Juhl in the news

September 22nd, 2019

Remember the Juhl Energy permit fiasco in Rock County earlier this month?

Rock County CUP granted

Now another Juhl project in the news, featuring Dan Juhl, who says he’s retired. HA! Doesn’t look like it… [After I published this, found another in the STrib, “Minnesota wind-solar hybrid project could be new frontier for renewable energy,” yup, “retired” guy on a big PR push!]

FYI, yes, distributed generation is where it’s at, siting small projects near load means that no new transmission is required, but because the massive transmission build-outs of CapX 2020 and MISO’s 17 project MVP portfolio have been built, well, it’s a little late.

BTW, Dan Juhl was present at the September 8, 2001 meeting at the Dinkytown Loring, after the first of Xcel’s 345kV transmission lines was proposed (Search for PUC Docket 01-1958) where Beth Soholt and Matt Schuerger asked a bunch of likely intervenors, “What would it take for you to approve of this project?” They never answered my question of what they were getting to promote it, but Matt Schuerger sure did get pissy and flustered and threatened to stomp out of the meeting! I did find documentation the $4.5 million (2001) and $8.1 million (2003) grants for “Wind on the Wires,” at that time a program of the Izaak Walton League. Clearly they got at least that much, and from other sources they got more, who knows how much… And all those transmission projects went through…

Anyway, here’s the recent report on a new project, from MPR:

New power generation: Rural co-op makes bet on wind, solar hybrid

The electricity we use is often generated hundreds of miles away. Dan Juhl wants to keep it local.

The longtime energy developer is convinced that small, hybrid solar-and-wind projects are the future of electricity generation in rural areas.  Much of the renewable electricity in the system now is generated by large wind farms or giant fields of solar panels. But Juhl envisions turning that approach on its head by creating dozens of small wind-and-solar sites that feed energy to consumers nearby. 

“The time is coming. The technology is there. It’s reliable, it’s efficient,” said Juhl, who has for years been developing renewable energy in Minnesota. “We’re not a bunch of wild-eyed hippies anymore. It’s the real deal.”

Dan Juhl stands near a solar panel
Juhl Energy founder Dan Juhl stands near a solar panel at his home near Red Lake Falls, Minn., on Aug. 28. He recently installed the solar array at his home to charge his electric car.Dan Gunderson | MPR News

His concept: Pair two wind turbines and an array of solar panels to generate electricity that flows into the local energy grid.

The ultimate test of whether the approach is sustainable is the cost of the electricity it produces — and Juhl is certain that small solar-and-wind sites scattered around the state can produce electricity that’s cheaper than current market rates. 

To prove his theory, Juhl’s company — Juhl Energyhas built what he calls the first hybrid generating system in the country.

Making renewable local

To make this hybrid wind-and-solar approach work economically, Juhl first had to streamline the conversion process. Wind turbines and solar panels produce electricity differently, and that electricity must be converted before it can be sent to consumers. Juhl had to find a way to convert wind energy and solar energy into electricity through the same process.   

So, he partnered with electric behemoth General Electric to build the technology that would route the energy generated from wind turbines and solar panels through the same power conversion process, cutting the cost of combining wind and solar power at a single location. 

“We can produce and deliver clean power for less than the existing system,” Juhl said. He estimates the savings at about 2.5 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity. The average residential price of a kilowatt-hour of electricity in Minnesota is about 14 cents.

The challenge, said Juhl, is convincing rural electric cooperatives that renewable energy can save them money. 

Tim Thompson is convinced. He’s CEO of Pelican Rapids, Minn.-based Lake Region Electric Cooperative, which serves west-central Minnesota and is buying the electricity that’s being produced from the first Juhl Energy hybrid system. 

Juhl’s single wind turbine and solar array hybrid near Rothsay, Minn., has only been operating since March, but Thompson said he expects his co-op will save about $150,000 annually because the electricity is cheaper than the market price the co-op pays for the rest of the electricity it uses.  

Lake Region Electric CEO Tim Thompson
Lake Region Electric Cooperative CEO Tim Thompson stands near a wind turbine near Rothsay. The turbine is part of a unique wind-and-solar hybrid electrical generation project. Dan Gunderson | MPR News

“Any time we can produce renewable energy at the local level, [and] our members consume that locally, we can save them a little bit of money in the process,” Thompson said. “That’s a perfect project for us.”

