Four years ago, a Wisconsin Republican urged his party to overcome its fear of environmental action, saying that a conservative green movement could strengthen both the economy and GOP candidates. Then he got clobbered.
Now his son is taking a turn. Matt Neumann hopes to convince state officials that Wisconsin needs a big expansion of solar power. Among his audience are members of the Republican Party including friends of his father, former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann, who was later defeated in back-to-back primaries, first for governor in 2010 and then for the Senate two years later.
The younger Neumann resembles his dad, a former math teacher, both in looks and in his conspicuous conservatism. They both promote the environment, and they hope to make money conserving it. They do have one big difference: “Politics drives me nuts,” Matt Neumann said.
Instead of running for public office, he’s making his energy pitch as president of the Wisconsin Solar Energy Industries Association and as the co-owner of a solar installation business that he runs with his father. →
A Michigan municipal utility is set to partner with third-party developers to build what could be the largest solar energy project in the state.
Citing decreased costs for solar generation, the Lansing Board of Water and Light says solar can now play a bigger role in the state’s renewable energy portfolio.
A request for proposals is calling for up to five megawatts. Depending on what is proposed by private developers, a single five-megawatt installation would be more than five times bigger than what’s found elsewhere in the state.
“We like solar because it meets the capacity need we have in the summertime,” said George Stojic, the BWL’s executive director of strategic planning and development. “The other thing we’ve witnessed is that those prices for solar have come down significantly. We think it’s getting to a point where it’s not just a renewable that we want to experiment with. This is a resource we can actually use to meet our renewable needs.” →
Minnesota’s first community solar project was developed by Wright Hennepin Cooperative. (Photo via WHC)
Minnesota regulators on Thursday unanimously decided to take a pass on using the “value of solar” (VOS) to calculate how to pay community solar garden developers.
Although the state’s Public Utilities Commission did not move VOS pricing forward it did ask for interested parties to continue to add commentary prior to its Oct. 1 meeting concerning potential changes to the VOS rate.
For now that methodology, however, will not be in use for paying subscribers of solar gardens for their power generation.
The PUC established a rate of roughly 11 to 15 cents per kWh to developers of solar garden, a sum that includes compensation for renewable energy credits. Those sums — called “applicable retail rates” (ARR) in the regulatory parlance — are paid to solar garden subscribers, who in turn pay developers to manage the installations. →
There’s a new cash crop coming soon to the Twin Cities — electric power from community-owned solar gardens.
But just how much interest there is in harvesting the sun’s rays from jointly owned solar-electric systems could be dictated by state regulators in a key decision today. [UPDATE: Regulators sided with Xcel Energy in the case, updated story coming later today]
A 2013 law requires Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy Inc. to administer a program for community solar gardens — centralized solar electric systems whose production is shared by people to buy stakes and get a credit on their power bills. →
The ribbon-cutting ceremony at Cherryland Cooperative’s community solar project in Traverse City, Michigan, in 2013. (Photo courtesy Cherryland Electric Cooperative)
If there’s any indication of agreement among stakeholders after a months-long study to expand solar energy in Michigan, it’s that it could be done through community projects.
That’s one of the take-home messages from the final report of the Michigan Solar Working Group, put together by the Michigan Public Service Commission. It was a months-long process involving clean-energy advocates, solar installers and other experts looking at how Consumers Energy and DTE Energy could expand their solar offerings in the state.
While final comments attached to the report show disputes between the state’s two major investor-owned utilities and advocacy groups over determining a value of solar and whether energy costs would be unfairly shifted among customers under expanded solar programs, the two utilities have indicated plans of launching community-solar projects. →
Rich Vander Veen’s collaborative approach helped get Michigan’s largest wind project off the ground with little controversy. (Photo courtesy Michigan Environmental Council)
He doesn’t particularly like the moniker, but he goes along with it.
Rich Vander Veen, the developer behind Michigan’s largest wind project, has been called by one clean-energy advocate the “wind godfather.”
But now the godfather is working on a sequel.
Earlier this month, Vander Veen was honored for his “vision and action” in his role developing renewable energy in the state, particularly for the nearly 213 megawatt, 133-turbine project in Gratiot County, about 50 miles north of the state Capitol. He recently received the Helen and William Milliken Distinguished Service Award by the Michigan Environmental Council, the state’s top environmental award.
“He saw the potential for wind energy in Michigan and made it a reality,” MEC Executive Director Chris Kolb said during the honorary presentation. Vander Veen’s mid-Michigan project “became a model for how you build a local wind farm,” Kolb added.
Yet Vander Veen isn’t resting on his laurels. In an interview with Midwest Energy News, he outlined his plan for branching into solar, a renewable sector met with a lukewarm welcome from major utilities, but which renewable advocates say has plenty of untapped potential. →
Workers for Michigan Solar Solutions complete an installation in Flint; owner Mark Hagerty says the panels doubled the value of the home. (Photo courtesy Michigan Solar Solutions)
A bipartisan group of Michigan lawmakers has introduced a bill package meant to encourage renewable and distributed energy development for utility customers.
The four-bill package, dubbed “Energy Freedom” by its sponsors, tackles issues like net metering, microgrids, fair-value pricing and community renewable-energy gardens.
Its sponsors, which include 12 Democrats and five Republicans, say it’s a different approach to expanding Michigan’s renewable energy portfolio, doing so on a small-scale level rather than a statewide mandate to be achieved by utilities. Utilities here are on track to meet the state’s 10 percent renewable standard by 2015.
After being considered for roughly a year between legislators and experts, both of the bills were introduced in mid-June and have been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Technology.
“I just want to make sure we do everything we can to promote renewables and clean-energy development in Michigan,” said state Rep. Jeff Irwin, a southeast Michigan Democrat who is either sponsoring or co-sponsoring all four of the bills. “An (RPS) number isn’t the only thing I’m looking at. I’m particularly interested in fighting for some consumer-side benefits, making changes to the law that make it easier for citizens and business owners to plug into the grid and make it work.” →
Leilani Munter and her PrairieGold Solar car. Photo by Kari Lydersen
The air smells of burning rubber, and the sound of roaring engines is deafening. Homages to petroleum are everywhere: rows of semi-trucks and trailers, stacks of thick smooth tires and the stars of the show – bright sleek race cars emblazoned with the names of sponsors like Rope, Soap ‘N Dope, an oilfield supply company. Just outside the Chicagoland Speedway, thousands of automobiles are parked amongst bales of hay on grassy fields.
This is the arena where lifelong environmentalist Leilani Munter preaches her gospel of renewable energy and the goal of a carbon-free economy. →
The company Crankshaft Supply takes old crankshafts and reconditions them for resale. Hence owner Jay Miller sees his operation as “an enormous recycler.” He wanted to get greener still by producing some of the energy his re-manufacturing facility consumes in large quantities.
Solar panels were appealing, but the capital cost was beyond his reach, and he couldn’t get enough financing from a banker he consulted.
“They wouldn’t have loaned us money for the entire project,” Miller said. He was told that photovoltaics in the upper Midwest “don’t have the track record” to justify the funding he sought.
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