Bipartisan Clean Energy Choice Bill Introduced

Legislation would allow more customer options for renewable energy

On Friday, Representatives Gary Tauchen (R-6, Bonduel) and Chris Taylor (D-76, Madison) introduced a Clean Energy Choice bill that would allow Wisconsin farms, businesses, and citizens additional financing options for sourcing renewable energy produced on their property.

The bipartisan legislation would clear up a “gray area” of Wisconsin’s public utility law, which is stifling customer efforts to access renewable energy. If adopted, the law would affirm the property rights of homeowners, farmers, businesses, and local governments to use renewable energy produced on their own property, no matter how the project is financed.

In over 23 states, renewable energy developers can install, own and operate a renewable energy system, such as a farm biodigester or a solar power system, and sell the output to the host customer. These arrangements have proven tremendously popular in those 23 states, with over $3.4 billion invested into renewable energy through these arrangements in 2013. However, very little of this investment flows to Wisconsin because of the lack of clarity in current law.

“The present situation is like walking into an automobile dealership and being told, ‘You must own the car you drive, you’re not allowed to lease it’. This is a big barrier for many customers. We are advancing Clean Energy Choice to provide common sense financing solutions for important projects that put the power in consumer hands,” said RENEW Wisconsin’s Michael Vickerman.

“This policy also helps customers lock in a fixed electricity rate from these systems today and insulate themselves from increasing electric rates,” said Vickerman. “In particular, these financial arrangements benefit school districts, local governments, houses of worship, farmers, food processors, and retailers.”

Nationally, Kohl’s Department Stores and Wal-Mart are using developer arrangements to power more than 365 of their stores with solar power, at a cost savings to the companies.

A recent national poll conducted by Zogby Analytics found that 69% of homeowners want more choices when it comes to their own energy and electricity supply. “Consistent with that finding, this bill would empower citizens to chart their own energy future. We applaud Representatives Tauchen and Taylor for reaching across the partisan divide to launch the public discussion on a policy that will prove critical for Wisconsin’s energy future,” Vickerman said.

GreenWhey Energy converts waste water into electricity

Every day at cheese factories in northwestern Wisconsin, tanker trucks haul away thousands of gallons of waste-water. Much of it is taken to nearby farms, where it is sprayed across the fields as fertilizer.

The waste is high in nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen. If it runs off the fields into nearby lakes and rivers, it can cause unhealthy amounts of algae in the water.

GreenWhey Energy, a new company in Turtle Lake, is now taking some of that waste, removing much of the harmful material, and using it to generate electricity.

Read more in the article by Greg Seitz’ at St. Croix 360, “New ‘Whey Forward for Clean Water”

Plans outlined for New Chester Dairy manure digester

Good news out of Adams County…

Plans outlined for New Chester Dairy manure digester – The Country Today: Dairy
NEW CHESTER — Plans for a $25 million anaerobic digester project that will process dairy manure, chicken offal and other food waste products from businesses in Adams and Marquette counties was outlined April 4 during a media event at the Milk Source New Chester Dairy.


Potawatomi plan $18.5 million biomass energy project next to Milwaukee casino

From an article by Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

The Forest County Potawatomi Tribe is proposing to build an $18.5 million biogas energy project adjacent to its Menomonee Valley casino.

The renewable energy plan calls for construction of an anaerobic digester that would produce both electricity as well as heat that would provide for hot water and heating to the casino.

The digester would produce gas from wastes produced by the food processing industry, the Potatatomi said in a proposal filed with the City of Milwaukee.

The tribe estimated the project would create 61 construction jobs and five full-time jobs. If all approvals are obtained, construction would begin in late spring and be completed by early spring in 2013.

The facility would be located one block west of the casino on the site of what is now a parking lot for casino employees. The tribe says it has ample parking at the casino and that the development would not result in additional street parking.

The tribe was awarded a $2.5 million grant for a variety of renewable energy projects from the U.S. Department of Energy. This project would be funded, as well as a recently completed solar installation at the tribe’s administration building in Milwaukee and renewable energy projects that are in the planning stage on the tribe’s reservation in northern Wisconsin.

Under the proposal, the biogas project would generate 2 megawatts of electricity, which would be sold to We Energies. That is enough power to supply about 1,500 typical homes. The project would include heat recovery equipment to proivde heat and hot water for the digesters themselves as well as excess heat that would be used to supply heat and hot water to the casino.

Energy groups oppose bill to undermine Wisconsin's renewable energy commitment

From statements issued by three groups in opposition to Assembly Bill 146:

“Clearly, this bill is a drastic step in the wrong direction for our state. The Wisconsin Energy Business Association therefore opposes this attack on renewable energy in our state.” – Wisconsin Energy Business Association. Full statement.

We strongly recommend that this bill not be approved as it solves no known problem in Wisconsin and seeks only to roll-back policies on renewable energy that have served the state well and are otherwise benefitting Wisconsin residents with cleaner air and lower prices for electricity. – Wind on the Wires. Full statement.

Fresh attack on Wisconsin voters’ desire for a renewable energy standard would kill wind projects and sap state’s economy, say wind energy advocates – American Wind Energy Association. Full statement.