MG&E hangs ten on energy wave

Thursday, December 31, 2009

From a commentary by Ken Harwood, a writer for online Capital Region Business Journal, where this column first appeared:

Now for the positive side of the energy dilemma. One Wisconsin firm has seen the tidal wave and decided to grab a surfboard and ride it in. I sat down with Scott Neitzel of Madison Gas and Electric and asked about the future of energy production in Wisconsin. Scott shared an MGE initiative, the Energy 2015 Plan, to create economic and environmentally responsible energy. The plan outlines that the company will discontinue burning coal at the downtown Madison Blount Generating Station by 2011, increase its use of wind tenfold, involve the customer in energy efficiency efforts, and secure a cleaner more reliable and affordable product across the board.

To date MGE has made good on the promise. The Blount facility will soon no longer rely on coal, MGE has increased its wind generation from 11 to 137 megawatts, and the company has incorporated new cleaner technologies into its generation facilities portfolio. In addition, MGE has educated the consumer and offers a Green Power Tomorrow program, which allows customers to voluntarily purchase renewable energy for a penny per kilowatt-hour and sell solar energy back to MGE for $0.25 per kilowatt-hour.

Neitzel suggests, “Renewable energy is a part of our corporate culture from the top down.” In describing how they got here he used a sports metaphor from Wayne Gretzky: “You skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it is.”

The most interesting observation I can make is that MGE was not motivated by current policy or the looming cap and trade initiative. In fact the 2015 Plan was adopted in January of 2006, a full two years before the new administration or current legislative agendas. I learned a lot about balancing good business with good policy from Scott and MGE. I hope this lesson will be shared on Capitol Hill before legislation is drafted. We must remember that energy, the environment and good business is, like surfing, a balancing act. If we are really going to ride the wave to shore, we need to see it coming.

Keep working toward energy independence

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

From an editorial in the Sheboygan Press:

Gov. Jim Doyle's 2006 campaign promise of having four University of Wisconsin campuses completely "off the grid" by 2012 and get their energy needs from renewable sources was an ambitious one.

Unfortunately, it has turned out to be an impossible task.

Doyle said that campuses at Oshkosh, River Falls, Green Bay and Stevens Point were to work toward energy independence as a way to show that it can be done. Doyle has pushed hard for Wisconsin to research and implement alternative energy sources, especially renewable sources — wind, solar and biomass. The goal is to reduce the reliance on fossil fuels, especially oil bought from foreign countries.

The four schools were to start producing their own electricity or buy it from utilities using the renewable sources of energy, Doyle said in 2006. The challenge also would spark energy conservation on the four campuses.
But with just two years to go, the promise far outshines the reality.

Still, there has been significant progress.

UW-Green Bay, which specializes in environmental education, has reduced its energy use by 26 percent since 2005.

UW-River Falls is studying the use of wind turbines on the campus farm to generate electricity. . . .

If the governor deserves any criticism for his promise, it is that he set an unrealistic timetable and did not ensure that there was adequate funding.

But Wisconsin must continue to do the research and find the technology that will not only reduce reliance on fossil fuels, but also ensure that energy in the future will be less costly.

Four New Year's resolutions on driving

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

From an article Jim Motavalli on the Mother Nature Network:

Now here a few worthy year-end resolutions from EcoCAR:

Drive smart. Planning trips to avoid traffic and stop lights, maintaining steady and legal speeds, slowly accelerating, limiting use of air conditioning, heated seats, and rear window defoggers, and avoiding unnecessary heavy loads can all improve fuel economy.

Set car-free goals. Whether it is biking to work or running errands on foot, it’s easier to stick to a greener transportation plan if you set goals. University of Wisconsin EcoCAR team member Dan Grice set an ambitious goal for 2010: 3,000 commuter miles by bike. He says, “Bike commuting is my goal. I want to average four days a week which would eliminate 3,000 miles of driving in 2010.”

Try sharing. Car pooling may have been an invention of necessity to dodge traffic, but it’s greener than ever even if it’s still not the most popular option – 77 percent of Americans drive to work alone. Car sharing programs such as Zipcar are worth investigating.

Drop mileage from your food. Country-of-origin labels, wait lists for CSAs and the overcrowded farmer’s market scene add up to one thing: Americans are paying more attention to where their food comes from. A good resolution would be buying local as much as possible and setting a goal, such as resolving to incorporate one local food product into your meals every day.

Dinosaur oil

Monday, December 28, 2009

One of serveral posters from WWF. Click on the picture to enlarge.

Another brewery adds renewable solar power

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Along with City Brewing in La Crosse the Grumpy Troll added a solar electric system, as described in an article by Gena Kittner in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Photovoltaic panels installed last week on the roof of Mount Horeb's Grumpy Troll will soon enable the bar and restaurant to harness solar power to fuel everything from beer-brewing to pizza-making.

"A lot of the energy will be used for the brewery, as well as everything else that we do," said owner Doug Welshinger, adding the beer mash itself will still be boiled using natural gas.

Once the switch is flipped , probably by the end of the month, Welshinger said the business will use about 95 percent of the electricity generated by the solar panels. "We do consume a lot of energy, there's no question about it," he said.

The Mount Horeb Utilities will purchase all of the energy generated by the 38 solar electric panels - most at 30 cents a kilowatt hour - about three times the rate that a business customer would pay for the same electricity.

The Grumpy Troll, at 105 S. Second St., will continue to purchase all of its electricity from the local utility at the normal rate, but will receive a monthly bill credit for the green power generated by the panels, helping to offset its total energy costs.

The higher rate for sending electricity to the utility is part of an incentive program offered by Sun Prairie-based WPPI Energy, which includes Mount Horeb Utilities as a member. The higher rate will last about 10 years, said Ann Rodriguez, spokeswoman with WPPI Energy.

Brewery digester powers healthcare network

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

An article by Diane Greer in BioCycle gives a detailed description of the biodigester at Gunderson Lutheran:

Gundersen Lutheran Health Systems and City Brewing Company, both based in La Crosse, Wisconsin, are partnering on an innovative cogeneration project fueled by biogas from the brewery’s waste treatment process. The system, which started operating in October, is expected to generate 3 million kilowatt hours (kWh) per year of electricity, equivalent to 8 to 10 percent of the power used on Gundersen Lutheran’s La Crosse and Onlaska campuses. City Brewing will employ waste heat from the system, estimated at 17,000 mmBtus/year, to warm its anaerobic digesters producing the biogas. . . .

Increasing Transportation Choices and Cutting Foreign Oil Use with the RTA

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

222 S. Hamilton Street, Lower level conference room
January 7, 2010

An informal brown bag lunch and discussion at the Madison Peak Oil Group's monthly meeting with energy consultant and county board Supervisor Brett Hulsey who will update the Group on the status of the regional transportation authority (RTA) and other transportation plans in Dane County and Madison, including the multi-modal station option at First and Gorham Streets, called the Yahara Station.

Invite friends, relatives, co-workers, and anyone else with an interest to the brown bag lunch at noon in the lower level conference room at 222 S. Hamilton Street, Madison.

Marketing the benefits of green real estate

Monday, December 21, 2009

From an article by Kren RIvedal in the Wisconsin State Journal:

You won’t find a glossy folder in Sara Alvarado’s Near East Side real estate office, or a pen, pad, envelope or sheet of printer paper that isn’t made of recycled material.

Alvarado, who co-owns the seven-member company with her husband, Carlos, doesn’t even have a fax machine.

In an industry buried in contracts and fliers, the Alvarado Real Estate Group works as paper-free as possible, using E-Fax and a scanner to send and receive documents electronically, printing out pages only when and if they have to.

The office itself, a smallish space at less than 1,000 square feet on South Livingston Street, boasts other “green” or eco-friendly and sustainable features. Among other things, it has a low-flow toilet, an air-cleaning system, formaldehyde-free furniture, a used wooden conference table, a concrete floor finished with a non-toxic sealant, and a reception counter made of Dakota Burl, a composite material that looks like wood but consists of pressed sunflower seeds.

Clearly, no one can say that Sara Alvarado doesn’t practice what she preaches. For the past five years, she has focused much of her effort on advancing the cause of green building and remodeling, a practice that conserves energy and materials, encourages recycling and sustainability, and aims to cut costs while improving health and safety.

“I think people look for meaning and purpose in life and this is something we tapped into that just feels right,” Alvarado said. “It’s an opportunity to make a difference in the world on a global level.”

