Cedar Ridge Wind Farm
On July 24th Alliant Energy hosted a tour of their Cedar Ridge Wind Farm in Fond du Lac County for several state legislators to discuss not only wind, but all of the latest developments in renewable energy. Built in 2008, Cedar Ridge was one of the first wind installations in the state. Alliant Energy owns and operates this site of 41 turbines that has a capacity of generating 68 mW of electricity, enough to power 17,000 homes. In its 10 years of existence, Alliant calculates that the electric power generated by these wind turbines allowed them to avoid burning enough coal to fill a 99-mile-long coal train! Alliant currently owns 569 mW of total wind power, but because of falling costs, efficiency gains of the turbines, and inexpensive operations and management, they expect to invest in an additional 1,150 mWs of wind generation by 2021. Representatives Bob Kulp and Rick Gundrum came away impressed and posted very positive comments online about the tour and the many developments in renewable energy.
Tim O’Brian Homes Net Zero Community
On July 20th I visited a ribbon cutting for the new Tim O’Brian Homes Net Zero Community in New Berlin. This all-solar subdivision is the first of its kind in Wisconsin. In partnership with Neumann Companies and SunVest Solar, Inc., they are developing the Red Fox Crossing subdivision with a focus on sustainability and energy efficiency. Not only is every home in the subdivision designed from the ground up to include 6 to 8 kW photovoltaic solar arrays, but they are also certified ENERGY STAR® V3 National Qualified Homes. “Buyers are looking for ways to save on their true cost of homeownership,” says Angela Cooper, Milwaukee Division President of Tim O’Brien Homes. “The upfront costs of building a net zero home might be slightly more than a code-built home but the money saved in monthly utility bills results in an overall less expensive home.” The subdivision has been popular, with half of the 34 units already sold. “Red Fox Crossing has the potential to be the turning point in building a more sustainable community in Wisconsin, versus focusing on only one home at a time,” says Tim O’Brien, President of Tim O’Brien Homes. ”
Badger Hydroelectric Plant
On July 13th I joined State Senator Rob Cowles (District 2-Green Bay) and Representative Dave Murphy (District 56-Greenville) on a tour of the Badger Hydroelectric plant in Kaukauna. The visit was hosted by the Kaukauna Municipal Utility, a member of WPPI Energy. As noted in this WBAY news story, the visit was designed as a discussion about renewable energy of all kinds. Hydroelectric power was one of the first, and least expensive sources of electric power. The Kaukauna facility is 110 years old and had a major upgrade in 2013, giving it a capacity of 7 mW of power, up 40% from the capacity of its two old powerhouses. During the meeting we discussed the dropping prices for wind and solar power and the tremendous amount of renewable energy that is currently listed on the 4-year MISO planning queue. It was noted that WPPI Energy, Dairyland Power and the investor owned utilities are looking to close their coal burning power plants and invest in utility scale wind and solar projects. They are doing this because wind and solar cost less than coal and the rising customer demand for renewable energy. This competitive, market-driven demand for renewable energy has led Wisconsin to easily surpass the 10% Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) that was established by the state legislature in 2006, and shows no signs of slowing!
Governor Walker Helps Energy Bank Announce Renewable Energy Lighting
On July 9th I was invited by Energy Bank, Inc. to attend the unveiling of a new product called FUSION. Neal Verfuerth, owner of Energy Bank, invented this new lighting system that uses the DC power output from photovoltaic solar panels to directly energize LED fixtures – without conversion to AC. Governor Scott Walker gave the keynote speech where he said Wisconsin companies understand the need to keep their peak energy demand low and reduce the overall cost of energy to be economically viable. Walker said that businesses understand that “to be environmentally sustainable, you need to be economically sustainable”, and products like FUSION make that happen. The Governor was excited about innovative and high-tech companies like Energy Bank locating in Wisconsin, creating the new era technologies that will create jobs and attract millennial workers to Wisconsin. I had a few minutes to speak with both the Governor and Representative Paul Tittl (District 25-Manitowoc) at the end of the event about the exciting advancements and fast falling prices that renewable energy has had in the last few years. They were very interested and are looking forward to working with RENEW to help keep that momentum going.
The 29th Annual Energy Fair
On the weekend of June 15-18 I had the pleasure of visiting the MREA Energy Fair in Custer. This was my first visit to the Energy Fair and all I can say is that I was blown away! They had an amazing number of great seminars (over 250) on renewable energy, energy conservation and sustainable practices of all kinds. I was able to see, sit in and learn about many different electric vehicles (over 70 of them were on-site) and discuss with EV aficionados what the exciting future of transportation might look like. There were also over 450 exhibitors, presenters and sponsors from around the country. There were great speakers, entertainment and interesting people everywhere you looked. Everyone was up-beat and excited about renewable energy and how quickly it is taking over the energy market. Finally, the most fun part of the weekend was having me drive the RENEW Wisconsin electric demolition derby car. I won my initial heat and was in the final event. A controversial call by the umpires and a slight miscalculation on my part kept me out of the winner’s circle, but at the end of the evening everyone was a winner and we all had a great time!!
Last fall, I was asked to help promote a series called Names behind the Numbers, profiling Wisconsin’s renewable energy workers. One of the interviews featured April Smith (pictured above), a construction worker on the Quilt Block Wind Farm in Darlington, WI. In describing her work she said “All the people, the company, and the community — everyone looked out for each other” and I thought “that’s Wisconsin.”