The electricity generated here flows into an existing Lake Region Electric substation 3 miles away. The power stays local: It’s used by the roughly 1,200 customers in the 150 square miles served by the substation. 

This $4.5 million project is smaller than what Juhl envisions as the ideal hybrid generation unit. The full system he’s designed would include solar panels combined with two wind turbines — double the amount at the Rothsay site.

A smaller scale for energy resilience

Renewable energy is often produced by massive wind farms or large fields of solar panels that generate electricity that’s transported onto the grid and used hundreds of miles away.  

But the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts significant growth in smaller, locally produced electricity, known as distributed power generation, in the next 30 years, as solar panels become less expensive to buy and install. 

Juhl said the small distributed model of electrical generation makes the system more reliable — and resilient.

If it’s not windy or sunny here, it’s probably windy or sunny [somewhere else],” he said. “And so a distributed model adds a much higher reliability to renewables than central station renewables.” 

A wind turbine in a corn field
A wind turbine towers over a cornfield near Rothsay earlier this week. The turbine is part of a wind-and-solar hybrid electrical generation system. Dan Gunderson | MPR News

The idea is that many small power generation units spread the risk when compared with large facilities that focus generation in a single area.

“I mean, there’s no fuel, no emissions, no waste, no water and no transmission costs,” Juhl said. “How can it not be economical to deliver power like that?”

Juhl envisions eventually adding battery storage in rural communities to help utilize the locally generated power. 

A customer in co-ops

While Juhl sees reluctance among many rural electric cooperatives to embrace the hybrid model, Thompson has no reservations. 

“As a member-owned cooperative, we really pay very close attention to what our members want and need,” Thompson said. “And the feedback from members is that they do want more renewable energy.”

Does that mean Thompson expects to see more of these projects on the Lake Region Electric system? Probably not — at least not in the short term. 

Lake Region Electric buys the bulk of the electricity it distributes to customers from Great River Energy, and — as is the case with most co-ops’ contracts with big power producers — its contract with Great River limits how much renewable electricity the cooperative can buy from other sources. This hybrid project with Juhl makes up about half the total allowed. 

Great River Energy produces 58 percent of all the electricity it sells from coal, and 25 percent from renewable energy sources like wind or solar. 

Most rural electric cooperatives are locked into long-term contracts that limit how much electricity they can buy from other sources. That would make expanding the hybrid model on a large scale fairly difficult. 

But Juhl said he’s been getting more inquiries from members of electric cooperative boards since the Rothsay project went online — and he’s hopeful that soon, his vision for locally generated renewable energy will power more rural communities.

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New Power Generation? Just saw the reincarnation at the Sheldon last year…

Oh… nevermind…

Camp-Hosting is a happening thing

September 19th, 2019

Camp-hosting is something I’ve wanted to do for years, and we finally got around to it, two weeks in Myre-Big Island State Park. It’s hard to carve out the time, although working on site is doable, as it is in most of the state parks we’ve been to. T-Mobile service is almost everywhere, and I’ve been officing in campgrounds since we got the pop-up, here, there, and everywhere.

A couple months ago I splurged and got a trailer more suitable for longer trips and longer stays, one that’s got the best of both worlds, a 2012 Starcraft AR-ONE 15RB. It’s self-contained for a quick stop on the way with none of the pop-up set-up hassle, and with a drop down bunk for that tent feel. It’ll take a bit to get adjusted, but a lot less than it took to get the pop-up set up right with all the necessary accoutrements.

This year, though, ugh, with all these dockets going, we’ve only gotten two short trips in, one for a couple days in May here in Myre-Big Island State Park to test the R-Vision Cassette before we sold it, had to make sure it really wouldn’t work for us, and it was just too small (loved the kitchen in back, however). Cute but way small. The good news is that it sold pretty easily:

And we got a short trip in June to Mirror Lake State Park in Wisconsin, perfect for a quick jaunt to Madison, and it ended up being our last trip on our ’97 Palomino Yearling pop-up — we had 4 years and 170 days in it, for sure got our money’s worth out of it. That dear pup went pretty fast too, and now it’s headed out to Idaho and back:

But this year has been so nuts, I’ve had to cancel FIVE trips, and no way was I going to cancel out of the camp-hosting gig. And here we are, back in Myre-Big Island, right next to the proposed site for Freeborn Wind — how convenient!