Join lobby effort at Conservation Lobby Day, January 26

Friday, December 18, 2009

Each year citizens from across Wisconsin descend on the Capitol to share their conservation values with their Legislators. Since the first Conservation Lobby Day in 2005, it has grown from just 100 citizens to more than 600! As we head into the 6th annual Conservation Lobby Day, there is one thing we can guarantee-when citizens come together to make their conservation values known, legislators listen, and conservation victories soon follow!

The reauthorization of the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund and the passage of the Strong Great Lakes Compact are two great examples of how citizen lobbying resulted in ground-breaking conservation laws.

Conservation Lobby Day is a unique opportunity to share your conservation stories and experiences with legislators and have a huge impact on conservation policies affecting all of Wisconsin.

This Conservation Lobby Day, you can help to:

* Preserve Groundwater: Wisconsin's Buried Treasure: manage Wisconsin's groundwater resources to preserve lakes, streams, wetlands and drinking water supplies.
* Stop Global Warming in Wisconsin: address the threats of global warming in Wisconsin through clean, renewable energy jobs and energy conservation.
* Restore Conservation Integrity: return Wisconsin to an Independent DNR Secretary and a timely appointment of Natural Resource Board members.
* Protect Wisconsin's Drinking Water: protect Wisconsin's drinking water supplies by making sure we safely spread agricultural, municipal, and industrial waste.

For a 1-page brief on each of these issues and more information about Conservation Lobby Day 2010, go to:

Registration starts at 9:00am on the day of the event, but you MUST REGISTER BEFORE JANUARY 19th by visiting and signing up. There you can learn more about the issues in order to better prepare you for the day's events.

Litany of errors mars analysis of bill to enact recommendations of global warming task force

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

From a news release issued by the coalition for Clean, Responsible Energy for Wisconsin’s Economy (CREWE):

(MADISON, Wis.)—The coalition for Clean, Responsible Energy for Wisconsin’s Economy (CREWE) on Tuesday released a fact sheet detailing the errors with the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute’s (WPRI) November 12th report on the adverse economic effects of the Governor’s Task Force on Global Warming recommendations.

“The WPRI report is so wildly flawed that it has no place in any legislative debate on the task force recommendations,” said Thad Nation, executive director of CREWE. “Not only does the report analyze many policies that aren’t even included in the Clean Energy Jobs Act, but it takes a piecemeal approach, failing to analyze the cumulative effect the policies will have on our state.”

Among the errors included in the report, titled “The Economics of Climate Change Proposals in Wisconsin”:
• 8 of the 13 policies analyzed aren’t included in the Clean Energy Jobs Act
• Models policies that would impact the state’s general fund, despite the fact that the Clean Energy Jobs Act includes no tax increases
• Ignores the fact that low carbon fuels will be produced in Wisconsin and other
Midwestern states, while conventional gasoline is largely imported from overseas
• Fails to take into account decreased electricity demand due to energy efficiency and conservation investments outlined in the recommendations.

In addition, the authors of the report used a “black box” economic model to come to their conclusions – meaning the reader is only given the inputs and outputs, without any knowledge of how the statistical analysis was done. In order to allow others to properly analyze the report’s conclusions, the model that was used should be made publicly available for review.

Wisconsin's first Training For Transition (T4T)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

From Transition Wisconsin:

Trainers: Becky and Bill Wilson of Transition US and Midwest Permaculture

When: Saturday and Sunday, January 30 and 31, 2010
Saturday 9am – 5pm
*Saturday Evening Movie (Polycultures), "Show & Tell" and Networking: 6:30-11pm
(If your group is already working on Transition, feel free to bring along
photos, slides, video, or just talk about your activities, successes,
challenges, and plans.)
Sunday 9am – 5pm

Where: The Fish Hatchery in Delafield, WI
417 Main Street, Delafield, WI 53018
Just off of Interstate 94

Cost: $125
Snacks, Coffee, Tea, and Saturday evening pizza & movie included.
(Bring a bag lunch or eat at one of many restaurants within walking distance of
the Hatchery.)

*To request financial assistance, contact Kate Heiber-Cobb at seventhheaven(at) or call 608-213-2230.

Pre-Requisite Reading: Transition Primer (free online at
Suggested Reading: The Transition Handbook (available from Chelsea Green Publishers, or order when you register)

Click Here to Register On-line:
or call Kate Heiber-Cobb (608-213-2230).

Crank up clean energy

Monday, December 14, 2009

From an editorial in the Wisconsin State Journal:

It might be hard to muster concern over global warming after shoveling a foot of snow in freezing temperatures last week across Wisconsin.

But the risk of man-made climate change is real and demands action - even if some scientists have overstated the evidence.

The bottom line is this: Burning less petroleum and coal that produces heat-trapping greenhouse gasses makes sense regardless of climate change fears.

A smart and determined transition to cleaner energy will be good for national security, public health and - if done carefully - Wisconsin's economy.

World leaders are gathering in Copenhagen, Denmark, this week for the United Nation's climate change conference. Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle is there with a delegation of governors and Canadian premiers.

A lot of the discussion will center on targets for reducing carbon emissions from smoke stacks and vehicles - and what to do if goals aren't met.

America and China spew more fossil-fuel pollution into the atmosphere than anyone, meaning we have more responsibility to lead toward a solution. . . .

The release of more than 1,000 e-mails between a few prominent climate scientists has stirred controversy in recent weeks. The e-mails suggest some scientists can be rude and dismissive when challenged. The scientists also presented data in slanted ways.

But evidence far beyond the work of those few scientists involved in the flap suggests rising global temperatures pose serious risk of flooding, drought and human misery.

Both sides of the global-warming debate have their extremists. Leaders in Copenhagen and Congress need to work from the middle to craft a thoughtful and cost-conscious approach to cleaner air policy.

Wisconsin and the world need solutions that ease global warming while simultaneously benefiting public health, national defense and jobs.

Global warming bill sets stage for debate

Friday, December 11, 2009

From an article by Tom Content and Lee Bergquist in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

A draft of major legislation released Thursday calls for greater use of renewable power, opens the door to construction of nuclear power plants and lays the groundwork for how Wisconsin addresses global warming.

The legislation sets the stage for a major debate in Madison, with proponents touting the promise of thousands of new jobs and opponents warning that new controls will damage the state's already weak manufacturing sector.

The bill would dramatically change the state's sources of energy, mandating that 25% of electricity come from wind, solar, biomass and other renewable sources by 2025.

Wisconsin is heavily dependent on coal, a key source of greenhouse gases that most climate scientists say is a leading contributor to rising global temperatures.

The legislation also would tighten building codes to increase energy efficiency, impose restrictions on engine idling of freight trucks and adopt vehicle emissions standards similar to California and other states.

These link connect to:
+ Index to the bill

+ Short overview

+ Detailed summary

Take off the transportation blinders

Thursday, December 10, 2009

From a commentary by Dave Zweifel in The Capital Times:

It’s long been a myth that the streets, highways and bridges that accommodate our love affair with the automobile are all paid for by highway taxes.

Far from it. Just check your local city and county budgets and see how much general purpose tax revenue is siphoned into street repair every year. Property taxes help fund a lot of those orange trucks you always see on the roads.

Or how about the $8 billion that the Bush administration funneled into the highway trust fund in 2008 and the $7 billion that the Obama administration ponied up in 2009 because the gas tax money is falling short? And that’s not counting the $3 billion of taxpayers’ funds that went into the “cash for clunkers” automobile fix or the $81 billion in federal aid to GM and Chrysler.

So it’s always with some amusement that I hear politicians insist that — come hell or high water — passenger rail improvements need to pay for themselves. They’re demanding from rail what they don’t demand from every other mode of transportation, airlines included.

It’s a primary reason that America’s public transportation systems lags the rest of the developed world’s.

Cancelled -- Biofuels group seeks help on steering & governing a foundation

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Due to the winter weather warning today and this evening, we are cancelling tonight's Education Foundation meeting. Stay tuned for a re-scheduling of this event soon! email to: for more information.

From an invitation issued by the PrairieFire BioFuel Education Foundation:

We at the PrairieFire BioFuels Education Foundation would like to invite you to become active in the steering and governance of our organization. Our next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, December 8th, at 6:00 p.m. at the home of Luke Matthews, at 4710 Camden Rd. Madison. . . .

Mission Statement:
To encourage environmental stewardship and empower the public with education about the availability and potential of non-petroleum-based fuels.

