We Energies Pilot Programs

We Energies Pilot Programs

Just before the holidays, We Energies received approval from the Public Service Commission to begin two new renewable energy pilot programs.

The first is called the Dedicated Renewable Energy Resource program and would allow commercial, industrial, and local government customers to access large-scale renewable energy projects.  The projects would allow larger customers to meet their sustainability and renewable energy goals, while potentially saving money, and We Energies could supply up to 150 megawatts of existing customer load with renewable energy through this program.  The program would also allow an unlimited amount of new load to be served with renewable energy through this program.

The second program, called Solar Now, would enable We Energies to lease roof or ground space from customers.  We Energies would own the solar projects, and pay lease payments to the host customers.  The program could build up to 35 megawatts of solar.  RENEW Members had various opinions about this program, which were reflected in our comments filed with the PSC.

We will keep you apprised as these programs roll out.

Big year for renewables ahead!

Big year for renewables ahead!

Home-grown renewable electricity is poised for a big breakout this year.  Two solar projects large enough to replace fossil-fuel power plants are making headway, while utilities in Wisconsin have made stronger renewable energy commitments.  At the same time an accelerating number of nonprofit organizations, businesses, and citizens are turning to renewable energy for their own use.

Hearings are set this month for the Badger Hollow Solar Farm in Iowa County and the Two Creeks solar project in Manitowoc and Kewaunee Counties.  The Public Service Commission will likely decide whether to approve of the two projects in mid-March.  The utilities Wisconsin Public Service (based in Green Bay) and Madison Gas & Electric plan to acquire 300 megawatts of  generation capacity from these plants, enough to power over 70,000 average Wisconsin households. If the two projects are approved, the utilities will be able to reduce their fossil-fuel emissions while increasing supplies of renewable power in their energy generation mix.

Take action to support the Badger Hollow Solar Farm today!

We expect another wave of large solar power plants to follow soon after the PSC issues decisions on Badger Hollow and Two Creeks.

Wisconsin electric providers are driving this transition to renewable energy through their recently announced plans to scale back carbon emissions.

WI Utility Commitments to Reduce Carbon Emissions and Increase Renewable Energy

UTILITY
APPROXIMATE NUMBER OF CUSTOMERS
CURRENT WI RENEWABLES MIX
STATED GOALS OR RECENT ACTIONS
WEC (WE Energies and Wisc. Public Service)
1.1  million + 440,000
7% WE
7.8% WPS
80% CO2 reduction by 2050
Alliant (WI Power and Light)
460,000
13.3%
29% renewables by 2024
80% CO2 reduction by 2050
Dairyland Power
258,000
14.4%
PPAs for 98 MW Wind (2017), 20 MW solar (2016), 80 MW Iowa Wind (2016)
Xcel Energy
256,000
28% (systemwide)
80% CO2 reduction by 2030
100% CO2 reduction by 2050
WPPI Energy
200,000
14.5%
PPAs for 132 MW wind (2018) and 99 MW solar (2020)
Madison Gas and Electric
145,000
10.1%
30% renewables by 2030
80% CO2 reduction by 2050

How can you help accelerate clean energy?Increasingly, businesses and nonprofit organizations are also committing to renewable energy.  Solar for Good, the grant program managed by RENEW Wisconsin to support non-profits going solar, announced its most successful round of funding ever in 2018.   The program’s Fall 2018 round announced that 36 organizations have been allocated $445,000 in grants which will lead to $4.5 million in solar investment in Wisconsin.  At the same time major businesses are committing to clean energy.  On January 3, 2019, Advocate Aurora Health committed to 100% renewable energy by 2030 for its 27 hospitals and 500+ outpatient sites in Wisconsin and Illinois.

This tremendous momentum would not be possible without RENEW members and supporters of clean energy from all across Wisconsin.  One important thing you can do is to help us ensure the Badger Hollow Solar Farm is approved.  A strong showing of public support will help this project, which needs approval by the Public Service Commission.

Please support the Badger Hollow Solar Farm by adding your name as a supporter here.

Happy New Year!

 

 

Solar Farms: Homegrown, Healthy, and Smart for Wisconsin

Solar Farms: Homegrown, Healthy, and Smart for Wisconsin

In recent years, private companies and our state’s power providers have been building “solar farms” in Wisconsin.  These are large-scale solar energy facilities providing homegrown, healthy, and smart energy to Wisconsin citizens.

