As reported in the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) most recent snapshot of market activity, U.S. developers and electric utilities installed more than 4,000 megawatts (MW) of wind power capacity in the fourth quarter of 2017, accounting for more than half of the total wind generation placed in service over the last 12 months. In the final three months of 2017, 29 new wind farms came online across 16 states, including the 49-turbine, 98 MW Quilt Block project in southwest Wisconsin.
The 7,000 MW of wind turbines built last year pushed total U.S. capacity to more than 89,000 MW, which in an average year should produce enough electricity to equal the annual consumption from 26 million households. Wind power accounts for more than 8% of U.S. generating capacity in the United States today according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Development activity last year was particularly robust in the states of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Iowa. Large wind energy projects also sprouted up across the Upper Midwest, the second-most active region after the Southern Plains states.
Quilt Block is the first utility-scale wind energy installation to come online in Wisconsin since WEC Energy’s Glacier Hills project in 2011. Owned and operated by Houston-based EDP Renewables, Quilt Block is now the most productive wind power project in the Badger State. La Crosse-based Dairyland Power Cooperative purchases the output from this project to supply the distribution cooperatives and municipal utilities in its system.
According to the AWEA report, the powerful growth experienced by the wind industry last year should continue in 2018 and beyond. The pipeline of wind farms under construction or in advanced development totals 28,668 MW, about one-third of the wind generating fleet now operating in the United States. Projects in the development pipeline should be completed and operating before the end of 2019.
Said AWEA ceo Thomas Kiernan in a press release: “This American success story will continue, with the wind project construction and advanced development pipeline four times greater than the amount installed in 2017. That means tens of billions in additional infrastructure investment is on its way to the United States of America.”
Among Upper Midwest states (see table below), the near-term outlook for future wind development ranges from very active (states beginning with the letter “I”) to quiet (Missouri and Wisconsin). In Wisconsin, there is no project in the development pipeline right now, a consequence of the ongoing absence of policy drivers for renewables and the comparative ease of permitting and building wind projects in neighboring states. It should be noted that two Wisconsin utilities are planning to add wind power to its power supplies this year, Madison Gas & Electric from a 66 MW installation in Iowa, and WPPI Energy from a 132 MW project in Illinois.
Focus on Energy, the state’s ratepayer-funded energy efficiency and renewable energy program, continues to yield dividends for Wisconsin’s economy.
An independent analysis of program investments in 2015 and 2016 shows that energy savings from completed projects generated $208 million in economic benefits and supported about 1,200 jobs annually.
The Cadmus Group, an independent third-party evaluator, found that Focus on Energy achieved a benefit-cost ratio of $3.24 per dollar spent without factoring in broader economic impacts such as job creation. When broader economic impacts are factored into the analysis, the benefit-cost ratio rises to $4.77 per program dollar invested.
Cadmus released its findings in a January 2018 report submitted to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, which oversees the Focus on Energy program.
“A $4.77 return on investment shows Focus on Energy is one way Wisconsin encourages economic development and grows its favorable business climate,” said Public Service Commissioner Lon Roberts in a press release dated January 29, 2018.
“When a business saves money by saving energy, it also becomes more globally competitive,” Commissioner Roberts added.
For more information, view the full report or executive summary on Focus on Energy’s website, www.focusonenergy.com.
RENEW’s seventh annual Renewable Energy Summit, set for January 18, 2018, will furnish the occasion for recognizing the leading lights in Wisconsin’s renewable energy industry and spotlighting the developments that made 2017 such a stellar year. Titled “Connecting to a Powerful Future,” RENEW’s Summit will take place at Monona Terrace in Madison; registration starts at 8:00 AM and the program runs from 9:00 AM to 3:30 PM. The recognition ceremony will begin at 2:00 PM.
Last year saw the first large-scale wind power plant go up in Wisconsin since 2011. Quilt Block, a 49-turbine, 98-megawatt (MW) project developed by Houston-based EDP Renewables is now online, producing power under contract to La Crosse-based Dairyland Power Cooperative, whose four-state service area includes 18 member cooperatives and 10 municipal utilities in Wisconsin.
Representing a capital investment of $167 million, EDP’s Quilt Block project will produce enough renewable electricity to power more than 25,000 Wisconsin residences while providing millions of dollars in local aids to the Town of Seymour and Lafayette County, as well as lease payments to participating landowners over the plant’s operating life.
At the Summit, RENEW will honor Quilt Block Wind Farm as Wisconsin’s Renewable Energy Project of the Year. Recognizing the strong collaboration forged by project participants, RENEW will present plaques to representatives of the developer (EDP Renewables), the utility purchaser (Dairyland Power Cooperative), local governments (Town of Seymour, Lafayette County), and participating landowners.
