October 10, tRump HERE!

September 26th, 2019

The Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line was approved by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission in a rubber stamp “decision” based on their deliberation at the meeting of August 20, 2019. Before the decision, there was some discussion of DALC’s Motion for recusal o Commissioners Huebsch and Valcq due to conflict of interest, and they had a ‘doth protesteth too much” response:

5-CE-146 Memorandum from Chairperson Valcq regarding Recusal (PSC REF#: 376345)
        Docket: 5-CE-146    Document Type: Memorandum    Submitted by: COKERS

5-CE-146 Memorandum from Commissioner Huebsch regarding Recusal (PSC REF#: 376346)
        Docket: 5-CE-146    Document Type: Memorandum    Submitted by: COKERS

Agenda Memorandum – Motion for Recusal and Disqualification (PSC REF#: 376363)
        Docket: 5-CE-146    Document Type: Memorandum    Submitted by: abrald

And after they dismissed the Motion, it took about two seconds to approve their written Order, and another few hours to distribute it:

Petition for Rehearing due October 16, 2019. Mark your calendars!!!

Coal ash? Comment now!

September 22nd, 2019

Remember the huge coal ash impoundment ruptures/breeches dumping coal ash all over? THIS is why treatment and use of coal ash matters:

TVA coal ash slide – UPDATES

And even in Minnesota: TVA coal ash — we had our own ash slide here in MN

There was a rule update and comments in 2018, and it was remanded, and so here we go around again…

FEDERAL REGISTER ANNOUNCEMENT: Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals from Electric Utilities

Comments must be received on or before October 15, 2019!

From the EPA’s announcement (CLICK HERE):

Public Hearing on the Proposed Changes to the Regulations for Coal Combustion Residuals: Enhancing Public Access to Information and Reconsideration of Beneficial Use Criteria and Piles

Wed, October 2, 2019

9:00 AM – 8:00 PM EDT

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel

300 Army Navy Drive

Arlington, VA 22202

The public hearing will consist of three sessions:

  • A morning session starting at 9:00 am and ending at noon.
  • An early afternoon session starting at 1:00 pm and ending at 4:00 pm.
  • An evening session beginning at 5:00 pm and ending at 8:00 pm.

CLICK HERE FOR THE PROPOSED RULE!

Just do it, comment away!!! Comments must be received on or before October 15, 2019.

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.

****************************************

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.