Energy News Without the Spin
January/February 2017
Trending: Clean Energy Jobs - Solar - Wisconsin Tribes - Coal Plant Shutdowns - Biodigesters - Battery Storage 

Wind and solar energy are now the cheapest available sources of electricity in many places across the US, without federal subsidies. This was shown in Lazard’s annual report on the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) for different electricity-generating technologies. The report shows that wind costs have fallen 66 percent since 2009, from $140/MWh to $47/MWh and solar costs have fallen 85 percent since 2009 from more than $350/MWh to $55/MWh. 
It is now cheaper to build new solar or wind generation than to continue operating existing coal and nuclear plants in many states. Wisconsin has shut down 770 megawatts of coal capacity in the last four years. Additionally, the Kewaunee Station nuclear plant was taken offline in 2013; and, as reported below, We energies will now idle one of its large coal plants for half the year. In Michigan, 25 coal plants will be retired by 2020 while Xcel will close two coal plants in Minnesota by 2023 and 2026. Even China is cancelling coal projects midstream amounting to 120 gigawatts of shuttered new coal capacity. In contrast, Wisconsin utilities are investing in renewables with Dairyland Power building a 98 MW wind farm in Platteville plus 14 new solar projects totaling 19 MW, for example.
Free markets now favor solar and wind, and jobs in these industries pay well. The US Department of Energy 2017 US Energy and Employment Report  findings are that solar power employed 43 percent of the Electric Power Generation sector's workforce in 2016, while fossil fuels combined accounted for just 22 percent.The national median wage for solar workers is $26/ hour according to The Solar Foundation. The Mole Lake Band of Chippewa are seizing this opportunity by including a training program for solar installation with the development of solar PV projects on theirTribal government buildings as reported below. Solar will continue to expand this year in Wisconsin with the help of Focus on Energy, which is taking applications for $8.6 million in renewable energy incentives now (see funding below). 

Sherrie Gruder


14% of US Job Growth in Energy: Midwest Supports Over Half a Million Clean Energy Jobs and Growing
The 2017 U.S. Energy and Employment Report  finds that the Traditional Energy and Energy Efficiency sectors today employ approximately 6.4 million Americans. These sectors increased in 2016 by just under 5 percent, adding over 300,000 net new jobs, roughly 14% of all those created in the country. The solar workforce increased by 25% in 2016, while wind employment increased by 32%.

Clean Jobs Midwest, a  survey of clean energy employment in 12 Midwestern states found that the region employs 569,000 workers in in clean energy including renewable energy generation, clean transmission, energy efficiency, clean fuels, and advanced transportation, and that the clean energy economy is growing in each state. Further, there is a 4.4 percent projected growth rate in the region in clean energy jobs compared with the national employment average growth of 0.5 percent.

In Wisconsin there are 24,714 clean energy jobs with a 4.8 percent projected growth. Seventy-one percent are in energy efficiency and 23 percent in renewable energy. In the renewable energy sector, more than 65 percent are in solar followed by bioenergy.
There's great potential for clean energy job growth in Wisconsin. Six Midwest states have almost or more than double Wisconsin’s clean energy jobs: Illinois (113,918), OH (100,782), MI (87,616), MN (54,458 ), MO (52,479 ), and IN (44,133). Iowa and Kansas are in the same range as Wisconsin. Clean Jobs Midwest

Wisconsin's Solar Industry Jobs Growth Jumped 45% in 2016
After showing small growth between 2014 and 2015, jobs in Wisconsin’s solar industry grew 45 percent last year over 2015, according to The Solar Foundation, Washington, D.C.

