Focus on Energy – Programmatic & Budget Updates

Focus on Energy – Programmatic & Budget Updates

Here are some updates on Focus on Energy renewable energy programs, from recent meetings of the Public Service Commission and meetings RENEW has had with Focus on Energy staff.

Residential Rewards funding for renewable energy projects (solar PV and geothermal)
All projects applied for by October 28th, 2014, will be receiving their cash-back reward for solar PV.  It is expected that the $450,000 budget was exceeded by $200,000 or more, but the projects will be funded, and the extra funds will not be taken from other renewables funding.

RECIP Update

A project with a $400,000 grant in 2014 fell through, and the Commission directed that funding to be carried over to 2015 and used for renewable energy projects. 

Focus on Energy staff are anticipating issuing a RECIP RFP in early 2015.  The budget levels, from RENEW’s understanding, are that approximately $1.2 million should be available for RECIP projects that will be installed in 2015.  

We are working with Focus on Energy staff to determine a RECIP schedule for 2015 and 2016 so that all installers know the schedule that is forthcoming and can plan accordingly.

2015 & 2016 Funding Update

For 2015, we expect:
– $1.2 million in RECIP, for projects installed in 2015
– $450,000 in residential rewards
– up to $2.5 million in new revolving loan program (more details below)

For 2016, we expect:
– About $3.0 million in RECIP projects that will be installed in 2016
– $450,000 in residential rewards
– $2.5 million in revolving loan program funding

The Commission will review the rebate and loan funding in mid-2016, to determine funding allocations for 2017 and 2018.

$6 million digester program for smaller farms updateThis program is still being scoped out.  RENEW is gathering some feedback from digester developers, and at this point we anticipate Focus staff working to get more information from digester companies and farmers on the barriers to adopting digesters and what information, research, or implementation needs exist to bring digester technology down to smaller farms.  As more details emerge and opportunities for feedback become available, RENEW will be in touch.

Loan Program Update

As of this writing, we understand the Focus on Energy staff is planning, at the high level, the following for the new loan program:
– Loan program will be largely based off Iowa’s “Alternative Energy Revolving Loan Program”
– Loans under $50k would be 1st come, 1st served, and would open in January
– Loans for over $50k would be completed through a quarterly RFP, and would start in March/April
– $2.5 million per year would be lent out for each of 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018.

– Lending partners – any lender can become part of the program.  Lenders will do the financial / credit check review of the applicants.

We will be working to get more details on this program and to make sure the industry is updated and has ample opportunity to ask questions and get them answered.

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.

New 3-million-gallon manure digester has robust spill controls, county says

 December 10, 2013 5:30 am  •  STEVEN VERBURG | Wisconsin State Journal 

A new biodigester that is being loaded with millions of gallons of manure is designed differently from one that leaked 300,000 gallons of animal waste near Waunakee last month.

Dane County officials say they feel confident in safeguards at the new 3-million-gallon digester in the town of Springfield that is scheduled to start generating electricity this month.

Meanwhile, state and local regulators said that now that the cleanup near Waunakee is complete, they expect to learn how the older Clear Horizons digester plans to minimize damage from any future messes like the one that went undetected for hours and ended up tainting Six Mile Creek.

“They said they were looking into and exploring the capabilities of their system,” said Josh Wescott, chief of staff to County Executive Joe Parisi. “We’re going to want to make sure there is adequate alarm capacity.”

Wescott said the county also wants assurances that the Clear Horizon facility is adequately staffed.

The spill occurred when a pipe outside the digester’s containment berm ruptured for undisclosed reasons when no employees were present, no alarm system was triggered and no automatic shutoff valve stopped the flow.

It was the second spill in the Lake Mendota watershed this year. After a spill of similar size at UW-Madison’s Arlington Agricultural Research Station in February, UW officials added a containment berm and a $3,000 automated shutoff valve after the failure of a pipe fitting resulted in pollution of the Yahara River.

State and federal officials said they would begin reexamining regulations around manure storage because of the spills. Data released by the state showed only one larger leak has been reported in the past 15 years.

