2019 Ride with RENEW in the Fox Cities

2019 Ride with RENEW in the Fox Cities

On Saturday, September 14th, our 7th Annual “Ride with RENEW” bike ride, held in the Fox Cities this year, was a huge success!

We started the morning at Prairie Hill Park in Grand Chute with 40 determined bike riders and 12 wonderful young ladies from the Girl Scouts of the Northwest Great Lakes!  The State Representative for the area, Amanda Stuck, welcomed our riders by talking about the importance of energy, and how easy it has become to take advantage of clean energy sources.

Our bike riders and Girl Scouts then set out for the Bubolz Nature Center where we explored their solar panels and microgrid, built and operated by Faith Technologies, who walked us through this one-of-a-kind facility in Wisconsin. The microgrid includes a lithium battery, a hydrogen fuel cell, and a generator, and the facility runs off the solar panels and renewable storage most of the time.

Next we biked 10 miles to Evergreen Credit Union which has become a regional leader in sustainability. With solar panels covering its roof, Roni Kasperek of Evergreen described the credit union’s migration to becoming a clean energy leader and how sustainability is a core value of the organization.

We turned Schildt Park into a clean energy mecca at lunch!  Featuring pizza from Glass Nickel Pizza, we were fortunate to have the Ripon Lego League join us as they collected data from our bike riders to help them with their Lego challenge of designing a sustainable community!  Our riders engaged in the Lego League’s survey, created to help the kids better understand bikers’ safety needs and how a city could better support bicycling.  The Lego League kids did a great job helping to serve lunch and engage with our bikers!

In addition, we had an electric vehicle exposition featuring 9 vehicles from 5 car brands that drive with electricity, instead of gasoline. This technology is advancing and many new types of affordable electric vehicles are coming out soon.  We loved showing these cars off to our bike riders and a few members of the public, and the vehicle owners loved chatting about how much they enjoy driving electric.

After lunch we saw small wind turbines at Essity (formerly SCA Tissue) right along the bike path.  These 4 turbines were designed and installed by a former Wisconsin company called Renewegy (which is unfortunately no longer in business).  Next we headed to Heckrodt Wetland Reserve in Menasha where we learned about their tremendous efforts to preserve this part of the state and how solar power is a sustainable part of their growth.

We next saw an innovative solar carport at the Petit and Dommershausen law offices in downtown Menasha, where were treated to a much-needed snack.  Then we biked to RiverHeath, which is a new development in Appleton right along the Fox River.  Mike Barnett of HGA described an innovative use of geothermal energy, designed by HGA and installed by G.O. Loop, that uses the temperature of the water to provide heating and cooling to the new buildings in the RiverHeath complex.

Last, but certainly not least, we biked to the first power plant in Wisconsin that delivered electricity to a customer. We were greeted by “Thomas Edison,” a generous measure provided by the Appleton Historical Society, who helped explain the origins of the Vulcan Street Hydropower Plant which was put into service in 1882 and provided electricity for lights at paper manufacturing plants as well as one home.

The actual Vulcan plant burned down in 1889.  The Appleton Historical Society, as well as Ford Motor Company, contributed many hours and, in Ford’s case, equipment, to allow this replica of the original hydropower plant in Wisconsin to stand and to give visitors like us the opportunity to learn about Wisconsin’s energy history and see it in action.

Finally, we arrived back at Prairie Hill Park, where we enjoyed beer from Central Waters based in Amherst and celebrated a great event with our riders!  The weather was outstanding, and we can’t wait to plan next year’s Ride with RENEW.

Four of RENEW staff members joined Board member Jim Funk of Energize LLC as he showed off one of Wisconsin’s earliest examples of “bi-facial” solar panels – panels that can receive light from both sides of the panel to create electricity.  This installation at a carport has served as a beautiful visual example of solar energy in the Fox Cities since 2010.  For example, check out the very cool design when our staff member Jim Boullion’s car was parked underneath the panels.

Check out our Facebook photo album to see more images of the ride!

Thank you again to all of our sponsors, shown below, all the bike riders, the Girl Scouts, Lego League, and everyone who donated to support our riders and helped us raise over $17,000 to continue our education, advocacy, and collaboration to advance renewable energy in Wisconsin!

