After a prolonged absence from Wisconsin, wind developers are starting to come back to the Badger State with a desire to build projects. EDF Renewables, a nationally prominent renewable energy developer, has applied to construct and operate Green County’s first wind farm near the Illinois border. Called the Sugar River Wind Farm, this 24-turbine project would, if approved, generate an amount of electricity equal to what 20,000 households typically consume.
The Green County Board of Supervisors will review EDF’s 236-page application, which was submitted in late January, and will likely make a decision on the 65-megawatt project in July.
To accommodate the turbines, EDF envisions leasing almost 6,000 acres of farmland in the Town of Jefferson from area property owners. Participating landowners expect to continue farming operations while the wind farm operates.
As with other wind projects, the Sugar River Wind Farm will have a significant impact on the local economy. According to the application, more than $550,000 will flow to local landowners and governments each year during the project’s operation. Of that total, Green County and the Town of Jefferson will reap a combined $250,000 annually in the form of utility local aids.
Jefferson Township’s annual tax revenue income could increase by nearly 40% over 2019 levels as a result of this project. The project will also support 70 to 100 temporary construction jobs and three to five operations jobs over the life of the project.
If approved, Sugar River would be the second major wind energy development in Wisconsin to advance after a protracted lull in wind development activity that lasted between 2011 and 2017. Between a hostile political environment and a glut of generating capacity, utility-scale wind development activity languished in Wisconsin. During the dry spell here, developers flocked to neighboring states to tap into one of the most cost-effective clean energy sources available to utilities. The door reopened slightly when Dairyland Power Cooperative agreed to purchase electricity generated from Quilt Block Wind Farm, which started operating in November 2017.
Local Businesses Benefit from Wind Farms
Located in Lafayette County, Quilt Block has been hailed as a success by community leaders from the Town of Seymour and the City of Darlington.
“The Quilt Block Wind Farm in Darlington is a great asset to the City of Darlington and to Lafayette County,” said Darlington Mayor Dave Breuning. “During the construction, the employees were great to work with and they were very supportive of the retail businesses in Darlington.”
Mayor Bruening noted that Quilt Block’s labor force drove Ford trucks and had their vehicles serviced at the local auto dealership. Employees patronized area grocery stores and gas stations, and took their printing work to the local print shop, he said. “And then the Quilt Block Wind Farm built the office and garage in the Darlington business park. What a great addition to the City!”
More Efficient Wind Farms Lead to New Wind Proposals
Wind projects have become increasingly productive, as turbines are designed to be taller with longer blades to capture winds higher up in the sky that blow at faster speeds. “There’s an old physics equation that says when you can double the speed of the wind you are catching, the power that you’ll produce goes up eightfold,” Tyler Huebner, Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin. “It’s a cubed relationship.” As the technology improves and wind farms become more cost-competitive, developers are working again in Wisconsin and coming forward with new proposals.
Wind Regulations and Project Review Timeline
When it took effect in 2012, Wis. Admin. Code § PSC 128 established the formal process that all local governments must abide by when reviewing permit applications for wind farms under 100 MW. The rule also set standards that local governments may apply to the placement of wind turbines as well as their construction and operation. Local governments have the option of adopting, for example, setback distances that are less stringent than the baseline standards in PSC 128. However, they may not impose standards that are more stringent than those specified in that rule. Wind energy projects in excess of 100 MW are reviewed by the Public Service Commission.
Green County has 90 days from the date of the application (Jan 30, 2019) to adopt a wind energy ordinance and an additional 90 days to review and approve the proposed project. At its March 12, 2019, meeting Green County Board of Supervisors will consider a resolution to adopt a wind ordinance. Wind energy projects that aren’t approved by the County within the two consecutive 90 day periods after an application is submitted are automatically approved.
How Can I Support Wind Development in Green County and Wisconsin?
Green County residents can send an email to the Green County Board of Supervisors. Their contact information is available here.
Learn more about wind. A report titled “Wind Turbines and Health” was recently issued by three organizations: the Environmental Health Sciences Research Center (which exists within the University of Iowa College of Public Health), Iowa Policy Project, and Iowa Environmental Council. The report summarizes the results of the most rigorous research available on the benefits and risks related to wind power.
