Renewable Energy Installations in WI

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Air fix could break bank for builders

From an article by Paul Snyder in The Daily Reporter:

If Dane County does not clean up its air, area builders could pay the price when federal and local governments tighten the clamps on construction equipment.

“We have improving air quality,” said Topf Wells, chief of staff for Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk. “But federal standards are only going to get tougher, and we’re going to have to continue to make sure we’re keeping up. We can’t let up at a local level.”

Wells said he expects the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday to announce violations of fine-particle pollution standards in several Midwestern counties, including Dane County. The particles come from, among other things, coal-fired plants and emissions from diesel engines.

“This is an instance of necessary regulation,” Wells said. “Particles are a health hazard, and we were found with compliance issues.”

Wells said cleaner air is on the way with Madison Gas & Electric promising to take its Blount Street plant off coal in 2011 and Gov. Jim Doyle earlier this year promising to convert state-owned, coal-fired plants to cleaner energy sources.

But Jennifer Feyerherm, associate regional representative for the Sierra Club, said Dane County still has more work to do. Although one plant will be off coal in 2011, she said, Doyle has yet to set a timeline for converting the state’s plants.

Wells said the solution might be in tighter emissions standards. If it comes to that, he said, construction and development might take a hit because many companies use diesel-fueled vehicles and machines.

But Feyerherm waved off the concern.

“Southeastern Wisconsin has been a nonattainment area for several years,” she said. “Development has not collapsed there. If we get a handle on the problem here, really, it’s only going to help us that much more.”

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

EPA targets Dane County over bad air quality

From an article by Anita Weier in The Capital Times:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to declare Dane County out of compliance with air quality standards for fine particle pollution on Thursday, according to Dave Merritt of the Dane County Clean Air Coalition.

The designation means that the county could lose federal funding for road projects and face strict pollution controls for new or expanded businesses, but Merritt is hopeful that the decision can be reversed before it actually goes into effect in April.

Fine particles are extremely tiny pollutants — about one-30th the diameter of a human hair — that can easily be inhaled and accumulate in the lungs, where they can worsen breathing and heart problems.

The particles, which typically consist of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, are produced by coal-burning power plants, some industrial processes, motor vehicles and wood burning.

The designation was based on three years of pollution data, from 2005 through 2007, but Merritt says the EPA now plans to consider data from 2006 through 2008, when Dane County had a much better record.

"Because we have had relatively clean air for fine particle pollution in 2008, we are hopeful that we will be in compliance," he said.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Manure digester summit set for January 13

From the announcement of the Manure Digester Summit:
Whether you have less than a 100-head herd or a large herd, digesters can work for you. Come to the seminar to hear how Dane County and Richland County are using community digesters as well as how to implement a manure digester on a 50-head farm.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009
9:30AM -3:00PM
Room B-30 West Square Building
505 Broadway
Baraboo, Wisconsin
Cost: $20.00 and includes lunch

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Regulators begin review of Ashland biomass generation plant

From a media release issued by Xcel Energy:

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) has created a docket to begin evaluating the company’s request to install biomass gasification technology at the Bay Front Power Plant in Ashland, Wis. This represents the first step in the regulatory review process for the innovative project that, if approved, would transform Bay Front into the largest biomass-fueled power plant in the Midwest, and one of the largest in the nation. When completed, the project will convert the plant’s remaining coal-fired unit to biomass gasification technology, allowing it to use 100 percent biomass in all three boilers. Currently, two of the three operating units at Bay Front use biomass as their primary fuel to generate electricity.

In 1979, the facility became the first investor-owned utility plant in the nation to burn waste wood to generate electricity.

This is the first time biomass gasification technology will be used to convert a coal-fired boiler at an existing base-load power plant. The project will require new biomass receiving and handling facilities, an external gasifier, modifications to the plant’s remaining coal-fired boiler and an enhanced air quality control system and is expected to cost $55-$70 million.

Monday, December 22, 2008

New "Power On" pilot project launched to help families in need

From a media release issued by County Executive Kathleen Falk:
Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk announced today the county is teaming with local utilities Madison Gas & Electric and Alliant Energy along with Energy Services Inc. for a new pilot project to help families facing severe challenges paying their heating bills. The first-of-its-kind "Power On" initiative aims to help those with the greatest difficulties keeping up with heating costs who regularly face the prospect of being disconnected.

"Power On is a bold, new approach to addressing a problem that's really worsening in our community as the economy sours," Falk said. “The combination of another nasty Wisconsin winter and an economic crisis of the kind we haven’t seen in decades is causing more families to fall behind. The need is so great out there and we don’t want anyone left in the cold,” Falk said.

