Sunshine Daydream: Solar Tour is Saturday

Thursday, September 30, 2010

From an article by Mike Ivey in The Capital Times:

You might not think of Wisconsin as the "Sun Belt."

But solar installations are now found on about 500 Wisconsin private homes, with far larger commercial operations going up on apartment buildings, big box stores and factory roofs.

To that end, Wisconsin is once again part of the National Solar Tour on Saturday, Oct. 2.

The event gives visitors a chance to tour innovative green homes and buildings to see how solar energy, energy efficiency and other sustainable technologies can reduce monthly utility bills and help tackle climate change.

More than 160,000 participants will visit some 5,500 buildings in 3,200 communities across the U.S. Dozens of homes and businesses in the Madison area are participating.

Touring this year’s renewable energy crop

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

by Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin
September 27, 2010

One of the abiding pleasures of my job at RENEW Wisconsin is going out into the field to visit renewable energy installations. Many of the systems sprouting across the state owe their existence to state and federal policies that make these systems economically viable to their owners.

In turn, some of those policies owe their existence to RENEW, an advocacy organization that has elevated the Wisconsin renewable energy marketplace from a dreamy aspiration to a thriving marketplace employing hundreds of people and generating millions of dollars a year in local revenues.

Whenever I’m asked to describe our mission, I often say that we act as a catalyst for advancing a sustainable energy future in Wisconsin. Our vision of that future places small, entrepreneurial companies at the center of the transition toward clean, locally available energy resources that do not deplete over time.

RENEW endeavors to steer Wisconsin along this path through policy mechanisms that help renewable energy businesses establish themselves in an economy that for many decades has operated almost exclusively on fossil energy. Because of that dependence on concentrated energy sources like coal, natural gas and liquid hydrocarbons, which are still priced very cheaply, the shift to renewable energy has been an uphill battle. The incumbent energy sources are well-entrenched and will not hesitate to expend significant political capital to block policy initiatives aimed at putting renewable energy on a more equal playing field. Continued . . .

Commuter rail referendum: Politics or a chance to be heard?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

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

On Nov. 2, voters in at least 42 Dane County municipalities will weigh in on whether they support a half-cent sales tax to pay for commuter rail.

But the results of the advisory referendum aren’t likely to make any difference.

While some residents see the vote as a chance for the public to be heard on local commuter rail, others dismiss it as disingenuous politics,

"The powers that be don’t understand how the public feel about it outside the city of Madison in terms of wanting to have a vote on the issue," said Sup. Bill Clausius, of Sun Prairie, who unsuccessfully asked the County Board to hold a countywide referendum.

Clausius said he plans to vote "no" on the proposal, which he said will inform the Regional Transit Authority Board to reconsider including commuter rail in their transit plans.

But RTA Board Chairman Dick Wagner emphasized that the vote in November is not the official vote promised by the RTA and that the results won’t instruct the process going forward.

"I’m not really sure what I would tell (voters to do) because it’s so confusing," Wagner said. "It’s best if they wait for a real transit plan."

After a year, Madison Greyhound bus station is still in limbo

Friday, September 24, 2010

From an article by Joe Tarr on the Isthmus Daily Page:

Roger Campbell has seen a lot of bus stations. The truck driver delivers rigs to places all over the United States, then hops a bus (or train) back home to North Carolina.

On his first trip to Madison, he had this to say about the city's nonexistent Greyhound station: "This is crap, to be honest with you." Campbell said this while waiting inside a shelter at the city's North Transfer Point, which Greyhound has been using since the Badger Bus Depot on West Washington Avenue closed in August 2009. "I thought they had a bus station here."

Campbell had a long wait. It was not yet 10 a.m. on a Friday, and his bus wasn't scheduled to arrive until 7:45 that evening.

The city may also have a long wait — for a new station. More than a year after Greyhound started using the transfer point on Huxley Street, behind Oscar Mayer, it has no firm plans for locating a new station.

"At this time, there's no new news," says company spokesman Tim Stokes. "I'm sure we'll look at all possible avenues. But our main focus at this time is to find a convenient centralized location for the people of Madison."

Madison Metro general manager Chuck Kamp says Metro has suggested places Greyhound might use but has not heard anything back.

Obama's rail plan riding on key governor races

Thursday, September 23, 2010

From an article by Matt Leingang in the Wisconsin State Journal:

President Barack Obama's plan for high-speed passenger rail has a lot riding on the outcome of some key gubernatorial races in November.

