• WisBusiness

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Projects get moving during Energy Awareness Month


By Gregg Hoffmann
Several initiatives around the state are moving forward during Energy Awareness Month, as declared this October by Gov. Jim Doyle.

Communities that received state EI (Energy Independence) pilot program funding in 2010 are holding public meetings to get input for their planning process. Those communities, which have pledged to work toward 25 percent renewable energy by 2025, the so-called 25X25 program, will come together Dec. 15 at Retzler Nature Center in Waukesha to make their pilot plan presentations.

Those communities include Chippewa Valley Partners and Eau Claire County, the E3 Coalition in Crawford and Vernon counties, Green Lake County, the City and County of Jefferson, the city of Kaukauna and Outagamie County, the city of Monona and Dane County, La du Flambeau Band of Chippewa and Vilas and Iron counties, Polk County, Shawano County, Waukesha County and the city of Whitewater and Walworth County.

“These communities are moving forward in their planning process and coming up with some great ideas,” said Brian Driscoll, community relations director for the Office of Energy Independence (OEI) at a public meeting for the E3 Coalition in Viroqua. “All across the state, there are innovative projects being planned and implemented.”

Todd Osman of the E3 Coalition, which includes 10 communities in Vernon and Crawford counties, said plans are moving ahead on several fronts. “We’ve been working on retrofitting county and city buildings to make them more energy efficient,” he said. “We received some great input at our public meetings for renewable energy projects.”

Initiatives that were discussed at the Viroqua meeting included using non-woody and woody biomass to generate electricity for local schools and institutions, anaerobic digesters for farms and wind power. The consensus seemed to be that projects should be developed locally. They then could become part of a patchwork of projects around the state.

While the 2010 EI communities are wrapping up their planning process, the 2009 recipients have already started to implement projects to save energy.

According to an Energy Center of Wisconsin study, the 10 communities that received EI pilot programs in 2009, collectively, project reducing their 2025 fossil fuel-based energy consumption by 30 percent and their 2025 carbon emissions by 40 percent. These are projections for 2025 based on the conversion to more renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and others, and energy-efficient measures.

Some of the communities are already realizing savings from the energy-efficient measures, such as retrofitting lighting, heating and cooling systems.

Communities included in the 2009 pilot program include Brown County, Chequamagon Bay and Bayfield and Ashland counties, the village of Osceola and Polk County, city of Marshfield and Wood County, city of Columbus and Columbia County, city of Evansville and Rock County, the cities of Platteville and Lancaster and Grant County, the city of Oconomowoc and Waukesha County, the Town of Fairfield and Sauk County and the village and town of Spring Green and Sauk County.

In addition to the EI program with units of government, several State Energy Program (SEP) grants have been announced in October.

SEP grants use money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Orion Energy Systems received $260,000 for the purchase of solar panels, writing and cabling for its Manitowoc plant.

Orion produces energy management systems for companies worldwide, including energy-efficient light fixtures, wireless control technologies and “direct use” renewable technologies. The company employs more than 200 people. The Manitowoc project is a $1.3 million investment overall.

McCain Foods USA Inc. received $1.1 million in SEP funding for equipment purchases that will increase the efficiency of the company’s heat recovery capabilities. McCain will spend $2.2 million overall to purchase new heat exchangers for its plant in Plover, where 650 people work.

The company is a subsidiary of McCain Foods Limited, an international corporation that is the world’s largest producer of French fries and frozen potatoes.

TecStar Manufacturing, a plastic injection molding manufacturer, received $3.75 million in SEP funds to build injection molding machines for solar panel frames. The total project cost is $15 million. TecStar will add 186 fulltime jobs for the project and already employs 170 at its plant in Germantown.

Betin Inc. of Belmont received $550,000 on SEP funds to develop an anaerobic digester to process whey and wastewater at its goat cheese plant.

These projects are part of more than $55 million in federal stimulus money that's going to help Wisconsin manufacturers bring down their costs through energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

The state’s Energy Awareness Month is part of a nationwide initiative called, “Powering America: We’re On Target.” The theme “depicts how, across the nation, everyone is continuing to zero in on energy targets to stimulate the economy, lower operating expenses, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and achieve long term energy and economic security,” according to the OEI web site.

“Wisconsin has made big steps forward in recent years through energy conservation, energy efficiency and by investing in a clean energy economy,” Doyle said in a press release. “Through greater awareness we can continue to increase our energy independence, save money for families and businesses, and create thousands of new clean energy jobs in Wisconsin."

-- Hoffmann has written on many topics for WisPolitics.com and WisBusiness.com. He writes the GreenBiz column monthly.

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