Dane County families at greatest risk of disconnection will be part of the "Power On" pilot project. Families taking part will learn about ways to become more energy efficient and better manage their household budgets while receiving energy assistance. County Joining Forces for Families workers will also work with the families one-on-one to make sure they have chances to succeed in the program.

Friday, December 19, 2008

PSC will study more utility-deployed solar

From an Associated Press story in the Appleton Post-Crescent:

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- State regulators say they are launching a statewide effort to explore how utilities could distribute more solar panels across Wisconsin to take advantage of that renewable energy source.

The Public Service Commission said its solar collaborative will study ways to dramatically accelerate the deployment of the panels by utilities.

The announcement came Thursday as the commission ordered that there be no increase in electric rates and a slight decrease in natural gas rates for customers of Wisconsin Public Service Corporation and Wisconsin Power and Light next year.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ingrid Kelley, ECW program manager, publishes energy book

The Energy Center of Wisconsin (ECW) announed the publication of Energy in America by Ingrid Kelley, program manager for renewable energy at the ECW.

The University Press of New England describes the book:

Scientists tell us we need to cut carbon emissions immediately to forestall effects of global warming. Reducing fossil fuel use is the key, and energy experts are hard at work devising solutions. Engineers create remarkable clean energy technologies. Energy policy analysts invent carbon credits and renewable portfolio standards. Fossil energy industrialists promise new, “clean” technology. Renewable energy industrialists compete to develop the magic bullet for transportation fuel or power generation. Every idea is designed to change the nation’s energy sector to one that is clean and sustainable for the future.

But what is this energy sector we have and how did it come about? Design professionals, planners, elected officials, and community leaders are under tremendous pressure to find solutions to climate change. They need a broader view of America’s relationship with energy to gain perspective on how new ideas might work. Energy in America tells this story, emphasizing that energy use has always been based on cultural factors as well as technology.
Click here for the table of contents.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Transmission poses obstacle to wind

From an article by Philip Brasher in the Des Moines Register:

Washington, D.C. - The political winds are right for making wind power in Iowa. The problem is getting that power to the big cities that can use it.

President-elect Barack Obama wants to use a massive economic stimulus program to create a green economy, and he's promised a "two-year nationwide effort to jumpstart job creation" by, among other things, building wind farms and solar power.

Environmentalists this week proposed that the package include a $30 billion, five-year extension of the federal tax subsidy for wind turbines, an idea Obama promoted during his campaign.

But industry officials - and Obama himself - say that building more wind farms won't be enough, that the nation needs a new superhighway of long-distance transmission lines. "If we're going to be serious about renewable energy," Obama told an MSNBC interviewer during the campaign, "I want to be able to get wind power from North Dakota to population centers, like Chicago."

Companies such as ITC Midwest, which moves electricity for Interstate Power and Light Co., and Ohio-based American Electric Power Co. are working on plans for high-voltage lines that would carry power from Iowa and the Dakotas to Chicago and beyond.

"The system today is just plain inadequate," said Doug Collins, executive director of ITC Midwest.

ITC Midwest has drafted rough plans for a set of lines that would run from South Dakota through Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa to Chicago. AEP has suggested a line that would snake around the Dakotas and extend across Iowa and Illinois to near Chicago.

But industry experts say it's difficult to build new lines for a variety of reasons: With some exceptions, the federal government generally can't decide where lines go or decide how the project costs will be shared among the customers and states that would benefit from the power. High-voltage lines can cost $3 million a mile to build.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Give wind farms a fair chance

From an editorial in the Wisconsin State Journal:
Wisconsin cannot afford to let the statewide interest in developing wind farms be frustrated by communities that adopt a "not in my backyard" attitude.

That's why the state should develop reasonable wind farm siting standards to guide and limit local government regulation of wind farms and to provide an avenue of appeal for developers.

The goal should be to prohibit the "not in my backyard" disease known as NIMBYism while preserving local authority to restrict or reject wind farms when warranted.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Let Harvard use your computer for Clean Energy Project

An explanation of how the World Community Grid lets Harvard use computers world wide:
Making a difference has never been easier! Grid technology is simple and safe to use. To start, you register, then download and install a small program or "agent" onto your computer.

When idle, your computer will request data on a specific project from World Community Grid's server. It will then perform computations on this data, send the results back to the server, and ask the server for a new piece of work. Each computation that your computer performs provides scientists with critical information that accelerates the pace of research!

