Clean Energy Works Profile – Akinlana Abdalla

Clean Energy Works Profile – Akinlana Abdalla

Akinlana Abdalla is tall and self-assured with a gentle, almost playful demeanor. He was “the kid who always got in trouble for taking his toys apart to see how they worked.” This curiosity and innate engineering mind make him particularly good at his job as a Wind Turbine Repair Specialist at Ingeteam in Milwaukee, WI, where teams of engineers and technicians specialize in supporting solar, wind, hydro, and other renewable energy products.

Akinlana was born in Milwaukee, where he now lives with his wife and children. He has an extensive background in commercial construction and is a Journeymen Carpenter by trade. His career took him from deep tunnel mining through Laborers’ Local 113 to building bridges for Zenith Tech, later starting a business with his wife, and eventually earning an undergraduate degree in general management. He was attracted to Ingeteam because he wanted to move away from management and get back to a more “hands-on” work environment aligned with his values.

Ingeteam is a global renewable energy solutions company. Their 140,000 square-foot state-of-the-art production facility in Milwaukee is the only place in the United States where wind turbines are built by an American workforce.

Ingeteam customers send wind turbine generators that cannot be repaired up the tower. Akinlana and his team perform mechanical and electrical diagnostics on the generators to determine their failure. Ingeteam then submits a report to the customer and a cost estimate for the needed repairs. If the customer decides to move forward with the repairs, Akinlana and his team “repair it and send it back to the customer like new,” adhering to the Code of Excellence established by IBEW 2150.

“You never know what you’re going to get,” Akinlana said. “There’s no monotony. Every day is something different. We could get the same [generator] models coming in on one truck, but all of them will have different issues. When we open it up, it’s just fun trying to get to the bottom of what the root cause of a failure is.”

While it seems as if Akinlana was born to do this work, he thinks his success is determined by having a positive attitude and complementing it with aptitude.

“If you have a good attitude, that’s 90% of it,” he said. “Developing your mechanical aptitude and other skills to complete a repair is something that can be taught. But it starts with just having a can-do attitude and just appreciating the opportunity to be able to do what you do.”

His passion for his work extends beyond his enjoyment of taking things apart and then putting them back together. Akinlana has a deep sense of the impact of his work.

“Ingeteam provides something imperative for preserving and conserving the future environment, not only for ourselves but for our children and generations to come,” he said. “Because we know that we have not learned to discipline ourselves from gluttonous consumption, we have to have green energy.”

“This job aligns with my personal social responsibility.” Akinlana continued. “It’s nice to work for an entity where you share a passion for ensuring that we preserve our environment. Being an avid outdoorsman, being out in nature with my children, fishing, and hiking, it’s important to me that I give back. To be able to work doing something that allows me to do that, I think is absolutely profound.”

His team appreciates his passion and skills. Garan Chivinski is the Human Resources Manager at Ingeteam and the one who introduced him to RENEW Wisconsin.

“He’s a wealth of knowledge,” Garan said. “We’re seeing a time when those units [wind turbine generators] are coming back in, and they need to be serviced. They need some love and care to renew themselves and not create excess waste that they weren’t intended to create. AK [Akinlana] has really led that here for us, to get absolutely every single last spin, every single last value out of that resource possible for our customers and for the community. That’s why when you asked about somebody who might be your boots on the ground, somebody who’s the future of the wind industry in Wisconsin, this is the guy.”

Akinlana IS a wealth of knowledge. He’s also the kind of person who considers his work and actions and their effect on the world. This kind of thoughtfulness and passion is inspiring, and it’s easy to see why he is so respected and valued at Ingeteam.

“It’s nice to watch Elon Musk trying to fly off into another part of space,” Akinlana added. “But ultimately, when you see them go up in the rocket, you’re just going into another part of where you already are. Interesting, right? The reality is that we have this one small globe to live on, and no amount of money will get you away from that reality. Even if you set up something on Mars, you would have to come back here to get resources to live off of there. We have this [Earth], and we have to take care of this. Our level of consumption without trying to curb the adverse effects is damaging for the future. So that’s why this work is really, really important to me. I enjoy it every day. It’s not even work, not work at all.”

