Monday, March 30, 2009
Any commuter in Wisconsin who would like to find someone to “share the ride” to work, may now access the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s (WisDOT’s) interactive ride matching service online. A program that was originated several years ago for residents of the heavily populated southeastern region of the state is now available statewide.
“We are pleased to offer this interactive service to commuters across the state,” said WisDOT Secretary Frank Busalacchi. “Ridesharing saves money for commuters, reduces the number of cars on the road during the busiest hours of the day and reduces pollution from car exhaust. Now, commuters in areas that are faced with some of the longest commutes will have an equal opportunity to find carpool matches.”
Karen Schmiechen, program manager for the Wisconsin Rideshare Program, said the program is easy to use, free and without obligation. Commuters enter their commute information and immediately receive matches for carpooling, vanpooling, park and ride lots and even biking. The computer shows matches with similar commutes and work hours. Bikers are also matched by level of expertise. Users make their own contacts with matches to set up ridesharing arrangements.
The program was computerized two years ago, and has become so popular WisDOT decided to make it available to all state residents.
Wisconsin is one of many states and municipalities across the country offering this service. As gasoline prices fluctuate, and the economy remains unstable, ridesharing is a viable alternative, saving dollars and the environment.
For more information go to the state’s Rideshare Web site.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
It's an ongoing search for new, green solutions that will not only save money, but also the the environment.
Community, county and school leaders met Tuesday at the La Crosse Center for "Our Energy Future," a conference about new energy answers.
Wisconsin is on its way to developing more widespread green energy solutions that could save organizations money.
Organizers say making the transition from coal burning dependency might require people to scale back on their own energy needs.
"The answers are always local, always personal," says Dave Dumke with the Wisconsin Counties Association. "They're always in your own home, in your own business, and if you're governing a school district. If we have massive change like that, we'll solve the problem."
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
CEDAR RAPIDS, IA – Alliant Energy Corp. (NYSE: LNT) will host the 3rd annual Supplier Diversity Symposium in Dubuque, Iowa on Friday, April 24. This event is designed to give minority and women business owners the opportunity to network with purchasing professionals, learn about supplier diversity efforts in the Midwest, and gain insight into the issues affecting Alliant Energy's current business and regulatory environment.
Alliant Energy implemented the program to encourage diverse suppliers to compete for Alliant Energy’s business. The company’s spending totaled more than $100 million in 2007 and 2008 with minority and woman-owned businesses.
“We anticipate spending over $60 million with diverse vendors again this year and are looking to further increase our diverse vendor base,” said Chris Lindell, Vice President - Shared Services for Alliant Energy. “We feel the company benefits from the creativity and new perspectives diverse suppliers have to offer.”
More than 100 minority and women business owners from Iowa and Wisconsin have pre-registered for the free event at the Grand River Center, 500 Bell St., Dubuque, IA. A short program will be held, beginning at 8:00 a.m.
Monday, March 23, 2009
RICHLAND CENTER - While low commodity prices are a challenge for farmers, they could provide an opportunity for the biomass industry to grow in Wisconsin, farmers and landowners were told March 6 at a biomass briefing.
Southwest Badger Resource Conservation and Development Council officials shared the results of three biomass studies at the briefing, held to coincide with a quarterly council meeting.
Council Coordinator Steve Bertjens said southern Wisconsin has become a prime target for biomass production and the studies were conducted to determine the economic feasibility of growing and harvesting the material.
Gov. Jim Doyle recently announced that the UW-Madison Charter Street Power Plant would burn 250,000 tons of biomass per year by 2012 and power plants in Cassville and Jo Daviess County, Ill., will use a combined 800,000 tons of biomass per year. Officials said the challenge will be coming up with that much biomass to burn.
Three Southwest Badger RCandD projects - a biomass inventory and analysis project, switchgrass establishment and harvesting demonstrations, and the true costs of harvesting woody biomass in Wisconsin's Driftless Area - are in the works. . . .
Brett Hulsey, president of Better Environmental Solutions, said if all of Wisconsin's biomass reserves were used for energy production it could displace about half of the coal burned in the state.
"We are a biomass Saudi Arabia," Hulsey said. "We could use wood waste, corn stover, prairie grasses and even dairy manure as energy sources."