The new biodigester was built in the town of Springfield by the LaCrosse-based Gundersen Health System and US Biogas.

“We have a high level of confidence with the Biogas digester,” Wescott said.

The county assisted in planning and finding financing for both digesters.

They are designed to generate electricity and reduce the nutrient level and volume of cow manure, which eventually goes back to nearby farms to be spread on fields as fertilizer. Runoff of farm nutrients are the major source of smelly overgrowths of weeds and algae in lakes.

The Gundersen-Biogas facility is equipped with a 15-million-gallon storage structure that can receive manure in case of a spill, said Kevin Connors, director of the county Land and Water Resources Department.

It took about two weeks for crews to clean up the Waunakee spill. Several farmers agreed to spread manure on fields or deposit it in storage lagoons, Connors said.

The Gundersen-Biogas storage structure is built partly below ground and partly above ground, Connors said. 

Connors said there are other safety precautions, but he deferred to Gundersen officials to describe them.

A company spokesman didn’t respond to phone and email messages.

A strong safety design is needed because a section of the North Fork of Pheasant Branch creek flows within a few hundred feet of the site, Connors said. 

Meanwhile, County Board members said the Waunakee spill has prompted them to take a second look at the design of a proposed private digester in the town of Bristol before they grant it final approval.

About 25 people attended a meeting Monday night of the County Board’s Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources Committee in Waunakee to ask questions about the Clear Horizons spill.

Nila Frye, who operates a child care center in the village, said the public should have been notified more quickly about the spill. If it had been summer, children could have been exposed to the manure while playing in the creek, Frye said.

Clear Horizons sent out a press release about the spill several days after it occurred.
Company operations manager Monte Lamer said he should have notified the chairman of the town of Vienna, where the facility is located, but he “dropped the ball.”

The first priority was the cleanup effort, Lamer said.

DNR regional director Mark Aquino said the state would have made an announcement if the spill posed a potential health risk.

Six Mile Creek had an odor and it was discolored near where the spill reached it, but no fish kills have been reported, DNR officials said.

Preliminary monitoring of the creek has found elevated phosphorus levels, but the levels aren’t nearly as high as they are during heavy rain or snow melts, Wescott said.

 Read more

See also Dane County Executive, Joe Parisi’s editorial “Digesters key to cleaning our lakes”

Dane County Land and Water Resources Department Releases Memo on Waunakee Digester Spill

On December 6, the Dane County Land and Water Resources Department released a memo discussing the impact of a recent manure spill at a large biodigester plant in Waunakee, WI:

“As you know, the manure digester owned, operated, and managed by Clear Horizons, Inc. had a pipe failure last week which released 300,000 gallons of manure. I write to share our understanding of the extent and impact of the spill, the remediation effort, and how we are moving forward”.

“We are cautiously optimistic that this manure spill will have little to no impact on water quality in Lake Mendota as preliminary data shows that only 30 pounds of phosphorus will reach the lake.”

Read the Memo in its entirety 

The whey-t is over: GreenWhey Energy’s vision of turning cheese plant waste into useable energy becomes reality – The Country Today: Front Page

GreenWhey Energy’s is the nation’s only privately owned facility to process food waste from multiple sources. This new facility will generate enough energy to power about 3,000 homes. Read more in the Country Today article below:

TURTLE LAKE — After more than five years of planning and a few setbacks, GreenWhey Energy is open for business in Turtle Lake. 

“It’s a good day,” said an emotional Tom Ludy, one of the plant’s owners, during an open house Sept. 26 in the plant’s brand-new intake bay. “It’s been a long time coming.” 

Engines in the $30-million facility were fired up for the first time just a few days before the open house. Ludy said it will take about six months to fully ramp up to full production. 

Eventually, GreenWhey’s two anaerobic digesters will bring in 500,000 gallons of wastewater seven days a week from area cheese plants, converting it to electricity, heat and fertilizer. 

GreenWhey is the only privately owned anaerobic digester facility in the U.S. to utilize wastewater from multiple food processors.

The whey-t is over: GreenWhey Energy’s vision of turning cheese plant waste into useable energy becomes reality – The Country Today: Front Page