RENEW Wisconsin Launches Two Communications Campaigns to Promote the Benefits of Wisconsin Clean Energy Investments

RENEW Wisconsin Launches Two Communications Campaigns to Promote the Benefits of Wisconsin Clean Energy Investments

RENEW Wisconsin has launched two state-wide communications campaigns to promote the benefits of clean energy investments in Wisconsin. The two campaigns, Clean Energy Works for Wisconsin” and “Clean Energy is Made in Wisconsin, include print and digital ads and shareable communications assets for partners and clean energy advocates. 

Wisconsin’s clean energy workforce is 70,000 strong, with good-paying local jobs like installing solar and electric vehicle charging stations, manufacturing energy storage systems, servicing wind turbines, and retrofitting buildings. Clean energy job growth is gaining momentum from state and federal clean energy and electric transportation commitments, federal funds to support these goals, and an increased interest in clean energy investments from the public sector. The “Clean Energy Works for Wisconsin” campaign highlights the job potential of continued investment in electric transportation and Wisconsin clean energy.

“Over the next five years, Wisconsin can expect to receive $79 million in federal funds from the bipartisan infrastructure law,” said Francisco Sayu, Emerging Technologies Director at RENEW Wisconsin. “Wisconsin will also have the opportunity to apply for $2.5 billion in competitive grant funding dedicated to electric vehicle corridors and community charging. Building a network of electric vehicle charging stations will reduce emissions, improve air quality, and create thousands of good-paying jobs and is a tremendous opportunity for Wisconsin residents.” 

In 2019, Governor Evers set a goal that all electricity consumed in the state will be 100% carbon-free by 2050, and in 2022 introduced Wisconsin’s first-ever Clean Energy Plan. Currently, renewable energy only accounts for 13% of all electricity sold in Wisconsin. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Wisconsin consumes almost six times as much energy as it produces and spends billions on coal, oil, and natural gas every year. The “Clean Energy is Made in Wisconsin” campaign presents a vision of keeping more energy dollars in-state by investing in homegrown renewable energy.

“State and federal investments are moving us toward our clean energy goals, but we need to maximize the benefits of this energy transition for Wisconsin residents,” said Heather Allen, Executive Director at RENEW Wisconsin. “We will need an ‘all of the above’ and ‘all hands on deck’ approach to shape our clean energy future. This means smart investments in homegrown renewable energy and clean transportation.”

Print and digital ads are already circulating in media outlets across the state. To learn more and help amplify Wisconsin’s clean energy opportunities, please visit the “Clean Energy Works for Wisconsin” and “Clean Energy is Made in Wisconsin” landing pages.

Governor Evers Introduces Wisconsin’s First-Ever Clean Energy Plan

Governor Evers Introduces Wisconsin’s First-Ever Clean Energy Plan

Today, Governor Tony Evers introduced Wisconsin’s first-ever Clean Energy Plan. The plan was developed with input from hundreds of stakeholders and provides a pathway for Wisconsin to build a robust clean energy workforce, save billions of dollars, and become more energy independent.

Building a Clean Energy Workforce

The Clean Energy Plan developed by Governor Evers and the Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy (OSCE) identifies opportunities to grow Wisconsin’s clean energy workforce. Wisconsin’s clean energy workforce is 76,000 strong, with good-paying, resilient jobs like installing solar and electric vehicle charging stations, servicing wind turbines, manufacturing energy storage systems, and retrofitting buildings. Wisconsin can take control of its energy future and expand local job creation by investing in renewable energy.