According to the foundation’s 2016 National Solar Jobs Census, Wisconsin’s solar industry employs about 2,800 workers across installation, manufacturing, sales and distribution, project development and related sector jobs…
WPPI & NextEra Build Point Beach Solar Energy Center
Just north of the City of Two Rivers, NextEra owns the Point Beach Nuclear Plant.  WPPI Energy, a nonprofit regional power organization based in Sun Prairie, is contracting with NextEra to build a 100 megawatt (MW) solar generating project at that site. The solar project, to be built and operated by NextEra, when completed by 2021, will be the largest in Wisconsin, providing electricity to the equivalent of 23,000 homes. WPPI has a 20-year power purchase agreement to buy the solar electricity. The Point Beach Solar Energy Center will generate 150 to 200 jobs during its construction. For more information, WPPITwo-Rivers

Wisconsin Tribes Funded for Some Serious Solar
The Oneida Tribe of Indians has 800 kW of roof-mounted solar projects pending on 6 tribal facilities after securing a $1million matching grant from the US Department of Energy (US DOE). They are partnering with a business investor that will be able to use the 30 percent Federal Investment Tax Credit and provide the match.  The solar photovoltaic (PV) systems will be behind the meter and should be operational summer of 2017. They will provide electricity to an elderly resident care home, health center, casino activity center, food distribution center, recreation center and elder service apartments.
The US DOE awarded the Mole Lake Tribe of Lake Superior Chippewa in Forest County a $1 million matching grant as well. The tribe will install a total of 600 kW of solar PV on all 17 of their commercial buildings. Most of the solar systems are larger than the 20kW net metering cap of Mole Lake Tribe’s utility- Wisconsin Public Service Corporation. Those will be set up behind the meter to provide electricity directly to that facility. The smaller installations will feed into the grid and receive the net metering rate credited against their bills. The project leverages private funds to help finance the solar systems too. An important component of the contract with the installer for the Tribe is that they provide training and installation experience to Sokaogon Chippewa Housing Authority employees.

Midwest Tribal Energy Resources Association Executive Director Search
The Midwest Tribal Energy Resources Administration (MTERA) comprised of 38 tribes in 4 states has posted a position for an executive director and grant administrator under a US Department of Energy Grant. The director would further the mission of the organization: “To bring energy opportunity to Midwest Tribes that advances energy policy and development by leveraging resources, sharing information, gaining experience, identifying opportunities, and benefiting from real world projects”. 
Proposals are due February 16. For more information contact Mike Troge, Oneida Nation Environmental Project Manager,, 920-869-4572.

NEW Madison Hiring Solar Installer Trainees
The City of Madison is taking applications through February 20th  for its solar installer trainee program. Fifteen candidates will be invited to attend a paid 3 day training March 27 - March 29, 2017. The top two (2) candidates will be hired as hourly City of Madison Solar Installer Trainees in the Engineering Division.

Solar Gardens Serving Eau Claire + La Crosse 90+% Subscribed 
Xcel Energy in developing Solar*Connect Community, 1MW solar gardens each in Eau Claire and La Crosse. The program is now more than 90 percent subscribed.  The City of Eau Claire subscribed for 116 kW of solar electricity to fully offset their electric use at the public swimming pool. Eau Claire County, Stanley Boyd School District, Chippewa Valley Technical College, Village of North Hudson, Menominee School District and Fort McCoy are other public subscribers. In addition to local government use, more than 20 businesses and 80 homeowners are subscribers. In La Crosse, Gundersen Health, Mayo and Marshfield Clinics subscribed.

Groundbreaking of the community solar garden in Eau Claire. Photo courtesy of Xcel Energy

New LED Street Lights: Brightening Neighborhoods, at Less Cost
You may have noticed more of those “pure white” LED street lights appearing around Two Rivers over the past 6 months. LED fixtures have replaced the pinkish-orangish high pressure sodium lighting on several major streets...

Over the next three years, our electric utility expects to re-lamp all of the approximately 1,000 street lights in the community with LED fixtures.  At current electrical rates, the energy savings should amount to about $30,000 per year…

Wisconsin PACE Proceeds to Projects
Wisconsin PACEa property assessed clean energy program where local lenders finance 100 percent of commercial energy efficiency, solar and water conservation upgrades through a special municipal charge, has been adopted by 12 counties to date. It is a way for counties to help out developers and building owners without raising taxes. WI PACE, administered by Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corp (WECC)is now handling projects. The first project is Hotel Retlaw in Fond du Lac that is using PACE financing to upgrade boilers, controls, air conditioning and water fixtures (to low flow). Potentially they will replace windows and upgrade the kitchen. Other projects throughout the state are in the process of finalizing financing.