2019 RIDE WITH RENEW SPONSORS

Juda Students Get Hands-On Lesson in Solar Power

Juda Students Get Hands-On Lesson in Solar Power

Construction of Juda School District’s new solar array began on Tuesday, September 17th and Juda High School students got a first-hand look at the solar installation process. Ryan Harkins of Synergy Renewables, designed the 4-kilowatt solar array that will help the school offset its electricity consumption and reduce its utility bills.

Sixteen students, mostly seniors from Juda’s Calculus and Engineering classes participated in the installation process.

“Helping put solar panels on our school really shows what our Engineering class can accomplish,” said Juda student Tristan Geisking.

Harkins showed the students how to install the panels’ racking and connection devices, and the students also learned how solar energy is produced.

“Developing a solar project from the planning stages to the installation is an experience the students will remember for years to come,” said Harkins. “The students did a fantastic job.”

In 2012, the Juda School District set a goal of generating 10% of their electricity from renewable energy. The district had 36 solar panels installed in 2014 to offset its electric use. The new solar installation adds 12 more panels to the school’s rooftop and the two installations combined offset nearly 10% of the school’s electricity.

To help with costs, Juda received grants from RENEW Wisconsin’s Solar for Good program and the Public Service Commission’s Office of Energy Innovation. These grants helped fund the solar array, and a host of other energy efficiency measures at the school including building envelope improvements, HVAC optimization, and 100% LED lighting.

“Initially, the proposed payback to the school district would take 6 years. Now, thanks to the Energy Innovation Grant, the school is already realizing the savings,” stated Mario Millonzi, President of Upper 90 Energy and contractor on the project.

Juda is now saving over $30,000 per year in utility costs, and over $6,000 in yearly maintenance costs. The school, however, sees the cost-savings as only one part of the project’s benefits.

“At Juda, we issue the challenge to the students to make the school, the community, and the world better,” said Juda Math and Engineering Instructor, Scott Anderson. “This project accomplishes all three.”

Students at Juda were key to the success of the projects. In addition to helping with the installation, they helped write grants and worked with Upper 90 on the energy saving details.

“Creating students who are aware of their role as stewards of our world may be the single most important thing I teach,” added Anderson. “Once they get started, it’s great to see what they can accomplish.”

 

Fox Cities Gear up for  RENEW Wisconsin Bicycle Tour

Fox Cities Gear up for RENEW Wisconsin Bicycle Tour

Ride with RENEW to highlight area renewable energy projects.

On Saturday, September 14th, RENEW Wisconsin will host its 7th annual “Ride with RENEW” bicycle tour of renewable energy projects in Appleton, Grand Chute, Neenah, Menasha, and Fox Crossing, WI.  All event proceeds support RENEW Wisconsin’s ongoing work to advance renewable energy in Wisconsin.

Riders will travel approximately 30 miles on paved roads and bike paths to visit solar, geothermal, wind, and hydropower energy generation facilities in the area. Riders can also participate in an electric vehicle “ride and drive” event as part of National Drive Electric Week.

Riders will depart from Prairie Hill Park at 9 AM. The total tour time will be approximately 7 hours (including stops at renewable energy sites) and actual riding time will be approximately 3 hours. Those not able or wanting to bike the ride can register as a non-biker and can use their own vehicles to transport themselves to the various tour stops.

Participants will get an inside look at some of the area’s leading renewable energy projects and will enjoy breakfast, lunch, and beverages along the way. They will visit with installers and workers who are advancing renewable energy every day, and hear from customers about why clean energy works for their businesses and communities.

The day’s tour will include stops at the following clean energy facilities:

  • Gordon Bubolz Nature Preserve – The Gordon Bubolz Nature Preserve is a 700-acre facility used for recreation, conservation, and education. In July 2018, the nature preserve unveiled its new clean energy microgrid composed of solar panels, battery system, and software system.
  • Evergreen Credit Union – With a mission to be the most environmentally responsible credit union in the nation, Evergreen Credit Union installed a solar array at their Appleton facility. The solar array produces enough electricity to satisfy 85% of the credit union’s annual electricity demand.
  • Electric Vehicle Ride and Drive at Schildt Park (Neenah) – As part of National Drive Electric Week, join RENEW Wisconsin and many Fox Valley sustainable businesses to learn about and test drive electric vehicles and electric bicycles. The event will overlap with Ride with RENEW’s lunch hour.
  • Essity Wind Turbines – Essity is a global company that manufactures hygiene and health products. In 2007, Essity installed a 20 kW solar PV system, and in 2010, Essity installed four wind turbines that generate 80 kW of energy.
  • Heckrodt Nature Preserve – Heckrodt Wetland Reserve, a  Solar for Good grant recipient, is a 76-acre urban nature reserve. In 2018, Heckrodt installed a 19.6 kilowatt solar panel system to offset 5,000 pounds of CO2 emissions.
  • Petit & Dommershausen, SC Law Offices – The Petit & Dommershausen Law Offices have embraced solar energy at their Menasha and Oshkosh locations. After installing a 20.7 kW solar carport array at their Menasha location in the fall of 2017, Petit & Dommershausen is offsetting approximately 81% of their Menasha office’s annual electricity usage.
  • RiverHeath – RiverHeath Community is a vibrant apartment and retail area that was redeveloped from an urban brownfield site on the Fox River. Buildings utilize an innovative river based geothermal heating and cooling system that minimizes the site’s energy use and carbon intensity while reducing first costs compared to a conventional ground source geothermal system.
  • Vulcan Street Plant – The Vulcan Street Hydroelectric Central Station, the world’s first Edison hydroelectric central station, began operation in 1882 in Appleton. The output of the original generator was about 12.5 kilowatts. In 1891, the plant burned down, and a replica of the plant was later built on South Oneida Street.
  • Schmidt Brothers Solar Canopy (add-on stop for non-bikers) – This 20kW Bi-Facial Solar Cantilevered Parking Canopy benefits from added generation from reflection below when snow covers the lot and when white or other light-colored vehicles park beneath it. The cantilevered design was specifically implemented to provide open and clear access to all parking spaces.
  • The ride will conclude at Prairie Hill Park for refreshments at around 4:00 p.m.

Registration for the ride is open through September 14th. The cost is $45 for members of RENEW Wisconsin, $55 for non-members, and $75 to both register for the ride and become a member of the organization for one year.  All donations to RENEW Wisconsin for this charity bike ride are matched up to $15,000 by generous donors John & Mary Frantz of Madison!

Individuals and businesses can donate to RENEW Wisconsin or in support of a rider, donate to RENEW to contribute towards a $15,000 matching donation, or volunteer on ride day.

“We are very excited to tour some of the Fox Cities’ great renewable energy projects on Saturday, September 14th,” said Tyler Huebner, Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin. “This tour allows us to showcase a variety of ways to produce homegrown, clean energy right here in Wisconsin and for our team to engage with renewable energy advocates in the Appleton area. We’ll be learning about wind, solar, geothermal, and a hydropower plant that is part of renewable energy history as being the first electric production in Wisconsin. This is a really fun event where you can meet great people, help a good cause, and learn together about clean energy in Wisconsin.”


Sponsors of the Event include Eland Electric, Energize LLC, HGA, North Wind Renewable Energy Cooperative, Appleton Solar, Arch Electric, Clean Fuel Partners, G.O. Loop, Petit & Dommershausen, SC Law Offices, RiverHeath, Velocity, Wegner CPAs, 4imprint, Central Waters Brewing Company, Chain Reaction Cyclery, Glass Nickel Pizza Co., and Sturdy Bag Designs.

RENEW Wisconsin at the 30th Anniversary MREA Energy Fair

RENEW Wisconsin at the 30th Anniversary MREA Energy Fair

Last weekend, the MREA Energy Fair brought people together to learn about clean energy and sustainability, connect with others, and take action towards a sustainable future. The Fair featured workshops, exhibitors, live music, inspiring keynote speakers, family fun, great local food, and more. The Energy Fair is the longest-running event of its kind in the nation and RENEW Wisconsin was excited to be a part of it!

RENEW staff presented some compelling workshops and you can download slides from their presentations below.

Clean Energy Communications

Jodi Jean Amble, RENEW’s Communications Director, presented a workshop on clean energy communications. She discussed 6 tenets of creating effective communications messages, shared insights from clean energy communications polling,  and showcased some of RENEW’s recent campaigns.

Community-Led Clean Energy Action

Michael Vickerman, RENEW’s Policy Director, presented a workshop focused on communities across Wisconsin that are taking action to advance renewable energy in meaningful ways. Michael’s presentation surveys the specific action steps taken by individual municipalities to procure new supplies of solar energy and integrate carbon reduction goals into their own operations, including local transit options.  

Solar Farms – Economic and Agricultural Benefits

Heather Allen, RENEW’s Program Director, presented a workshop on solar farms featuring Bob Bishop, a local farmer from Iowa County renting his land out for the 300 Megawatt Badger Hollow Solar Farm. They talked about the economic, environmental and agricultural benefits of solar farms for rural communities. This workshop explored how to address frequently asked questions including those related to land use, food production, visual changes, and community values.