Friday, March 20, 2009
The inclusion of money for commuter rail development in the federal stimulus package has boosted the spirits of train advocates and increased the likelihood of high-speed rail service between Chicago and the Twin Cities.
But it likely will be years before any additional trains roll through La Crosse or Winona, Minn.
Included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed into law last month was $8 billion to develop high-speed passenger train systems. Obama’s budget proposal includes $1 billion a year in grants to states for high-speed rail over the next five years.
“That was an important acceleration of this whole years-long quest,” said Jim Hill, executive director of the La Crosse Area Development Corporation.
The rail funding comes at a time when ridership -- driven largely by Amtrak’s popular Chicago-Milwaukee service -- is surging. Wisconsin rail use rose more than 23 percent in 2008. The number of passengers getting on and off the Empire Builder in La Crosse was up 13 percent.
Commuter rail advocates long have lobbied to bolster train service between Chicago and the Twin Cities via La Crosse, and a long-standing multi-state plan calls for developing such a corridor that would carry six additional daily trains. The route also is among the U.S. Department of Transportation’s designated high-speed rail corridors.
The first step is extending service to Madison.
If Gov. Jim Doyle is successful in getting a piece of the stimulus money, the state could begin work on the line to Madison, said Randy Wade, passenger rail manager for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. That could take two to three years, he said, and continuing to the Twin Cities would take another two to three years.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
(March 18, 2009) - In 2008 Focus on Energy, Wisconsin's energy efficiency and renewable energy initiative, awarded financial incentives totaling more than $2.5 million to help businesses statewide finance the installation of renewable energy systems. And in 2009, even more businesses will have the opportunity to become energy independent as Focus on Energy is offering special opportunity grants for up to $500,000 to support large renewable energy systems.
These grants, combined with the tax credits and other funding opportunities in the new American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which was signed into law Feb. 17, 2009, should help to make significant renewable energy projects a reality for hundreds of Wisconsin businesses.
"We believe there is an emerging demand for renewable energy systems at a larger level," said Don Wichert, renewable energy program director. "As concerns over the effects of fossil fuel based energy use, pollution and America's dependence on energy from overseas increase, it is our hope Wisconsin businesses will take advantage of these grants - and the new federal incentives - to take control over their energy use."
Eligible businesses must submit grant proposals to Focus on Energy by May 27, 2009. Funds will be awarded for the following technologies:
Solar energy can be converted directly to electricity with photovoltaic (PV) cells. As light strikes the PV cell, it creates an electrical potential that generates a current of electricity. To implement solar electricity, businesses can use this grant for the installation of solar electric systems larger than 50 kilowatts (kW). The grant will award a maximum of $250,000.
Solar Water Heating
The sun's energy can be used to heat water for commercial and industrial applications. Businesses interested in implementing solar water heating can use this grant for the installation of solar water heating systems that offset more than 15,000 therms per year. The grant will award a maximum of $250,000.
The energy present in wind can be converted into electricity with a wind turbine. Wind passing over the turbine creates a rotary motion that turns an electric generator and creates electricity. This grant will provide financial support for the installation of commercially available wind energy systems larger than 100 kW. This grant will award a maximum of $250,000.
This grant will provide financial support for the installation of industrial/municipal and farm anaerobic digestion, landfill gas, biomass combustion and hydroelectric projects that generally cost $2 million to $5 million. These systems can help supply space heating, process heating, cooling and electricity. The grant will award a maximum of $500,000.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
MADISON, Wis. -- While timber is an abundant resource in Wisconsin, building with home-grown lumber in the state used to be impossible, unless the wood was a person's own. Now, that's changing.
Starting in April, small sawmills like one owned by Jim Birkemeier, of Spring Green, will be selling locally-grown wood to home builders and home owners who want a sustainable lifestyle, WISC-TV reported.
Until recently, state building standards prevented small sawmills like Birkemeier's from doing just that.
Republican state Sen. Dale Schultz's 17th district was one of the legislators that pushed the change through the senate. He said that the bipartisan effort to keep wood local will help keep money local.
"We can do it by having a smaller carbon footprint, and at the same time adding value to our resource," said Schultz. "Making a sustainable economy as well as a sustainable environment."
But it's not just about the economy or about living "green." It's about keeping forests healthy.
Alex Greene, of Red Beard Lumber, said, "The trees with inferior genetics and things like that, you're taking those out. From a management point of view, you're continually improving the quality and the volume of your forest."