Donate the time your computer is turned on, but is idle, to projects that benefit humanity! We provide the secure software that does it all for free, and you become part of a community that is helping to change the world. Once you install the software, you will be participating in World Community Grid. No other action must be taken; it's that simple!
An explanation of the Clean Energy Project being conducted by Harvard:
. . .The mission of the Clean Energy Project is to find new materials for the next generation of solar cells and later, energy storage devices. By harnessing the immense power of World Community Grid, researchers can calculate the electronic properties of tens of thousands of organic materials – many more than could ever be tested in a lab – and determine which candidates are most promising for developing affordable solar energy technology.
News coverage of the project.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

We Energies customers may save on natural gas, utility says

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

We Energies' 1 million natural-gas customers might see savings on their home heating costs this winter after all.

A spokesman said Tuesday that the utility is revising its winter season forecast. Homeowners now can expect bills to be the same as or as much as 3% lower than last winter.

During the six-month heating season that runs through April, that would mean savings of up to $28 for the typical household. The Milwaukee utility was forecasting earlier that winter heating costs would rise by $35 to $45 for the typical household.

But natural gas prices have continued to fall, spokesman Brian Manthey said.

"We have a long way to go in this winter," he said, adding that how cold the winter is will be the biggest factor in determining what customers' heating costs will be.

The utility's forecast assumes that Wisconsin has normal temperatures this season. November was slightly colder than normal. If Wisconsin sees a repeat of last winter - when temperatures were 10% colder than normal - heating costs would rise slightly, Manthey said.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said a deeper recession will keep a lid on energy prices in 2009 and forecast that winter heating costs would drop in the Midwest.

The agency's monthly energy outlook said Tuesday that crude oil prices are projected to average $51 a barrel next year, down from $100 this year.

"The increasing likelihood of a prolonged global economic downturn continues to dominate market perceptions, putting downward pressure on oil prices," the report said.

For the first time in 30 years, world demand for oil is expected to fall for two straight years, this year and again in 2009, the agency said.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Energy goals a moving target for states

From an article by Kate Galbraith and Matthew L. Wald in the New York Times:

In hopes of slowing global warming and creating “green jobs,” Congress and the incoming administration may soon impose a mandate that the nation get 10 or 15 percent of its electricity from renewable sources within a few years.

Yet the experience of states that have adopted similar goals suggests that passing that requirement could be a lot easier than achieving it. The record so far is decidedly mixed: some states appear to be on track to meet energy targets, but others have fallen behind on the aggressive goals they set several years ago.

The state goals have contributed to rapid growth of wind turbines and solar power stations in some areas, notably the West, but that growth has come on a minuscule base. Nationwide, the hard numbers provide a sobering counterpoint to the green-energy enthusiasm sweeping Washington.

Al Gore is running advertisements claiming the nation could switch entirely to renewable power within a decade. But most experts do not see how. Even with the fast growth of recent years, less than 3 percent of the nation’s electricity is coming from renewable sources, excepting dams.

“I think we are really overselling how quick, how easy and how complete the transition can be,” said George Sterzinger, executive director of the Renewable Energy Policy Project, a Washington advocacy group.

More than half the states have adopted formal green-energy goals. In many states the policies, known as renewable portfolio standards, are too new to be evaluated. But so far the number of successes and failures is “sort of a 50-50 kind of affair,” said Ryan Wiser, a scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and co-author of a recent report on the targets.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Wisconsin company gets Platts Global Energy award

From a media release issued by Orion Energy Systems:

MANITOWOC, Wis. — Dec. 5, 2008 — Orion Energy Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: OESX) has received the prestigious Platts Global Energy Award for Sustainable Technology Innovation of the Year for its energy efficient and direct renewable technology.

The award recognizes the company that has made “the single most innovative technology advance in the area of green technology,” according to Platts. The award was presented at the Platts Global Energy gala Wednesday, Dec. 3, in New York City. Winners in other categories include Royal Dutch Shell, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and Edison International, among others. The gala has been described as the Academy Awards and the World Series of the energy industry. Nearly 500 top executives from more than a dozen countries attended.

Orion Energy Systems, of Manitowoc, Wis., won the Sustainable Technology Innovation award for its integrated energy management system, which permanently reduces light-related electricity consumption when replacing traditional high-intensity discharge lighting systems.