Join RENEW’s information session about wind power on March 25, 2019, at 5 pm at the Monroe, WI Super 8 Motel. Enjoy refreshments and hear from the Mayor of Darlington and his colleagues talk about their experience in Lafayette County with the Quilt Block Wind Farm.
*This blog post was written by Heather Allen with contributions from Michael Vickerman.
I met Scott Manley at a National Drive Electric Week event back in September, at a Ride-n-Drive that featured his Tesla Model X. Scott’s Tesla caught my eye, but after talking with him for a few minutes, I realized that owning a Tesla was far from the most interesting thing about Scott.
Scott is a pilot and his personal aircraft is special in that it is an electrically self-launching glider. Pure gliders don’t have a propulsion system. Instead, they are typically pulled into the air by a powered airplane until they’re high enough to reach a source of rising air. Much like hawks, gliders then stay aloft using that rising air.
Scott’s glider has an electric motor, which means it doesn’t need to be towed into the air. His glider is capable of taking off under its own power and climbing into the rising air. Once there, the motor is shut down, the propeller blades fold against the side of the glider, and the flight continues, often for hours at a time, using only the energy in the atmosphere; free, clean energy generated by the sun heating the ground.
The image above shows the Tesla Model X ready to tow Scott’s Alisport Silent 2 Electro out to the launch area. The beautiful cumulus clouds in the background are each the result of a rising column of air. Way cool.
Scott is also an F.A.A. (Federal Aviation Administration) certificated glider flight instructor providing both aircraft-based and simulation-based flight training at-a-distance (via the Internet) to glider rating candidates nationwide. Learn more about him at gliderCFI.com.
Yesterday, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce President Kurt Bauer issued a statement regarding Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers’ pledge to join an effort to reduce Wisconsin’s carbon emissions in accordance with the goals of the “Paris Climate Accord.” Regardless of your position on climate change or the Paris Climate Accord, Mr. Bauer’s assertions about the economics of reducing carbon emissions are based on outdated math, especially as it relates to the price of electricity and switching to renewable energy.
Since 2009, the cost of delivered electricity from new wind energy farms has declined 69%, and the cost of delivered electricity from new utility-scale solar farms has declined 88%.
In their “Levelized Cost of Energy Version 12.0,” (available here) released in November 2018 by Lazard, a respected international finance company, the numbers about the unsubsidized cost of renewable energy are plainly spelled out.
Furthermore, a recent open bidding process in Colorado resulted in dozens of wind, solar, and battery storage proposals. Selecting the lowest-cost set of projects, Colorado policymakers and the utility were able to identify a set of projects that replaced existing coal generation while saving ratepayers $213 million to $374 million. (Source: Greentech Media)
Major Wisconsin utilities are currently pursuing their own least-cost pathway to future electric generation, and it involves shutting down older, less-efficient, and more costly coal plants while reinvesting in new wind and solar generation. Why? In their own words, it will save their customers money.
Just yesterday, in its quarterly earnings call, WEC Energy Group, which produces about half of the electricity used in Wisconsin, Executive Chairman Gale Klappa said “[W]e made real progress in reducing our carbon dioxide emissions. In fact, we are on track to exceed our goal of 40% reduction below 2005 levels by the year 2030. Now we expect to achieve that goal by 2023.”
The times have changed, and Wisconsin Manufacturer & Commerce’s math is outdated. Corporate America, including some of Wisconsin’s best job creators and industries of the future, are investing in renewable energy, saving money, and creating jobs.
Instead of just saying no, we would encourage WMC and its members to work with the renewable energy industry, electricity providers, Governor Evers, and the Legislature to pursue cost effective ways to take advantage of the new economics and technology advances in renewable energy. Renewable energy is now a job-creating and money-saving opportunity for its members and all businesses across Wisconsin.
Owner: Madison Gas and Electric
Location: Howard County, Iowa
Status: Online as of February 2019
Approved by the Public Service Commission in November 2017, Saratoga Wind is a 33-turbine installation totaling 66 megawatts (MW). MGE broke ground on the project in early 2018. Now operational, Saratoga is expected to generate between 275 and 300 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually. Click here to watch a short, time-lapse video of Saratoga’s the construction.