Solar for Good – Helping Wisconsin Nonprofits

Sam Dunaiski, RENEW’s Program Manager, presented information on the Solar for Good program including how the program got started and how it assists nonprofits in going solar. The workshop also featured a panel of nonprofits and solar installers that participated in the program. Panelists were Joe Lenarz (Pleasant Ridge Waldorf School), Kelsey Parry (Heckrodt Wetland Preserve), Angie Kochanski (Arch Electric), and Doug Stingle (North Wind Renewable Energy).

Electric Vehicle Toolkit

Jane McCurry, RENEW’s Program Manager focusing on electric vehicles, presented a workshop for people interested in seeing EV adoption advance in the Midwest. The discussion included charging infrastructure, influencing policy, the benefits of driving electric, and why EVs are good for the community, state, and country.

RENEW Wisconsin Electric Vehicle Blog: Recap of January Energy Summits

RENEW Wisconsin Electric Vehicle Blog: Recap of January Energy Summits

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!

Milwaukee “Ride with RENEW”:  Sun, Fun, and Clean Energy

Milwaukee “Ride with RENEW”: Sun, Fun, and Clean Energy


On Saturday, September 29th, fifty bike riders enjoyed our sixth annual “Ride with RENEW” bicycle tour!  This year’s tour was in Milwaukee and we saw solar, wind, and biogas renewable technologies up close.

The day started off cool, but as the sun rose the temps came along with it.  Ingeteam hosted our morning breakfast and registration, and we learned about their factory and US headquarters which builds wind generators and supports solar and wind projects nationwide.

Next we visited the City of Milwaukee’s Public Library, where the City’s Elizabeth Hittman regaled our crowd with the City’s plans to install 1.1 megawatt of solar across six City buildings.  The Library will get a 121 kilowatt solar PV system as part of this project.

A block away, we visited the largest vertical solar PV wall in the U.S. according to project developer Convergence Energy The project is at the Milwaukee Public Museum, and Director Ellen Censky motivated our crowd with her story of getting sustainability done!

Next, we rode trails north to Shorewood where we saw solar on homes from a recent solar group buy through the City’s Milwaukee Shines Programand the Midwest Renewable Energy Association.

Then we headed to the lake, where we ate lunch at the Discovery World which includes geothermal heating and cooling, which ride sponsor HGA Architects helped integrate into the building.

Have you ever had solar-powered pizza delivered by an electric car?  We did! Our lunch was delicious and provided by Bounce Milwaukee. Bounce uses solar electricity to power solar ovens that cook pizzas, which are then delivered by electric cars.  Ice cream was also provided by Cedar Crest Ice Cream.

After lunch, we visited the Port of Milwaukee’s wind turbine which is close to producing 1 million kilowatt-hours of electricity and is coming up on six years of operation.

Then, two non-profit organizations showed how broadly solar has grown.  Mike Cornell of Arch Electric showed off their project at the School Sisters of St. Francis, which we believe is the largest solar project for a religious order in Wisconsin.  The solar panels at this project are made in Jackson, Mississippi, by Seraphim.

Escuela Verde was our second-to-last stop, where Catie Malcheski of Sunvest described the school’s vision and actions to get solar.  The panels had been donated by Helios when it was making panels in Milwaukee a few years ago, but the school needed to raise the money to complete the installation.  RENEW’s Solar for Good program was a key contributor to making the project happen!

Our last stop was at the Forest County Potawatomi Community’s Biodigester, which is located next to the casino.  The Biodigester takes food waste from the casino and other locations and turns it into biogas, which is then used to create electricity.  Waste heat is also piped to the casino in the winter.  Charlie Opferman of the Potawatomi Community told us how the biodigester is basically a big stomach in action.

We finished up by having a beer and snacks at City Lights Brewing Company.

We also once again enjoyed excellent financial support from our sponsors, RENEW Wisconsin members, and friends and family of our bike riders who donated to support the riders.  John & Mary Frantz offered to match up to $15,000 in donations towards our ride, and we exceeded our goal again!   All event proceeds will support RENEW Wisconsin’s ongoing work to advance renewable energy in Wisconsin.

Thank you once again to all of our riders, sponsors, and supporters!

 

RIDE SPONSORS

RIDE SUPPORTERS