energy

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More solar energy proposals, more energy efficiency projects, and more sustainability — that's what two top Wisconsin officials are predicting for this year.

One of them is Tyler Huebner, appointed by Gov. Tony Evers to the Public Service Commission (PSC) of Wisconsin last year. Huebner told RENEW Wisconsin's annual conference Tuesday that six large solar farms, totaling 1,049 megawatts, have received PSC approval over the last 20 months, including one in the Town of Paris in Kenosha County.

Huebner said more proposals for large solar farms are seeking PSC approval.

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A federal agency announced it has started to review an application to keep Wisconsin's only nuclear power plant open until about 2050. That's roughly two decades longer than currently authorized. 

The owner, Florida-based Next Era, says the two generators at the Point Beach Nuclear Plant along Lake Michigan, north of Manitowoc, are reliable sources of emissions-free energy. Milwaukee-based WE Energies used to own the large plant, and still buys power from it.

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The operator of Wisconsin’s only remaining nuclear power plant wants to keep the 50-year-old plant running through 2050.

NextEra Energy has submitted an application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission seeking to add 20 years to the licenses for the Point Beach Nuclear plant in Two Rivers, according to a document filed with state regulators.

A spokesman for NextEra Energy said the plant will continue to provide benefits for consumers as Wisconsin pursues Gov. Tony Evers’ goal of carbon-free electricity by 2050, the State Journal reported.

Sunrun

COVID-19 and its related economic slowdown have cast a shadow on the solar energy business. So, a company that installs solar panels on the roofs of Wisconsin homes says it's had to become more innovative. But the solar industry is also hoping for more old-fashioned help — from Congress.

Susan Bence

A citizens group wants Wisconsin utilities to become more innovative in reducing emissions that contribute to climate change. Group members say getting more intellectual diversity on a utility's board of directors would help.

The discussion involves Madison Gas and Electric (MGE), which primarily serves southcentral Wisconsin, but is part owner of one of the WE Energies coal-fired power plants in Oak Creek. MGE still gets half of its electricity from coal generation. 

Chuck Quirmbach

Some entrepreneurs see profits in renewable energy and energy efficiency products. But early-stage companies often need money to keep innovating. An annual competition held in Milwaukee Tuesday night gave seven firms a chance to show off what they do and meet more potential investors.

Chuck Quirmbach

The automotive industry is talking about a major shift to electric and gas-electric hybrid vehicles over the next 20 years.

To see if drivers are ready for the potential change, we went to an area called The Electric Zone at the Car & Truck Show underway in downtown Milwaukee.

The zone is a first floor hallway in the Wisconsin Center, containing a half-dozen plug-in electric or hybrid vehicles. Just like at the rest of the show, or at an auto dealer, people get behind the wheel, look under the hood and slam doors.

Michael Flippo / Getty Images

The Evers administration has started asking the public for advice on how and where to spend up to $10 million for electric vehicle charging stations in Wisconsin. 

Electric vehicles, or EV, still only make up a tiny fraction of automobiles in the state. But analysts say the number will grow if there are more places to recharge the cars.

READ: Push For EVs Predicted To Continue In Wisconsin Amid Questions

Chuck Quirmbach

More companies are pushing to build large solar energy farms in Wisconsin. The state's Public Service Commission is expected to vote soon on a proposed 1,200-acre solar project west of the city of Jefferson, in Jefferson County.  

Meanwhile, we received a Beats Me question about solar farms displacing cropland, and specifically mentioned a large development proposed for Grant County. So, we went to Grant County for a look.

Chuck Quirmbach

If you use energy efficient LED light bulbs in your home, you partly have Chuck Swoboda to thank. He spent 16 years as CEO of Cree Inc., a company that helped bring LED lighting to the market.

Chuck Quirmbach

The transportation sector — that's people driving gasoline-fueled cars and using other vehicles — has become the single largest source of carbon dioxide pollution in the United States. So, despite some setbacks and concerns in Wisconsin, the push for more electric vehicles is expected to continue in 2020.

There are now more than 1 million electric vehicles (EV) on U.S. roads. California is leading the way. In Wisconsin, the percentage of drivers using EV is still less than 1%. But it's a dedicated group. 

Courtesy of Erin Bloodgood (Bloodgood Foto) @bloodgoodfoto

Wisconsin's leading energy regulator says she hopes to create a roadmap this year for how Wisconsin can get all of its electricity from carbon-free sources by 2050. Public Service Commission (PSC) Chairperson Rebecca Valcq announced the goal Thursday at a renewable energy conference in Madison, held by the group RENEW.

Chuck Quirmbach

Updated Thursday at 3:47 p.m. CT 

A Public Service Commission spokesperson says the PSC Thursday rejected a proposal to let We Energies' residential customers get a rebate if they install an electric vehicle charger. The rebate would have been for up to $1,000. The vote was 2-1 against the plan, with PSC Chairperson Rebecca Valcq the only commissioner to support the rebates.

