Michael Vickerman is program and policy director of RENEW Wisconsin.
By Michael Vickerman
Though equipped with a license to operate for an additional 20 years, the Kewaunee nuclear power station rode into the sunset this week, having generated its final kilowatt-hour.
Dominion Resources, the Virginia-based company that owns the 550 MW facility along Lake Michigan, plans to spend nearly $1 billion to decommission the facility and transform the acreage back to its former status as farm fields. The process could take as long as 60 years.
It’s more than a little odd to see a 39-year-old nuclear plant taken offline in a state that’s replete with middle-aged fossil units. But in this story, age and fuel type matter less than the extremely unfavorable market structure confronting an independently owned baseload plant in the Upper Midwest, especially one lacking a power purchase agreement. →
Craig Lewis is the executive director of the Clean Coalition, which advocates for clean local energy.
By Craig Lewis
Iowa is no stranger to wind power. In 2012, the state generated nearly a quarter of its total electricity from wind, and Iowa ranks third nationally — trailing only Texas and California — in installed wind capacity.
With such significant renewable power generation already online in Iowa, forward-thinking state legislators have turned their attention to maximizing the local economic benefits of Iowa’s enviable renewable resources. The result is SF 372 — a bill, currently navigating the Iowa Senate, to transform the state’s energy economy by empowering Iowans to build and own community-scale wind projects.
Virtually all of Iowa’s existing renewable power capacity comes from massive and remote wind projects that are owned by multinational utility corporations. While some farmers have been able to earn a bit of revenue by allowing the development of big wind farms on their land, most have had no pathway to participate in Iowa’s burgeoning renewable energy economy.
SF 372 is the first step to change this unfortunate situation by shifting wind energy production – and the associated economic benefits – to Iowa’s farmers through the adoption of a statewide Clean Local Energy Accessible Now (CLEAN) Program. →
On Friday afternoon, Exxon’s Pegasus pipeline ruptured, spilling between 80,000 and 420,000 gallons of tar sands diluted bitumen in a suburban neighborhood in Mayflower, Arkansas.
In 2010, a similar tar sands diluted bitumen spill into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River watershed demonstrated that diluted bitumen spills were significantly more challenging to clean up and damaging to the environment, particularly water bodies, than conventional crude. Moreover, tar sands diluted bitumen pipelines typically operate at significantly higher temperatures than conventional crude pipelines, increasing their risk of rupture due to external corrosion and other factors.
While details regarding the cause of the rupture and the magnitude of the spill are still coming in, the Mayflower tar sands spill is yet another demonstration of the risks that tar sands pipelines pose to the communities and sensitive water resources they cross. At about a tenth of the full capacity of the Keystone XL tar sands pipelines, the 90,000 bpd Pegasus pipeline rupture offers us a small sample of the risk that tar sands pipelines pose to American communities. →
Energy Secretary Steven Chu told this year’s ARPA-E conference “The Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stones – we advanced to better solutions.” (Photo via Department of Energy)
EDITOR’S NOTE: Last week, Midwest Energy News reporter Dan Ferber spent three days near Washington, D.C., at the annual Energy Innovation Summit of the Advanced Research Projects Agency—Energy (ARPA-E).
Few vantage points are better for viewing the nation’s evolving energy landscape than the Energy Innovations Summit, ARPA-E’s annual conference, which took place three days last week at a convention center on the Potomac River, a few miles from the White House.
Although the conference sometimes seemed like a giant infomercial for ARPA-E, keynotes by senators, industrialists, mayors and a university president offered valuable insights, highlighting the the dramatic changes going on across the energy landscape, and the excitement over new and potentially game-changing technologies and the hurdles they face before they change the energy landscape. →
Michael Vickerman, program and policy director of RENEW Wisconsin.
By Michael Vickerman
Only in Wisconsin will you find lawmakers who treat renewable energy as though it were radioactive.
A legislator from Brown County, Rep. Andre Jacque, has introduced a bill (AB 34) to incorporate nuclear energy within Wisconsin’s 14-year-old renewable electricity standard.
The bill defines the terms under which utilities could apply the output from in-state nuclear power plants toward their existing 10 percent requirement, which would be renamed the Advanced and Renewable Portfolio Standard (ARPS). Right now, Wisconsin has three operating nuclear reactors at two locations five miles apart along Lake Michigan.