Brief History:

The Education Foundation grew out of the need to seek donations from the public and from grant-makers in order to provide education and outreach services to support our sister PrairieFire BioFuels Cooperative. Given that the cooperative is focused on providing biodiesel and waste vegetable oil, as well as a service shop to help those whose vehicles can support these alternative fuels, it became necessary to create a separate entity to handle the education and outreach portions of our shared missions. Also, the spirit of the Education Foundation is to move beyond biodiesel and waste vegetable oil and to expand and explore other non-petroleum fuels as well.

What We've Done So Far:• Successfully established 501(c)(3) status
• Established a logo for the Education Foundation and created business cards
• Launched PFEF Web site at
• Held documentary film screening and silent auction fundraisers
• Staffed outreach events (local Habitat for Humanity ReStore, MREA Fair, Earth Day events this spring, Green Drive Expo / HybridFest, etc.) . . .

Please email Kurt Reinhold (current Vice President of the board) if you plan on attending, or if you would like to be considered for the board of directors (all seats are open). You can email Kurt at: or call 576-1024. Check us out!

Rail opponents want spring referendum

From an article by Paul Snyder in The Daily Reporter:

Dane County Supervisor Eileen Bruskewitz has introduced a resolution to the County Board for an advisory referendum in spring 2010 asking whether Dane County should have commuter rail.

She said she was prompted to ask for the referendum after hearing from many residents upset about the county’s creation last month of an RTA.

“People are furious they haven’t been given a voice in this yet,” Bruskewitz said.

Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk and four RTA-area mayors last week announced their appointments to the newly created RTA.

One of the appointments, Steve Hiniker, executive director of 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, said any referendum at this early point is irresponsible.

“We’re going to be making decisions on allocating money for bus systems, and perhaps how commuter rail fits into that equation,” he said. “But I wouldn’t go in tomorrow or in spring saying we need a referendum.”

Colleges, including the UW-Madison, take advantage of geothermal heating, cooling

From an Associated Press article by Dinesh Ramde published in the Appleton Post-Crescent:

MILWAUKEE — While solar and wind power get most of the headlines, geothermal power is quietly gaining traction on college campuses where energy costs can siphon millions each year from the budget.

Schools from Wisconsin to New Mexico have geothermal projects in the works. There are 46 schools divvying up millions in federal stimulus dollars to advance technology that uses the temperature of the earth, rather than coal-fired power plants, to heat and cool buildings.

So far this year, the Department of Energy has announced $400 million in grants to advance geothermal projects like those under way on a handful of campuses.
Geothermal technology has been around for decades, it works and it is increasingly affordable. At colleges that must maintain dozens of large buildings, the savings are magnified.

Those involved in the decision to pursue geothermal technology say they wanted to use less coal-fired power, although the schools also had to save money to justify the move.

The technology is a natural fit for schools like Boise State that sit atop geothermal springs. The school recently announced it expects to save as much as $80,000 per year in heating costs by doing so, and even more as the project expands. Yet schools in the Midwest and East are also turning to geothermal power using a different type of technology.

A typical geothermal system works like this:
On a warm day, the system draws heat from a hot building and pumps it underground where the soil absorbs it. On a cold day the process reverses — the system extracts heat from the earth and returns it to the building.

The process is so efficient that even though the underground temperature remains about a constant 55 degrees, the system can be used to chill water to 45 degrees or heat it to 170 degrees.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison, which spends about $50 million in climate-control costs per year, is incorporating a geothermal system in a building that opens next fall. The school should recover the $1.25 million cost in 15 to 20 years, said George Austin, the building project manager.

"If energy costs rise at a rapid rate, the payback (time) may be less than that," he said.

Mayors, county executive make appointments to Dane County RTA

Monday, December 07, 2009

From a news release issued by Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk:

Mayors Dave Cieslewicz, Joe Chase, Jay Allen and Kurt Sonnentag and County Executive Kathleen Falk announced their appointments to the Dane County Regional Transit Authority (RTA) today. . . .

Appointments to the RTA Board are as follows:
County Executive:
Kristine Euclide, Vice President and General Counsel of MG&E
Dick Wagner, Former Chairperson, Dane County Board of Supervisors

Mayor Cieslewicz:
Steve Hiniker, Executive Director of 1000 Friends of Wisconsin
Susan Schmitz, President of Downtown Madison Incorporated

Mayor Sonnentag:
Mark Opitz, City of Middleton Assistant Planning Director and Dane County Board Supervisor for District 26

Mayor Chase:
Donald A. Esposito, Vice President of Land Acquisition & Development/ Executive Vice President for Veridian Homes, LLC.

Mayor Allen:
Kimberly Warkentin, State Director of America Votes

Solar panels rise to Capitol heights

Friday, December 04, 2009

Governor Jim Doyle signals a crane operator to lift the first pallet of solar panels (below) for installation on the West Wing of the State Capitol. Madison Gas and Electric (MGE) President Gary (middle) and Chris Collins (right), a representative of the installer H&H Solar, joined in the liftoff. The 48 solar panels in the final installation will cover 9,600 square feet on the Capitol roof and produce about 11,700 kilowatt hours of electricity a year, slightly more than a typical Wisconsin home would use annually.The system will be owned and maintained by MGE, which is fully funding the $78,000 project.

MGE issues neighborhood Green Power challenge

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

An announcement issued by Madison Gas & Electric:

As Madison's community energy company, MGE supports local efforts to improve our environment. To encourage these efforts, MGE is offering a challenge to neighborhoods to go beyond the current levels of green power participation to help significantly reduce environmental impacts of energy use and make Madison a green power champion. Under this challenge, the neighborhood with the largest percent increase in participants of MGE's Green Power Tomorrow will receive $1,000. The neighborhood with the second highest increase will be awarded $500. To participate, your neighborhood must register with MGE by December 31, 2009.

For details and registration information, please see the attached fact sheet. Please contact Bob Stoffs at or 252-7906 with any questions or for more information.

UW-Madison cooks up energy savings

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

From a post by Todd Finkelmeyeron The Capital Times:

A boiler in Gordon Commons -- a dining hall on the UW-Madison campus -- uses most of the cafeteria's used vegetable oil to heat much of the building's hot water supply.

Officials with the Division of University Housing used a federal grant of nearly $25,000 from the Wisconsin Office of Energy Independence to help install the boiler nearly three months ago.

According to a UW-Madison press release, "between 75 and 100 gallons of spent cooking oil is pumped into a tank adjacent to the boiler. The boiler draws the oil into the boiler with a pump and burns the oil at a rate of a little more than 1.5 gallons of oil per hour. One gallon of oil is enough to heat about 225-250 gallons of hot water in the facility."

The university says the boiler requires little attention from the staff and is relatively cheap to maintain.

Middle school Lego Pirates create blog on car problems

Monday, November 30, 2009

From the blog Transporation Improvement:

We are a group of kids that live in Madison, Wisconsin and are worried about the earth. We are in a big group called FLL (First Lego League) or BadgerBOTS. This is a competition where you build a robot out of legos and program it to do missions on a board. We have also completed a research project where we learned more about how people use transportation around the world. This website is to inform our community the world. We talked on the our local radio station, WORT. To hear us on the radio, click here.

If you are interested about BadgerBOTS, visit the badgerbots website.

Also email us with questions at

Calculate, then reduce, your carbon footprint

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

From CO2gether:

Madison Gas and Electric, 1000 Friends of Wisconsin and UW-Madison's Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment are pleased to provide this CO2gether Web site for people who live or are interested in the environment of south-central Wisconsin. It's local. The information is about and calculated for those of us who live in this part of Wisconsin.

We are concerned about climate change and believe that individual actions when combined with many others can make a significant difference. Your actions can have a global impact.

So we have worked together to provide web tools to help you:
•learn about climate change,
•calculate your carbon footprint
•learn how to reduce that carbon footprint,
•track and journal your efforts,
•discuss these topics and your efforts with others,
•measure the impact you can have working with others in this area.

Madison's Ross Street House reaches platinum heights

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

From a post by Preston Koerner on Jetson Green:

This is the Ross Street House in Madison, Wisconsin. It's located just a mile from the University of Wisconsin campus and the first LEED Platinum home in the entire state! I first noticed the home in an article on Cadalyst, where author Kenneth Wong discussed the use of ArchiCad software to model the home and neighboring properties for context. Owner Carol Richard, partner in the Atlanta firm of Richard Wittschiebe Hand, also used modeling to optimize the amount of natural light brought into the home.

The front of the house faces south and was designed to capture as much winter sun as possible, while still providing shade in the summer. Fixed sun louvers allow the sun to enter the home and shade the same windows in the summer.