Republican candidates in Ohio and Wisconsin have promised to cancel rail projects that are getting millions from the federal stimulus package, mocking the plans as boondoggles or complaining the trains would leave the states with too much of a financial burden for future operations.

Florida Republican nominee Rick Scott is also making threats. Scott is opposed to any rail plan that would have to be subsidized indefinitely, spokeswoman Bettina Inclan said. She didn't comment on whether Scott would return $1.3 billion in stimulus money for high-speed trains connecting Tampa and Orlando.

Rail advocates who say the U.S. needs greater transportation options for the 21st century see GOP opposition as nothing but raw partisan politics, a way to destroy projects that, if successful, would stand as legacies to Obama's stimulus plan.

"I guess it makes sense for them politically, and it plays into the fantasy that highways pay for themselves," said Richard Harnish, executive director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association, a Chicago-based nonprofit that promotes passenger rail.

Obama in January awarded $8 billion in stimulus money for 13 passenger rail projects. The largest would connect San Francisco with Los Angeles, using trains traveling up to 220 mph.

International peak oil speaker, September 22

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Building Local Resilience in an Era of Economic Turmoil & Resource Depletion

Wednesday, September 22nd, 7:00 PM
Room 180 Science Hall, 550 N. Park St., Madison

Peak Oil and the implosion of high-leverage finance schemes around the world are converging into a “perfect storm” that may threaten prosperity and social cohesion. The consequences are frightening: “hallucinated wealth” is vanishing, real unemployment is rising, and social unrest is growing amid global tensions over energy resources, water and land. Families and communities should prepare for the challenging times ahead.

A Presentation By

Nicole M. Foss
(a.k.a. “Stoneleigh”)
Energy Industry Consultant and Financial Analyst at

Free and open to the public. Donations welcome.

Sponsored by: Energy Hub, UW Madison WISPIRG/Big Red Go Green,
Madison Peak Oil Group, and Transition Madison Area

Info: or contact Hans Noeldner, 608-444-6190,

Madison’s first hybrid cab company hits the streets

Monday, September 20, 2010

From a news release issued by Madison Green Cab:

Green Cab of Madison Inc. is the newest and least expensive cab service offered in Madison. On Friday, September 17th, we rolled out with ten 2010 Toyota Priuses. All of our cabs are equipped with Saris bicycle racks, to encourage alternative transportation options. We are very excited and ready to take you wherever you need to go.

Our share ride service offers riders a less expensive option and allows riders the opportunity to choose a greener alternative to driving. Our dispatch software, which was developed internally, utilizing Apple iPads, is state of the art ensuring riders and drivers reliable fare calculations, directions, and prompt service. Green Cab is operating 24 hours a day 365 days a year.

Green Cab offers pre-scheduled rides, regularly recurring rides and on-demand. We also offer an airport service. Green Cab will get you to the airport on time.

At Green Cab, we offer parcel delivery at the same low rates. Our website offers businesses the opportunity to set up an account. All you have to do is go to the Business Account section on our website and set one up!

MGE Rate Filing Rewards Fossil Fuel Use, Penalizes Renewable Energy

Friday, September 17, 2010

From a news release issued by RENEW Wisconsin:

MGE Rate Filing Rewards Fossil Fuel Use, Penalizes Renewable Energy

RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide renewable energy advocacy organization, today called on Madison Gas and Electric (MGE) to scrap its pending request to substantially increase the cost of participation in its voluntary renewable energy subscription program.

RENEW contends that MGE does not need a higher renewable rate because the cost of energy supplying its award-winning Green Power Tomorrow program have not changed over the last 18 months and will not for the foreseeable future. The utility is seeking permission from the Public Service Commission (PSC) to increase the renewable energy rate from 1.25 cents to 2 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), a 60% increase.

If approved, the voluntary premium that MGE customers will pay for sponsoring more wind and solar electricity production will be significantly higher than what other Wisconsin utilities charge. In contrast, Milwaukee-Based We Energies charges a 1.38 cents/kWh premium to participate in its Energy for Tomorrow program. That rate, which received a slight upward adjustment in 2009, will remain in effect through 2011.

“Nothing about this price hike makes any sense,” said Michael Vickerman, Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin. “Program costs haven’t changed. Wind and solar energy is no more costly this year than it was in 2009, and next year it will be more of the same. Therefore, Green Power Tomorrow’s premium should remain where it is today.”

