In the spirit of leading by example, Dane County launched two separate and distinct initiatives this week to power its own operations with clean energy resources. One initiative involves becoming a co-investor in solar and wind projects that will supply Dane County offices with zero-emission electricity. The County will issue a Request for Proposals in early May.
The other project, with an estimated price tag of $25 million, will clean up the methane coming from the Yahara landfill and several local dairy farms and convert it into compressed methane fuel for the County’s vehicle fleet. RENEW member businesses BioFerm and Clean Fuel Partners are part of the team of contractors developing this project. Construction of the project will commence this spring, and should wrap up in the first half of 2019.
County Executive Joe Parisi circulated an email summarizing the renewable energy initiatives detailed below.
As we approach Earth Day this weekend, it is my pleasure to share with you exciting news of two projects that continue to make Dane County a leader in renewable energy in Wisconsin.
This week I announced that Dane County will seek partners in the coming weeks to help develop new solar and wind farms across Wisconsin. It’s our latest investment in clean, renewable energy in an effort to improve efficiency and reduce climate change causing emissions. The county will release a request for proposals, seeking offers from prospective solar and wind developers on projects Dane County could become an investor in. Projects will be evaluated this summer, with recommendations made in time for 2019 budget preparations. The goal is to facilitate the development of projects that generate renewable electricity to offset the amount of energy used to run county operations. In turn, keeping with the county’s benchmark of being 100% sustainable.
And yesterday, I helped kick off construction for an innovative project that will turn garbage and cow manure into renewable fuel for thousands of vehicles across the region and country. This project is also expected to significantly increase our lakes clean-up efforts by increasing revenue opportunities for local biogas digesters. Taking cow manure and garbage and turning it into vehicle fuel is good for the air we breathe, the waters we fish and swim in, and county taxpayers. We are committed to accelerating work to clean up our lakes and financing efforts to produce renewable energy, and this project does both.
Design work of the new facility is complete and the remainder of the project is out for bid now. Construction is expected to begin in the coming weeks with the system online by spring of 2019. This project is the first in the nation to be able to receive biogas from multiple off-site locations and connect that renewable gas with CNG gas stations locally and across the nation.
For more information, please see the full releases below and the links to the media stories:
Renewable Proposals: http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/dane-county-to-seek-proposals-for-funding-private-renewable-energy/article_87ca0f31-9879-57fa-bc8e-4fca47a35006.html
Landfill Facility: http://www.nbc15.com/content/news/Groundbreaking-of-23-million-landfill-project-480315243.html
Joseph T. Parisi
Dane County Executive
Dane County Seeks Partners to Develop Solar, Wind Projects Across Region, State
County Executive Joe Parisi announced today that Dane County will seek partners in the coming weeks to help develop new solar and wind farms across Wisconsin. It’s the latest investment in clean, renewable energy by the County Executive who’s prioritized installing solar at county facilities, most recently making up to 40 acres of land at the Dane County Regional Airport available for solar, all in an effort to improve efficiency and reduce climate change causing emissions.
“Dane County is leading the way for renewable energy in Wisconsin,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. “This is the right thing to do for our environment, for our economy and for taxpayers. This project will increase local clean energy jobs, will reduce carbon emissions and ease the burden for taxpayers.”
In the coming days, the county will release what’s called a request for proposals, seeking offers from prospective solar and wind developers on projects Dane County could become an investor in. Projects will be evaluated this summer, with recommendations made in time for 2019 budget preparations. The goal is to facilitate the development of projects that generate renewable electricity to offset the amount of energy used to run county operations. In turn, keeping with the county’s benchmark of being 100% sustainable.
Dane County currently owns more solar than any other public entity in the state with nearly 600 kW at 15 sites across the county, not including the upcoming Airport Project which will be the largest public sector project in Wisconsin. That project could generate over 8 megawatts of power, almost three times more than the largest solar project currently operating in the region, a 2.25 megawatt facility in Beloit.
In addition to the airport, Parisi’s budgets have funded solar projects at the Dane County Job Center, the new East District Highway Facility and Medical Examiner’s Complex, the offices of Dane County Land and Water Resources, the Dane County Library Service and others. Additional future solar projects are planned for the Alliant Energy Center.