While the Ross Street House is about 2,700 square feet, about 1,700 of that is above grade. Richard used a dark color exterior to make the home appear smaller, and used lighter colors on the inside to make it feel more open.

According to Cadalyst, the Ross Street House is very energy efficient. A typical home of this size would spend about $135 to $405 per month on electricity and gas. Here, the Platinum home costs an average of $44.21 per month for electricity and gas.

It's also powered in part by rooftop photovoltaics. Richard designed the home to use very little water. On the outside, there's a 550-gallon rainwater collection tank, and on the inside, the home has low-flow faucets, showerheads, and dual-flush toilets. The plantings are drought-resistent and a portion of the hardscape is permeable. Learn more about the house on the owner's blog.

Photo credit: Ross Street House

Clean air action day alert has been extended through Wednesday, Nov. 25th

From Jeanne Hoffman of the City of Madison:

PLEASE NOTE: Clean Air Action Day Alert has been Extended through Wednesday, Nov. 25th.

What You Can Do to Reduce Fine Particle Pollution

· Carpool, ride Metro Transit bus, walk or bike to work or recreational activities.
· Combine errands and reduce trips.
· Don’t let engines idle -- It gets 0 MPG!
· Conserve energy at home and work by turning off unnecessary lighting, computers and other electrical devices when not in use.
· Open burning and use of burn barrels should be reduced. Avoid use of outdoor wood burning boilers and fireplaces.
· If you use a wood burning stove, make sure it is an efficient model; burn dry wood.

Jeanne Hoffman
Facilities and Sustainability Manager
Engineering Main Office:
210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd, Room 115
Madison, WI 53703
Phone: (608) 266-4751
Fax: (608) 264-9275

Greyhound's station away from downtown can be difficult to get to

Monday, November 23, 2009

From an article by George Hesselberg in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Now that the Badger Bus Depot at South Bedford Street and West Washington Avenue has been levelled, the trek to catch a Greyhound bus may be the most trying part of the journey.

At Greyhound's newest and only Madison stop, 2023 S. Stoughton Road, station agent Brian Mastin said last week the bus company and its 20,000 annual passengers will return to Downtown "eventually."

The new station, where the bus company formerly managed its package pickup service, is a small storefront in a strip mall with a tiny sign out front. Inside, there is a spacious and clean, if Spartan, waiting area, recently outfitted with a couple of comfy used sofas.

Getting there, however, can require an investment in time or money or imposition on a friend for a ride.

A trip from UW Hospital, for example, via Metro Transit to the Greyhound station would cost only $2 but would take an hour, include at least one transfer and leave a passenger a half-mile walk. Estimates of the cost of a taxi ride from the hospital to the station range from $16.50 to $30.

Mastin said there are clear "mixed feelings" from passengers about the station placement.

"It's close to the freeway, and people like that," he said.

It's far from Downtown, and people don't like that.

"And for people who use public transportation and travel on the weekends, it is difficult to get here," he said.

Sun Prairie company selected to build Nicaraguan wind project

Friday, November 20, 2009

A news release issued by Wave Wind, LLC:

Sun Prairie, Wis. – Wave Wind, LLC, a leading wind energy service provider, has been selected by Suzlon Energy Limited, one of the world's leading wind turbine suppliers, to erect 11 2.1 MW Suzlon wind turbines for Amayo II, the second phase of a 63 MW wind energy project in Nicaragua. The $55 million project, which is being developed by Consorcio Eólico Amayo S.A. (Amayo S.A.), an international wind project development consortium, is the second project Wave Wind has supported in Central America.

Amayo II is a 23 MW extension of Amayo I, which began operations in February 2009. The project site sits between two volcanoes in Rivas, Nicaragua; like many sites in Central America, it is characterized by both strong, constant winds and relatively inaccessible terrain. Upon completion, Amayo I and II will meet approximately 10 percent of Nicaragua's energy needs, directly reducing the country's annual oil expenditures by approximately 16 percent.

Wave Wind is scheduled to begin construction of the wind turbines by mid-December 2009. The goal is to have Amayo II fully operational by February 2010.

Amayo II is the second project Wave Wind has supported in Central America; the first was a maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO) project in Costa Rica. Wave Wind's expansion into Central America is driven by a combination of the region's huge wind energy potential and the demand for its specialized material handling, construction, and MRO services.

"Amayo II is a prime example of a renewable energy project where everybody wins: the people and government of Nicaragua, Amayo S.A. and its investors, Suzlon Energy, and critical service providers like Wave Wind," said Dionne Lummus, Business Development Coordinator for Wave Wind. "We look forward to future opportunities to help our partners, customers, and stakeholders benefit from similar projects in Central America and elsewhere."

Transition Wisconsin seeks board members

Thursday, November 19, 2009

From an announcement from Transition Wisconsin:

Transition Wisconsin is looking for individuals who would like to serve on the board or be a director for the Incorporation of "Transition Wisconsin" as a non-profit in the State of Wisconsin.

Transition Wisconsin is currently a part of the Transition Movement looking to formalize it's involvement. It is currently involved, through its web presence, in providing people information on Peak Oil and Climate Change as well as opportunities for people to help make a positive transition to a world in which petroleum will become terminally in decline. Similarly, providing as much factual information concerning Climate Change is another priority. It is hoped that the infrastructure created would allow Wisconsin neighborhood, Town, Village or City communities as Transition initiatives with the benefits of tax exempt financial benefits working as an umbrella organization.

Anyone interested or have questions should email Rees Roberts.

Individuals have until December 31, 2009 to respond. It is hoped a diverse cross section of Wisconsin be represented.

This message will be repeated and shared widely.

Nominations sought for business sustainability awards

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

From an announcement from In Business:

In Business magazine, in partnership with Sustain Dane, invites your participation in the first annual Business Sustainability Awards. The winners in each award category will be unveiled at an awards dinner in April 2010 (date and location TBD) and featured in the April issue of In Business magazine.

Eco-Product or Service of the Year
This award recognizes a new product or service introduced to the market that addresses one or more of the following areas: helps to solve an environmental problem, demonstrates a superior environmentally-conscious design, or helps an individual better manage his environmental footprint.
Sustainable Workforce Development of the Year
This award recognizes a company's commitment to creating jobs that positively impact the environment, or provide training to its current workforce on issues of sustainability.
Ecosystem Protection Initiative of the Year
This award will be given to a company that has implemented ways to initiate, assist or accelerate the protection of a local ecological system or feature.
Eco-Efficiency Initiative of the Year
This award will be given to a company that has made significant improvements in its facility or practices that improve material, water and/or energy efficiency.
Sustainable Small Business of the Year
This award recognizes a small company demonstrating a comprehensive sustainability effort that improves environment, social, and economic performance. (Open to companies with up to 100 employees.)
Sustainable Large Business of the Year
This award recognizes a large company demonstrating a comprehensive sustainability effort that improves environment, social, and economic performance. (Open to companies with 100 employees or more.)
Sustainable Community of the Year
This award will be given to a Dane County community that demonstrates a comprehensive, community-wide sustainability effort that improves overall environment, social and economic performance.
Sustained Individual Leadership Award
This award recognizes an individual who has demonstrated a longstanding and outstanding commitment to sustainable business practices in Dane County. (Open to individual applicants; not companies.)

*Companies may enter more than one category when applicable.

Sun Prairie host Hyundai Heavy Industries on wind and manufacturing tour of Wisconsin

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

From a news release issued by Wave Wind:

Sun Prairie, Wis. – Wave Wind, LLC, a leading wind energy service provider, recently hosted Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), a global leader in industrial manufacturing, on a business development tour of Wisconsin. The tour, which was arranged by Wave Wind following its recent agreement to purchase six 1.65 MW wind turbines from HHI, featured a visit with Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle, meetings with other leading Wisconsin businesses, and a survey of potential wind development sites in the state.

Wave Wind's partnership with HHI is evidence that Wisconsin's commitment to becoming a leading center for renewable energy manufacturing, services, and job creation is beginning to yield tangible benefits. Wave Wind viewed HHI's visit as an opportunity to support this commitment.

To that end, HHI's tour of Wisconsin included a meeting hosted by Governor Doyle during which the Governor promoted Wisconsin's physical, geographic, and human resources and reiterated his commitment to creating new, high-paying renewable energy jobs. It also included a tour of Wave Wind's operations and wind turbine storage facilities as well as a tour of potential wind development sites currently being evaluated by Wave Wind.