Courtesy of We Energies

State regulators have given preliminary approval to a deal pertaining to the closed We Energies coal-fired power plant in Pleasant Prairie. That action could drive down a proposed utility rate hike

But the Public Service Commission (PSC) of Wisconsin says Thursday’s ruling doesn't lock in how the state will handle additional coal plant shutdowns that are expected in coming decades. 

Chuck Quirmbach

A new study says there would be substantial health benefits in the Upper Midwest if more electricity from solar and wind power is added and coal-fired generation is cut back.

Chuck Quirmbach

Construction is underway on a large solar energy farm 90 minutes north of Milwaukee, and state regulators are considering approval of a second farm nearby. These projects, along with one approved this year for southwest Wisconsin, would be the first so-called utility solar developments in the state. That's because they are large and electric utilities like WE Energies are closely involved. 

But as with controversies over more traditional power plants, some neighbors aren't sold on big solar.

Susan Bence

We Energies says it's time to increase its electric rates. But critics say customers will be paying more while the utility remains too reliant on polluting energy sources like coal.

Call it a sign of the times.

Renewable energy has gotten so cheap that even oil giant Exxon Mobil, which reported $20.8 billion in earnings in 2018, is getting in on the savings.

Chuck Quirmbach

Two of the roughly two dozen U.S. nuclear power plants that have shut down in recent years, or are planning to close, are on the west shore of Lake Michigan.

The former plants are not all that far from Milwaukee — near Kewaunee, Wis., and Zion, Ill. This week, a federal agency is holding meetings in those communities to discuss where the plants are in the shutdown, or decommissioning process, as well as a possible increased role for the public.

Chuck Quirmbach

Clean air groups and others continue to promote the all-electric cars as alternatives to ones that run strictly on gasoline, or even to gas-electric hybrids. One hurdle to having more electric vehicles on the road remains — getting more charging stations where drivers away from home can get a "fill-up" of electricity. 

Industry figures show electric vehicle, or EV, sales went up in almost every state last year. Wisconsin sales of EV increased 24%. But here in the Badger State, the market share for EV remains relatively tiny — less than 1%. 

Leah Qusba

Gov. Tony Evers signed an executive order Friday declaring a goal of attaining 100% clean energy throughout Wisconsin by 2050. Evers also announced the formation of an Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy. The office would promote the development and use of clean energy across Wisconsin.

Chuck Quirmbach

Gov. Tony Evers caused a bit of a stir this year when he said Wisconsin should have a goal of generating carbon-free electricity by the year 2050. That would mean no coal-fired power plants in the state, and several other changes. Energy experts say one of those changes would likely involve more use of devices to temporarily store electricity from cleaner sources like solar and wind power.

UW-Milwaukee SALUP

In 2002, the U.S. Department of Energy launched its first solar decathlon, giving college teams the opportunity to design energy-efficient houses powered by renewable energy. Since its inception, more than 150 collegiate teams from around the world have participated.

Eric Allix Rogers/Flickr

A small Wisconsin consumer group that’s originally inspired by activist Ralph Nader is turning 40 this year. An April 7 event will celebrate the Citizens Utility Board of Wisconsin’s (CUB) middle age. 

Wikimedia Commons

Gov. Tony Evers' nominee as chair of the Public Service Commission of WisconsinRebecca Valcq, faced several questions about carbon-free utilities Tuesday during a confirmation hearing.

Chuck Quirmbach

A report issued this week shows jobs in the solar industry in Wisconsin grew by 3 percent in 2018. But the state's largest electric utility, Milwaukee-based We Energies, also hopes more people will consider joining its company. 

The report by The Solar Foundation indicates the U.S. solar industry employed 242,000 people last year. That was down 3 percent nationally.

Chuck Quirmbach

Updated Jan. 18, 2019

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers is promoting renewable energy in the state. But a Republican legislator says any expansion of electricity generation from sources like solar and wind should be market-driven.

Evers spoke Thursday to an annual conference held by the group RENEW Wisconsin. He's the first Wisconsin governor to do so.

Chuck Quirmbach

During ice storms or heavy snowfalls, many people often worry about their power going out. But for a nature preserve near Appleton, that's less of a concern because its headquarters is part of what's called a microgrid.

The 700-acre compound generates its own power and stores it for use, greatly reducing the preserve's reliance on electricity provided by the local utility WE Energies.

Chuck Quirmbach

Wisconsin scientists have made two breakthroughs that may help hydrogen become a bigger player in renewable energy production and storage. While the researchers say there's still a long way to go with their work, it's a step toward the "hydrogen economy" some were predicting nearly 20 years ago.

Mitch Teich

The complex world of carbon trading and energy speculation might not seem, at first blush, to be fertile ground for a suspense novel.  But it's familiar territory for writer Paul Schueller — who might not seem, at first blush, to be a likely candidate to write suspense.

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