Western Wisconsin Solar Arrays
Owner: OneEnergy Renewables
Locations in Wisconsin: Arcadia, Argyle, Cashton, Cumberland, Elroy, Fennimore, and New Lisbon
Total Capacity: 31 MWDC, 26 MW
Status: Under construction. All should be operating by June 2019.
OneEnergy is breaking ground this week on 10 solar arrays in the Upper Midwest that will supply electricity directly to municipal electric utilities in western Wisconsin and Minnesota. Seven of these installations will be located in Wisconsin. The financing for these projects is coming from multiple sources, among them Organic Valley, the City of Madison, and project owner BluEarth Renewables. In exchange for their contributions to the projects’ financing, Organic Valley and the City of Madison will acquire all the renewable energy attributes from the specific installations they are supporting. When the projects begin generating power this summer, the Arcadia array, sized at 7.45 MWdc (5 MWac), will become the largest solar array in the state of Wisconsin. Plymouth-based Arch Electric will construct several of the arrays.
January was a busy month bopping between energy summits. On January 17th we had our Renewable Energy Summit in Madison and January 24 – 25 the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters held the Powering Local Leadership Summit in Appleton.
Both summits had electric vehicle panels, and both were awesome.
Renewable Energy Summit: Electric Vehicles
This was the first time we had an electric vehicle session at the Renewable Energy Summit. Our space ended up being standing room only so I’d say it was a success. We emphasized the benefits that electric vehicles provide, no matter what business you are in.
Dan Steinhart and Mike Cornell kicked off the presentations, representing Arch Electric EV, the recently incorporated subsidiary company of Arch Electric. Arch Electric EV will house their electric vehicle charging station business. Arch is primarily a solar photovoltaic (PV) installer that has recently been in contact with over 100 businesses to gain a better perspective on the market and demand for electric vehicle (EV) recharging infrastructure. Their motto is that PV + EV = Sustainable Transportation.
Becky Cooper from Bounce Milwaukee shared her family business’s experiences with pizza delivery electric vehicles. In addition to providing family-fun of all kinds, Bounce Milwaukee owns electric Leafs that they use to deliver pizzas. Their rooftop solar array and electric pizza ovens mean their pizzas are both made and delivered on sunshine. Bounce Milwaukee uses electric cars because they’re affordable, efficient, and provide a better customer experience, in addition to boosting their brand as an early adopter of clean energy technology!
We also heard from Mahanth Joishy about the City of Madison’s commitment to low emission transportation. The city currently owns 3 Chevy Bolts and acquired a grant to purchase 20 more in 2019 and 2020. Additionally, the city has a biodiesel pilot project, 6 hybrid police vehicles, anti-idling technology on ambulances, is working on specs for compressed natural gas (CNG) trucks, and is outfitting vehicles with GPS tracking to even further optimize routes and decrease fuel use.
This session was a really excellent exercise in seeing the various ways that electric transportation can benefit all different kinds of organizations. From companies already invested in the energy transition to local family-centric businesses, and even local governments, there’s a lot to be gained from electric transportation.
Check out the slides and audio to learn more.
Powering Local Leadership Summit: Preparing Your Community for Electric Transportation
The Powering Local Leadership session had a more focused goal: provide local leaders the tools to prepare their communities for the transition to electric transportation. I kicked things off with an overview of the myriad of benefits of electric vehicles (to name a few: cheaper to operate, no tailpipe pollution, quiet, fun to drive, and convenient to refuel).
Ashwat Narayanan from 1000 Friends of Wisconsin reiterated the point that electric vehicles can solve many problems. They are not, however, a magic bullet to solving all of our transportation issues. We have to prioritize people – bikers, bus riders, and car sharers – over actual cars.
Jeff Springer from Dairyland Power Cooperative emphasized that electric vehicles have both an awareness issue and a rural issue. We need to help electricity coops through the process of getting the word out about electric vehicles, transitioning their fleets, and installing charging stations in their area. Rural solutions are also necessary – pickup trucks, SUVs, and farm equipment – all of which is coming to the market soon.
Finally, Peter Skopec from WISPIRG gave hope that with sales at an all-time high, communities really do need to be preparing for thousands of electric vehicles on their streets soon. The charging infrastructure needs to be built out, especially for folks who live in multifamily units and urban areas without access to overnight charging.