I am not riding a bicycle

Monday, November 16, 2009

I am not riding a bicycle
I am untangling my nation from wars for oil

I am not riding a bicycle
I am joining forces with those who are small, and slow, and without armor

I am not riding a bicycle
I am searching for harmony with Earth's limits

I am not riding a bicycle
I am being the village I want us to become

I am not riding a bicycle
I am creating fellowship for others to join me
I am lonely

inspired by Lily Yeh, tele-speaker at the superb Bringing Bioneers to Wisconsin conference this past weekend.

Hans Noeldner

Renewable Energy Quarterly, Fall 2009, now online

Friday, November 13, 2009

RENEW Wisconsin's newsletter features these articles:

+ Doyle Signs Wind Siting Reform Bill into Law
+ Solar Outlook Set to Dim in 2010
+ PSC Approves Coal to Wood Conversion
+ Producer Profile: Rick Adamski
+ Educating Schools on Solar Air Heating
+ RENEW Slams Anti-Wind Article
+ Calendar

Madison Metro offers green rides

Thursday, November 12, 2009

From Green View on the Web site of Madison Gas & Electric.

Energy agency rejects whistleblower allegations of oil cover up

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

From a story by Hilary Whiteman on CNN:

London, England (CNN) -- The International Energy Agency has rejected reported allegations from a whistleblower that world oil reserves have been exaggerated to avoid panic buying in the oil market.

A senior source within the IEA is reported to have told The Guardian newspaper that many within the agency believe the body's prediction for oil supplies "is much higher than can be justified."

In its annual outlook released on Tuesday, the IEA repeated its prediction that oil supplies would rise to 105 million barrels by 2030 under current government policy.

"We're the ones that are out there warning that the oil and gas is running out in the most authoritative manner. But we don't see it happening as quickly as some of the peak oil theorists," Richard Jones, deputy executive director of the IEA, told CNN.

"Generally, we're viewed as more pessimistic than we should be by the (oil) industry," he added.

The whistleblower, who reportedly refused to be identified for fear of reprisals, told the newspaper that: "Many inside the organization believe that maintaining oil supplies at even 90 million to 95 million barrels a day would be impossible, but there are fears that panic could spread on the financial markets if the figures were brought down further."

Solar thermal expo and conference,
December 3-4

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

From the Midwest Renewable Energy Association:

SOLAR THERMAL '09 is a national conference and expo for the solar thermal professional. The Midwest Renewable Energy Association invites you to the only professional level conference devoted to solar heating and cooling.

Installers, manufacturers, site assessors, dealers, distributors, state agency representatives, and policy makers will not want to miss this one-of-a-kind conference.

•Solar hot water, solar hot air, and solar space heating sessions
•Manufacturer and dealer updates
•Best practices on residential and commercial applications
•New control and balance of system options
•Structural considerations
•State policy and incentive updates

Register here.

Builder chosen for Dane County’s 1st manure digester

Monday, November 09, 2009

From an article by Matthew DeFour in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Dane County's first community manure digester, the first cooperative project of its kind in Wisconsin, will be built and operated by a Milwaukee-based company that plans to finance most of the project itself.

By letting Clear Horizons, in partnership with SCC Americas, a global developer of greenhouse gas emission reduction projects, operate the Waunakee community digester, the county is avoiding the financial risks and rewards.

"That was important to the farmers (who wanted) a separate company operating the digester," Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk said of the county's decision. "We've chosen this model because Clear Horizons brings significant private dollars."

Clear Horizons plans to privately finance everything except a $3.3 million state earmark. The state included $6.6 million in its latest budget for the Waunakee digester and another being planned near Middleton. The county planned to borrow $1.4 million for the project, but now won't have to spend anything to build the first digester.

Clear Horizons general manager Dan Nemke said construction is expected to cost about $11 million. After designs are finalized and a site is selected on one of three participating farms, the company expects to break ground in the spring and begin processing manure by the fall.

A manure digester is essentially a mini power plant that uses bacteria to convert cow manure into mostly methane gas, a fiber material and a liquid fertilizer. The methane is burned to generate electricity and the fiber can be used as cow bedding.

The Waunakee digester is expected to generate $2 million worth of electricity every year, and Clear Horizons plans to sell the fiber material.

Dane County's 400 dairy farms and 50,000 dairy cows - a $700 million industry - produce more than 2 billion pounds of manure each year. Much of that is spread on fields in the winter and the resulting runoff into creeks and rivers has killed thousands of fish in the past.

County Board passes RTA proposal after passionate debate

Friday, November 06, 2009

From an article by Matthew DeFour in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Metropolitan Madison residents, welcome to the Dane County Regional Transit Authority.

The Dane County Board voted 20-16 with one absence early Friday morning to create a new governmental body with the power to raise a sales tax to fund bus and rail transportation options. Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk said she plans to sign the resolution, which will make the new body official.

In creating an RTA, the Dane County Board handed over the responsibility for answering questions about commuter rail versus enhanced bus service or when to hold a referendum on a sales tax.

Those questions now go to the nine appointed members of the RTA board. Madison and Dane County have two appointees each and the governor, Fitchburg, Middleton, Sun Prairie and the Dane County Cities and Villages Association each have one.

Though the RTA board won't likely meet until early 2010, officials already have begun to consider the task ahead. Falk, Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz and the mayors of Fitchburg and Middleton signed a letter committing their appointees to hold an RTA-wide referendum before imposing up to a half-cent sales tax.

Video showing -- Mountain top removal coal mining, Nov. 11 & 12

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Wisconsin buys coal mined by blasting the tops off of Appalachian mountains & dumping the debris in the valleys!

Coal Country
November 11, 2009
Room 328 NW, State Capitol

Coal Country
November 12, 2009
7:00 p.m.
Goodman Community Center
149 Waubesa, Madison

The State of Wisconsin buys coal to be burned in state facilities from Massey Coal and Alpha Coal, two companies using the latest form of strip mining called mountaintop removal, or MTR. Coal companies blast the tops off mountains, and run the debris into valleys and streams. Then they mine the exposed seams of coal and transport it to processing plants. Coal is mined more cheaply than ever, and America needs coal. But the air and water are filled with chemicals, and an ancient mountain range is disappearing forever.

COAL COUNTRY is a dramatic look at modern coal mining. We get to know working miners along with activists who are battling coal companies in Appalachia. We hear from miners and coal company officials, who are concerned about jobs and the economy and believe they are acting responsibly in bringing power to the American people. Both sides in this conflict claim that history is on their side. Families have lived in the region for generations, and most have ancestors who worked in the mines. Everyone shares a deep love for the land, but MTR (Mountain Top Removal mining which has leveled over 500 Appalachian mountains) is tearing them apart.

More information -- Ed Blume, 608.819.0748,

Sponsored by Sierra Club; RENEW Wisconsin; Madison Peak Oil Group; Wisconsin Network for Peace & Justice's "carbon free, nuclear free" campaign

Learning to live in balance with Earth's limits

Hans Noeldner, an active member of the Madison Peak Oil Group shared the statement he intends to make at the Dane County Board meeting tonight:

The debate about creating a Regional Transit Authority isn't really about the RTA. It's about adapting to the future versus clinging to the past. It's about learning to live in balance with Earth's limits versus denying that there are any. It's about working together versus fighting each other to get ahead.

And for you, Supervisors, this vote isn't really about an RTA either – it's about the sobriety of your expectations and the courage of your convictions. It's about voting for those who cannot speak for themselves because they are too young – or not even born yet. After all, they don't have a radio station to broadcast their demands to you.

If you are fearful when the times call us to be bold, ask yourself what our great-grandchildren might say to us if they could come back in time.

"Great-grandpa, where did all the farmland in Dane County go?"

We would have to say, "We covered it with highways and parking lots so we could drive everywhere and park."

"Great-great-grandma, why is there so little oil left in the ground? We still need some to plant and harvest our food!"

We would reply, "We burned it up driving our cars. We figured `they' would discover something else to keep civilization running by the time you came along."

"Great-great-great-grandpa, why didn't you remember to share with us? You had so much to begin with! Did you really need all you took?"

And our excuse would be, "Well, at first we couldn't imagine running out of things like oil or water or more land to build on. After all, there was always a lot more somewhere else! So we got spoiled; we said to ourselves, `I deserve it!' Then, when it began to sink in that there really ARE limits to how much people can take, the thought of not always having more of everything scared us so much that we refused to think or talk or do anything about it."

County Board to vote on controversial regional transit authority

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

From an article by Kristin Czubkowksi in The Capital Times:

In some ways, the Dane County Board's vote on creating a regional transit authority is one of the longest and shortest journeys for a piece of legislation in the county's recent history.