Greene and Birkemeier will now be certified to sell local lumber to home builders and home owners, but not to retailers.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
MADISON - How long will you ignore that drip in the shower? How about the leaky spigot outside the house, or that running toilet? Household leaks waste both valuable water resources and money. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the average household can leak up to 11,000 gallons of water per year—enough to fill a backyard swimming pool!
That's why the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) is promoting “Fix a Leak Week” during March 16 to 20 to remind homeowners to check their plumbing fixtures and irrigation systems for leaks. Common types of leaks found in the home include leaking toilet flappers, dripping faucets, and other leaking valves. Fixing easily corrected household water leaks can save homeowners more than 10 percent on their water bills.
PSC Chairperson Eric Callisto noted, “Leaky faucets and toilets waste our precious water resources, and fixing leaks is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to conserve water and save energy.”
To check for leaks in your home, first determine whether you’re wasting water, then identify the source of the leak. Check your water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter changes at all, you probably have a leak.
In addition, leaks waste the electricity used to pump the water.
For more information on conserving water, visit the PSC web site or the Fix a Leak Week site.
Monday, March 16, 2009
PLATTEVILLE - Tim Zauche believes a community manure digester could be a win-win situation for UW-Platteville and dairy farmers near the city.
The UW-Platteville chemistry and engineering-physics professor is studying the feasibility of building an anaerobic digester on campus or at the university's farm to convert manure into a variety of energy sources. Area farmers have expressed interest in the concept, he said.
"The reason I got into this is I want to help farmers become more profitable and help the environment," Zauche said. "If we're not going to help the farmers' bottom line, why even do it?"
Zauche met with about 25 Platteville-area dairy farmers earlier this year to discuss the project.
"They were like, 'Hey, milk prices are down, we're strapped for capital. We don't want to own (the digester), but we can see the benefits of using it,' " Zauche said.
Zauche said he's not sure who would own the digester. It could be set up as a farmer cooperative, owned and operated by the university, or leased to a private firm that would operate it.
He estimated it would cost $1.5 million to $2 million for a digester that would process manure from 1,200 cows. About a dozen farmers are seriously interested in the project, Zauche said.
One of those farmers is Steve Weigel, who operates a 100-cow dairy farm about a mile north of Platteville. He said he would like to discontinue hauling his manure daily and haul to a digester instead.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Wisconsin Wind Energy Supply Chain Seminar
March 31, 2009
Wisconsin Wind Energy Supply Chain Seminar will focus on wind turbine manufacturing challenges and opportunities in the state of Wisconsin. Over 8,000 components and parts are used in the construction of utility-scale wind turbines, offering opportunities for a wide range of manufacturers and service providers in Wisconsin. The existing manufacturing and service industries, as well as academic and other institutions in Wisconsin makes it an ideal state to benefit from the growth of the wind energy industry.
Hear from The Honorable Jim Doyle Governor of Wisconsin
Tuesday, March 31, 1:30 PM – 2:00 PM
Governor Jim Doyle is focused on creating opportunity for all of Wisconsin’s people and is building upon current efforts to create jobs, make America energy independent, and address the global climate crisis.
Complete program. Register online.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Wisconsin will receive almost $200 million from the economic stimulus package in weatherization and energy funding, according to an announcement Thursday by Gov. Jim Doyle.
The $196,990,133 in funding includes $141,502,133 for the Weatherization Assistance Program and another $55,488,000 for the State Energy Program.
Doyle also announced Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu will be in Wisconsin on Friday. While in Wisconsin, the two will meet with local energy, business, and labor leaders and help weatherize a Milwaukee home.
"This important funding puts hardworking Wisconsin families to work and puts our state and country on a path towards energy independence," Doyle said. "I look forward to partnering with Secretary Chu and the Obama administration in charting a cleaner and brighter future for generations to come."
Almost $8 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will go to weatherization of homes, including adding more insulation, sealing leaks and modernizing heating and air conditioning equipment, which is expected to pay for itself many times over.
The Weatherization Assistance Program will allow an average investment of up to $6,500 per home in energy efficiency upgrades and will be available for families making up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $44,000 a year for a family of four.
