reduction targets that utilities would need to meet. The rest would come from more stringent building and appliance standards. . . .

• Flip Incentives to Energy Utilities. An Obama administration will “flip” incentives to utility companies by: requiring states to conduct proceedings to implement incentive changes; and offering them targeted technical assistance. These measures will benefit utilities for improving energy efficiency, rather than just from supporting higher energy consumption. This “regulatory equity” starts with the decoupling of profits from increased energy usage, which will incentivize utilities to partner with consumers and the federal and state governments to reduce monthly energy bills for families and businesses. The federal government under an Obama administration will play an important and positive role in flipping the profit model for the utility sector so that shareholder profit is based on reliability and performance as opposed to total production.

• Invest in a Smart Grid. Achieving these aggressive energy efficiency goals will require significant innovation in the way we transmit electricity and monitor its use. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will pursue a major investment in our national utility grid using smart metering, distributed storage and other advanced technologies to accommodate 21st century energy requirements: greatly improved electric grid reliability and security, a tremendous increase in renewable generation and greater customer choice and energy affordability. They will establish a Grid Modernization Commission to facilitate adoption of Smart Grid practices across the nation's electricity grid to the point of general adoption and ongoing market support in the U.S. electric sector. They will instruct the Secretary of Energy to: (1) establish a Smart Grid Investment Matching Grant Program to provide reimbursement of one‐fourth of qualifying Smart Grid investments; (2) conduct programs to deploy advanced techniques for managing peak load reductions and energy efficiency savings on customer premises from smart metering, demand response, distributed generation and electricity storage systems; and (3) establish demonstration projects specifically focused on advanced technologies for power grid sensing, communications, analysis, and power flow control, including the integration of demand‐side resources into grid management.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

We Energies seeks approval of renewable energy plan

From an article by Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
We Energies asked state regulators Wednesday to approve a plan, projected to cost up to $69 million, to help it comply with a state mandate to boost the state's supply of renewable energy by 2015.

The Milwaukee-based utility company wants the state ruling to give it flexibility to buy wind turbines and acquire potential wind farm sites well before the Public Service Commission approves a wind power project. Customers would not be billed until after the wind power projects are built.

State law requires utilities to add more renewable energy projects so 10% of the state's electricity comes from wind turbines and other renewable power sources by 2015. That will require at least three major wind power projects in addition to the one We Energies already has opened and one that it hopes to build by 2012, the utility said.

Last week, the utility asked the commission to approve Glacier Hills Wind Park, which would generate up to 200 megawatts in Columbia County at a cost of up to $530 million. Depending on the size of the project, Glacier Hills would generate enough electricity to power up to 45,000 typical homes.

The utility projects it will need to spend $45 million in down payments or reservation fees for wind turbines and $21 million for sites for renewable energy projects.

A consumer group said commission rules already allow the utility to recoup costs associated with building wind power projects, and that there is no need for state regulators to approve We Energies' proposal.

"This is an unneeded insurance policy that could put ratepayers at jeopardy for unreasonable costs," said Charlie Higley, executive director of the Wisconsin Citizens' Utility Board.

The utility also projects spending up to $3 million on a study to examine the feasibility of building a 20-megawatt wind power demonstration project on Lake Michigan.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Alliant pays premium for customer-generated solar electricity

From an article by Jeremiah Tucker in The Sauk Prairie Eagle:

The primary reason Stan Temple is installing a large solar-panel unit outside his home is environmental.

"It's the right thing to do," Temple said.

But after that, it's all about the green — and he doesn't mean energy.

Originally, Temple and his wife, Jane Rundell, were going to install the panels before Dec. 31 when a federal tax credit for solar energy was scheduled to expire.

But when Congress passed the Wall Street bailout package last month a rider was added that extended the 30 percent tax credit for eight years and removed its $2,000 cap.

"If your tax burden don't exceed that amount, you'll get a refund," Temple said.

Now Temple is waiting to activate his solar panels until Jan. 1 in order to take advantage of the new legislation.

After the federal tax credit, Temple also will receive a credit from Wisconsin's Focus on Energy program that provides financial incentives for installing renewable energy sources.

And because of a deal he struck with Alliant Energy, he won't even be using the panels to power his home.

"Alliant will buy my solar power for 25 cents per kilowatt hour, and I pay 11," Temple said.
Alliant now joins MG&E and We Energies in paying a premium rate for customer-generated solar electricity.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Energy efficiency training in Eau Claire and La Crosse, Dec. 2-3

From the Energy Center of Wisconsin:

Energy Center University is offering an outstanding training, Energy Efficiency: Continuous Improvement for Continuous Savings, December 2, 2008 in Eau Claire and December 3, 2008 in La Crosse that focuses on reducing energy use and cost.

Participants will learn about common solutions applicable to commercial, industrial and institutional facilities that save energy, get tips on how to implement an energy management plan for continuous savings and much more.

The program is presented by C. Thomas Tucker, P.E., Founder of Kinergetics LLC in Madison. His professional experience includes process optimization, heat recovery system analysis and design, evaluation of renewable energy applications, combined heat and power assessment, and the technical and economic feasibility of new technologies.

This half-day workshop is designed for facilities managers, energy managers, architects, engineers, designers, contractors and others interested in reducing energy use in their facility.

Form more information, please visit