State’s Hostility Toward Renewables Escalates; “Leaders” Lag Citizenry on Wind Support

Two articles from Catching Wind, a newsletter published by RENEW Wisconsin with funding from a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy:

State’s Hostility Toward Renewables Escalates
At the urging of Wisconsin utilities, several lawmakers have introduced a bill to allow a renewable energy credit (REC) to be banked indefinitely. If adopted, this measure (AB146) would constitute the most devastating legislative assault yet on the state’s renewable energy marketplace, which is already reeling from the suspension of the statewide wind siting rule this March and the loosening of renewable energy definitions to allow Wisconsin utilities to count electricity generated from large Canadian hydro projects toward their renewable energy requirements.

“Leaders” Lag Citizenry on Wind Support
Public support for wind energy development has held strong against the attacks launched by Governor Walker and the Legislature’s new Republican majority, according to a poll conducted between April 11 and April 18 by the St. Norbert College Survey Center for Wisconsin Public Radio.

Asked whether Wisconsin should “increase, decrease or continue with the same amount” of energy supply from various sources, 77% favored increasing wind power, the highest of any option (60% favored increasing hydropower, 54% biomass, 39% natural gas, 27% nuclear, and 19% coal).

Genoa nuclear waste set to move to dry casks

From an article by Chris Hubbuch in the Winona Daily News:

Dairyland Power will begin removing spent fuel from its Genoa, Wis., nuclear plant and encasing it in steel and concrete casks later this spring, nearly a quarter century after the plant ceased operations.

Though the federal government has no immediate plans to take possession of the radioactive waste, the move to store it temporarily on site should cut by two-thirds the power cooperative’s cost to staff the plant and speed up the decommissioning process, expected to take another seven years and bring decommissioning costs to an estimated $79 million.

It’s a scenario that Dairyland’s founders couldn’t have envisioned in 1941, when they banded together to create a network to provide reliable electric power to rural Wisconsin.

But those founders were thinking about the future, said Dairyland president William Berg, who encouraged some 700 delegates of Dairyland’s members to continue building value during his address at the cooperative’s 70th annual meeting Wednesday.

That means building a system with the capacity to meet future needs while preserving the environment and embracing renewable energy sources when the future of coal – the basis for most of today’s power – is in question.

Dairyland now generates about 11 percent of its electricity with renewables such as wind, hydro and biomass-fueled generators. Berg said the company is on track to meet its goal of 25 percent by 2025.

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.

WI utility agrees to buy Canadian hydroelectric power

While RENEW opposes counting hydro toward a utility’s renewable portofio standard, Wisconsin Public Service agreed to buy 100 MW from Manitoba Hyrdo, according to an article in The Lac du Bonnet Leader:

Premier Greg Selinger announced today that Manitoba Hydro has signed agreements for a 250megawatt (MW) sale of electricity to Minnesota Power and a 100-MW sale to Wisconsin Public Service. Combined with a previously completed 125 MW sale to Northern States Power, these sales total 475 MW with an estimated value of $4 billion, Selinger said.

The premier said these sales will require the construction of new hydroelectric generating capacity in Manitoba. They will trigger the development of the 695-MW Keeyask (Cree for gull) Generating Station located on the lower Nelson River 175 km northeast of Thompson in the Split Lake Resource Management Area. Keeyask is to be developed by a partnership consisting of Manitoba Hydro and the Keeyask Cree Nations-Tataskweyak Cree Nation, War Lake First Nation, Fox Lake Cree Nation, and York Factory First Nation. The $5.6-billion project will provide some 4,500 person-years of construction employment, said Selinger. . .

The 250-MW power sale to Minnesota Power over a 15-year period from 2020 to 2035 requires an additional interconnection between Manitoba and the United States which will provide increased export capability and reliability benefits for Manitoba, said Selinger.

The 100-MW power sale agreement to Wisconsin Public Service covers the 2021-2027 period. Negotiations are continuing to expand the Wisconsin sale to 500 MW which would require construction of the Conawapa Generating Station, the premier said, adding with these sales, Manitoba Hydro and its partners are reviewing scheduling and other requirements for moving forward with Keeyask.

Boston firm aims to harness river power by 2017

From an article by Steve Cahalan in the La Crosse Tribune:

A Massachusetts company hopes to develop hydroelectric projects at nine upper Mississippi River lock and dam sites by 2017, officials said Monday.

Free Flow Power Corp., a 3-year-old Boston firm, plans to apply for federal licenses for hydropower projects that in this area include Lock and Dam 4 at Alma, Lock and Dam 6 at Trempealeau, Lock and Dam 7 near Dresbach, Minn., and Lock and Dam 9 near Lynxville.

The nine projects could meet the electricity needs of 65,000 homes, company officials told about 40 people at a public informational meeting at the Radisson Hotel in La Crosse.

Each project would have one of three designs — a traditional hydroelectric powerhouse that would be built on the end of the dam and contain turbines; a “gate bay installation” alternative with turbines installed in front of or behind existing dam gates; or a system with turbines installed at the bottom of the auxiliary lock. Studies would determine which design would be best for a particular lock and dam.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Agency will accept written comments in the next 60 days on what studies should be required during Free Flow Power’s licensing process.

Officials of various state and federal agencies accounted for most of the people at Monday’s 2½-hour session. But a few members of the public also spoke, including retired boat captain Byron Clements of Genoa, who questioned the feasibility of hydroelectric power on the Mississippi.

“I don’t think they can make it work and make money at it,” Clements said after the meeting. Clements, who with his wife operates Captain Hook’s Bait & Tackle shop in Genoa, said he also is concerned about fish being killed by the turbines.

The proposed turbines would turn much slower than those traditionally used in major hydroelectric projects in the western United States, said Jack Batchelder, a Free Flow Power environmental scientist.