Day 7: Wind Power and Cow Power

A Blowing Wind Turns All Turbines? Wind Power Manufacturing in a State That Lags on Wind Power Production

While Wisconsin can brag that it has met its renewable energy target of 10% by 2015, that number lags behind the national average of 13% and has curbed growth in many renewable energy sectors. Wind turbine manufacturing, however, is not one of them. Responding to demand from states like Illinois and Iowa with more robust renewable energy initiatives, companies that manufacture parts used in wind power are still carrying on the long tradition of a state that prides itself on its manufacturing heritage. The group toured a turbine plant at Broadwind Energy and then gathered for a discussion about how policy and politics drive business decisions and what companies hope for the future of renewable energy.

Then the group headed out to Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland, WI. Lakeshore Tech is one of only three schools in the country with a wind power technology program that trains students for careers as wind power technicians. The group toured the outdoor wind lab and talked with officials at the school about their program, its increasing demand and what it’s like training Wisconsin students for high-tech careers in other states.


Cow Power: Anaerobic Digesters Produce Power and Take Load Off Farmers’ Hands

The use of anaerobic digesters to produce power from cow manure is a waste disposal issue first and a green energy issue second. Known for its iconic dairy farms (and their resulting milk and cheese), Wisconsin is also home to excessive nutrient pollution. The problem is that, well, cows poop. A lot. And farmers have to put that poop somewhere. For years, that meant spreading manure on fields, where heavy rain events or winter thaws could send all of it into nearby waterways. Manure digesters divert those nutrients to a different fate – one that also has the benefit of producing power. But can these small operations scale up to be community power sources? Will the price utilities pay for that power keep the technology dormant? The group visited the Vir-Clar Farms and toured their manure digester as they discussed these questions.

fter our visit to the farm, we headed to nearby fields to explore how projects like digesters help clear up water quality. Then we brought the whole thing full circle as we looked at a study on adding gypsum to fields to keep nutrients in the soil and out of the water. Where’s that gypsum come from? Coal ash, of course!