September was a busy month for me and RENEW Wisconsin. I attended more than 30 meetings, seminars and site visits all over the state. Many of them involved learning about Wisconsin’s exciting and fast growing renewable energy industry and building relationships with the talented people who help make it go. There were also numerous meetings with state and local policy makers as well as the leadership of many influential trade associations, unions and advocacy groups. Working together, we are starting to develop ideas for the 2019-20 legislative session that will help advance the use of clean, renewable energy that will create jobs, economic growth and save money for everyone!
Customers First! Power Lunch – Go Electric!
September got off with a “high voltage” start at the Customers First! Coalition Power Lunch, with the theme of “Go Electric”. Over 120 attendees learned about the latest developments and benefits of electric vehicles and “efficient electrification” – replacing direct fossil fuel use with electricity in a way that reduces overall emissions and energy costs. Efficient Electrification holds significant potential benefits for Wisconsin customers, utilities, and environmental advocates alike. PSC Chairman Lon Roberts gave the opening keynote speech and several panels with utility executives and state legislators Mark Spreitzer (D-Beloit) and Mike Kuglitsch (R-New Berlin) dove deeper into the technical and policy issues that will need to be addressed to keep up with these fast-growing trends. The program was interesting enough that WisconsinEye, the not-for-profit State Capitol broadcast network, recorded the event.
Emmi Roth Solar Panels
On September 11th I joined State Representative Travis Tranel at the Emmi Roth Cheese plant in Platteville to cut the ribbon on their new 1,600 panel solar system. The system will provide 15% of their electric use. “There are many companies trying to live up to sustainability goals,” said Jim Pullen, General Manager at Eagle Point Solar, who installed the system. “Emmi Roth is part of a group that actually makes these goals a reality and invests in the environment.” The company also recently invested in a new anaerobic digester at the same location in Platteville, Wisconsin, in an effort to lower operational costs and remain environmentally responsible for the waste being produced during their cheesemaking operations. According to Tim Omer, president and managing director at Emmi Roth, “We have a very strong commitment to sustainability. We want to have the lowest possible carbon footprint we could have in the industry.”
Butler Ridge Wind Farm
On September 17th, Pauline Meyer and Nic Cravillion, policy staff from Congressman Mike Gallagher’s office, and Dodge County Board member Russ Kattke joined me at a tour of the Butler Ridge Wind Energy Center in Dodge County. This was a behind the scenes tour of one of Wisconsin’s premier wind farms and was hosted by NextEra Energy Resources. Butler Ridge’s 36 turbines generate 54-megawatts of clean, renewable energy to power more than 13,500 homes. Wisconsin based Faith Technologies, who installed the ground grid and in-tower wiring, and The Boldt Construction Company were two of the prime contractors on the project.
Conservative Energy Forum Summit on “Advancing Wisconsin’s Clean Energy Economy” and Clean Energy Week Proclamation by Governor Walker
On Thursday, September 27th the Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum hosted a summit onclean energy developments in Wisconsin. PSC Commissioner Lon Roberts opened the meeting discussing the bright future of renewable energy. Several guest panels discussed Utility Scale Clean Energy – A Turning Point for Wisconsin Utilities, and Decentralizing Energy & Encouraging Private Sector Investment. Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch also spoke about the great things happening for clean energy in Wisconsin and how renewable energy fits so well into a conservative political viewpoint. At the end of her talk, Kleefisch presented a proclamation from Governor Scott Walker designating September 24th to September 28th as Clean Energy Week in Wisconsin. This echoed the clean energy week activities around the country.
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.