The new solar projects will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by the equivalent of taking 1700 cars off the road, reducing direct energy costs by over $2.1 million over the next two decades. The new Dane County East District Highway Garage that opened last year has well over 800 solar panels and is the second largest municipally-owned solar project in the state.
In addition to the solar developers, the project will employ local electricians and construction workers. There are more than 2,800 people employed in the solar industry in Wisconsin and 460 in Dane County, according to the Solar Foundation, which tracks solar jobs nationwide. Dane County is second only to Milwaukee County in the number of solar jobs in Wisconsin.
Expanding the county’s investment in solar projects will help continue the county’s tradition of being 100% sustainable. For more than the past two decades, Dane County has generated renewable electricity at its landfill, fueled by the naturally occurring methane given off by the waste. Presently, the landfill makes enough electricity to power 4,500 homes.
The county has initiated an innovative project to instead convert this methane into clean burning vehicle fuel, to further reduce carbon emissions by thousands of tons, the primary contributor to climate change causing greenhouse gases. In addition to helping Dane County achieve nearly 100% renewable status, the two landfills since 1998 have earned over $35 million for taxpayers thru the sale of renewable electricity. The County’s total renewable power generation reduces CO2 emissions the equivalent of taking over 5,200 cars off the road.
Dane County Executive Parisi Kicks Off Construction of First of its Kind Project in the Nation
Creates Economic Incentive for Development of Lakes Clean Up Efforts
Today, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi kicked off construction for an innovative project that will turn garbage and cow manure into renewable fuel for thousands of vehicles across the region and country. This project is also expected to significantly increase our lakes clean-up efforts by increasing revenue opportunities for local biogas digesters.
“Taking cow manure and garbage and turning it into vehicle fuel is good for the air we breathe, the waters we fish and swim in, and county taxpayers,” Parisi said. “Dane County is committed to accelerating work to clean up our lakes and financing efforts to produce renewable energy, and this project does both.”
Design work of the new facility is complete, BIOFerm has started ordering its system components, and the remainder of the project is out for bid now. Construction is expected to begin in the coming weeks with the system online by spring of 2019.
Dane County announced this today at a press conference with project partners Cornerstone Engineering, Clean Fuel Partners and Bioferm Energy, who is designing and supplying the biogas cleaning system for the project.
“BIOFerm is honored to be building this amazing green project for the County landfill which will serve as a beacon for all municipalities on how to maximize resources,” said Nadeem Afghan from BIOFerm. “We are proud to be a local company working to deliver this project and creating great economic value and jobs in the process. This project once completed will have the capability to deliver ½ billion gallons of clean transportation fuel which would be a great contribution by Dane County to save our environment from fossil fuel economy.”
The Dane County landfill currently generates electricity with the gas collected from the breakdown of garbage and organic material. Presently, the landfill makes enough electricity to power 4,500 homes. This new facility will enable the County to convert its landfill gas into vehicle fuel, thereby eliminating thousands of tons of carbon emissions, a leading cause to the extreme weather events triggered by climate change. In addition to the project’s environmental benefits, it is estimated the county will generate enough revenue from the project to payback its $25 million cost of the project in just a few years. That creates economic opportunity for both Dane County taxpayers and owners of “Cow Power” facilities north of Lake Mendota to convert their operations to gas production.
The County’s 2018 budget included the final phase of funding totaling $23.5 million for Dane County to build a biogas processing facility at its landfill and connect it with an adjacent interstate pipeline. That facility will clean up all of the collected landfill gas and turn it into renewable vehicle fuel. Of the total $23.5 million cost, $5.5 million is new funds in the 2018 budget. Those additional funds will allow the county to build a gas off-loading station where other biogas producers, like dairy digesters located in the North Mendota watershed, can bring their cleaned up fuel and have it injected into the pipeline. The gas would first need to be purified and compressed by the owner’s equipment before being hauled to the landfill for injection into the interstate pipeline.
This Dane County project is the first in the nation to be able to receive biogas from multiple off-site locations and connect that renewable gas with CNG gas stations locally and across the nation.
The 2018 county budget also included a $200,000 study to look into where additional digesters could be located to process manure into biogas. This will keep more manure off the land, reducing phosphorus on fields prone to runoff during heavy rain events that can get into waterways and cause algae blooms.