I grew up in the northeast corner of Iowa County, in the Wisconsin River valley in a small town called Arena. My grandmother cleaned houses, my dad was a mechanic turned landscaper, and my uncles worked road construction. I was surrounded by the grit and community that defines the Wisconsin work ethic; I was taught to work hard, work together, and get the job done.
Now I am one of Wisconsin’s clean energy workers. I joined the RENEW Wisconsin staff a year ago with an untraditional background: an arts education, a theater and music career, and eight years of marketing for a general contractor in Chicago. I knew little about renewable energy, but I cared about the environment and wanted to help build a cleaner future for my children.
According to the Department of Energy’s 2017 US Energy and Jobs Report Wisconsin, over 67,000 people are already working in clean energy, and renewable energy job growth is six times faster than overall job growth in the state. Wisconsin has the opportunity to increase renewable energy substantially in the coming decades, and create tens of thousands of jobs along the way.
After April’s story was published, I was able to attend the Quilt Block dedication and ribbon cutting in Darlington, WI. I witnessed firsthand a community (comprised of local landowners, businesses, educators, government officials, and EDP Renewables) working together to build a 98 MW wind farm, enough to power 25,000 Wisconsin homes with clean energy. This project created approximately 100 full-time jobs during construction and 12 permanent jobs.
I recently attended an outdoor BBQ at the local office of the proposed Badger Hollow Solar Project in Monfort, WI. This was an opportunity for local landowners to get together and see which of their neighbors would be growing a solar crop. There, I met Tracy Fillback, the local liaison hired to address questions and concerns from the landowners and the community as this project progresses. She spent the last few years at home raising her children and now she’s starting a new chapter as part of of the Badger Hollow Solar project. She is another example of renewable energy job opportunity in Wisconsin.
Wind developers are scoping out new projects in rural parts of the state and in recent weeks two proposals for large scale solar farms have joined Badger Hollow Solar at the review stage of development. While we can’t predict the exact number of jobs this will mean for Wisconsin, these companies and workers will spend millions of dollars on locally-sourced gravel, concrete, construction supplies, food, lodging and other services. Increasing renewable energy is one of the best economic development moves Wisconsin could make, particularly for its rural communities.
Wisconsin’s renewable energy workers are building a cleaner future for our children and they’re doing it the Wisconsin way; with tenacity, community, and hard work. Renewable energy can support our local economies and be as homegrown as the crops in our fields, if our communities can continue to embrace the possibilities.
Acquisition Broadens HGA’s Expertise in Sustainable Energy Planning
MILWAUKEE — HGA has acquired the Sustainable Engineering Group (SEG) in Madison, Wisconsin, a leading engineering firm focused on energy optimization and sustainable design. The acquisition reinforces and broadens HGA’s existing expertise in energy and infrastructure planning and design for leading national clients in healthcare, academic, corporate, and public sectors.
“SEG’s approach and deep knowledge will allow us to better serve the energy needs of our growing client base,” said Rick Hombsch, PE, LEED AP, vice president and HGA’s Energy & Infrastructure market leader. “Their team brings technical insights into emerging energy technologies and renewable resources that build on our existing strengths in high-performance energy systems, commissioning, retro-commissioning, energy auditing, and central energy plants. By combining forces, we are creating a more robust in-house practice that will enhance our capabilities to research, plan, and implement highly advanced energy systems that benefit our clients economically and environmentally.”
Founded in 2004 by Manus McDevitt, PE, LEED AP, and Svein Morner, PE, PhD, LEED AP, Sustainable Engineering Group quickly established itself as a regional leader in energy systems modeling, commissioning, retro-commissioning, LEED certification, and advanced research, with specialized focus in geothermal systems, renewable energy systems, and carbon reduction/net zero campus planning.
McDevitt has more than 25 years of experience in energy-efficient HVAC design and engineering systems. Morner has comparable tenure in mechanical engineering, with a research focus in thermal storage systems, energy self-sufficient buildings, fuel cell design, and solar panels.
SEG’s 12-person team works out of an historic commercial building that has achieved net zero energy using strategies that include waste heat recovery, natural ventilation, a photovoltaic roof system, and real-time energy-use monitoring.
“Clients are concerned about reducing their carbon footprint and exploring the most efficient designs for the life of their buildings,” said McDevitt. “HGA has a demonstrated track record as well as a clear sense of responsibility around designing healthy, energy-efficient buildings—which aligns with our mission. Joining HGA provides the opportunity for our team to work with a more diverse portfolio of clients and project types, to build our expertise in new technologies and research; it allows us to expand our scope to make an even more significant, positive impact on the built environment, which is our real passion.”
Both firms have extensive experience in energy and infrastructure planning and design. Here are just some examples of their work:
The SEG acquisition is part of HGA’s strategic focus on elevating its national excellence in sustainable design and energy planning. With the addition of Lisa Matthiessen as National Sustainable Design Director in 2017, HGA is building new structures and deepening its expertise to explore new directions in planning healthy buildings that help create a more profound impact for clients and end users.
The acquisition is effective July 1, 2018. SEG officially will change its name to HGA and merge operational and administrative functions.
HGA is a national multi-disciplinary design firm rooted in architecture and engineering. Founded in 1953, we believe that enduring, impactful design results from deep insight into the people and passions that animate each unique environment. Our nine offices from coast to coast craft specialized teams to serve clients in education, arts, healthcare, corporate, government, community, and energy industries. Visit HGA.com or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.
Erika Eklund, HGA (612) 758-4000
Gretchen Reisetter, Evans Larson (612) 338-6999