We Energies to Idle One of its Coal Plants for Half the Year
In response to low natural gas prices and flat demand for electricity, We Energies plans to roll back operations at its coal-fired Pleasant Prairie Power Plant in Kenosha County…Under the plan, We Energies will keep the power plant available to run during June, July and August when power demand is highest. The plant would also be available again in December, January and February when power demand tends to recover from low levels typically seen in early fall.

$20M For Manure Digester Draws Interest, Questions
Three state agencies are soliciting proposals to build at least one more large manure digester in Wisconsin. But even with $20 million in public funds on offer to back the project, some in the energy and agriculture sectors say things remain murky.
The state's Public Service Commission, Department of Natural Resources and Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection are accepting proposals as part of the Focus on Energy program over the next few months for use of utility ratepayer money to build a multi-farm digester that would provide electricity from decaying livestock waste…
(See digester RFP under Funding below)

Lithium-ion Battery Storage Powering the Grid
Large battery storage plants are now providing electricity to the grid during peak hours of demand, a traditional role of natural gas. Three large plants – built by Tesla Motors, AES and Altagas – went live in southern California in February to fill the power void caused by a disastrous natural gas leak at Aliso Canyon in Los Angeles, which has been shut down. The leak emitted 109,000 tons of methane into the atmosphere and displaced thousands of local residents. The battery storage projects have been completed within six months and will alleviate the risk of winter blackouts. Find more information from Bloomberg Technology about The Battery Revolution

Largest US Offshore Wind Project Progresses
The largest offshore wind farm in the US received approval to be built in the Atlantic off Long Island. The 90MW project, developed by Deepwater Wind, will generate enough electricity to power 50,000 homes. It is the first project in New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s goal to generate 50 percent of the state’s power from renewables by 2030, which includes developing 2.4GW of offshore wind. NYTimes

China Cancels Plans to Build Over 100 Coal Plants
China's National Energy Administration has made the announcement to cancel the construction of 103 coal-fired power plants throughout the country. The coal projects, which were planned or under construction, would have added 120 gigawatts of coal-fired capacity - more than twice the entire coal-fired capacity of Germany. The cancellation is part of China's effort to reign in over-investment in dirty electricity generation that already is running at half capacity and to reach its goal of reducing its coal-fired capacity to 1,100 gigawatts by 2020.

Although there has been large growth in wind, solar, and nuclear power in the country, China is still the world's largest producer and consumer of coal. China has over three times the total coal-fired capacity of the US. The directive to halt construction of the coal projects will be costly to the local governments involved; some might not comply with the proposed change. Learn more.

Made-In-Mexico Electric Vehicle 
Giant Motors in developing an electric vehicle prototype currently with plans to market it in 2018. The vehicle is being designed as an electric taxi to help reduce air pollution in Mexico City. According to Forbes Mexico, Giant Motors announced an alliance with JAC Motors, a Chinese auto maker to manufacture the vehicles in central Mexico. Forbes

2016: Hottest Year on Record EVER
2016 set a new global temperature record as the hottest year since record-keeping began in the 1880s. This makes 2016 the third consecutive record-breaking year and the seventeenth of all time, sixteen of which have occurred since 2000. The data were released by the World Meteorological Organization (WHO), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). To learn more, NOAANYTCNN.



RFP for Integrated Anaerobic Biodigesters Project
The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, in partnership with the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, is soliciting proposals for an integrated anaerobic digester system. The PSC has authorized Focus on Energy to spend up to $20 million for Integrated Anaerobic Digester projects as a way to produce renewable biogas and address ground water, surface water and drinking water issues.

A successful proposal will involve the creation of a consortium of parties using contractual means to build, operate and maintain a system that includes renewable energy production, water treatment, pathogen reductions, and transport of manure to and from a centralized location, among other innovations suggested by applicants. Proposals are due May 1, 2017. Request for Proposals and Application Template.