For more information on energy assistance or weatherization needs for qualified residential households, call 866-432-8947.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
MADISON — Xcel Energy customers could choose to have more of the electricity they use come from renewable sources if the Wisconsin Public Service Commission approves a request Xcel submitted Friday.
The Voluntary Renewable Energy Source program would allow Xcel to charge $1.15 per 100 kilowatts for power produced by wind, solar or biomass sources but not from hydro, said David Donovan, Xcel’s manager of regulatory policy.
For typical residential customers using 750 kilowatts of power a month, the “green pricing” premium would add $8.62 to their existing $81.57 bill.
Xcel is the last utility in the state to offer an optional green energy plan for customers, Donovan said, but the company generates 14 percent of its power from renewable sources and has added 1,200 megawatts of wind power in recent years.
“Now there is a demand for it. Not just from residential customers, but commercial and industrial customers are interested in renewables beyond our base rate,” he said.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
The “buy local” argument that surfaced recently before the Holmen Village Board is an economic development issue and Holmen’s Economic Development Committee is putting together a proposal to present to the board that would change bid acceptance policies.
The issue was raised at last month’s board meeting when the board voted 5-2 to accept an out of town bid versus a more local bid. The “local” bid for a new squad car, which came from Sparta, was only $65 higher than the lowest bidder from Hartford. Trustee Nancy Proctor, along with Trustee Tony Szak were the two votes arguing to buy local.
The board also recently gave a bid to a West Salem company when a Holmen bidder was $46 higher.
“We ought to stay local with the economy the way it is,” Proctor said.
State law requires municipalities who put something out to bid to accept the lowest bid without preferences when there are no other local ordinances allowing them to do otherwise.
Trustee Ryan Olson, who chairs the economic development committee, said he sided with the majority on the squad car vote because of Village President John Chapman’s argument that the integrity of the bidding process was at stake.
Olson also said the decision might have been good government, but not good business. The committee members all agreed local procurement is an economic sustainability issue and discussed alternatives.
At the EDC meeting March 3, Olson said the village could do one of two things. It could develop, adopt and implement an ordinance and then wait to be challenged on it or it could approach state legislators to further define what “preference” means in state procurement laws.
Friday, March 6, 2009
Alliant Energy Corp. said Thursday that its Iowa utility, Interstate Power and Light Co., has canceled plans to construct the proposed coal-fired Sutherland Generating Station Unit 4 in Marshalltown, Iowa.
The company said in a press release that the decision was based on "current economic and financial climate; increasing environmental, legislative and regulatory uncertainty regarding regulation of future greenhouse gas emissions and the terms placed on the proposed power plant by regulators."
The decision follows Wisconsin regulators' denial in December of a proposed 300-megawatt expansion of the Nelson Dewey Generating Station by Wisconsin Power and Light Co., Alliant's Madison-based utility. The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin ruled that the $1.26 billion project was too costly when weighing it against other alternatives such as natural gas generation and the possibility of purchasing power from existing sources.
In a statement, Alliant Energy chairman, president and CEO Bill Harvey said the PSC's decision and the cancellation of the $1.2 billion-to-$1.3 billion Iowa power plant project "removes the option of adding new coal-based capacity to meet our customers' future energy needs."
Monday, March 2, 2009
GREEN BAY - A grant from Wisconsin Focus on Energy will allow researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Environmental Management and Business Institute the opportunity to evaluate the economic and environmental outcomes of converting marginal agricultural areas into biomass-yielding grasslands for electricity and heat generation in the state.
Starting in July, UW-Green Bay students and professors will use the $164,853 grant to study the multiple benefits of converting non-ideal farmland into sustainable grassland areas that can be used to produce bio-fuels for energy and heat production.
Planting agricultural crops in poorly drained or marginal soil areas may be delayed, prevented or unprofitable for traditional farming. However, these areas may be ideally suited for native, mixed-species grasslands that can withstand harsher conditions, yet still be harvested for bio-fuel production, researchers say.
Targeted plantings of these grasslands between agricultural fields and aquatic systems could also reduce nutrient and sediment runoff into watersheds, thus limiting pollution and improving the health of the state’s valuable water resources.
“Future energy demands will only be met with diverse and environmentally sustainable energy sources,” said Prof. Matt Dornbush, Natural and Applied Sciences. “This project seeks to answer if it is economically and environmentally feasible to use biomass-based energy produced through the growth of native grasslands to help fill those needs.