“Dane County continues to find game changing solutions to protect our lakes, produce renewable energy, and reduce climate change emissions,” said Jessica Niekrasz, Chief Administrator Officer of Clean Fuel Partners, whose company purchased the community digester near Waunakee in late 2015. “Our innovative private-public partnership with family-owned dairy farms will continue the work to economically remove phosphorus from the watershed.”
Digesters reduce greenhouse gas emissions by collecting and destroying methane that would otherwise be emitted to the atmosphere. They also help farms manage manure more responsibly, which reduces harmful runoff to lakes and streams. The county’s new facility at the landfill will make it economically feasible for manure digesters in the county to continue to produce renewable energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and clean up our lakes.
A commentary by Tyler Huebner and Michael Vickerman
March 28, 2018
Kohler Co., a signature Wisconsin manufacturer, is set to join the dozens of U.S. corporations buying renewable electricity to displace fossil fuel generation on the electrical grid. But the source of this clean energy is nowhere near the company’s headquarters in Kohler. The wind farm that will sell this electricity to Kohler is instead located in east central Kansas, nearly 800 miles away.
A leading manufacturer of kitchen and bath products worldwide, Kohler recently entered into a 15-year contract with Enel Green Power North America to purchase electricity generated from a 300-megawatt (MW) wind power plant now under construction. Kohler’s share of Enel’s Diamond Vista wind farm is 100 MW, which will produce enough zero-emission electricity to equal the consumption of nearly 40,000 typical households.
Like many other corporate wind purchases, however, the electricity bought by Kohler will not directly supply its own operations. Instead, Kohler will resell the wind generation it buys to the wholesale electric market serving the Southern Plains states.
At the same time, Kohler will retain the renewable energy credits (RECs) associated with the output. These credits will be used to offset the greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity actually used to power all of the company’s U.S. and Canadian operations, including its flagship manufacturing facility in Kohler, Wisconsin, as well as its nearby golf and resort properties. This action will reduce Kohler’s global carbon footprint by 26%.
This is by far the largest renewable energy purchase undertaken by a Wisconsin corporation, befitting an industry leader that has embraced a goal to become net carbon neutral by 2035. With more than 50 manufacturing locations worldwide, Kohler is on the lookout for innovative pathways that can achieve substantial greenhouse gas emissions with minimal impact on its bottom line.
Corporations Looking for Renewable Energy At-Scale
The economies of scale achieved by large wind projects like Diamond Vista is quite appealing to Kohler and other corporate offtakers of renewable energy. In another example of this trend, the global beer giant Anheuser-Busch committed in fall 2017 to purchase RECs from the Enel-owned Thunder Ranch wind power project under construction in Oklahoma. That transaction will enable Anheuser-Busch to reduce emissions from its electricity purchases in the United States by 50% (and garnered this logo on each bottle and can of Budweiser now sold in the U.S.)
In addition to its environmental benefits, Kohler’s purchase will set in motion a significant economic jolt that will last throughout Diamond Vista’s operating life. Unfortunately, these economic benefits will be reaped entirely by the host communities in rural Kansas, bypassing Wisconsin altogether.
Wisconsin Renewable Projects Coming Online
The recently commissioned Quilt Block wind farm in southwest Wisconsin exemplifies the economic development potential represented by renewable generation. The largest power plant energized in Wisconsin last year, this 98 MW installation will, over its lifetime, direct millions of dollars in landowner payments and tax revenues into the coffers of both Lafayette County and the host township. At the same time, Quilt Block will supply La Crosse-based Dairyland Power Cooperative and its members with clean, affordable electricity under a long-term contract.
As it happens, the developer of Quilt Block, Houston-based EDP Renewables, would like to develop additional projects near where this project was just completed. In addition, numerous solar developers are eyeing opportunities to build large-scale solar in Wisconsin. These projects could, in theory, supply local corporate or institutional customers with the renewable power they are seeking, while strengthening the local economy where the projects are built. That certainly has all the earmarks of a win-win proposition for Wisconsin.
Two Models for Wisconsin’s Success
There are two models in early stages that could facilitate these win-wins for Wisconsin companies and local economies.