EnTech Solutions, a division of Faith Technologies Incorporated (FTI) based in the Fox Valley, is a leader in distributed energy capabilities, eMobility charging, innovative sustainable fuel technologies, and asset management solutions for businesses looking for reliable, clean energy solutions. “EnTech Solutions is growing to satisfy the high demand for emerging technologies like microgrids, distributed energy systems, and renewable energy EV chargers,” said Tom Clark, chief experience officer with FTI. “Our clean energy workforce develops innovative solutions to solve our customers’ energy challenges.”

The Clean Energy Plan will generate 40,000 new jobs in Wisconsin by 2030, or 6,000 new jobs per year. The plan will create a Clean Energy Workforce Advisory Council and strengthen the workforce with apprenticeship tracks and reentry training for formerly incarcerated individuals. Demand for clean energy workers in Wisconsin is high and growing. State leadership will ensure Wisconsinites have access to training and jobs to help them embark on clean energy careers.

Save Wisconsinites Money

The Clean Energy Plan will accelerate renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions in commercial, residential, and multifamily new construction. Wisconsin families and businesses can save money on monthly energy bills with renewable energy investments, energy efficiency measures, and demand response technologies.

A recent study by Synapse Energy Economics Inc. found that greater investment in Focus on Energy, Wisconsin’s energy efficiency and renewable energy program, would help Wisconsin reap millions in benefits through avoided utility costs, job creation, economic investment, and reduced air emissions. Overall, the report found that if Wisconsin doubled the Focus on Energy budget, the state would receive $340 million in net benefits over one year or $3.4 billion over ten years. The expanded incentives for Focus on Energy outlined in the Clean Energy Plan would create a clean, efficient Wisconsin energy economy for everyone!

Reduce Dependence on Fuel Imports

Wisconsin can be free from the instability of oil and natural gas by investing in renewable energy and electric transportation. Wisconsin currently spends billions of dollars every year to import fossil fuels. The Clean Energy Plan will focus state investments on homegrown, renewable energy and electric vehicle infrastructure.

The Clean Energy Plan will speed the deployment of electric vehicles and charging stations around Wisconsin. The plan lays out strategies for state agencies and local governments to lead the way to build a comprehensive infrastructure for electric vehicle charging stations that will reduce the state and individual dollars spent annually on importing oil and gasoline.

We congratulate Governor Evers and all contributing stakeholders on developing this comprehensive Clean Energy Plan. RENEW is poised to help advance renewable energy, and we look forward to collaborating with state agencies and other partners to build Wisconsin’s clean energy future.

Clean Energy Takes Front Row Seat at Renewable Energy Day at the Capitol

Clean Energy Takes Front Row Seat at Renewable Energy Day at the Capitol

On October 13, RENEW Wisconsin and Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum (WCEF) hosted their first-ever Renewable Energy Day at the Capitol in Madison. The event included issue briefings by industry experts on a variety of legislation that has been introduced this year related to the solar and electric vehicle industries. Attendees then went to the State Capitol to speak with their legislators to gain support for these important issues.

During a welcome reception, the evening before the Day at the Capitol,  RENEW and WCEF held a panel discussion “Energy in Transition: Policy and Politics.”

From right to left were moderator, Scott Coenen (WCEF), Dan Ebert (former PSC Chairman), Senator Rob Cowles, Larry Ward (Conservative Energy Network), and Jim Boullion (RENEW Wisconsin).

The panel discussed the current uncertainty in world energy markets and the impact that energy shortages and spiking prices will have on the world. There was consensus from the conversation that panelists believe renewables can help stabilize much of this energy uncertainty, but that the industry needs to be realistic about its role in a world where supply is not meeting demand. Businesses, households, and communities in Wisconsin should be empowered to invest in their own energy generation. 

Before attendees went to the Capitol to meet with their legislators, there was an issue briefing with a panel of industry experts moderated by Jim Boullion, Director of Government Affairs for RENEW Wisconsin. The panelists explained in detail what legislative proposals were currently before the legislature, how they will impact renewable energy in Wisconsin, and what arguments are being made on both sides of the issue. 