It’s dumb to kiss away $810 million in train money

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

From a commentary by Dave Zweifel in The Capital Times:

I enjoyed Bill Lueders’ recent column in Isthmus in which he pointed out just how stupid politicians become at election time.

Both political camps blow trivial and mostly meaningless issues out of proportion to demonize their opponents with ads and campaign statements that are just plain silly, like accusing an opponent of wanting to drill for oil in the Great Lakes or pointedly painting another as an out-and-out liar. The pity of it all, he pointed out, is that all the silliness seems to work with a growing portion of the electorate -- “people so pathetically uninformed and undiscerning as to be influenced by them.”

“In fact, shallow, barely aware voters have become the most important players in our democracy,” Lueders lamented. “It is for their sake that candidates debase themselves with shameless appeals to ignorance.”

This purposeful appeal to “ignorance” is all I can ascribe to Republican gubernatorial candidates Scott Walker’s and Mark Neumann’s repeated pronouncements about high-speed rail for Wisconsin. Either that, or they’re completely ignorant themselves.

Somewhere along the line, both these men have decided that to oppose upgrading Wisconsin’s railroad infrastructure to expand passenger rail to Madison and eventually to Minneapolis will appeal to some voters, especially those who don’t bother to understand what’s at stake.

The two candidates went completely over the top, though, during their last debate of the primary campaign late last month, with Neumann insisting that he would take the $810 million the feds have earmarked for Wisconsin to build the rail and give it back to the state’s citizens in tax breaks. Walker at least acknowledged that he didn’t think that was possible, but he’d get the feds to agree to release the money to build highways instead.

Building Local Resilience in an Era of Economic Turmoil & Resource Depletion

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Presentation By

Nicole M. Foss
(a.k.a. “Stoneleigh”)

Energy Industry Consultant and Financial Analyst at

Wednesday, September 22nd, 7:00 PM
Room 180 Science Hall, 550 North Park St.

Peak Oil and the implosion of high-leverage finance schemes around the world are converging into a “perfect storm” that may threaten prosperity and social cohesion. The consequences are frightening: “hallucinated wealth” is vanishing, real unemployment is rising, and social unrest is growing amid global tensions over energy resources, water and land. Families and communities should prepare for the challenging times ahead.
This event is free and open to the public.

Sponsored by:
+ Energy Hub
+ UW Madison WISPIRG/Big Red Go Green
+ Madison Peak Oil Group
+ Transition Madison Area

Info/media contact: Hans Noeldner, 608-444-6190,

Didion Green Energy Expo, Sept. 16, Cambria, WI

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Didion Green Energy Expo (DGEE) – Renewable and Sustainability Awareness 2010 will be on Thursday, September 16th from 2-7pm at Didion Ethanol on Highway 146 in Cambria. The Expo is free of charge and open to the public.

Tours of Didion Ethanol will be available from 2-6pm. This Expo will showcase Exhibitor Booths that can inform the Expo attendees of how their decisions impact the environment and in most cases, ultimately their pocketbook. Expert Panel Discussions will begin at 2:30pm and will include 3-4 industry experts to spark educational discussions around a renewable and sustainable way of life and the ethanol industry.

Green Power Tomorrow, solar, Trek Bicycles featured in MGE video

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Newsletter: Siting council, Cashton wind, Seventh Gen, and more

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

RENEW Wisconisn's summer newsletter includes these articles:

Council Backs Compromise on Siting Standards
After four months of intensive review and debate, the 15-member Wind Siting Council presented to the Public Service Commission (PSC) its final recommendations on the statewide permitting rule under development. The Council’s report comes at a critical juncture; the PSC will issue a fi nal rule on this proceeding before the end of August.

Community Wind on Move in Cashton
What may become Wisconsin’s first example of a Community Wind project cleared a significant hurdle in June when the Village of Cashton in Monroe County issued a permit to allow the construction of two Vestas V90 turbines, totaling 3.6 megawatts (MW), inside its business park.

Seventh Generation Pioneers Wind
Unusual from its start as a not-for- profit in the business of renewable energy, Seventh Generation Energy Systems (commonly called Seventh Gen) continues to pioneer organizationally and technically with the addition of Jim Yockey, executive director, and Ry Thompson, project manager. Alicia Leinberger, one of the founders of Seventh Gen, oversees marketing and business development for the eight-year-old organization.