Focus on Energy Renewable Energy Incentive Program - Residential and Small Business

  • Renewable loans discontinued
  • Solar Electric (PV)
    • Residential (1-3 units)
      • Incentive: 12% of project cost, not to exceed $2,000
    • NEW Business (Any property outside of a 1-3 unit home)
      • Incentive: 12% of project cost, not exceed $4,000
    • Geothermal Heat Pumps
      • Incentive:
        • Residential:$650
        • NEW Business:$650

Renewable Energy Competitive Incentive Program (RECIP) for Businesses
The Renewable Energy Competitive Incentive Program provides incentives for cost-effective renewable energy systems installed at eligible Wisconsin businesses through a competitive request for proposals (RFP) process. Both the RECIP program and the Renewable Energy Path (prescriptive) incentives are available to businesses in WI. The business may choose either RECIP or the prescriptive (not both), depending on which is a better fit for their project.

  • For nonresidential customers of participating Focus On Energy utilities for biogas, biomass, geothermal. solar PV and solar thermal systems.
  • Applies to new equipment or retrofitted system with substantially increased generation capacity
  • Required payback period is a minimum of 1.5 years. Incentive amount is based on the estimated $/kWh and/ or $/therm for the first year energy produced or offset. This will indicate the cost effectiveness of the project.
  • Combined incentives for any calendar year may not exceed 50% of the total project cost and is capped at $400,000.
  • Projects to be completed in 2017 will be given priority.
  • view a webinar with additional details and requirements
  • Proposals must be submitted to Focus on Energy by March 24, 2017 at 5:00pm CST
M-WERC Energy Storage Conference
February 15, 2017
Milwaukee, WI

Introduction to Green Buildings: Principles and Concepts
February 16, 2017
Roseville, MN

The 'V' in HVAC: Design and Control of Ventilation Systems
February 16, 2017
La Crosse, WI

What's New in Residential Construction?
February 17, 2017
Roseville, MN

MREA Course: PV and Solar Thermal Structural Considerations (PV-ST 411.01)
February 20, 2017 - March 19, 2017

ENERGY STAR Webcast Series: Portfolio Manager 101, 201, 301
February 21, 2017 - February 23, 2017

MEEA Midwest Energy Solutions Conference
February 22, 2017 - February 27, 2017
Chicago, IL

Manufacturing Matters! Shaping the Future
February 23, 2017
Milwaukee, WI

NEW Wisconsin Biogas Council Launch Event 
February 27, 2017
Green Bay, WI

MREA Course: PV Sales and Finance (PV 203.01)
February 27, 2017 - March 26, 2017

ACEEE/CEE National Symposium on Market Transformation
April 2, 2017 - April 4, 2017
Arlington, VA

WI Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters - Local Government Leadership Summit on Energy and Resilience 2
April 5, 2017
Fond du Lac, WI

ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Industry
August 15, 2017 - August 18, 2017
Denver, CO

EPA’s Emissions & Generation Resource Integrated Database (eGRID) is a comprehensive source of data on the environmental characteristics of almost all electric power generated in the United States. The new edition, eGRID2014 contains year 2014 data on emissions rates for criteria pollutants and greenhouse gases, electric generation, emissions, resource mix information, and power plant attributes. It can be used to help calculate greenhouse gas registries and inventories, carbon footprints, consumer information disclosure, emission inventories and standards, power market changes, and avoided emission estimates.

Bringing the Benefits of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy to Low-Income Communities 
EPA offers informational resources to help state and local energy, environmental, housing, and social services agencies, non-profits, and utilities understand successful models that they can use to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by bringing energy efficiency and renewable energy to low-income communities.

Standards and Requirements for Solar Equipment, Installation, and Licensing and Certification
The Clean Energy States Alliance has produced a guide on standards and requirements for solar equipment, installation, and licensing and certification. The guide is designed for state and municipal officials who are developing or revising solar standards and requirements. 

Get to know us:
Energy On Wisconsin
Sherrie Gruder, LEED APBD+C  
Sustainable Design Specialist
Energy Program Manager
(608) 262-0398

An EEO/Affirmative Action employer, the University of Wisconsin-Extension provides equal opportunities in employment and programming, including Title IX and ADA requirements.

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