These new solar farms provide homegrown energy, making power right here in Wisconsin. Solar farms provide an opportunity to boost local economies and create jobs. Already Wisconsin’s renewable energy industry employs more than 75,000 workers – more than all the waiters, waitresses, computer programmers, lawyers and web developers in the state combined. This number stands to grow substantially as we explore more renewable energy development.

Solar farms are healthy – they put out no emissions or pollution, and they use no water from the ground or surface.  Many solar farms implement native meadow vegetation that prevents soil erosion, provides weed control, and produces a natural (and healthy) habitat for pollinators and wildlife.

Solar farms are smart for Wisconsin, because they are cost-competitive with traditional ways of making electricity. The cost of developing solar power projects has dropped by over 75% in the past decade. And solar power technology has improved, so that more of the sunlight is directly converted to power.

As some of these solar projects are getting underway and Wisconsin’s energy landscape is changing, RENEW Wisconsin is here to provide information and answer questions.

We’ve made a fact sheet showing all the potential solar and wind development that is being explored in the state. It also shows what our power companies are planning to do to shift towards homegrown and clean, renewable energy including solar and wind.

Beyond that, we’ve fielded dozens of questions and prepared straightforward answers that are easy to understand. In addition to having this online tool, we have 2-page and longer version of these “Frequently Asked Questions” that citizens can use.

Solar farms: homegrown, healthy, and smart for Wisconsin.  Learn more on our new Solar Farms web page!

 

 

MGE and Dane County Team Up to Build Airport Solar Project

MGE and Dane County Team Up to Build Airport Solar Project

Dane County and Madison Gas and Electric (MGE) are joining forces to construct a solar power plant on County-owned land that will supply clean electricity for one customer only: Dane County. The solar array, expected to total eight megawatts of capacity, will be situated on a 41-acre parcel at the north end of Dane County Regional Airport. MGE will own the array, which will be interconnected directly to the utility’s distribution system nearby.

This project invites superlatives. When completed, it will be the largest solar power plant in Dane County, more than three times as large as Epic Systems’ 2.2 MW installation serving its Verona headquarters, and four times as large as Madison College’s 1.8 MW rooftop array at its Truax campus, which is expected to start generating electricity in November.

Thanks to its Renewable Energy Rider service, MGE has the capability of supplying commercial customers to clean electricity generated from new, offsite solar installations. Through this service, customers like Dane County can lock in a dedicated source of solar at a fixed price for up to 20 years. The cost of building a Renewable Energy Rider project would be borne exclusively by the customer or customers purchasing the electricity.  Other nonparticipating customers would be unaffected by the transaction.

In this case, MGE will recover the full cost of building the airport installation from Dane County’s energy purchases. The county has a goal to source 100% of the electricity it consumes from renewable resources. The output from the airport project should total about 25% of the County’s annual electrical usage.

Later this fall, MGE will select a general contractor to design and build this installation. The utility will also file an application for permission to supply Dane County with the project’s output. The Public Service Commission will review the terms of the agreement to ensure that the airport array is cost-neutral from the standpoint of the utility’s other customers.

Dane County and MGE jointly unveiled its partnership at an October 1st press conference at the airport. The announcement also coincided with the unveiling of the County Executive’s proposed budget for 2019, containing a number of provisions to advance the County’s development and use of renewable energy. One of them involves Lake Farm Park, home of Lussier Family Heritage Center and numerous campsites. The proposed budget allocates $435,000 to build enough solar capacity to supply 100% of the electricity and hot water used at the park.

“Dane County is a nationally-recognized leader in renewable energy adoption and innovation. From the hardest-working landfill in the state, to what will be one of the largest solar farms in the state, I’m proud of the progress we’ve made,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. “This historic solar farm will help increase local clean energy jobs, reduce carbon emissions, and reduce the tax burden on Dane County residents through lower energy bills.”

“MGE welcomes the opportunity to partner at the County’s request on this solar project and supports its efforts to achieve 100% renewable energy for its facilities,” said MGE Chairman, President and CEO Jeff Keebler.

If approved, construction of the project is expected to begin in 2019. For more information on the project see: https://www.countyofdane.com/press/details.aspx?id=4370

 

RENEW Wisconsin September Legislative Blog

RENEW Wisconsin September Legislative Blog

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.