The audience had great questions that ran the gamut from gas station interest in electrification (there is some interest), to Volkswagen Settlement Funding (a huge opportunity for building electric vehicle infrastructure), and if mechanics need additional training to work on electric cars (yes, we want mechanics to be comfortable working on these cars).
I learned a ton from moderating these panels! Thanks to the panelists for joining me, and thank you for reading about them here. For those of you who couldn’t make it, I hope you can join us next year!
Back in October I wrote a blog, Momentum is Building, about the hundreds of new electric cars that will hit the market in the next few years. Then, in the last blog I talked about how the market for electric cars in the US is exploding, up 80% from 2017. The result? Lots of electric cars coming to market in 2019.
Now, we have a preview of cars that will arrive in 2019. I read almost a dozen articles that previewed the 2019 electric car market. Here is my summary, thanks in large part to Green Car Reports.
2019 Electric Car Preview
2019 Hyundai Kona Electric
When: Any day
Range: 258 miles
What’s cool: Finalist in Green Car Reports’ Best Car to Buy competition for 2019.
2019 Kia Niro EV
When: Expected in February
Range: 239 miles
What’s cool: Completes the line-up of ecofriendly Niro models by joining the hybrid and PHEV models.
2019 Nissan Leaf Plus
When: Spring 2019
Range: 226 miles
What’s cool: Improved acceleration and faster charging means this isn’t your typical Leaf
2019 Audi e-tron quattro
When: Second quarter 2019
Range: 248 miles
What’s cool: Another electric SUV!
2020 Porsche Taycan
When: Late 2019
Range: 300 miles
What’s cool: Can receive 240 miles of charge in only 10 minutes
Additionally, the 2019 Volkswagen ID will arrive in late 2019, but it’s only slated to appear in Europe.
Ford will also have a 2020 electric SUV, which is rumored to have a 300-mile range. More details could be announced in 2019, though the vehicle is not likely to be available for purchase before 2020.
Other models that may be out by the end of the year include: The 2020 Kia Soul EV, 2020 BMW iX3, 2020 Mercedes-Benz EQC, 2020 Polestar 2 and 2020 Mini Cooper Electric. Details are scant so far, but I’ll keep you updated if I hear more about pricing, range, or if/when they’ll be available in the US.
My Analysis: We’re moving in the right direction
Folks who have been waiting for an electric SUV or another option for an electric car should be extremely excited by these new options! The Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3 now have real competition from several vehicles with comparable range and prices, like the Kona, Niro, and Leaf Plus.
My concern is the lack of lower priced options. However, if the Leaf Plus does end up coming in near $30,000, then prices are moving in the right direction. Still, that’s a fairly expensive car. Electric vehicles need to be accessible to the average car buyer in order to reach market penetration. We aren’t quite there yet, but I’m hopeful we will be soon.
As first and second-generation electric car drivers swap their ride for one of these new options, it will put more used electric vehicles into the market. These cars will have a lower upfront price, making them more accessible for the average car buyer. More on this topic in a future blog post.
Until then, head to your local dealer and test drive some electric vehicles. Let me know how it goes!
2018 was a year of tremendous growth in the electric vehicle market. We saw new electric cars released (and one of our favorites get cancelled), two manufacturers hit the 200,000-vehicle tax credit cap, and across the county we hit record sales numbers. A few highlights include:
It’s safe to say the electric vehicle market is officially on the rise. We ended the year with 361,307 electric cars sold across the country, making up 6% of all passenger car sales!
2 Manufacturers Hit Tax Credit Cap
Tesla and GM have both sold over 200,000 electric vehicles. A great start down the adoption curve for electric cars, but also a signal that customers won’t receive their full tax credit on these cars any more.
After a manufacturer has sold 200,000 electric vehicles, the consumer tax incentive is reduced for that manufacturer’s vehicles. The full tax credit, $7500, remains for the rest of the quarter in which they hit the cap, plus the next quarter. After that, the tax credit is halved for 6 months, then halved again for the next 6 months, before expiring entirely.
Tesla hit the 200,000-vehicle cap in July, 2018 so their tax credit went from the full $7,500 to $3750 on January 1. From July 1 to the end of the year it’s halved again, to $1,875. Tesla buyers won’t see any tax credit in 2020.