The first option is a “Corporate Renewable Energy Service,” which electric utilities can put in place to connect larger customers with low-cost renewable power generated from solar arrays or wind farms located in Wisconsin. These three-party arrangements connect the corporation (or local government), the utility, and a specific renewable energy project. The benefit to the company is a relatively seamless, and perhaps cost-neutral, arrangement that flows the energy production through on their existing utility bill.
We supported Madison Gas & Electric as they pursued such a service in 2017. However, they remain the only utility explicitly offering this service in Wisconsin. We need other utilities to design and offer this type of service to enable Wisconsin-based companies to connect to home-grown renewable projects.
The second model was trail-blazed by Organic Valley last year. OV, a farmer-owned food cooperative headquartered in La Farge, Wisconsin, recently agreed to purchase RECs from new solar arrays supplying power to a consortium of municipal electric utilities in southwest Wisconsin and Minnesota.
This amounts once again to a three-party arrangement. Two separate agreements are needed: the utility and the renewable energy project owner reaches an agreement on energy price, while the corporation desiring renewable energy strikes an agreement with the wind/solar project developer on the price for the separate renewable energy credits. One difference is that the utility bill for the corporation is unchanged, while they have a new expense for the purchase of the RECs.
Compared with Kohler’s 100 MW purchase, the 12 MW of renewable generation leveraged by the Organic Valley purchase is modest, but it could serve as a model for other state-based companies and local governments to embrace.
Both of these models have merits. For a company like Kohler seeking to offset its entire North American footprint of electricity consumption, a REC model makes tremendous sense. They were able to facilitate one REC deal that substantially accomplishes their goal as opposed to working through many utilities that serve their operations throughout the continent. (It’s also important to note that Kohler plans to continue its industry-leading energy efficiency efforts and explore on-site renewable generation as well.)
What’s clear is that Kohler and Organic Valley are just the beginning for Wisconsin companies seeking large amounts of renewable energy.
Wisconsin’s whole economy will benefit most if we can maximize the number of in-state projects to serve these Wisconsin-based companies. Now is the time for our electric utilities and large corporations to work together to facilitate in-state success stories for achieving corporate sustainability goals while building Wisconsin’s local economies.
Madison Gas & Electric’s efforts to transition to a low-carbon energy resource mix are accelerating, as documented in recent correspondence from company president and CEO Jeff Keebler. These sustainability initiatives will, according to Keebler, enable MGE to reduce carbon emissions by 40% by 2030 (base year 2005), a central objective of the company’s Energy 2030 framework. Beyond that, Keebler states that MGE will continue its pursuit of deep decarbonization through 2050, the year it aims to have achieved an 80% reduction in carbon emissions from 2005 levels.
A number of initiatives highlighted in MG&E’s letter stand out.
- Ground has been broken on the company’s 33-turbine, 66 megawatt (MW) wind power plant in northeast Iowa. The Public Service Commission (PSC) approved MGE’s application to build its Saratoga wind farm in November.
- The PSC is reviewing a request from MGE and two other utilities to purchase the Forward Wind Energy Center located in Fond du Lac and Dodge counties. Chicago-based Invenergy built the 86-turbine, 142 MW project, which started producing electricity in May 2008. The PSC is likely to approve the sale next month.
- MGE is teaming up with WEC Energy Group, the state’s largest electric utility, to build and own solar projects that will when completed become the largest of its kind in the state. MGE’s share of these installations will amount to 50 MW, which is expected to generate enough electricity to match the annual usage of 16,500 households. Across Wisconsin today, solar generating capacity totals 85 MW. This project will require PSC approval.
MGE is also working with larger customers to supply them with electricity from new renewable energy sources built in the utility’s service territory. Under MGE’s Renewable Energy Rider program, commercial customers should be able to access renewable electricity produced off-site at a cost comparable to standard service.
Finally, MGE is partnering with the City of Madison to accelerate the electrification of the latter’s bus fleet. Madison’s first three electric buses will arrive in 2019. Electrification of fleet vehicles is one of the areas of collaboration specified in a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding taking effect in September 2017.
For more information on MGE’s sustainability initiatives, visit www.energy2030together.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.