After enabling legislation was passed in the budget by the state Legislature in June, board Chairman Scott McDonell introduced a resolution at the board's Oct. 15 meeting that would create the new governmental body. An RTA, which allows for regional governance on transit issues, could pave the way for a commuter rail line and an expanded bus system, among other options. The measure was approved by two committees on Monday, Oct. 26, setting up a vote by the full County Board on Nov. 5, just three weeks after the resolution's introduction.

While that may seem speedy relative to other bills, those involved in the Madison area's quest for improved transit through a regional governing body say that this vote has been a long time in coming. As former County Board chairman Dick Wagner recently pointed out, seven county executives going back to 1974 have supported the creation of an RTA, and local studies on regional transportation go back equally far.

The County Board has been generally supportive of regional transportation, including a 22-13 vote in 2007 that signaled support for an RTA to the state, and there's little to suggest the votes will be different Thursday. Still, some conservative members of the County Board say the county should hold an advisory referendum so that the public has an opportunity to weigh in before the board creates the body or spends any more money on transportation planning and studies. Under state law, the RTA could levy up to a half-percent sales tax without a referendum; RTA proponents have pledged to hold a referendum before a tax is levied, but after the body is created.

Madison March for Green Solutions, November 13

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

An announcement from WISPIRG:

November 13th at 3pm
By Library Mall

Stop the climate catastrophe
Carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise year after year due to human activity. This leads to a completely unsustainable path.
We WANT to, we CAN, and we HAVE to stop global warming!

The solutions exist
- Sustainable energy production
- Public transit - Bicycling
- Energy neutral buildings
- Energy efficiency improvements
- The politicians need to take action – talking is not enough!

This march is necessary in order to push climate change to the forefront of our political goals. It is a chance to unite in a common message, while also educating and raising awareness of citizens around the state.

Business as usual is the most dangerous path that can be taken, yet politicians are continuing to hesitate about passing significant legislation.

We need to show the politicians that we are really concerned about the future if significant action is not taken. That's why you should show up on November 13th at Library Mall. COME MAKE HISTORY!

Renewable energy tour, Nov. 13

Monday, November 02, 2009

A news release issued by Wisconsin Farmers Union:

Chippewa Falls, Wis. (October 30, 2009) - The Wisconsin Farmers Union and other Homegrown Renewable Energy Campaign partners will host a bus tour on Nov. 13 to highlight the benefits of four homegrown renewable energy policies promoted by the campaign and the opportunities for clean energy jobs in Wisconsin.

The four signature partners of the activities are Wisconsin Farmers Union, the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, Clean Wisconsin and RENEW Wisconsin. The Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection and the Office of Energy Independence are co-sponsors of the event.

The bus tour will begin at 9 a.m. at the Montfort Wind Farm, 254 Highway 18, Montfort, Wis. The wind farm is an example of one way to reduce carbon emissions and emphasizes the campaign's advocacy for a Low-Carbon Fuel Standard. A LCFS calls for a reduction in carbon emissions from transportation fuels, based on the carbon content of all fuels, and the transformation of the market.

The Fuels for Schools and Communities Program and the Biomass Crop Reserve Program will be addressed at the second stop on the tour - at the Meister Cheese Plant, 1160 Industrial Drive, Muscoda, Wis. The cheese plant uses a wood-chip heating system. Research at the University of Wisconsin will also be highlighted demonstrate the prospects for Wisconsin farmers to grow biomass crops.

Providing funding for schools and communities to install renewable energy projects that use biomass crops will create demand for renewable energy. The Biomass Crop Reserve Program provides incentives for farmers to meet that demand by growing biomass crops.

The third stop will be at the Cardinal Glass factory in Mazomanie, Wis. Cardinal Glass is one of the leading suppliers of glass for solar panels. The stop is an example of how homegrown renewable energy can provide jobs for Wisconsin.

Renewable energy buyback rates, the fourth component of the Homegrown Renewable Energy Campaign, will set utility payments for small renewable energy producers who want to feed energy into the electric grid. The tour will stop at a residential home in Ridgeway, Wis. using solar panels to feed electricity into the grid.

The bus will return to the Montfort Wind Farm at 5 p.m.

To register for the Homegrown Renewable Energy Campaign Bus Tour, contact Mike Stranz, WFU Government Relations Specialist, by Nov. 9 at 608-256-6661 or email A $10 registration fee, payable by cash or check the day of the event, covers the cost of the tour, lunch and snacks.

CLICK HERE for more information on the Homegrown Renewable Energy Bus Tour.

Glacier Hills Wind Park hearing, Nov. 4

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Public Service Commission will take public testimony on We Energies' proposed Glacier Hills Wind Park.

Wednesday, November 4
3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Randolph Town Hall
109 S. Madison St. – Friesland

Those opposed to wind projects will likely make arguments like the one below from letter-to-the-editor of the Manitowoc Times Herald. The writere offered this outrageous explanation for why the Legislature passed and the govenor signed the bill on wind siting reform:

Blinded by a feel-good solution for a problem that never existed [global warming], legislators are being misled into a belief that something like wind turbines will not have a negative effect on those who are left to live around them . . .

To understand the problem you needed to be at the hearing in Mandison on May 12, held by the Senate and Assembly Energy Committee. . . .

It was obvious that the pro-wind lobby, paid with your tax money from RENEW Wisconsin, had the minds of legislators on their side long before the hearing.

Read more wild assertions from the letter.

Doyle announces $500,000 for communities to plan for clean energy future

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

From a news release issued by Governor Jim Doyle:

MADISON – Governor Doyle announced today that $500,000 in funds from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) program are available to communities working toward energy independence. The grants are part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and will help communities create a plan to reach the Governor’s “25x25” goal of generating 25 percent of the state’s electricity and transportation fuels from renewable resources by the year 2025.

“Local communities are critical leaders in the state’s efforts to work toward energy independence,” Governor Doyle said. “The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants will build on local leadership and invest in a clean energy future that will clean our air and water, create jobs, and save money for our citizens.”

The “25x25” Plan will help Energy Independent Communities understand their community’s overall energy consumption and create a plan to address opportunities in energy conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy sources.

The Wisconsin Energy Independent (EI) Community Partnership is the first of its kind in the nation and is an integral part of Clean Energy Wisconsin, Governor Doyle’s plan to move Wisconsin toward energy independence. The partnership includes counties, cities, villages, towns, tribes, and schools in the state that have committed to Governor Doyle’s “25x25” challenge. Currently, there are over 100 EI Communities, with 10 EI Pilots working on the inaugural “25x25” Plan.

Governor Doyle and the Wisconsin Office of Energy Independence encourage communities to apply for the “25x25” Plan Grant. Communities that join the EI Community Partnership before the December 15, 2009 deadline are eligible to apply. To access the application go to:

Two committees OK RTA creation

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

From an article by Nick Heynen in the Wisconsin State Journal:

A proposed Dane County Regional Transit Authority received recommendations from two Dane County Board committees at a joint meeting Monday evening, bringing the long-sought planning body one step closer to reality.

With votes of 3-2 and 6-2, the Dane County Public Works and Transportation Committee and Personnel and Finance Committee, respectively, voted to recommend the County Board create the RTA. The board could take up the issue as soon as its Nov. 5 meeting, board Chairman Scott McDonell said.

The proposed RTA, the structure of which was set by the state Legislature, would have nine members appointed by municipal governments, the county executive and the governor. It would be charged with developing a transit plan for areas within its jurisdiction, and then holding a RTA-area-wide referendum to authorize imposing a sales tax to fund that plan.

At the preceding public hearing, most of the approximately 40 speakers - including several representatives from local governments and business groups - supported creation of an RTA, citing reasons ranging from a desire to reduce carbon emissions from car commuter travel to saving money on road expansion and repair as the county grows.

Madison Peak Oil Group supports RTA

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Madison Peak Oil Group reissues the following statement (first release in February 2008) prior to the public hearing on a Regional Transit Authority (RTA):

What: Dane County Joint Committee Hearing of Public Works & Transportation with Personnel & Finance
When: Monday, October 26th at 6:30 pm
Where: Room 201B City County Building, 210 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Madison

The Madison Peak Oil Group (MPOG) vigorously supports the creation of a Dane County Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) as well as Wisconsin legislation to catalyze creation of RTAs statewide. Mass transportation must play a central role in reducing our excessive and ruinous dependence on petroleum, and RTAs have proven to be the best dedicated funding source.