First day was beautiful, just perfect, and that night it poured. Sadie was SO upset, and it rained and rained, following last Friday’s storm that flooded South Dakota and made a mess here too:

And then a nice day, and we got to dry out some, stroll, waddle, and hike around the park, and in the evenings deal with helping folks stopping by for the night get registered and in the right spots. It started pretty empty, but filled up fast, especially these sites along the lake (with the best phone/internet service).

Mona & Greg came down for a few days, that was great, we haven’t seen them in way too long. My favorite thing about camping, other than getting out on the road and into the woods, is outdoor cooking, and oh, did we have meals to share in excess, and good company makes it even better:

And their puppy Eddie is growing up — what a cute little guy. He and Sadie are now fine, no barking or snarking, though Sadie just doesn’t play like he wants. She never has, she just didn’t have that puppy socializing time and doesn’t know how to interact with animals or people. Here’s Eddie waiting for mom, seriously focused:

Then last night, pouring all night long, heavy rain, and one intense BOOM! that seemed just overhead, and sent poor Sadie almost through the canvas. She was shaking, hyperventilating, and drooling, and it went on until almost sunrise. She’s sleeping it off, but I’ve not been that lucky yet. The sun came out, and it’s a quiet weekday in the park.

FYI, the DNR has the visible beginnings of an energy program. Lots of the State Parks we’ve been to have solar arrays, Nerstrand Big Woods, Big Bog, and Tettegouche:

They don’t have solar here yet, but they do have an electric vehicle for the cleaning crew, a cute little cab over with a flatbed on back, and they have a Nissan for staff — with a clue if you can’t figure out what model it is:

DOH! How cool is that?

Back to work… Freeborn Wind calls. So does Sadie, somebody wants dinner. There’s a beautiful pink sunset out the windows… the joys of self-employment.


Rock County CUP granted

September 11th, 2019

Here they are, the two County Attorneys bookending the three developer reps, probably congratulating themselves on the County’s granting of the “Juhl Energy Development in partnership with Agri-Energy/GEVO” Conditional Use Permits for Sections 17 and 19 in Rock County.

What’s the big deal? Well, let’s start with the application, which was “fluff” — incomplete to put it mildly, and yet it was forwarded to the Planning Commission, a hearing was held without necessary information and documentation, and then it went to the County Board. Really, no exaggeration. Here’s the full board packet:

And what’s odd about this? The “conditions” proposed in the Board packet:

These are things that are to be included with an application, and if not, the Ordinance says that the application is not complete. FYI, this Ordinance was adopted in 2018, but is NOT posted on the County’s Website with the other Ordinances — really — check the link. WTF? Here it is (the County Attorney sent me a pdf, but it was only the even pages! Another WTF! Thankfully a little birdie sent the full Ordinance.):

NOTE in the heading: “An application to the County for a permit under this section is not complete unless it contains the following…” with all those 1-19 requirements constituting “the following.”

Take another look at the “application” in the board packet, two “applications” and a total of 10 pages! What a farce.

On behalf of the Jarchows, I’d sent a letter to the County Attorney, Administrator, and Zoning/Land-Use Administrator, and the County Board, laying out the problems, particularly stressing the egregiously incomplete application, together with an Affidavit of John Jarchow explaining their concerns with the potential nuisance coming to their property, a pre-existing permitted use:

And a Data Practices Act Request:

On to yesterday’s meeting. The County Attorney admitted that the Board had only the materials of the posted pack in front of them. As to the many missing items necessary for a complete application, one Commissioner asked about the Ordinance requirement of completeness, and the County Attorney said (not exact quote, but close) at least twice:

Oh, I wouldn’t be concerned about what the Ordinance says.

Really… I’d reminded the Commissioners of their Oath of Office, and I wonder if they thought about that. What’s the point of an ordinance if it’s ignored by the Board, the Planning Commission, and the Zoning Administrator who referred that incomplete application forward?

There were unstated claims that the biofuel plant needs this project to be able to sell to a California company. There’s a deadline approaching as the developers say this will be operational by year end.

IF THIS PROJECT IS SO IMPORTANT TO THE PLANT, AND TO THE COMMUNITY, why would the developer submit such an inadequate application? It’s on them, if they want to grease the skids and make it sail through, to do it right. But they didn’t.

