Wisconsin Falling Behind on Renewable Energy
These businesses spend much of their time battling political opposition in Wisconsin, an expert notes.
Wisconsin could be a leader in renewable energy, but the political climate here is such that advocates must spend much of their energy overcoming political opposition, rather than going about their business. That was the message from Nick Hylla, Executive Director of the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, who recently spoke to a group gathered for an event at its new Milwaukee office at Escuela Verde, 3628 W. Pierce St.
Renewable energy should be an easy sell here in Wisconsin, he said, where the MREA, founded in 1990, was one of the first organizations in the nation to advocate for it.
Back in those days, it would take $80 to install capacity to produce a kilowatt of energy, he said. Today, the same could be done for 80 cents. Our idle manufacturing facilities and skilled labor force, should be creating the jobs needed to produce energy efficient systems, yet state policy is blind to the need.
As Urban Milwaukee editor Bruce Murphy has reported, Wisconsin has lagged most of the nation and all of the Midwest in growing renewable energy. His story noted that 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. 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, he noted: “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.”
Ingeteam, the Spanish renewable energy headquarters with a facility in Milwaukee, was one of the sponsors of the event on Milwaukee’s South Side, as was Urban Milwaukee. Among the organizers was Grace Fuhr, a board member who helped prepare the sumptuous buffet of local products with solar connections, including beer from Milwaukee Brewing Company and Central Waters Brewery.
The MREA offers training and certification in renewable energy systems, installation and applications. However, the group’s website was down for several days preceding the event. Fuhr explained that the group had put some new courses on line, and the demand exceeded its computer server’s ability to handle the requests for information.
The problem seemed symbolic, in a way. Wisconsin’s alternative energy scene has been shut down for years under Gov. Scott Walker, and has been missing out on a great chance to provide new jobs and careers as well as business growth, while the interest and need for renewable energy has never been higher.
Mayor Tom Barrett and his wife Kris were among the hundreds that attended a curious concert reunion in Milwaukee Friday at Shank Hall. The occasion was the 40th anniversary of a Bruce Springsteen concert here that had been famously interrupted by a bomb threat. The reunion included original DJ Bob Reitman, plus Terry Cullen, original director of security for the Uptown Theater, and Bob Cavallo, whose photographs of the concert were available to be signed. A poster was given to each attendee. The idea for the event was originated by fellow photographer David Bernacchi.
Brady Street Pet Parade
The annual Brady Street Pet Parade Sunday raised $300 for the Brady Street Area Association and $1,000 for the Humane Society, says Steph Salvia of the association. Brady Street originated the Pet Parade idea over a decade ago, and it has really taken off as a warm-up to Halloween. Both pets and owners vie for costume and best behavior awards. The event is done on a shoestring budget, with raffle prizes for the association donated by merchants on the street. The raffle prizes were set on a folding table that Julilly Kohler hauled out of her garage for the purpose. Better to make a couple hundred dollars on a sure thing, rather than spend thousands to stage an elaborate production that draws nobody, as has happened in some neighborhoods.
Kohler enjoyed the festivities in the company of John Schneider, who lent his neighbor a dog for the occasion. There was much food for sale on the street — mostly for the hounds. Fortunately Cempazuchi offered human food for the hungry.