Bruce Murphy
Back in the News

Walker “Worst” Candidate on Wind, Solar?

State is worst for home solar and stagnant on wind power, Bloomberg story suggests.

By - Sep 9th, 2015 11:16 am
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Scott Walker and Energy

Scott Walker and Energy

Scott Walker isn’t open for business when it comes to solar and wind power.

“As far as wind and solar developers are concerned, the Wisconsin governor may be the worst man for the job,” a recent story in Bloomberg.com notes. “Five years after Walker took office, renewable energy in Wisconsin is lagging the boom in the rest of the country and industry blames the two-term governor for the shortfall.”

Among six midwestern states, Indiana has increased the use of solar power the most, adding more than 115 megawatts in the last five years, compared to about 20 megawatts for last place Wisconsin, the story reports. In wind power for the period 2011 to 2014, top state Iowa added more than 5,500 megawatts, compared to little or no growth for Wisconsin.

The upper Midwest has been a boom area for wind power except in Wisconsin. As I reported in January of last year, “in 2012 seven percent of the entire world market of wind energy was developed in America’s upper Midwest, but 99.4 percent of this development occurred outside Wisconsin.”

“Walker and his appointees have pushed new restrictions on windmills, cut tax incentives and research funding and last year imposed the nation’s highest fees on rooftop solar owners,” Bloomberg reporter Alex Nusbaum notes.

The Alliance for Solar Choice is suing Wisconsin over the new fees, which its spokesperson Amy Heart blames for “the worst” environment in the nation for home solar owners, while increasing revenue for public utilities in Wisconsin.

Heart told Bloomberg that Republican primary voters “won’t support Governor Walker,” because he’s “a politician who supports state-sponsored monopolies who are killing competition.”

While utilities nationally have made the argument that home solar users should pay something to help maintain the electric grid they also depend on, the $30 monthly fee for the typical solar customer of Milwaukee-based We Energies Corp. makes Wisconsin “an outlier” on solar energy nationally, as Ben Inskeep, an analyst at North Carolina State University’s Clean Energy Technology Center, told Bloomberg. “Among all the cases we’ve seen in the country, this is probably one of the top ones in terms of reducing the value proposition for residential customers.”

Laurel Patrick, the governor’s spokeswoman, didn’t respond to questions from Bloomberg about the new solar fee or wind-siting rules that have helped retard wind power growth in Wisconsin and instead pointed to other “alternative energy” measures: “The administration has backed tax breaks and loans for biodigesters that create power from farm waste as well as small-scale generators that let diesel trucks reduce idling.”

Wisconsin’s potential to become a wind and solar power state is considerable. Wisconsin ranks 17th highest in wind power potential, according to the American Wind Energy Association, with enough wind power to produce four times more total energy than the state’s current electrical needs.

And this area compares favorably to Germany, which now gets more than 50 percent of its electricity through solar power, in the amount of solar radiation it receives.

But instead of doing all he can to develop the state’s solar and wind power industries, Walker has done his best to keep the state a net energy importer; Wisconsin spends an estimated $12 billion annually to purchase coal and gas and other fossil fuels from other states.

“Critics look at Walker’s record and see the ideological imprint of Charles and David Koch, the billionaire Republican campaign donors,” Nusbaum writers. “The Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity provided funding and volunteers during Walker’s rise to power in Wisconsin.”

In fact, David Koch has made it clear that Walker is one of his favorite candidates running in Republican presidential primary.

5 thoughts on “Back in the News: Walker “Worst” Candidate on Wind, Solar?”

  1. Stacy says:

    Wow.

    This is worse than I imagined.

  2. David Ciepluch says:

    We have the knowledge and technology today to reduce fossil fuel consumption greater than 50%, through a comprehensive integrated effort with consumer owned energy efficiency, solar, energy storage with thermal mass for heating and heat pump water heaters, and ice making AC, and load control shifting energy to off peak pricing and maximize large wind turbine production at night. This would reduce Wisconsin’s import of energy from over $13B annually, and save USA consumers $trillions annually. Utilities and energy companies hate this approach since it downsizes their production and monopolistic control over the energy supply. This revamp of all buildings would fuel a jobs revolution.

  3. David Ciepluch says:

    In regards to biodigesters, there main use is in dealing with a huge waste problem of vast amounts of dairy cattle waste and breaking it down so it does not enter the waterways and groundwater. A byproduct of biodigestion is methane that is usually burned off in very inefficient process to produce electricity. The funding for biodigestion grants to the dairy industry came at the expense of grants for residential and commercial solar energy projects that Focus on Energy provided to the vast majority of energy consumers in the State of Wisconsin. Biodigester technology is most beneficial for water quality improvements and more likely should have come out of a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources grant program supplemented by some Focus on Energy funding for the energy portion, and more cost effective solar projects should have been at higher funding levels for the millions of energy consumers that contribute to the fund.

    Politics likely played a role in this since consumer owned solar production cuts directly into the utilities’ bottom line and biodigestion projects have very little direct impact on them. Two Walker appointees to the Wisconsin Public Service Commission are much more likely to protect business and the utilities than concerns and interests of the consumers.

  4. cowherder says:

    David:

    I just want to get a couple things straight; how does biodigestion (anaerobic digestion) prevent manure from entering waterways and groundwater? Please be specific.

    Anaerobic digestion by itself on CAFO sites doesn’t reduce volume, nor eliminate the N and P that are of the most concern regarding surface and groundwater pollution. While the physical consistency of the manure changes, the potential for pollution is not reduced. And many commercial applicators feel the changes in consistency make it harder to handle. The only way to reduce or prevent surface and/or groundwater pollution is by proper handling and application. Digestion by itself plays no role.

  5. David Ciepluch says:

    Cowherder,

    You are correct that application of a broken down material still needs timing and seasonal application. The same is true for application of any fertilizer, herbicide, Milorganite made from dried out broken down human waste, etc.

    I do not have any information on the actual volume decrease of cattle waste stream. My background was more on biodigesters, composting, and not the actual application and some of the research applications that had been going on around the state and country.

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