Why would the Zoning Administrator forward such an inadequate and non-compliant application to the Planning Commission to review? Why would the Planning Commission hold a hearing and recommend it be approved when there is no record on which to base its “Findings.” Why would the County Board approve a CUP with so little record, and make a decision that has no record to support it? Why would the County allow a developer to put it in this position?

It’s on the developer to provide a complete application. If this project is so important, why would a developer make this strategic decision not to provide what’s required in an application?

Because they could? Because they couldn’t/can’t provide the information required? Because they knew the County wouldn’t make them follow the County Ordinance?

Oh, I wouldn’t be concerned about what the Ordinance says.” Don Klosterbuer, Rock County’s County Attorney

Follow up Data Practices Act Request #2:

Stupid is as Stupid does…

September 4th, 2019

See that black line into Alabama?

From Cornell’s site, 18 U.S. Code 2074: Whoever knowingly issues or publishes any counterfeit weather forecast or warning of weather conditions falsely representing such forecast or warning to have been issued or published by the Weather Bureau, United States Signal Service, or other branch of the Government service, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ninety days, or both. (June 25, 1948, ch. 645, 62 Stat. 795; Pub. L. 103–322, title XXXIII, § 330016(1)(G), Sept. 13, 1994, 108 Stat. 2147.)

Did he really do that, or have someone do that, to double down on his claims that Alabama would be hit? Really?!?!

Yeah, looks like he is indeed that stupid:

Trump Shows Altered Map of Hurricane Dorian’s Path

Legalization…

September 2nd, 2019

Buds compliments of NYTimes, fair use

There’s been lots of talk about legalization of marijuana in Minnesota, though it’s not clear to me exactly what’s being proposed

Walz wants state to be ready to roll on legal marijuana

Minnesota Democrats make push on recreational marijuana, Senate GOP pumps the brakes

Makes me wonder where these folks were in the 80s when chronic use started catching up with people? This has been a topic on a yak-yak list here in RW, and Alan Muller and I have been talking about this off and on lately. It seems there are at least five distinct issues here: 1) decriminalization v. legalization; 2) gov’t regulation; 3) taxation; and 4) physical and mental health issues; 5) expungement of prior convictions. What exactly does “legalization” mean? Are there more than these 5 issues to consider? Probably…

I can see medicinal benefits, but “recreational” use, I’m not a fan of legalization. Decriminalization, yes.

Hazeldon’s site has a page, but it’s extreme, not that far from a “Reefer Madness” mode.

From Hazeldon’s page:

A number of studies link chronic marijuana use and mental illness. High doses can produce a temporary psychotic reaction in some users. Use of the drug can also worsen the course of illness for patients who have schizophrenia. A series of large, longitudinal studies also shows a link between marijuana and the development of psychosis.

Marijuana abuse has also been associated with other mental health problems, such as:

Depression
Anxiety
Personality disturbances
Suicidal thoughts (among adolescents)
Lack of motivation to engage in typically rewarding activities

More research is needed to better understand these mental health links and ramifications.

It’s this chronic use and correlation that I’m referring to, and have observed. I would guess that there’s also an association between age of first appearance of schizophrenia/bi-polar and/or psychosis and age of initial chronic use (late teens-early 20s), and I think there’s a chicken/egg issue, and again guessing that the chronic use is self-medication (that doesn’t work) for the underlying mental condition. Again, strictly opinion based on observation and not studies or experiments. I’ve seen folks waste away their life, doing nothing; I’ve seen folks using constantly, masking, self-medicating serious mental illness; I’ve seen folks using regularly enough that their wasted behavior affects their primary relationship and it’s off to D-I-V-O-R-C-E court. I have no interest in being around wasted people, whatever the drug of choice, and I don’t want to see our society enabling chemical use. I don’t want to see folks using and then heading down the highway, though they’d probably be doing 25 in the right hand lane!

Bottom line at this time (and I’m just starting to seriously mull it over), I really don’t want to see governmental encouragement and enabling of a more passive population. I’m a supporter of broad decriminalization and expungement of those convictions. I’m not a supporter of government regulation and taxation, that is yet another regressive tax, and avoids the necessity of restoring more progressive corporate and individual income taxation. “Legalization” (whatever that means) is one of the least pressing issues I see that need to be dealt with NOW! Perhaps even a distraction.