The integrated system combines Orion’s high-performance Compact ModularTM fluorescent lighting platform, wireless InteLiteTM touch screen control system and direct renewable Apollo Solar Light Pipe to automatically replace electrical lighting with daylight in a commercial or industrial facility. Users of the integrated system have experienced light-related energy cost reductions of 50-80% without compromising their lighting needs.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Utility gives green power buyers certified assurance

From a media release issued by Wisconsin Public Power Incorporated:
WPPI has been awarded Green-e Energy certification by the Center for Resource Solutions (CRS) for WPPI’s renewable energy programs, including Green Power for Business and its companion program for residential customers.

Green-e Energy is a renewable energy certification program established by the nonprofit CRS to provide an objective standard for consumers to compare renewable energy options.

Both programs enable customers to make voluntary purchases of renewable energy from WPPI member utilities. By purchasing WPPI renewable electricity, customers will support currently available renewable resources as well as aid the development of new renewable resources.
WPPI serves the utilities in the following Wisconsin cities: Algoma, Black River Falls, Boscobel, Brodhead, Cedarburg, Columbus, Cuba City, Eagle River, Evansville, Florence, Hartford, Hustisford, Jefferson, Juneau, Kaukauna, Lake Mills, Lodi, Menasha, Mount Horeb, Muscoda, New Glarus, New Holstein, New London, New Richmond, Oconomowoc, Oconto Falls, Plymouth, Prairie du Sac, Reedsburg, Richland Center, River Falls, Slinger, Stoughton, Sturgeon Bay, Sun Prairie, Two Rivers, Waterloo, Waunakee, Waupun, Westby, Whitehall.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

RENEW Wisconsin proposes higher buyback rates for renewable electricity

As part of the Homegrown Renewable Energy Campaign, RENEW Wisconsin prepared a Q&A -- "A Primer on Renewable Energy Producer Payments (REPP’s) -- to explain one of the four principles of the campaign:

Q. What are Renewable Energy Producer Payments (REPP’s)?

A. Renewable Energy Production Payments are premium utility buyback rates designed to encourage customer-owned or third-party-owned installations of small-scale electric generators powered by renewable energy sources as solar, wind, biogas, hydro and biomass. In many jurisdictions where this mechanism has been adopted, REPP’s are better known as feed-in tariffs.

Successfully used in Europe, REPP’s can support a large market for renewable energy and limit the impact on ratepayers by spreading costs to all electricity customers. Where established, REPP’s have fostered extraordinary growth in renewable energy and remarkably high local ownership rates for projects: 45% local ownership of German wind energy projects and 83% of Danish wind installations. In addition, REPP’s have supported a greater diversity of energy sources, such as solar photovoltaics and biogas systems. . . .

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Increasing Electricity Productivity: Myths, Barriers and Solutions

A brown bag seminar on December 18, 2008, sponsored by the Association of Energy Service Professionals"

For the past 25 years, the benefits of energy efficiency have been espoused, yet, as a nation, achievement rates fall far short of economically feasible potential. In an effort to better understand the efficiency opportunity, RMI conducted analysis on electric productivity (measured in $GDP/kWh or dollars of gross domestic product divided by kilowatt-hours consumed).

The first phase of this research was a fact-finding phase, where we validated that electric productivity among U.S. states varies dramatically. Overall, there is a huge gap between the few states with a high electric productivity and those states with average or low electric productivity. This gap, approximately 1.2 million GWh, still exists even after RMI accounted for each state’s climate and economic mix.

The second phase of RMI’s research will identify key levers within the residential, commercial, and industrial sector to increase state electric productivity. Our focus for this Brown Bag Seminar will be on the results of our phase 1 analysis and the levers that we have identified that can cost-effectively advance efficiency of major end uses in the industrial sector such as motors, facility HVAC, lighting and process heating.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Claire Cowan, AESP member, joins Energy Center of Wisconsin

From a media release issued by the Energy Center of Wisconsin:

MADISON, Wisconsin (December 1, 2008) -- The Energy Center of
Wisconsin announces five new employees joining the organization in the fall of 2008.

Claire Cowan, Project Manager, Research: Cowan comes to the Energy Center with a background in energy efficiency program design, demandside management planning and clean energy policy analysis for government and utility clients. As project manager, Cowan will conduct research and analysis to support a variety of energy efficiency policy and planning projects, including an assessment of Wisconsin energy efficiency and renewable energy potential to be released in 2009. Cowan holds a Master’s degree in Environmental Science and Management from the University of California Santa Barbara, where she specialized in environmental economics and policy. Cowan is a member of the Association of Energy Services Professionals. . . .
The other new employees are:
Phil Jahnke Sauer, Education Program Administrator
Andy Mendyk, Project Manager, Research
Leslie Post, Director of Communications
Dave Vigliotta, Communications Manager