Two of the three nuclear power stations–Point Beach units 1 and 2–are located within Rep. Jacque’s district. The adjoining district contains the other nuclear unit , the 560-MW Kewaunee Nuclear Power Plant owned by Dominion Resources, a Virginia-based utility holding company. Late in 2012, Dominion announced that it would shut down and decommission Kewaunee this spring, while cutting the plant’s 650-person workforce in half. →
The prospect for bipartisan energy policy was on the agenda last week in Washington.
Former members of Congress spoke last Wednesday about restoring the “legacy of bipartisan support for renewable energy” at a policy forum organized by the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE).
The next day, the Bipartisan Policy Center think tank separately released a set of recommendations (pdf) endorsed by a task force of Republicans and Democrats for improving the nation’s electricity grid.
The conversations around both events offer a few rays of hope that the heightened level of partisanship that’s bogged down the discussion of clean energy in recent years may be starting to fade.
“I think there are some positive signs,” said Joe Kruger, energy and environment director for the Bipartisan Policy Center. →
Stephen Colbert agrees with CNN commentator Erick Erickson in calling for inaction on climate change: “What’s the point of going to all that trouble if me and Erick Erickson won’t be around to enjoy it? I don’t want to be one of those grandpas who spoils the grandkids with a habitable planet.” →
Five acousticians from four consulting firms were hired to gather noise data from the Shirley wind farm in Wisconsin. (Photo via Wisconsin PSC)
Is a recent Wisconsin study the smoking gun that proves wind turbine noise causes health problems?
It depends on whom you ask, and more importantly, whether that person is qualified to answer the question.
One month ago, five sound experts set up recording equipment at three homes near a Wisconsin wind farm that had been abandoned by their occupants, who blame the turbines for a variety of health issues.
Over the course of a few days, microphones picked up inaudible, low-frequency turbine noise in the home nearest to the turbines. The subsequent report prompted state Rep. Andre Jacque, R-De Pere, to call for an emergency moratorium on wind permits in the state, saying the analysis proves wind farms produce “dangerous” infrasound levels.
However, whether turbine noise is to blame for nausea, headaches and other symptoms was well beyond the limited scope of the three-day field study, which acknowledges the issue as “serious” and “possibly affecting the future of the industry,” but calls for further research into the matter. →
Having a look at the report, I was disappointed to find that it’s not really all that comprehensive. Or persuasive. If you happen to consider the facts….
Right off the bat, on page two, there is a long list of what the report doesn’t cover, which includes “any environmental impacts, costs, or benefits,” along with costs of ramping up and down of drilling in impacted areas or potential impacts of volatile natural gas prices to employers or to electricity bills).
That eliminates pretty much every issue currently under discussion in the contentious national debate over fracking (which is the controversial practice of injecting vast quantities of water, sand and undisclosed chemicals deep into the ground at high pressure to crack open little pockets of oil and natural gas trapped in shale rock formations). And by my reckoning, that also eliminates this report from being a particularly realistic evaluation. So, the “comprehensive look” is by its own description, narrow and divorced from any really meaningful context. →
Michael Vickerman, program and policy director of RENEW Wisconsin.
Starting next January, the price of purchasing renewable energy voluntarily through monthly utility bills will spike to all-time highs, thanks to recent decisions rendered by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) on two popular “green pricing” programs.
The thousands of Madison Gas & Electric (MGE) customers participating in the utility’s Green Power Tomorrow program will see their premiums jump from 2.5 cents/kWh to 4 cents/kWh. That’s an increase of 60 percent. To translate this into dollars and cents, an average MGE customer consuming 500 kWh of electricity per month and subscribing at the 100 percent level will pay $90 more in 2013 for the same amount of renewable kWh sold this year.
Residential customers of Milwaukee-based We Energies (WE) will see an even larger percentage increase next year. In that utility’s rate case, the PSCW jacked up the premium paid by Energy for Tomorrow subscribers by nearly 73 percent, from 1.39 cents to 2.4 cents/kWh. Energy for Tomorrow has more than 20,000 subscribers.
Back in 1999, the year both programs were launched, MGE and WE customers paid an extra 3.33 cents and 2.04 cents/kWh, respectively, for the renewable energy they sponsored. Come January 1st, MGE and WE will likely share the dubious distinction of being the only utilities in the country offering renewable energy at a higher rate than they did in the 1990’s. So much for progress. →
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