Making Sense of the Gulf Disaster
About 100 people gathered in downtown Madison in early July to take part in “Hands Across the hands,” an internationally organized protest against continued oil drilling in and along the world’s coastal waters. Against the backdrop of the weed-choked waters of Lake Monona, they joined hands for 15 minutes to express their fervent desire to see a cleaner, less destructive energy future emerge from the liquid melanoma spreading across the Gulf of Mexico.

No doubt the protestors would like to do more, much more, than simply engage in a ritualized protest in front of a few camera crews. But we live in a society that is organized around the expectation of a limitless supply of nonrenewable hydrocarbons feeding concentrated energy into our economic bloodstream. Most of us have not bothered to comprehend the yawning gulf that lies between our best intentions and our abject dependence on the wealth-producing properties of petroleum.

Turbines Power Cascade Wastewater
With the start-up of two 100-kilowatt (kW) wind turbines, the Village of Cascade became the first Wisconsin community to power its municipal wastewater treatment plant with 100 percent locally produced wind energy.

The impetus behind Cascade’s embrace of wind power was the avoided utility expenditures associated with operating a wastewater treatment plant. In the first year of operation, Cascade
stands to save $30,000.

Sept. 29 -- Solar Decade Conference, Milwaukee, WI. A comprehensive solar energy educational opportunity for your home, business, and career. Sponsored by Focus on Energy, We Energies, and others. For details see

Sept. 30 - Oct. 1 -- 2010Solar Thermal ‘10, Milwaukee, WI. A national solar heating and cooling conference and expo for solar thermal professionals. For details see

October 2, 2010 -- Solar Tour of Homes and Businesses. All across Wisconsin. Owners open their doors to let people see how renewable energy is practical, reliable, and affordable in today’s economy. The homes and businesses often include other energy effi ciency and renewable technologies. For details see

October 13, 2010 -- Wisconsin Wind Energy Supply Chain Workshop, Milwaukee, WI. Learn how to join the wind energy supply chain from fi rst tier and aftermarket manufacturers. For details see

Mar. 9 - 12, 2011 -- Green Energy Summit: The Green Frontier, Milwaukee, WI. An acclaimed professional/academic conference featuring keynote speakers, workshops, demonstrations, and exhibits. Sponsored by the Wisconsin Technical College System Foundation and others. For details see

Watertown officials want high speed rail stop, make plans for station

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

From an article by Adam Tobias in the Watertown Daily Times:

Watertown Mayor Ron Krueger didn't get to weigh in on the federal government's plan to bolster high-speed passenger rail service throughout the county, nor was he asked to give any input on the state's decision to accept the $810 million in stimulus funds for the project. But since the project is moving full speed ahead, Krueger says it's vital for Watertown to have the train stop in the city.

“The common council and myself are not going to get into the debate about whether the federal government should be spending $8 billion on developing and starting a better passenger rail program and we are also not going to get into a debate about whether the state of Wisconsin should accept the money or not,” Krueger said during a recent interview in his office. “But - and I know the majority of the common council feels as I do - if the trains are going to run between Milwaukee and Madison, and eventually Chicago and the Twin Cities, we want them to stop in Watertown because if we don't jump on this the first time around and it gets going, it will be years and years and years before we get another opportunity.”

Madison's train station would cost at least $12 million, have four stories

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

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

The state Department of Transportation estimates a Madison passenger rail station next to Monona Terrace will cost about $12 million, though city officials are already contemplating additions that could drive up the local share of the cost.

The estimate, along with more detailed design sketches, were showcased Tuesday evening at the state's Department of Administration building, 101 E. Wilson St., where the train station will be located. About 150 people attended.

State and city officials still have to negotiate a final cost-sharing arrangement for the station, DOT Divisions Operations Director Paul Trombino said. The state plans to own and operate the station, he said.

The state had budgeted $24 million for station development — including $9 million for Madison and $5 million each for Watertown, Oconomowoc and Brookfield — but has since dropped plans for an Oconomowoc station. Some of the money for Oconomowoc could go toward the Madison station, but the cost of other stations remains unknown, Trombino said.

Madison has already committed to building a 1,200-stall underground parking structure on the site of the dilapidated Government East parking ramp across Wilson Street from the DOA building. An already-planned 800-stall structure was anticipated to cost $23.5 million, and the train station will require 400 of its own stalls.

Though the DOT concept includes locating an intercity bus boarding area on Pinckney Street next to the parking ramp, the city anticipates locating a public market and bicycle parking facility on the ground floor.