The petroleum age will come to a close this century; worldwide production is probably near an all-time peak. MPOG is highly skeptical that any combination of non-petroleum energy sources will substitute for current levels of petroleum consumption; thus deep reductions in overall energy usage will be essential. And we must focus on reducing automobile dependence itself rather than trying to “feed” our cars with other energy sources: (a) most petroleum is used for transportation at present; (b) passenger vehicles are the largest user; (c) automobile-centric transportation systems are inherently inefficient; and (d) alternative energy sources will probably be needed for more important purposes (like producing food). We must reconfigure our communities and lifestyles so we can access most of our day-to-day and week-to-week needs and destinations via proximity, walking, bicycling, and mass transportation. Investments in transit will prove crucial.

Mass transit modes are well-suited for non-petroleum energy sources; many systems are already electrified. For reasons of scale, further technological improvements (in batteries and hybrid drives, for example) are likely to yield a much “bigger bang for the buck” when invested in mass transit systems rather than automobiles.

There are other excellent reasons to cut our petroleum consumption: (a) petroleum imports entangle the United States in exploitative foreign policies and regional disputes; (b) these imports worsen our hemorrhagic trade deficit; and (c) petroleum is a major source of greenhouse gasses.

Unfortunately, light rail has become a central – and contentious – feature of the Transport 2020 planning process. While rail transit in selected Madison-area corridors would probably improve overall system performance, MPOG recommends that citizens and units of government devote far more attention to the RTA itself. An RTA is the essential enabler of regional public transportation; no other equitable, politically-acceptable mechanism can generate the necessary revenues.

MPOG further recommends that use of RTA funds for streets and highways be strictly limited. For too long public monies have been lavished on roadway expansions, thereby powerfully subsidizing automobile and petroleum dependence. A sensible, frugal rebalance in spending priorities is urgently needed. MPOG expects bus service will continue to be the main “workhorse”. And whilst aggressive expansion of transit into ring communities surrounding Madison is essential, it must not occur at the expense of core bus service within Madison. To the contrary, improvements within Madison are needed to meet the needs of a large and growing population of transit-dependent residents. These “first adopters” must be rewarded for choosing to live in higher density areas where walking, biking, and energy-efficient mass transportation are most viable.


The Madison Peak Oil Group, a group of people working in the energy industry, exists to build public awareness of peak oil and to create visibility to policymakers. The Group maintains a blog at

Heinburg: "We must adapt our thinking and our messages"

Friday, October 23, 2009

From an address by Richard Heinburg to the ASPO International Conference 2009:

. . . [F]requent travel and contact with a wide variety of audiences, lead me now to reflect on what has worked in getting the Peak Oil warning across, and what hasn’t. Certainly I think all of us would agree that high oil prices create a window of opportunity, a teachable moment, while low prices and news of big new oil discoveries tend to deflate interest in our message. That being the case, it’s useful, as a presenter, to have constantly updated information, to keep presentations topical, and to anticipate likely questions and objections based on recent news stories.

Of course, each presenter has a unique profile of strengths and weaknesses, and it’s important to know your strengths—whether they be facility with humor, experience in the industry, or skill at data analysis—and make the most of them. Further advice that I might give about how to be a successful Peak Oil communicator is likely to descend even further to the level of mere platitude, but platitudes occasionally have their place.

Here’s one: Make definite assertions. If you’re not quotable or memorable, you will not be quoted or remembered. But back your assertions up with evidence.

Know your audience. If you are speaking to people who have never heard of Peak Oil before, your primary objective is to be credible while raising awareness and concern. If you are speaking to an audience of the already worried, your goal may be to bring shared understanding to a new level, or to connect it with specific current events.

Be prepared to answer questions. Nothing raises your credibility as much as the act of effectively and elegantly de-fusing what might initially seem to be a killer objection. In my experience, this is largely just a matter of being conversant with the facts, and then being sufficiently quick on your feet. The answers are there, and the objections of the Peak Oil skeptics generally fall apart quickly under even a few moments’ careful analysis.

Over 100 communities support “25x25” clean energy goal

Thursday, October 22, 2009

From a news release issued by Govenor Jim Doyle:

MADISON - Governor Jim Doyle today announced over 100 communities have joined the Wisconsin Energy Independent Community Partnership. The communities, which come from every region of Wisconsin, have pledged to work toward Governor Doyle’s “25x25” goal of generating 25 percent of the state’s electricity and transportation fuels from renewable resources by the year 2025.

“I’m pleased that communities across Wisconsin have accepted my clean energy challenges head on,” Governor Doyle said. “Together we are making great strides toward energy policies that create jobs, clean our air and water, and save us money. I look forward to working with Energy Independent Communities as we continue Wisconsin’s clean energy leadership.”

The Wisconsin Energy Independent (EI) Community Partnership is the first of its kind in the nation and is an integral part of Clean Energy Wisconsin, Governor Doyle’s plan to move Wisconsin toward energy independence. The plan details strategies to move Wisconsin forward to promote renewable energy, create new jobs, increase energy security, and improve the environment.

The community partnership, which is led by the Wisconsin Office of Energy Independence, helps individual communities take advantage of their unique resources and develop new strategies to foster innovative clean energy solutions.

New members of the Energy Independent Community Partnership include: City of Two Rivers in Manitowoc County, City of West Allis in Milwaukee County, City of New London in Outagamie County, Village of Stratford in Marathon County, City of Whitewater in Walworth County, City of Jefferson in Jefferson County, Village of Oxford in Marquette County and Iowa County.

Study finds massive hidden costs of energy production

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

From a news release issued by the National Research Council:

WASHINGTON -- A new report from the National Research Council examines and, when possible, estimates "hidden" costs of energy production and use -- such as the damage air pollution imposes on human health -- that are not reflected in market prices of coal, oil, other energy sources, or the electricity and gasoline produced from them. The report estimates dollar values for several major components of these costs. The damages the committee was able to quantify were an estimated $120 billion in the U.S. in 2005, a number that reflects primarily health damages from air pollution associated with electricity generation and motor vehicle transportation. The figure does not include damages from climate change, harm to ecosystems, effects of some air pollutants such as mercury, and risks to national security, which the report examines but does not monetize.

Requested by Congress, the report assesses what economists call external effects caused by various energy sources over their entire life cycle -- for example, not only the pollution generated when gasoline is used to run a car but also the pollution created by extracting and refining oil and transporting fuel to gas stations. Because these effects are not reflected in energy prices, government, businesses and consumers may not realize the full impact of their choices. When such market failures occur, a case can be made for government interventions -- such as regulations, taxes or tradable permits -- to address these external costs, the report says.

The committee that wrote the report focused on monetizing the damage of major air pollutants -- sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, ozone, and particulate matter – on human health, grain crops and timber yields, buildings, and recreation. When possible, it estimated both what the damages were in 2005 (the latest year for which data were available) and what they are likely to be in 2030, assuming current policies continue and new policies already slated for implementation are put in place.

Oil sands riches slow to a trickle for state companies

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

From an article by Rick Barrett in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

The global economic slowdown has caught up with the desolate oil sands region in northwest Canada, which has been sending a torrent of money flowing through Wisconsin.

Known for fostering a boomtown in Fort McMurray, Alberta, the region has seen roughly $90 billion worth of oil production projects deferred or canceled during the recession. The result has been a slowdown in sales for some Wisconsin manufacturers who supply equipment to the region, although existing oil sands projects are keeping some others as busy as ever.

Huge electric mining shovels, made in Milwaukee, have provided the muscle behind the Gold Rush-style boom as oil companies tap the riches of dirt containing a tarlike grade of petroleum.

Shovels and trucks still run day and night in vast open-pit mines that resemble an industrial version of the Grand Canyon. They're built to keep going even when the temperature falls to 40 degrees below zero and ground becomes as hard as concrete.

Most of the synthetic crude from the region is used to make gasoline, jet fuel or home heating oil. It flows through a network of pipelines to refineries across North America, including Wisconsin's only refinery, in Superior.

Wisconsin companies that have benefited from the oil sands include shovel builders Bucyrus International Inc. of South Milwaukee and P&H Mining Equipment Co. of Milwaukee, as well as Rockwell Automation Inc., Manitowoc Co. and Falk Corp.

When falling petroleum prices cooled off the Canadian oil sands boom, Manitowoc Co. felt it through fewer sales of construction cranes.

"It's pretty slow for us there now," company CEO Glen Tellock said last week. "There are a lot of projects that will go forward, but not at the pace people had anticipated."

Some oil sands expansions costing tens of billions of dollars came to an abrupt end when petroleum prices fell to $40 a barrel earlier this year - extracting oil from tar sands becomes profitable only above about $35 a barrel.

