Please read this very interesting report from Windpower 2008 @ Houston TX
Report from Windpower 2008 and the
Wind Powering America Summit
RENEW/Wisconsin Wind Working Group
June 11, 2008
General impressions: AWEA's 2008 conference was an unceasing hive of
activity, especially on the trade show floor. RENEW was one of 15 Wisconsin
firms and organizations that participated in the Wisconsin Wind Works
exhibit space. Other participants were: Aarowcast (Shawano), Ambassador
Steel (Auburn, IN), Badger Transport (Clintonville), Bassett Mechanical
(Kaukauna), EcoEnergy (Madison), Lakeshore Technical College (Cleveland),
Lapham-Hickey Steel (Oshkosh), Lindquist Machine Corporation (Green Bay),
Merit Gear (Antigo), Natural Resources Consulting (Cottage Grove), Oscar
Boldt Construction (Appleton), Orion Construction Group (Appleton),
Trace-A-Matic (Brookfield), and Wausaukee Composites (Wausaukee). By pooling
our resources, we were able to secure a centrally located and highly visible
space on the trade show floor. Jerry Murphy and his team at The New North
did a fantastic job of organizing this pavilion and scheduling the staffing.
With all of our materials displayed under one sign we succeeded in
projecting a sense that Wisconsin companies are comfortable doing business
with each other. I hope we do it again next year in Minneapolis.
Plenty of Wisconsin companies had their own exhibit booths, including
Johnson Controls (Milwaukee), Michels Wind Energy (Brownsville), Tower Tech
at the Broadwind booth (Manitowoc), Manitowoc Crane (Manitowoc), Foley and
Lardner (Milwaukee), Michael Best and Friedrich (Madison), Shuttlelift
(Sturgeon Bay), Snap-on (Kenosha) and Trachte (Oregon). No doubt there were
other Wisconsin companies displaying at the exhibit hall.
I did not see any representatives from the State of Wisconsin at the
conference/trade show. The absence of an official state presence was
heightened by the profusion of other state pavilions--Iowa, Minnesota,
Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas--which were staffed by agency
employees and funded with public dollars. Nor did I see any representatives
of Wisconsin ports. I soon learned the reason why.
Transportation: My visit with Lone Star Transportation was eye-opening to
the say the least. Lone Star is Vestas' preferred heavy-hauler. The
exhibitors there described the difficulties they endured in dealing with the
restrictions state DOT placed on the transportation of oversized equipment
to We Energies' Blue Sky Green Field project. State DOT imposed a
prohibition on transporting oversize loads during the day, which made it
impossible to truck the blades, nacelles and tower sections directly to the
erection sites. We Energies had to expand the laydown area behind its
operations center in order to accommodate deliveries of the equipment. Some
792 pieces of equipment had to be offloaded in the yard and then reloaded on
separate vehicles and taken to the 88 turbine sites. Double-handling this
equipment is expensive. WE estimates that the restrictions on transportation
added nearly $4 million to the cost of constructing Blue Sky Green Field. No
doubt they resulted in costs to other companies. The same restrictions also
applied to the Forward project, which was going up at the same time.
According to Lone Star, Wisconsin is very much the outlier when it comes to
regulating transportation of oversize wind energy equipment.
In regards to the Cedar Ridge project now under construction, state DOT will
allow limited daytime transportation of oversize equipment. However, in
order to reduce the cost of transporting turbines, nacelles and blades
through Wisconsin, Vestas decided to ship that equipment down to the Port of
Beaumont in Texas, and transport it by rail to Green Bay. Much of it has
already arrived, sitting in a rail yard waiting to be transported down to
Fond du Lac County. These loads could have been shipped to either Milwaukee
or Marinette-Menominee. No wonder I didn't see any Wisconsin port
representatives at the conference!
Wisconsin also requires haulers to obtain an individual permit for each load
carried along a surveyed route. Contrast that requirement with Iowa's
practice of issuing a permit that covers all trips on that route for six
(could be 12) months. Iowa's DOT does not place limits on the time of day
when oversize wind equipment can be legally transported.
Between the extra costs incurred by heavy haulers and the lost port traffic,
Wisconsin's transportation policies have imposed a heavy economic cost on
in-state wind development in Wisconsin. The economic damage could spread to
other states if turbine manufacturers continue to avoid Wisconsin ports in
favor of less convenient locations that require more truck or rail travel
after the equipment is unloaded.
Project Outlook for 2008 and 2009: Babcock and Brown, which bought two
permitted projects in Wisconsin, will begin constructing the 36-turbine
Butler Ridge project this month. RES Americas is the general contractor. The
project, located in southeast Dodge County, should be on-line by the end of
December. I have no information about the transportation arrangements for
that installation, but I can't help but observe that the project site is
less than 60 miles from the Port of Milwaukee.
Babcock and Brown also intends to build its second permitted Wisconsin
project in 2009. The installation would go up in Manitowoc County not far
from Point Beach. B&B's permit lasts through the end of next year. If it
were to expire before the wind project is completed, B&B would have to
obtain an extension or seek a brand new permit under the county's revised
wind ordinance, which, as you know, was essentially written by the WINDCOWs.
Wind Powering America Summit: This was a much more interactive and engaging
meeting than last year's gathering. I took part in a role-playing exercise
in which the most common knocks against windpower were voiced by one group
of people (myself included) and then rebutted by another group. As my
group's designated NIMBY, I channeled my inner Dave Korinek and spewed forth
one Internet myth after another about safety (exploding turbines and
collapsing towers), health impacts (stray voltage, "wind turbine syndrome"),
and quality of life complaints (shadow flicker, aesthetics). Judging from
their tinny and wonkish responses, the pro-wind people would benefit greatly
from increased exposure to real-life NIMBY's and attending Mick Sagrillo's
"How to Deal with Wind Opposition" workshop.
It's worth mentioning that the Ohio Legislature recently took steps to
reduce the likelihood of stalled wind projects due to permitting hassles.
The Legislature voted to lower the threshold for state review of wind
projects from 50 MW to 5 MW. If approved, Ohio's threshold would be even
lower than the one in Minnesota (25 MW). That change was incorporated in a
budget repair bill that is now sitting on the Governor's desk. The Governor
supports the provision, I'm told.
The most memorable line of the meeting came out of Randy Udall's talk. After
his meditation on the energy resource constraints that are converging
directly in front of us, he referenced the AWEA/DOE 20% by 2030 report by
saying: "we should be planting wind turbines like trees." Of all the fossil
fuel supply problems that are hard-wired into our future, the biggest shapes
up to be maintaining natural gas supply given current depletion rates. In
Randy's view (and mine), substituting wind for fossil generation is even
more valuable as an energy security strategy than as a carbon reduction
Wisconsin Wind Working Group
We MUST act now to move Windpower forward!