GM hit the 200,000 mark in December, 2019 due to their all-electric Chevy Bolt and popular, although discontinued, plug-in hybrid, the Chevy Volt. GM vehicles can receive the full credit until March 31st. From April 1 to September 30 buyers will get the halved credit of $3750, and then $1875 until March 31st 2020.
Tesla made for a record-setting December
In December, 49,900 electric vehicles were sold – 10% of passenger car sales that month! 50% of those sales were thanks to the Tesla Model 3. Tesla pushed hard for customers to order their car before the end of the year because of the tax credit deadline. They went so far as to keep stores open until midnight on New Year’s Eve to get as many customers into inventoried vehicles as possible.
What it means for 2019
2019 is an excellent year to go electric, especially if you have your eye on a Tesla or GM model and want to capitalize on the tax credits. Manufacturers have been pushing to extend the tax credits, though with limited success. Their reason being that it’s unfair to penalize the manufacturers that are first to market by reducing the consumer incentive to purchase their vehicles. And I agree – why punish the innovators? I’m expecting to see more activity around the subject in 2019.
There are also a number of new electric vehicles coming to market. Hopefully we’ll see more SUV and truck options hit the streets in the next few months. From Kia and Hyundai, to BMW and newcomers like Rivian and Faraday Future, it’s shaping up to be an exciting year for electric car debuts.
In the next blog, I’ll do roundup of new models that will be available in 2019.
Just before the holidays, We Energies received approval from the Public Service Commission to begin two new renewable energy pilot programs.
The first is called the Dedicated Renewable Energy Resource program and would allow commercial, industrial, and local government customers to access large-scale renewable energy projects. The projects would allow larger customers to meet their sustainability and renewable energy goals, while potentially saving money, and We Energies could supply up to 150 megawatts of existing customer load with renewable energy through this program. The program would also allow an unlimited amount of new load to be served with renewable energy through this program.
The second program, called Solar Now, would enable We Energies to lease roof or ground space from customers. We Energies would own the solar projects, and pay lease payments to the host customers. The program could build up to 35 megawatts of solar. RENEW Members had various opinions about this program, which were reflected in our comments filed with the PSC.
We will keep you apprised as these programs roll out.
Home-grown renewable electricity is poised for a big breakout this year. Two solar projects large enough to replace fossil-fuel power plants are making headway, while utilities in Wisconsin have made stronger renewable energy commitments. At the same time an accelerating number of nonprofit organizations, businesses, and citizens are turning to renewable energy for their own use.
Hearings are set this month for the Badger Hollow Solar Farm in Iowa County and the Two Creeks solar project in Manitowoc and Kewaunee Counties. The Public Service Commission will likely decide whether to approve of the two projects in mid-March. The utilities Wisconsin Public Service (based in Green Bay) and Madison Gas & Electric plan to acquire 300 megawatts of generation capacity from these plants, enough to power over 70,000 average Wisconsin households. If the two projects are approved, the utilities will be able to reduce their fossil-fuel emissions while increasing supplies of renewable power in their energy generation mix.
We expect another wave of large solar power plants to follow soon after the PSC issues decisions on Badger Hollow and Two Creeks.
Wisconsin electric providers are driving this transition to renewable energy through their recently announced plans to scale back carbon emissions.
WI Utility Commitments to Reduce Carbon Emissions and Increase Renewable Energy
APPROXIMATE NUMBER OF CUSTOMERS
CURRENT WI RENEWABLES MIX
STATED GOALS OR RECENT ACTIONS
WEC (WE Energies and Wisc. Public Service)
1.1 million + 440,000
80% CO2 reduction by 2050
Alliant (WI Power and Light)
29% renewables by 2024
80% CO2 reduction by 2050
PPAs for 98 MW Wind (2017), 20 MW solar (2016), 80 MW Iowa Wind (2016)
80% CO2 reduction by 2030
100% CO2 reduction by 2050
PPAs for 132 MW wind (2018) and 99 MW solar (2020)
Madison Gas and Electric
30% renewables by 2030
80% CO2 reduction by 2050
How can you help accelerate clean energy?Increasingly, businesses and nonprofit organizations are also committing to renewable energy. Solar for Good, the grant program managed by RENEW Wisconsin to support non-profits going solar, announced its most successful round of funding ever in 2018. The program’s Fall 2018 round announced that 36 organizations have been allocated $445,000 in grants which will lead to $4.5 million in solar investment in Wisconsin. At the same time major businesses are committing to clean energy. On January 3, 2019, Advocate Aurora Health committed to 100% renewable energy by 2030 for its 27 hospitals and 500+ outpatient sites in Wisconsin and Illinois.