Dane County Board to again consider Regional Transit Authority

Monday, October 19, 2009

From an article by Matthew DeFour in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Let the Dane County Regional Transit Authority debate begin (again).

County Board Chairman Scott McDonell on Thursday introduced a resolution that would create an RTA board to coordinate transit planning in the Madison area.

The resolution would create a new governmental body with the power to levy a sales tax and to determine whether local mass transit will focus on rail or bus. The resolution itself doesn't make those decisions.

McDonell said that because the RTA issue has been discussed for so long, the County Board could vote on the resolution by mid-November. "This is an important step, but the bigger things are later," he said.

He and other elected officials reiterated their commitment to the RTA board holding a referendum in the affected communities before creating a sales tax, even though a referendum is not required by state law.

Here comes the sun: Solar energy puts money in their pockets

Friday, October 16, 2009

From an article by Tim Damos in the Baraboo News Republican:

Karen Mesmer used to get a bill in the mail from the electric company. Nowadays, she gets a check.

"Last year, when the stock market crashed, we were still getting paid, instead of losing money," said Mesmer. "The sun was still shining."

Mesmer’s property in the rural Town of Excelsior is home to six solar trackers, large poles with motored devices that rotate the solar panels atop them to follow the sun throughout the day.

Her business, Mesmer Solar, LLC, is one of three in central Sauk County recently established to take advantage of federal grant money.

Behind all three businesses is Gerd Muehllehner, a German native and solar power guru who says it’s possible to earn a 10 percent return on a ‘green’ investment.

"In Germany, every second house has solar, either for hot water or electricity," Muehllehner said.

After installing his first set of solar panels in 2006, Muehllehner learned that — aside from the government incentives available to individuals who go solar — grants are available to small businesses.

He partnered with Mesmer 50/50 to establish a business that could take advantage of the federal subsidy. He did the same with a friend in Rock Springs and his daughter, who lives nearby.

By filling out a form online and paying a $130 fee, they formed limited liability companies.

What do their companies do? They sell renewable energy to the power company.

That was enough to qualify all three businesses for an additional $20,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to install the solar equipment.

How does the everyday Joe benefit from Green Power?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

From Ask Bob, a feature on the Web site of Madison Gas and Electric:

We’re going to have to make a transition. We can’t continue to rely on fossil fuels, because there’s a limited amount of them. We’re going to run out. We need to develop other sources of energy. The benefit of buying green power is that it pushes a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

First look at Yahara Station proposal

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

From an e-mail sent by Robbie Webber:

(Thursday) at the Long Range Transportation Plan Commission, we will have a first look at a proposal for Yahara Station, a possible intercity transit center. This location would be 1.7 miles from the Capitol, between E Johnson and E Washington just east of the Yahara River. It would allow connection with 14 Metro routes, the proposed Dane County commuter rail line, and is very pedestrian and bicycle

This is an information-only session, so no decision will be made.

Madison gets new grants for solar program

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

From an announcement made by the U.S. Department of Energy:

On October 8, 2009, the Department of Energy announced $10M through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for 40 new Solar America Cities Special Projects in 16 cities. This funding will enable the cities to increase solar energy use in their communities through innovative programs and policies that can then be replicated across the nation. . . .

MadiSUN Community Solar Financing
The City will develop a financing strategy that allows residents and businesses to take an ownership share in solar projects located on City property, enabling a greater portion of the community to invest in local solar energy generation.

Target Marketing Solar to Businesses
The City will deliver customized assessments and economic analyses to businesses and business groups that are well-positioned to invest in solar energy systems.

Solar Business Center
The City will develop a solar business and educational hub, based on the Solar Info Center of Freiburg, Germany, intended to support the rapid and sustained deployment of solar in the Midwest.

Transit commission raises concerns about Madison Metro's operating budget

Monday, October 12, 2009

From a post by Kristin Czubkowski on The Capital Times:

While I had been working on a story about how bus ridership has been affected by the fare increase and other factors when I went to Thursday's Transit and Parking Commission meeting, what stuck out the most from that meeting was a discussion of Mayor Dave Cieslewicz's 2010 operating budget for Metro.

Members of the commission pointed out that the city's contribution to Metro was going down more than $3 million, from $10.2 million in 2009 to about $7 million in 2010, based on a one-time windfall of federal stimulus dollars, refinanced debt service, lower-than-expected gas prices and additional state transportation grants.

On the surface, this may seem like good news. The city's goal is often to reduce its subsidy to Madison Metro, but commission members said Thursday that they had concerns about the sustainability of this year's dramatic decrease and what might happen to Metro if those additional revenues did not materialize in the 2011 budget.

As Ald. Jed Sanborn, a fiscal conservative, put it: "I'm concerned about what I'm seeing. Clearly the city of Madison has a very difficult budget and clearly they've really gotten lucky here and they've used Metro as a big fill for holes in the city's operating budget."

Sanborn also noted that none of the additional revenues were being put toward Metro's reserve fund, which can be tapped into as a last resort for budget deficiencies in future years.

Metro manager Chuck Kamp said he shared Sanborn's concern, but expected fare revenues to continue increasing in 2010 as riders adjusted to the fare increase and ridership statistics began to increase again.

Fare assessment: Ridership down, revenues up

Friday, October 09, 2009

From an article by Kristin Czubkowski in The Capital Times:

Nearly six months after Madison Metro's bus fare increase took effect, the ridership numbers admittedly do not look good.

Through April 2009, when the increase that raised cash fares 50 cents and other fares proportionally took place, Metro ridership was up 6.4 percent from 2008. But in every month since, ridership has decreased, ranging from a 1.32 percent drop in May to, more recently, decreases of 5.4 percent in July and 4.3 percent in August.

For opponents of the bus fare increase, the numbers are a clear case of "I told you so," but supporters of the increase and Metro staff say that bus ridership is down across the country because of low gas prices and the sluggish economy, and that the fare increase is bringing in additional revenue during otherwise lean times.

"I think you can't say that the drop in ridership is due to anything else (other than the fare increase) because it's so obvious that there were still the gains (in ridership) in January, February, March, and then the fare increase came," says bus advocate Tim Wong. "May and June were down a little bit, and then July and August were what I would presume the trend is going to be."

'Bus rapid transit' a commuter rail alternative

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

From an article by Kristin Czubkowski The Capital Times:

When people in Dane County hear the words "regional transit authority," what usually comes to mind is the area's hot debate over installing a $250 million, 16-mile commuter rail line running from Middleton to the town of Burke near Sun Prairie.

Advocates of the city's Metro bus system, however, are seeking to expand that definition by bringing another option back to the table: bus rapid transit.

Bus rapid transit, or BRT, was discussed as an alternative in an ongoing regional study called Transport 2020, but concerns about the potential cost of the system and its ability to provide faster public transit in the long-term ultimately led to its shelving.

Because of the stiff competition for federal rail funding, however, bus advocates say bus rapid transit could be an effective complement or alternative to commuter rail. Dane County withdrew its funding application to the Federal Transit Administration in December because of the lack of a local funding source for commuter rail, but talk of transit was renewed this summer after Gov. Jim Doyle authorized a Madison-area regional transit authority in his 2010 budget. The authority could levy up to a half-percent sales tax, or an estimated $38 million a year in transit funds, but local officials have said that will not happen until there is a referendum on the tax.

Madison sets meetings for hearing sustainable ideas

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

From an article by Bill Novak in the Capital Times:

Can Madison meet its current needs without compromising the needs of future generations?

The sustainability of Madison will be on the table at three community meetings in October and November, with residents and city leaders getting together to look at how sustainability works.

"Learn about what the city is doing to make Madison's community, economy and environment sustainable," Jeanne Hoffman, facilities and sustainability manager for the city, said in a statement. "We will also talk about Madison's Green Capital City projects and how your ideas can help make us an even greener city tomorrow."

Click here for time, date, and place of each meeting.

Greyhound to use South Stoughton Road strip mall

Monday, October 05, 2009

An article from the Wisconsin State Journal:

Greyhound will move it bus service to a strip mall on South Stoughton Road after the Badger Bus depot, its current home, closes Sunday.

The first bus will leave from the new depot at 2023 S. Stoughton at 6:30 a.m. Monday.

Alex Weyer, a customer service representative for Greyhound, said the new location will provide the same ticketing services as have been available at the Badger depot.

The Badger depot, at the corner of Bedford Street and West Washington Avenue, is being demolished this week to make room for mixed use development, including a CVS drug store and 83 apartments.