Issue briefing panelists, Left to right: Jason Mugnaini (Chief of Staff, State Senator Rob Cowles), James Fenley (SJL Government Affairs & Communications), Peter Lund (Financial Structuring Associate, Nautilus Solar Energy), and Amy Heart (Senior Director, Public Policy, Sunrun).

The first panel discussed two solar-related issues: 

  • Expanded Development of Community Solar – (SB 490 / AB 527 – Sen. Stroebel and Rep. Ramthun)  This bill would authorize the development of non-utility owned community solar projects and provide access to the economic and environmental benefits of solar for those who can’t afford the full cost of a system, live in multi-family housing, or own property that is not suitable for solar. 
  • 3rd Party Financing/Leasing – (LRB 1550/1 Sen. Cowles and Rep. Cabral-Guevara) This legislation would clarify that 3rd party financing/leasing of renewable energy equipment is legal in Wisconsin, providing affordable financing options for people, businesses, municipalities, or not-for-profit entities who don’t have the resources to pay for solar on their own property.
Learn more about how to support these two bills at www.wisolarcoaliton.com.

 

The second panel, moderated by RENEW’s Jeremy Orr, Emerging Technology Program Manager, discussed electric vehicle issues such as Wisconsin’s recent Direct Electric Vehicle Sales legislation, SB 462 / AB 439  (Sen. Kooyenga and Rep. Neylon)Albert Gore, Policy and Business Development at Tesla, discussed how allowing manufacturers to sell electric vehicles directly to consumers creates greater access to the electric vehicle market, resulting in growth in the traditional dealership model. Read Jeremy Orr’s previous testimony on this issue here.

Likewise, Justin Ackley, Public Policy Manager at ChargePoint, spoke to the business clarity and consumer transparency that AB 588 / SB 573  (Sen. Cowles and Rep. VanderMeer) would provide, as it would allow non-utility-owned charging stations to charge by the kWh. Similar to a gas pump, where the price per gallon is displayed, kWh charging tells electric owners how much energy they’re paying for, regardless of how long it takes to charge their vehicle. The panel pointed out that while the main goal of this legislation is good, another section of it would create problems by prohibiting charging a fee if any of the electricity going through the EV charger comes from a non-utility source such as a solar+storage system.

Emerging technology allows EV chargers to be installed in areas, especially rural areas, that have inadequate grid infrastructure and can help limit costly spikes in energy “demand charges” for charging station owners. EnTech, a division of Faith Technologies based in Menasha, Wisconsin brought one of their portable solar+storage units to Capitol Square to demonstrate how the technology works and how flexible it can be. A similar system was set up at  Bergstrom Ford in Neenah to help reduce the energy bills at their dealership. John Bergstrom, the owner of the dealership, told the story of why he worked with Faith Technologies to install the system in this podcast. 

 

The panel closed the session by discussing two other bills recently introduced by Sen. Rob Cowles:

  • $10 million in VW Settlement Funds for EV Charging Station Grants – (LRB-0254/1 Sen. Cowles and Rep. VanderMeer) Grants from these funds would be used to install electric vehicle charging stations at key locations throughout Wisconsin.
  • Energy Storage Sales Tax Exemption – (LRB-1513/1) – Sen. Cowles and Rep. Duchow) This legislation would clarify that battery storage devices installed as part of a renewable energy system should be included in the sales tax exemption that already exists for renewable energy system equipment.

The 75 registered attendees made an impact by taking time out of their busy lives and getting involved in the political process. None of these issues will be easy to pass. In fact, most of them face significant opposition from powerful forces. But working together and building coalitions with pro-renewable energy friends helps get important legislation like this adopted.  

If you would like to learn what you can do to help as well, contact Jim Boullion, Director of Government Relations at jim@renewwisconsin.org.

