Focus on Energy: Renewable Energy Program Promotes Energy Independence

MADISON, Wis. (August 7, 2006) – Focus on Energy’s Renewable Energy Program has helped nearly 570 Wisconsin businesses and homeowners become more energy independent.  By providing technical and financial assistance toward the installation of renewable energy systems, Focus on Energy allowed them to harness energy from the sun, the wind and organic materials.


Focus on Energy’s Renewable Energy Program strives to make renewable energy a simple option in Wisconsin by encouraging Wisconsin’s residents and businesses to investigate and take advantage of renewable energy sources.  The program educates residents and business owners about renewable energy choices, provides training and financing, promotes technical assistance and supports the installation of renewable energy technologies across Wisconsin.


“We don’t have the coal mines, natural gas reserves or oil fields needed to generate our own electricity,” said Don Wichert, program director for Focus on Energy’s Renewable Energy Program.  “We do have an abundant supply of renewable energy sources.  By helping Wisconsin residents tap those resources, we’re helping ensure state residents and businesses have reliable access to the energy they need.  We’re also fostering economic growth by reducing the amount of money that leaves the state to purchase fuel and keeping that money in Wisconsin’s economy.”


Success Stories


As fossil fuel prices continue to rise, Wisconsin residents are taking advantage of the opportunity to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and reduce pollution.  The following Wisconsin residents and businesses, with the help of Focus on Energy, have installed a renewable energy system that has helped them become more energy independent:


Sunny Slope Gardens, Inc. in New Berlin, Wis. installed wood pellet furnaces at its garden center business to cut its natural gas consumption and gain energy independence.  The six new Breckwell Big E furnaces, installed by Kowalske’s Hot Spot in Big Bend, Wis., will burn about 25 tons of wood pellets per year.  The wood pellet furnaces are expected to generate 4,320 therms per year – enough to heat about 4.5 Wisconsin homes, or the energy equivalent of 74 barrels of oil.  Sunny Slope Gardens, Inc. was able to install the wood pellet furnaces with the help of a $2,451 Cash-Back Reward from Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy Renewable Energy Program.


Kersten Lumber in Birnamwood, Wis. has been producing lumber for nearly 70 years, however, it wasn’t until December 2005 that the company made renewable energy a significant factor in its production process when they installed a wood-fired boiler.  A wood-fired boiler uses sawdust, a byproduct of lumber production, to replace natural gas as the fuel used in the company’s production process.  The new wood-fired boiler is used to meet the process heating requirements of the company’s lumber drying operation, as well as heat the facility.


The company still has one natural gas-fired boiler as a back up but according to Philip Kersten Sr., owner of Kersten Lumber “we haven’t had to use it once.”  By not using the gas-fired boiler, the company is improving its efficiency, productivity and its bottom line, saving $91,000 a year in fuel and heating costs.  While the cost of the installation was $250,552, it was offset by a $20,000 Implementation Grant from Focus on Energy.  The expected payoff period of the boiler is approximately 2.5 years.


Suring Community Dairy in Suring, Wis. is using an anaerobic digester to produce heat and electricity from the manure of the farm’s 800 head of cattle.  The system generates approximately two million kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy a year.  In comparison, that is enough to power about 200 average Wisconsin homes for one year.  As a result the control room, workshop and other space heating needs at Suring Community Dairy will be met.  The $1.75 million project was helped by a $45,000 grant from Focus on Energy.  The expected payoff period of the anaerobic digester is approximately 6 years.


Porchlight, Inc. of Madison, Wis. recently opened the doors to a new 16-unit building for disabled, formerly homeless adults.  Included on the newly constructed building are both a solar hot water system and a solar electric system to cut natural gas and electricity consumption reducing energy costs.  This project is not only working to combat homelessness, it is also demonstrating how energy efficiency and renewable energy measures can provide significant operational savings while affording its residents a comfortable place to live.


In addition to technical assistance, this project was made possible with the help of a $3,940 Cash-Back Reward for the solar hot water system and a solar electric Cash-Back Reward of more than $21,000 from Focus on Energy.


“As electricity prices continue to rise in Wisconsin and the costs of renewable energy systems continue to fall, a growing number of Wisconsin residents and businesses are implementing renewable energy systems to control energy costs long-term and reduce their energy dependence.  In fact, we recently set a record of 96 applications for the installation of solar hot water systems in one month,” said Wichert.  “This continued interest can only strengthen Wisconsin’s economy, as well as protect its natural resources.”


About the Focus on Energy Renewable Energy Program

Focus on Energy is a public-private partnership that provides energy efficiency and renewable energy information and services to the state’s energy utility customers.  Focus on Energy’s Renewable Energy Program seeks to raise awareness, provide training and financing, enhance marketing, promote technical assistance and support the installation of renewable energy technologies across Wisconsin.  For information about the program, call 800.762.7077 or visit