Last year marked the emergence of RENEW Wisconsin’s Solar for Good, a program that provides grants to nonprofit institutions that seek to install solar electric systems on their buildings. Initiated by donations from Deerfield-based philanthropists Cal and Laurie Couillard, Solar for Good awarded 16 grants in 2017 supporting the installation of 573 kilowatts (kW) of new solar electric projects to serve such entities as public charter schools, food pantries, houses of worship, and nursing care facilities. For their philanthropy that made possible the Solar for Good program, Cal and Laurie Couillard will receive honors as Renewable Energy Champions.
Also set to receive honors as Renewable Energy Champions are John and Mary Frantz, both retired physicians and long-time renewable energy advocates now living in Madison who have been generous supporters of RENEW Wisconsin’s work to expand renewable energy. In recent years, their generosity has taken the form of providing matching donations to “Ride with RENEW,” a fundraising event held in autumn featuring bicycle tours of noteworthy renewable energy projects in Wisconsin.
The recognition segment will also draw attention to other milestones and notable achievements in 2017, including the following:
- All 15 solar arrays built by SoCore Energy (Illinois) and GroSolar (Vermont) under contract to Dairyland Power are now producing electricity. Three of the arrays, located in New Auburn, Phillips, and Roberts, are the state’s largest in operation.
- Xcel Energy’s Wisconsin utility commissioned a 1 megawatt (MW) array in Eau Claire, which now supplies energy to its shared solar subscribers.
- SunPeak designed and built the state’s largest rooftop solar electric system in operation, a 1.2 MW array atop the American Family Insurance headquarters building in Madison.
- Eagle Point Solar installed 350 kilowatts (kW) of solar generation atop two schools in the Northland Pines School District, which now has more solar capacity than any other K-12 district in Wisconsin.
- SunVest Solar and Current Electric teamed up to design and install 800 kW of solar capacity on six rooftops in the Oneida Nation reservation in Brown County.
- Contractors partnered with local nonprofits to launch five residential group solar purchase programs across Wisconsin. Together these initiatives result in 158 installations totaling nearly 1,000 kW of new solar capacity.
“These award winners and honorable projects deserve recognition for the benefits they are bringing Wisconsin’s people and economy,” said Tyler Huebner, RENEW Wisconsin’s Executive Director. “These honorees are leading the way towards a clean, vibrant, and self-sustaining Wisconsin energy future.”
For more information on the 2018 Summit program agenda, speakers, and registration, please visit http://www.renewwisconsin.org/2018_Summit/index.html.
RENEW Wisconsin will host its seventh annual Renewable Energy Summit on Thursday, January 18th, 2018, at Monona Terrace in Madison. The theme of the event, “Connecting to a Powerful Future,” will highlight the significant expansion of renewable power underway in Wisconsin, both at the customer and utility level, and the need to broaden connections to continue this momentum.
This one-day event will feature two keynote speakers.
- Abby Hopper is the CEO of the national Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) in Washington, DC. The solar industry has grown at a 20% annual clip the past five years as installation costs have declined rapidly. This is creating great opportunities in up-and-coming markets like Wisconsin! Abby oversees all of SEIA’s activities, including government affairs, research, communications, and industry leadership. SEIA is at the forefront of national solar advocacy, including the recent Federal tax overhaul and import tariff threat.
- Jane Bloch is Principal at Tusculum Consulting, where she is a clean energy communications expert. She comes to our Summit to share best practices on how to effectively communicate about clean energy with different audiences. She has spent the last decade advancing clean energy policies through strategic communications, stakeholder engagement, and philanthropic investment. Jane grew up spending her summers in the Northwoods, near Minocqua, where she learned to love canoeing and loon calls.
The event will begin with a recap of 2017 and outlook to 2018 by RENEW Wisconsin’s Board Chair Amy Heart and Executive Director Tyler Huebner. At 9:30am, three Wisconsin utility executives will participate in a panel session discussing their companies’ investments and programs for renewable energy such as wind, solar, and biogas. The lunch panel will feature experts from Wisconsin’s renewable energy industry.
The program will feature networking opportunities with exhibitors and attendees, as well as a social hour following the close of the formal program.
Summit registration is open and over 100 individuals and company representatives have already signed up. Rates are $125 for Members of RENEW Wisconsin, $155 for non-members, $125 for government and non-profit employees, and $35 for students and elected officials and their staff. Membership with RENEW starts at $35 for individuals and $200 for businesses and organizations.
For more information on the 2018 program agenda, speakers, and registration, please visit http://www.renewwisconsin.org/2018_Summit/index.html.