Wisconsin Awarded $1 Million for Electric Vehicle Planning

Wisconsin Awarded $1 Million for Electric Vehicle Planning

On Thursday, October 21st, the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration awarded the State of Wisconsin a $1 million Statewide Economic Development Planning Grant, via the American Rescue Plan, for statewide electric vehicle (EV) adoption initiatives. The grant program is aligned with the Biden Administration’s Build Back Better Agenda to increase U.S. competitiveness and boost the economy.

Wisconsin’s Department of Administration (DOA), in collaboration with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT), will administer the grant funds, which will focus on end-user demand, as well as EV charging station planning and EV manufacturing supply chain opportunities. 

The funding will also supplement work already underway by the Wisconsin Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy, which is developing a statewide Wisconsin Clean Energy Plan to implement advanced vehicle technologies like electric vehicles to address Wisconsin’s transportation emissions. The Office is also leading efforts on the newly released Regional Electric Vehicle (REV) Midwest MoU, which will focus on medium and heavy-duty transportation electrification across a five-state region in the Upper Midwest, as well as the Lake Michigan Electric Vehicle Circuit, which will create a light-duty electric vehicle corridor around Lake Michigan.

The potential economic growth and job creation from the grant could be substantial. Aside from creating pathways to reduce Wisconsin’s transportation emissions, the $1 million in public funds could spur a five-fold return on investment and job creation, in addition to $2.60 in private investments for every $1 of public investment spent. This means that the $1 million public investment for electric vehicle initiatives has a potential total return of $7.6 million for Wisconsin’s economic growth and job creation.

Wisconsin Businesses call for Federal Clean Energy Investment to Drive Jobs and Economy

Wisconsin Businesses call for Federal Clean Energy Investment to Drive Jobs and Economy

Thirty-one Wisconsin businesses signed a letter supporting ambitious clean energy investments and broad interest in the American Jobs Plan. The signatories, representing higher education institutions, local governments, and biogas, solar, finance, and electric vehicle industries, are committed to “advancing the clean energy economy, building family-sustaining jobs, and expanding economic opportunities for Wisconsinites.”

The letter states, “Wisconsin’s cumulative solar capacity more than doubled in the past year and is anticipated to quintuple in the next 3-5 years. Wisconsin’s clean energy workforce is 76,000 strong, and solar and advanced transportation jobs proved remarkably resilient even during the economic upheaval of 2020.” Investing in these sectors can create jobs and opportunities for Wisconsin to become a clean energy leader in the Midwest.

The electric vehicle sector is a key focus of the American Jobs Plan and an area where Wisconsin has tremendous opportunity to invest. Recent studies and RENEW’s analysis suggest that the federal stimulus funds spent on transportation electrification will yield a 500% return on investment.

Corry Bullis of U.S. FLO said that “Given President Biden’s goal to deploy 500,000 charging stations by 2030, FLO is expanding its manufacturing footprint to meet increasing demand in the U.S and support its climate and air quality goals. Incentives, as outlined by the American Jobs Plan, will be critical to delivering on this promise. We urge Congress to pass an infrastructure package as soon as possible.”

Wisconsin’s solar job market held steady throughout the pandemic. The industry continues to advance, and local job opportunities are growing rapidly, signaling clean energy investments are a bipartisan solution to growing Wisconsin’s economy and advancing careers for local workers.

Ed Zinthefer, an owner of Arch Electric based in Plymouth, WI, says, “More homeowners and businesses are saving money and supporting local jobs in their neighborhoods by going solar.  We are busier than ever, growing and hiring and building more clean energy projects. It’s a great time to get into clean energy in Wisconsin.”

Even as the renewable energy markets are growing, there is an urgent need to drive investment and expand our workforce. According to the Solar Energy Industry Association, the solar industry is on a trajectory to reach 400,000 solar jobs by 2030. However, employment will need to exceed 900,000 workers by 2035 to reach President Biden’s 100% clean electricity goal.

Sign your name to support federal investment in clean jobs here in Wisconsin!