Grant program passed, thousands of renewable energy jobs saved

From an article in Renewable Energy World:

Washington, D.C. — In typical fashion, the U.S. Congress passed a suite of last-minute tax laws last night, including an extension of the Treasury Grant Program (TGP) for renewable energy project developers.

Trade groups in Washington have been pushing hard for an extension of the program, which provides a cash payment of up to 30% of equipment costs in place of the Investment Tax Credit. The grant program was responsible for a large portion of the renewable energy projects built throughout the U.S. in 2010. Originally passed as part of the 2009 stimulus package, the TGP was supposed to expire at the end of December.

Because there are still a limited number of financial institutions able to finance projects by taking advantage of tax credits, the TGP has opened up new sources of capital for project developers. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the grant program spurred over 1,100 solar projects and $18 billion dollars of investment in 2010.

“This program has successfully created thousands of jobs and opportunity in all 50 states for construction workers, electricians, plumbers, contractors that have struggled in this harsh economic climate,” said SEIA President Rhone Resch in a statement.

While the wind industry saw a significant drop in installations compared to 2009, the grant program helped keep thousands of MW on the table for 2010 and 2011. American Wind Energy Association CEO Denise Bode projected a loss of tens of thousands of wind jobs in 2011 without an extension of the TGP.

Waste Management converts gas from trash into electricity

From an article by Joe Taschler in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Germantown — The gas given off by rotting garbage is suddenly chic.

As interest in renewable fuels grows in the United States, old banana peels, rotten meat and moldy fruit are decomposing in landfills in a process that creates combustible gas used to generate electricity, heat buildings and power vehicles.

To be sure, there isn’t enough landfill gas to satisfy the nation’s or even the state’s energy demands, but its use is increasing as the fuel solidifies its place in the growing kaleidoscope of alternative energy sources.

In metro Milwaukee, Waste Management Inc. is expanding electricity-generating capacity, adding a fourth landfill gas-powered turbine to its power plant in Germantown. The newest turbine is scheduled to begin producing electricity in early June.

The gas is collected from the company’s landfill sites in Germantown and Menomonee Falls. Once all four turbines are operating, they will provide enough electricity to power about 10,000 households, Waste Management says.

“People don’t realize that you can power 10,000 homes with what we’re doing here,” said Dale Stark, Waste Management’s power plant manager at the Germantown site.

Nationwide, the number of landfill gas projects has grown to 510, up from 136 in 1995, the first year for which the Environmental Protection Agency began compiling such data. The projects generate more than 12 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity per year and deliver about 100 billion cubic feet of landfill gas to end users or pipelines per year.

Doyle launches Clean Energy Jobs initiative

From a news release issued by Governor Jim Doyle:

MADISON – Governor Jim Doyle today was joined by business leaders, labor, legislators and environmental organizations as he launched the Clean Energy Jobs Act, a landmark legislative package to accelerate the state’s green economy and create jobs. New industry-recognized research shows the package will directly create at least 15,000 green jobs in Wisconsin by 2025.

“Addressing climate change is not just an environmental issue, it’s about creating green jobs,” Governor Doyle said.

“The Clean Energy Jobs Act offers new standards to help accelerate Wisconsin’s green economy. I am calling on the Legislature to update renewable portfolio standards to generate 25 percent of our fuel from renewable sources by 2025 and set a realistic goal of a 2 percent annual reduction in energy consumption by 2015.”

The Clean Energy Jobs Act, State Senate Bill 450 and State Assembly Bill 649, implements the recommendations of Governor Doyle’s Global Warming Task Force to address climate change and grow the state’s green economy through several key measures:
• Enhanced renewable portfolio standards – A new 20 percent standard would be set for 2020 and a 25 percent standard would be set for 2025. The current 10 percent standard would be accelerated from 2015 to 2013. By advancing our current renewable portfolio standards, and setting new standards, we will ensure more of our energy dollars stay in the state, creating thousands of jobs for Wisconsin families in fields like construction, manufacturing, and agriculture.
• Enhanced energy efficiency and conservation efforts – Graduated statewide electricity savings goals would be set, leading up to a 2 percent reduction by 2015 and annual reductions thereafter. The cheapest way to lower carbon emissions is through energy conservation. By setting achievable conservation goals, this bill will help reduce energy costs in businesses and homes across the state.

A comprehensive economic assessment of the Clean Energy Jobs Act found that the package would directly create at least 15,000 green jobs in Wisconsin by 2025. More than 1,800 jobs would be created in the first year alone. The assessment also found that between 800 and 1,800 construction jobs would be created each year from 2011-2025, and more than 2,000 manufacturing jobs would be created once the laws are fully implemented.

Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin’s executive director said:

Wisconsin’s existing 10% Renewable Energy Standard has driven significant investment in rural, forestry and agriculture markets by encouraging the construction of large wind, biogas, biomass and solar projects. Increasing the Renewable Energy Standard to 25% in 2025 would continue to generate more of the lucrative payments to landowners and biofuel / biomass providers as well as create more jobs constructing and maintaining the additional projects are built to meet the new standards.

The bills also include three of the proposals backed by the Homegrown Renewable Energy Campaign:

• Renewable Energy Buyback Rates, also called an Advanced Renewable Tariffs, would set utility payments for small renewable energy producers who want to “feed energy” into the electric grid, enabling farmers and rural businesses to help Wisconsin become more energy independent with biopower, wind and solar.
• The Biomass Crop Reserve Program would award contracts to farmers to plant native perennial plants, which the farmer can then sell for bioenergy production, helping to solve the chicken-and-egg problem of jumpstarting the homegrown fuels market.
• A Low-Carbon Fuel Standard would be a market-based approach to promoting the cleanest, low-carbon fuels for Wisconsin, and would put Wisconsin in a position to capture the rapidly-developing clean energy market by using Wisconsin’s abundant natural resources like switchgrass.

Statements of support for the legislation came from Customers First!, WPPI Energy, CREWE, Clean Wisconsin, ACRE, MEUW, Sierra Club, and others.

Milwaukee company selected to build Dane County digester

From an article by Matthew DeFour in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Dane County’s first community manure digester, the first cooperative project of its kind in Wisconsin, will be built and operated by a Milwaukee-based company that plans to finance most of the project itself.

By letting Clear Horizons, in partnership with SCC Americas, a global developer of greenhouse gas emission reduction projects, operate the Waunakee community digester, the county is avoiding the financial risks and rewards.

“That was important to the farmers (who wanted) a separate company operating the digester,” Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk said of the county’s decision. “We’ve chosen this model because Clear Horizons brings significant private dollars.”

Clear Horizons plans to privately finance everything except a $3.3 million state earmark. The state included $6.6 million in its latest budget for the Waunakee digester and another being planned near Middleton. The county planned to borrow $1.4 million for the project, but now won’t have to spend anything to build the first digester.

Clear Horizons general manager Dan Nemke said construction is expected to cost about $11 million. After designs are finalized and a site is selected on one of three participating farms, the company expects to break ground in the spring and begin processing manure by the fall.

A manure digester is essentially a mini power plant that uses bacteria to convert cow manure into mostly methane gas, a fiber material and a liquid fertilizer. The methane is burned to generate electricity and the fiber can be used as cow bedding.

The Waunakee digester is expected to generate $2 million worth of electricity every year, and Clear Horizons plans to sell the fiber material.

Dane County’s 400 dairy farms and 50,000 dairy cows – a $700 million industry – produce more than 2 billion pounds of manure each year. Much of that is spread on fields in the winter and the resulting runoff into creeks and rivers has killed thousands of fish in the past.