“As other states lead, WIS. renewable businesses aim to catch up”

This past Friday, January 10th, RENEW Wisconsin hosted its third annual Energy Policy Summit.  The Summit was a great success and RENEW would like to thank all of the sponsors, speakers, and attendees who made it possible.

Below is an article by Thomas Content of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that recaps the Summit’s topics and speeches.

As other states lead, WIS. renewable businesses aim to catch up

Renewable energy businesses that want to develop projects in Wisconsin are having success in other states, while looking for ways to develop more projects here.
DVO, a Chilton-based company that is the state’s leading builder of waste-to-energy digesters, is actively pursuing projects in places like Serbia, Chile and Vietnam as well as Vermont and other states, said Melissa Van Ornum of DVO.
DVO is seeing less demand to build projects in Wisconsin after utilities increased the price they would pay to buy the electricity generated by the dairy farm digesterse in the state.
Wisconsin is still the nation’s leader in development of waste-to-energy digesters, but other states are catching up fast, she said.
Matt Neumann of Sunvest Solar in Pewaukee said his company has been actively installing solar projects around the country, including Missouri. Of more 212 projects the company has in the pipeline this year, just one is in Wisconsin, he said.
Wisconsin needs to open the door to more solar through allowing third-party ownership of solar projects, which enable solar developers to own the panels and homeowners and businesses to lease the panels on their rooftops, he said.
Renewable energy supporters need to find ways to reach across the aisle to find support from the Republican Party, said Neumann,
son of former Republican Rep. Mark Neumann.
“I’m a conservative, and this should not be a partisan issue,” he said.
Nationwide, 80% of new solar installations last year came in states like New Jersey, California and Arizona that have given the go-ahead to third-party ownership.
In Wisconsin, policymakers have taken a go-slow approach to expanding renewable energy over concerns about the impact on prices paid by other utility customers.
Chris Schoenherr, deputy secretary of the state Department of Administration, said the Public Service Commission is looking into the issue, but agreed a go-slow approach is prudent.
Utilities have concerns about allowing too many solar projects, and the ripple effect on other customers if large businesses and other customers shift to generate their own power. Utilities have fixed costs that need to be paid for and policymakers need to be measured to assure that utility finances aren’t upended by distributed generation, he said.
But by not pursuing renewable energy, the state is falling behind its neighboring states, speakers at the conference said. Michigan built more wind power in 2012 than Wisconsin has built over the past 15 years, he said.
Wisconsin was among the first states to implement a renewable energy target but other states have moved to enact targets that are more aggressive than Wisconsin’s.
In Minnesota and Iowa, where utility costs are less expensive than Wisconsin, utilities are well on their way to hit 25% to 30% of their power from renewable sources.
In Minnesota, Xcel Energy is moving to build more wind farms in a bid to meet the renewable energy standard as well as reduce its overall emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, said Mike Bull of the Center for Energy and Environment in Minneapolis.
In addition, the new wind farms are projected to reduce costs for customers over time because there is no fuel price that needs to be paid when the wind blows, Sullivan said.
As a result, Xcel’s aggressive move to add wind power in 2013 represents an investment of more than $3.5 billion, said Michael Noble of Minnesota-based Fresh Energy.
“None of that was driven by mandates. None of that was driven by renewable energy standards, none of that was driven by state law,” he said. “That was all driven by economics: it’s cheaper.”
Now that Wisconsin’s utilities have largely met the state’s 2015 renewable energy standard, it may soon be time to expand that, lawmakers at the conference said.
“We must always push the bar up a little higher to see how much we can do because this is a competitive world,” said Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center.
Schoenherr, of the Department of Administration, said the time isn’t necessarily right to move forward with expanding the Wisconsin renewable standard because utility sales are flat and the state currently has enough power to meet its needs. The time to consider it would be when the state is looking to add more power plants.
But that time isn’t far off, as two state utilities announced last year they are considering building new natural gas-fueled power plants by the end of the decade.
Short of those bigger policy initiatives, the state should move first to expand funding for renewable energy projects through the state Focus on Energy program – which has suspended funding for renewables twice in recent years, said Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point.
“The last couple years have been a real roller coaster for renewable energy producers,” said Michael Vickerman, program and policy director for the Madison-based nonprofit group Renew Wisconsin.

Read more from Journal Sentinel: http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/business/239679511.html#ixzz2qIySBZHO 
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New Berkeley Lab Study Finds No Statistical Evidence of Residential Property Value Impacts Near U.S. Wind Power Projects

the study released yesterday, Berkeley
Lab analyzed more than 50,000 home sales near 67 wind
facilities in 27 counties
across nine U.S. states.  In
summary, the
research did not find any statistically identifiable impacts
of wind facilities
to nearby home property values. Read the full 2013 report, the previously published 2009 report, and yesterday’s press release below for more information.

Immediate releaseLawrence
Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) analyzed more than
50,000 home
sales near 67 wind facilities in 27 counties across nine U.S.
states, yet was
unable to uncover any impacts to nearby home property values.
is the second of two major studies we have conducted on this
topic [the first
was published in 2009
see below], and
in both studies [using two different datasets] we find no
statistical evidence
that operating wind turbines have had any measureable impact on
home sales
prices,” says Ben Hoen, the lead author of the new report.
is a researcher in the Environmental Energy Technologies
Division of Berkeley
new study used a number of sophisticated techniques to control
for other
potential impacts on home prices, including collecting data that
spanned well
before the wind facilities’ development was announced to after
they were
constructed and operating. This allowed the researchers to
control for any
pre-existing differences in home sales prices across their
sample and any
changes that occurred due to the housing bubble. 
study, the most comprehensive to-date, builds on both the
previous Berkeley Lab
study as well a number of other academic and published U.S.
studies, which also
generally find no measureable impacts near operating turbines.
there have been claims of significant property value impacts
near operating wind
turbines that regularly surface in the press or in local
communities, strong evidence
to support those claims has failed to materialize in all of the
major U.S.
studies conducted thus far”, says Hoen. 
“Moreover, our findings comport with the large set of
studies that have
investigated other potentially similar disamenities, such as
high voltage
transmission lines, land fills, and noisy roads, which suggest
that widespread impacts
from wind turbines would be either relatively small or
report was authored by Ben Hoen (Berkeley Lab), Jason P. Brown
(formerly USDA
now Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City), Thomas Jackson (Texas
A & M and
Real Property Analytics), Ryan Wiser (Berkeley Lab), Mark Thayer
(San Diego State University)
and Peter Cappers (Berkeley Lab). The research was supported by
the U.S.
Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable

Berkeley National Laboratory addresses the world’s most urgent
challenges by advancing sustainable energy, protecting human
health, creating
new materials, and revealing the origin and fate of the
universe. Founded in
1931, Berkeley Lab’s scientific expertise has been recognized
with 13 Nobel
prizes. The University of California manages Berkeley Lab for
the U.S.
Department of Energy’s Office of Science. For more, visit www.lbl.gov.

Allan Chen (510) 486-4210, a_chen@lbl.gov

Ben Hoen (845) 758-1896, bhoen@lbl.gov

FERC Chair Jon Wellinghoff: Solar ‘Is Going to Overtake Everything’

The FERC, GTM and SEIA predict that solar installations will double every year as prices continue to decline. Herman Trabish’s article for the GTM  Newsletter below notes that solar’s continuing growth will require a reformulation of distributed generation rate structures.
By Herman Trabish

If anybody doubts that federal energy regulators are aware of the rapidly changing electricity landscape, they should talk to Jon Wellinghoff, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).  

“Solar is growing so fast it is going to overtake everything,” Wellinghoff told GTM last week in a sideline conversation at the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas.  

If a single drop of water on the pitcher’s mound at Dodger Stadium is doubled every minute, Wellinghoff said, a person chained to the highest seat would be in danger of drowning in an hour.  

“That’s what is happening in solar. It could double every two years,” he said. 

Indeed, as GTM Research’s MJ Shiao recently pointed out, in the next 2 1/2 years the U.S. will double its entire cumulative capacity of distributed solar — repeating in the span of a few short years what it originally took four decades to deploy.  

Geothermal, wind, and other resources will supplement solar, Wellinghoff said. “But at its present growth rate, solar will overtake wind in about ten years. It is going to be the dominant player. Everybody’s roof is out there.” 

And those other resources have not seen declining prices like solar has. “Solar PV is $0.70 or $0.80 per watt to manufacture. Residential rooftop is $4 to $5 per watt. But they are going to drive that down to $2 and then to $1 per watt.” 

Advanced storage technologies also promise lower costs, he said. “Once it is more cost-effective to build solar with storage than to build a combustion turbine or wind for power at night, that is ‘game over.’ At that point, it will be all about consumer-driven markets.”  

Wellinghoff was a consumer advocate early in his career and has not changed sides. “Even though the FERC oversees wholesale markets, utilities, and other jurisdictional entities at the wholesale level, the consumer needs to be our major concern,” he said.   

If FERC does not ensure the grid is ready to integrate the growing marketplace demand for distributed solar and other distributed resources, Wellinghoff said, “We are going to have problems with grid reliability and overall grid costs.”  

Transmission infrastructure will be able to keep up with solar growth. The big changes will be at the distribution level where FERC has less influence, he explained. But the commission has been examining the costs and benefits of distributed generation (DG) in wholesale markets.


How hospitals can help fight climate change

Midwest Energy News interviews Dr. Jeff Thompson of Gundersen Health System. Dr. Thompson, who was a guest speaker at RENEW’s 2013 Policy Summit calls attention to the need to improve environmental health and sustainability in the healthcare sector.


 By Bob Herman

Midwest Energy News: The White House event honored several diverse voices within healthcare sustainability. What were you able to learn from it?

Thompson: I was amazed by some of the stories that people had accomplished. Kizzy Charles-Guzman,
the young woman who is responsible for sustainability efforts in New
York City, came up to me and said, “It’s so amazing what you’ve done and
how close you are to your goals.” And I said, “Kizzy, I’m responsible
for a number of rural counties that have a population equal to one-tenth
of one of your boroughs!”

Even though we have accomplished a lot, I still learn from individuals like her. And I also enjoy working with Gary
and the Healthier Hospitals Initiative because of his ability to
encapsulate what the big picture is and where [healthcare] needs to go.
It is a great, free program for all hospitals that can give any
organization a starting point.

Gundersen’s plan to be energy independent in 2014 is one of
the most unique among U.S. hospitals and health systems. Can you give
some examples of how Gundersen is trying to reach this goal, and is it
saving your organization money along the way?

The first example I always use — because everyone worries it’s going
to take a huge amount of money — is conservation. Our first investment
was in conservation. I recommend all CEOs to go for this. In the first
year and a half, we spent $2 million. That’s a lot of money, but every
year thereafter, we’ve saved $1.2 million in energy expenditures related
to that activity. Right now, I don’t know anything in the organization
that can get that rate of return.

When you say “conservation,” what did you and Gundersen focus on specifically?

We started with an energy audit. We looked around all the places
where we use energy — lights, motors, pumps, all the non-sexy things
people don’t think about when it comes to energy issues. For example,
there was a five-year-old, six-story outpatient building. It is very
busy during the days, but nobody is there at nights, weekends and
holidays. Its exhaust fans, though, were set to run 24/7/365. So we just
switched that to run only when people were in the building. We saved
$19,000 right there.