This tremendous momentum would not be possible without RENEW members and supporters of clean energy from all across Wisconsin. One important thing you can do is to help us ensure the Badger Hollow Solar Farm is approved. A strong showing of public support will help this project, which needs approval by the Public Service Commission.
Please support the Badger Hollow Solar Farm by adding your name as a supporter here.
Happy New Year!
RENEW Wisconsin’s Solar for Good program will issue 36 grants to Wisconsin nonprofit organizations to install new solar-electric systems. Altogether, these grants will total over $445,000 and will lead to more than $4.5 million in new solar investment. The new solar arrays, planned for installation over the next twelve months, will add 2.13 megawatts (MW) of new solar power to Wisconsin’s electric mix.
This round of funding featured a diverse group of awardees from every part of Wisconsin. The winning projects include:
- Beloit College will convert a former coal-fired power plant into a carbon-neutral student activity center, complete with solar electric and geothermal heating.
- Sawyer County Housing Authority will install solar arrays on 6 multi-family, low-income housing facilities, which will directly offset their residents’ utility bills
- Primates Inc, a sanctuary for retired primates from the research and film industry, plans to construct a 30-kilowatt array for their habitats near Westfield.
RENEW’s fall 2018 funding period builds on the success of Solar for Good’s previous rounds in the fall of 2017 and spring of 2018. During the first and second funding rounds, RENEW issued over $200,000 in grants, helping 23 Wisconsin-based nonprofits invest over $1.67 million in new solar projects.
“Solar for Good has reached new heights,” said Heather Allen, Program Director for RENEW Wisconsin. “With these 36 grants, Solar for good will generate $4.5 million in new solar projects. This will help nonprofits across the state lower their energy costs, inspire their communities, and promote a cleaner, healthier Wisconsin.”
The following organizations have been offered Solar for Good grants to install new solar electric systems:
Abinooji Aki, provides education on Native American values/teachings, Hayward
Attic Angel Place, a senior living campus and assisted living facility, Middleton
Beaver Dam Family Ice Arena, community ice-skating facility, Beaver Dam
Beloit College, liberal arts college, Beloit
Bethel Horizons, a retreat center and art education campus, Dodgeville
Blackhawk Evangelical, house of worship, Middleton
Christ Lutheran Church, house of worship, Spring Green
Housing Authority of Milwaukee, low-income housing provider, Milwaukee
Humane Society of Burnett County, safe haven for stray/unwanted animals, Webster
Juda School District, public education, Juda
Friends of Lawton Memorial Library, public library and learning center, La Farge
Literacy Network, adult reading, writing, and computer education facility, Madison
Madison Audubon Society, wildlife habitat protection, education, & advocacy, Madison
NeighborWorks Green Bay, low-income housing provider, Green Bay
Northland Lutheran High School, private education, Kronenwetter
Operation Fresh Start, adult education and job skill training facility, Madison
Oregon Ice Arena, community ice-skating facility, Oregon
Primates Inc, a sanctuary for primates retired from research and film industry, Westfield
Random Lake School District, public education, Random Lake
Redeemer Lutheran Church, house of worship, Milwaukee
Redeemer City Church, house of worship, Fitchburg
Sawyer County Housing Authority, low-income housing provider, Sawyer County
Sisters of Saint Francis, religious order, Green Bay
Solon Springs School District, public education, Solon Springs
St. Dennis Congregation, house of worship, Madison
Washburn Elementary and High Schools, public education, Washburn
Wisconsin Conference United Church of Christ, house of worship, Deforest
Two organizations have asked to remain anonymous at this time.
The Solar for Good program is primarily funded by philanthropists Cal and Laurie Coulliard of Deerfield. Solar for Good grants fund up to 20% of an organization’s solar installation. RENEW plans to issue another round of grant-funding in spring 2019. To learn more, please visit the Solar for Good website.