I had a great visit to Washington, DC the week of March 12th for a conference on Energy Policy hosted by the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE). While there, I also made time to visit Wisconsin’s congressional delegation. I was able to give our elected officials the latest information on the exciting growth of renewable energy in the last few years and the even faster growth that we expect renewables to experience in the future, especially in Wisconsin.
The ACORE Policy Summit was a great opportunity for me to learn about the renewable energy issues happening in Washington and around the country. Speakers included Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), FERC Commissioner Robert Powelson, and Department of Energy Under Secretary Mark Menezes. I also met with many trade association leaders representing renewable energy such as the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) as well as corporations who are leaders in the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency such as Amazon.
Among the hot topics I discussed with the congressional offices were the federal Omnibus spending bill and the significant cuts that were proposed to the Department of Energy in their renewable energy budget and funding for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-e). (In the final Omnibus Bill deal signed by the President on March 22nd, congress not only restored the budgets of both programs, but increased them significantly!).
While visiting, I also thanked the following members of the Wisconsin delegation who signed a letter encouraging the EPA to approve applications for biogas-based electricity to qualify as a renewable fuel under the Renewable Fuel Standard program: Congressmen Mark Pocan (D-2nd), Ron Kind (D-3rd), Glenn Grothman (R-6th), Sean Duffy (R-7th) and Mike Gallagher (R-8th). This “electric pathway” would greatly assist many Wisconsin farmers to continue responsibly managing their manure and preventing runoff and ground water issues while creating renewable energy. Senator Tammy Baldwin is working hard to put together a Senate version of this letter to the EPA and I would encourage everyone to contact Senator Ron Johnson and encourage him to sign onto the letter as well.
Overall, it was a very productive and educational trip! The overriding theme that came out of the trip is that renewable energy is just now hitting its stride. It is going to get even less expensive, more reliable, grow faster and become an even more important component of the US and world energy mix!
The image above shows me with Congressman Glenn Grothman following our meeting.
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.