Key state agencies and University of Wisconsin schools will buy electricity generated from wind turbines, solar panels and landfill gas systems under a major purchase of green power announced Wednesday.
The purchase will raise the state’s utility bills by about $1.1 million this year, but as power prices rise, the fixed-price contract will end up saving the state money in about seven years, Gov. Jim Doyle said.
“We can define an energy future that leaves our air cleaner, our water purer and our energy dollars here in our own pockets and not going overseas to countries that don’t even like us very much,” Doyle said in front of a solar panel outside Wisconsin Public Power Inc.’s offices in Sun Prairie.
The state’s purchase amounts to 92,400 megawatt hours of renewable energy, equivalent to about 10% of the energy used by major state agencies and the University of Wisconsin system. That puts it on the path of meeting its goal of having 20% of state government’s energy generated from renewable sources by 2011, Doyle said.
The move is one of the largest government purchases of renewable energy in the country, said David Helbach, administrator of the Division of State Facilities, which is part of the Department of Administration.
Based on bids submitted by various state utilities, the state has agreed to purchase 40,000 megawatt-hours of power for 10 years from Madison Gas and Electric Co., 19,400 hours for 10 years from Milwaukee-based We Energies, and 33,000 hours for 15 years from six municipalities that are members of the power consortium Wisconsin Public Power.
The purchases were required under a state renewable energy and energy efficiency law that passed overwhelmingly in the Legislature in 2006.
The state sought to buy renewable power from a range of utilities, Helbach said. Negotiations are continuing with another utility, he said.
“The contract with WPPI is somewhat novel,” Helbach said. The state, in essence, is buying a share of the output from the Forward Wind Energy Center in Dodge and Fond du Lac counties. The consortium is one of the utilities that signed on to buy power from Forward, a project of Chicago-based Invenergy.
“If utility rates, which are driven by gas and coal, continue to rise, at some point our price for Forward wind will be lower than the market price,” he said. “Then we will be making some money on that deal.”
Under the arrangement, the state will be buying power from six communities that are members of the consortium. Those include Boscobel, Menasha, Plymouth, Richland Center, River Falls and Waupun, said Anne Rodriguez, WPPI spokeswoman.
Most of the energy bought from the three power suppliers will come from wind, solar, hydro and landfill gas sources in Wisconsin, Doyle said.
The purchase will take 156 million pounds of carbon dioxide out of the environment – the equivalent of taking 13,600 cars off the road a year, Doyle said.
Doyle said the effort would help the environment and works hand in hand with Doyle’s other efforts to promote ethanol, biofuels and other renewable energy sources.
Doyle also said he wants to implement all of the recommendations of his global warming task force. Task force members this month reached agreement on a sweeping set of goals that would expand the state’s investment in energy efficiency and conservation, renewable energy and mass transit, as well as relax rules that bar utilities from considering construction of new nuclear reactors in the state.
By Thomas Content and Patrick Marley
9 July 2008
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