 

RENEW Wisconsin August Legislative Blog

RENEW Wisconsin August Legislative Blog

Quilt Block Wind Farm

On August 9th, Vanessa Tutos, Director of Government Affairs for EDP Renewables hosted me and a large group of legislators, legislative staff and other interested people on a tour of their Quilt Block Wind Farm near Darlington, Wisconsin.

During a pre-tour briefing, Vanessa and the EDP Renewable staff gave an overview of the facility and how it works.  Darlington Mayor Dave Breunig also participated in the briefing, explaining the many benefits that the Quilt Block facility brings to the local communities, including not only the town and county tax revenues, but the good paying jobs at Quilt Block and the many community businesses that benefit such as restaurants, hotels and other shops.

In attendance were State Senator Howard Marklein and Rep. Todd Novak.  Legislative staff:  Garrett Huffman, Rep. Kuglitsch (Assembly Utilities Committee Chair); Kyle Koenen and JJ Sherman, Sen. Kapenga staff; Brian Radday, Sen. LeMahieu staff (Senate Utilities Committee Chair); Evan Miller, Sen. Cowles staff (Senate Energy Committee Chair); Dave Breunig, Mayor of Darlington; Alex Ignatowski, Wis. Public Service Commission; Ryan Owens, Tommy Thompson Center on Public Leadership – UW Madison; Jon Hochkammer, Wisconsin Counties Association; Rob Richard, Wisconsin Farm Bureau; Tim Hoven, EDPR

School Sisters of St. Francis

On Tuesday, August 22nd, the Wisconsin Association of Energy Engineers invited me and Jane McCurry of the RENEW Wisconsin staff to tour something old and something new, all in one location, the School Sisters of St. Francis campus in Milwaukee. The Sisters recently installed a 375-kW solar array with 1,086 panels on several of their buildings.

Sister Carol Rigali, Coordinator of the province leadership team, specifically asked that the panels be made in the USA. As Mike Cornell of Arch Electric explained, they acquired the panels from Seraphim Solar USA, from Jackson, Mississippi.  Sister Carol said that St. Francis expects to save $1.5 million in energy costs over the life of the system, but that was only one reason they did the project.

She noted that in his 2015 encyclical Laudato Si, Pope Francis specifically mentioned installing solar panels as one way to care for creation.  “This solar energy project will enable us to lessen our energy consumption and to invest in our care of the earth.” The chapel was finished in 1914 but looks as amazing as the day it was built. The art and architecture inside compare to some of the best churches anywhere in the world. Now they have a state-of-the-art solar generation system that will help them achieve their mission now and into the future.  Preserving the past by embracing the future! Nicely done Sisters!

Wisconsin Agriculture Coalition

On Monday, August 27, I was joined by RENEW Wisconsin’s Executive Director Tyler Huebner, Scott Smith from Madison Gas & Electric and Neil Palmer from Invenergy to give a briefing to the Wisconsin Agriculture Coalition about the latest developments in renewable energy and how it may affect their members.  The Agriculture Coalition is a group of association executives and government affairs staff who meet regularly to discuss legislative and regulatory issues in which they have a common interest.

I opened the meeting by discussing the changing economics and politics of renewable energy and let them know that they are going to be seeing a lot of activity in Wisconsin. Tyler then gave an overview of renewables in Wisconsin that will especially impact farms and agriculture related businesses such as solar and wind farms and biogas generation.  Scott gave the utility perspective on why they are all adding large scale renewables to their portfolio and the benefits that they see for their customers. In particular, he noted that the driving force was the impressive price drop of over 75% for solar power in the last 10 years.

Finally, Neil spent some time explaining how Invenergy goes about developing a utility scale solar project, from identifying good locations with access to substations and landowners with enough flat, open land who are interested in leasing their property, to the steps and timing of the regulatory process. We also had a good discussion about the “frequently asked questions” that they may be hearing from their members and how to answer them. In summary, everyone in attendance received a good, general understanding of the amazing changes that are happening in the renewable industry and that RENEW Wisconsin is their source for reliable, fact-based information!

Members of the Ag Coalition include:

  1. Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation
  2. Wisconsin Farmers Union
  3. Dairy Business Association
  4. Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association
  5. Midwest Food Products Association
  6. Wisconsin Agri-Business Association
  7. Wisconsin Association of Professional Agricultural Consultants
  8. Wisconsin Cattlemen Association
  9. Wisconsin Pork Association
  10. Wisconsin Soybean Association
  11. Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association
  12. Wisconsin Corn Growers Association
  13. The Cooperative Network Associations