Energy Law Wisconsin Blog

Topic: Biomass & Biofuels

Notes from the Energy Fair

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

IMG_20140622_141402 [By Michael Allen] On June 22, I attended the 25th anniversary of the Energy Fair, sponsored by the Midwest Renewable Energy Association. The Energy Fair seldom disappoints, and this year was no exception.

I viewed an excellent presentation on developing community solar projects by Peter Teigland, the Vice President for Business Development of Minnesota Community Solar. Peter discussed the alternate structures of community solar projects that this developer had utilized in the State of Minnesota under different circumstances, including the Xcel Energy community solar gardens programs, and community solar projects involving non-profit entities. The information was extremely helpful and will be relevant to the increasing number of Wisconsin solar developers, installers and investors who have approached Energy Law Wisconsin about doing their own community solar projects. In addition, Minnesota Community Solar may well be a worthwhile development partner for Wisconsin solar installers who wish to pursue these projects.

I also spoke with Craig Harmes, Manager, Business Development for Dairyland Power Cooperative, about the increasing use of community solar among Dairyland’s member cooperatives. Among other things, ground will be broken next week on a 300 kW community solar project in Westby, Wisconsin, serving the Vernon Electrical Cooperative. This project was built with the help of Clean Energy Collective out of Colorado. member cooperatives are currently planning or have expressed significant interest in community solar projects.

In addition, I visited with the solar innovators at Solar Mosaic and got my picture taken with Bill Ehlrich, one of the writers for the Solar Mosaic blog. Solar Mosaic, a firm that connects borrowers seeking solar financing with investors, made its first appearance ever at the Energy Fair this year. I had the chance to catch up with Bill and learn about new initiatives Solar Mosaic has in the pipeline to make its offerings available to additional investors.

I rounded out my visit to the Energy Fair by visiting with renewable energy clients and friends who are regulars at the Energy Fair, including employees of the Midwest Renewable Energy Association itself. If you haven’t had the opportunity to attend the Energy Fair in the past – it’s part trade show, part celebration and lots of fun. Next year’s Fair is June 19-21, 2015.

Farm Technology Days – It Takes a Village to Build a City

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

Wisconsin Farm Technology Days 2015 (FTD) will be in my home community of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, so when my good friend and forward-thinking farmer Jamie Derr of Solarmass, LLC asked me if I would serve on the Utilities Committee for this event, I readily agreed. Based upon my past committee service, I assumed I would be attending a few meetings, perhaps making a few introductions to people in the energy community, and maybe thinking up a creative demonstration or two relating to distributed generation in agriculture. Well – not exactly.

It turns out that Farm Technology Days is the equivalent of building a city for 30,000-50,000 visitors who will inhabit the host area over a three day period to demonstrate and view the latest and greatest in farm technology. To make the event the best it can be requires reliable support with electric service, wireless internet and cell phone service. This task is made more challenging by the fact that the Farm Technology Days site is typically hosted on a farm (in 2015, the Statz Family have graciously agreed to host) and located a significant distance away from the closest electric interconnection points and cellular and wireless towers.

Fortunately, the folks who organize Farm Technology Days have the organizational process down to a science, as demonstrated by the impressive gathering of more than 100 people this past December to share lessons learned from the event in Barron County on August 2013 and plan upcoming and future Farm Technology Days on August 12-14, August 12-14, 2014 in Portage County at  Blue Top Farms and Feltz Family Farms and at the Statz Farm in August, 2015. We gathered to discuss discuss and troubleshoot issues necessary to make the event a success. We are also fortunate to have experienced electrical and wireless contractors to support us in our efforts.

Even so, the 2015 event will require a lot of hands-on attention from people who know far more than I do about providing utility service (as opposed to understanding the legal basis and contracts for utility service). If there is anyone out there who reads this and is interested in joining the Farm Days 2015 Utilities Committee, drop me a line. We’d be glad to welcome you to our “Village”.

Time Sure Flies! Energy Law Wisconsin Celebrates 10th Anniversary in Business

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

Energy Law Wisconsin celebrated its 10th Anniversary in business on January 1, 2014. For the past decade, we’ve pursued our passion by offering advice on energy development and financing, including solar, wind, cogeneration, biomass, biogas and natural gas projects, and worked with schools, utilities and municipalities on energy savings projects. We’ve helped start-up companies grow, helped mature businesses stay on course, and in our spare time assisted with real estate transactions. We are grateful for the support of the local and professional communities in which we reside and have attempted to give back to them whenever possible. We’ve hired legal interns to give them a chance to be exposed to the world of energy law. Our first paralegal, Colleen Wenos, hired in 2011, is now actively involved in the Sun Prairie Leadership Program. We have also served for years on the Boards of Directors of organizations such as the American Red Cross, the Sun Prairie Chamber of Commerce, RENEW Wisconsin and the Sun Prairie Library Foundation. We are the richer for these experiences.

Somehow in the midst of all of this excitement (or perhaps because of it), we neglected to put up a street sign for our business to let friends and clients know where we are. To celebrate our 10th Anniversary, we have finally, to paraphrase astronaut Neil Armstrong, taken “one small step” by putting up a sign on Main Street, shown above. We invite you to celebrate our 10th Anniversary with us by following our Energy Law Wisconsin LinkedIn page, which will allow you to join us as we publish periodic reports on timely energy news topics and other relevant legal and business information. You will not receive e-mails from us, but directly through LinkedIn’s notification program. Linking is simple:

– With an existing LinkedIn account, visit Log in and click “Follow Company”.

– As a new user, visit and click the yellow button at the upper right, “Join Now”. After you’ve established an individual profile, you’ll be able to “Follow Company”.

We thank you for your support during the last 10 years.

Allen Appointed to Wisconsin Bioenergy Council

Monday, November 25th, 2013

In October 2013, Michael Allen, owner and founder of Energy Law Wisconsin, was appointed to the Wisconsin Bioenergy Council by Ben Brancel, Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection. The Bioenergy Council was created in 2009 to bring together representatives from varied backgrounds and expertise with an interest in biomass and biofuels to establish best practices for fuel production and make other recommendations to the DATCP Secretary. The Bioenergy Council’s meetings are open to the public, and persons wishing to participate should contact Mr. Allen or visit the Bioenergy Council’s webpage. Mr. Allen will serve a three year term on the Council.

What is “Energy Law Wisconsin” : A Collection of Actual Project Photos

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

Many people have asked me, “Just what is Energy Law?”  I have quickly learned that to answer this question with precise details of the laws in place and tasks involved is a good way to make peoples’ eyes glaze over.

It is easier to explain what I do is by showing the results, so here are a few pictures.  These are the types of projects I help people with:

Wind Energy

Kewaunee Wind Farm

Solar Farms

Efficient Cogeneration Power Plants

MGE Cogeneration Facility

LEED Certified Buildings

Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corporation Headquarters

Other types of projects I work on that are not pictured above include replacing coal with biomass as a fuel for power generation, helping energy startup companies  get off the ground (kind of like holding your hands around a newly struck match while starting a campfire on a windy day), and helping municipalities convert garbage and sewage into energy.

There are a host of legal issues wrapped up in the journey from start to finish on all of these types of projects.  They include legal issues relating to raising money, protecting new ideas, getting government approvals, contracting for labor and materials, connecting to the electrical grid, putting together a financial package of grants, tax credits and other incentives and positioning the project for optimal use of renewable energy certificates and carbon credits it may produce.

My plan is to share a few of my stories from my practice. I’ll try to weigh in on some of the issues that people face when trying to change the energy status quo.  If you have any comments I’d love  to hear from you.  I’ll do my best to answer questions, time permitting.