Archive for the ‘Wisconsin’ Category

Cow Power and Renewable Energy in Wisconsin

June 18th, 2007 by David
An interview with Channel 8, La Crosse, WI
Dinner in La Crosse

Our final stop in Wisconsin was in the town of La Crosse, where, in addition to appearing on the local TV news (click here to watch the clip on Youtube!), we stayed with a Karolanne and Karen. Karolanne works with ‘Dairlyand Power Cooperative,’ a company that generates and provides electricity for about half a million people around the area. (You can see Karolanne at the end of the last video we posted here – she is the one jumping up and encouraging you to change your light bulb.)

As Bill and I are energy dorks, we enjoyed asking Karolanne all sorts of questions about how energy is produced and used in Wisconsin. (Interesting fact that we learned: the electricity use in Wisconsin for air conditioning in the summer now exceeds the electricity use for heating in the winter).

Karolanne in La Crosse, showing the end result of methane digester.

It turns out that coal, which is one of the biggest producers of carbon dioxide, is still cheaper than renewable energy, but that the state is doing many things to promote renewable energy. We also learned that a new type of electricity generation, which Karolanne dubbed ‘Cow Power’ is becoming viable in Wisconsin. We decided to let Karolanne, who is shown on the right with digested cow manure, explain in her own words.

How does Wisconsin promote renewable Energy?

Wisconsin has a renewable portfolio standard that mandates all utilities in Wisconsin to produce 10% of their energy from renewable resources by 2015. My company, DPC, also has various incentive and rebate programs that encourage members to buy energy efficient appliances. DPC produces renewable energy from wind, landfill-gas-to-energy plants, hydropower and manure digesters – manure digesters are also known as ‘cow power.’

Please explain ‘Cow Power’ to us. It sounds pretty cool.

“Cow power” plants use dairy cow manure as the energy source. The manure is collected and heated, creating the natural byproduct of methane gas. That methane is the fuel used to power the generators.

Methane Digester (we didn't take this shot). Cow manure is put in a digester to produce methane, which is burned for energy!

We currently have three of these power plants (one shown on the right). Each of these anaerobic manure digester facilities can generate enough to power at least 600 homes (775-840 kilowatts). Our long-term goal is to create enough power from these digesters to power approximately 20,000 homes (25 Megawatts).

What else is great about ‘Cow Power?’ (besides the name)

Manure digesters also help farmers.

* This energy source is abundant and “natural” to our region. Unlike some forms of renewable generation, this fuel is a constant, steady source. As long as there are livestock farms, there will be an available supply of manure.
* Clean air and water pollution issues associated with manure disposal are significantly reduced, as is the odor problem.
* Weed seeds and pathogens are killed during the digestion process.
* The heated, de-watered byproduct of the digestion process can be used as natural bedding. The liquid can be used as a fertilizer by the farmer, thus reducing dependence on chemical fertilizers.
* Odor issues, an increasing problem for farmers, are reduced by the manure digesters.
* Potential pollutants from manure in ground and surface water are minimized.

Learn more about Dairyland Power Cooperative and their renewable energy resources at

Thanks! And, as we said before, be sure to see Karolanne in our video of crossing Wisconsin!

Wisconsin Montage – 20%

June 17th, 2007 by David

Another few hours in front of imovie has produced the following montage of biking across Wisconsin. The music in the background is provided by Peter Mulvey, a musician who biked with us out of Milwaukee.

In addition to scenery of us biking and camping across Wisconsin, we share one fact about global warming: over 20% of all known species of plants and animals may be at risk to extinction due to global warming (source: the IPCC’s recent report). This would radically transform the natural world, and it would be a major tragedy. Think about it – one out of every five species of birds, plants, animals, gone. Why should we accept this?

We end the film with a practical suggestion from one person we stayed with in La Crosse, WI – change a lightbulb to a more efficient bulb. It saves you money, and will result in power plants putting less carbon dioxide into the atmopshere. It will lessen global warming.

And of course, there is bonus material at the end of our film. Watch below.

Biking in Madison is Great!

June 12th, 2007 by David

Madison Wisconsin has some of the best bikeways I have ever seen. The biking here is excellent, and a incredible number of people bike to work or use the bicycle as transportation. It is great to see, and it makes me ask, why not do this in more communities? Doesn’t it feel great when you are able to bike to work? You are healthier, you save money, and, of course, you don’t add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Why not demand better bikeways?

The video below (really a ‘music video’) says it better. Click and watch.

(The music in the background is provided by the Motor Primitives)

Biking with the Mayor of Madison

June 12th, 2007 by David

Mayor Dave (he goes by his first name) met us on our first day in Madison, Wisconsin, and went for a short bike ride. The mayor is doing excellent work to reduce Madison’s greenhouse gas emissions. Click on the video below to watch!

Fort Atkinson, WI – Our First Vlog

June 7th, 2007 by David

We have decided to try to use the video editing powers of the laptop we are (er…I am) carrying and do some vloging (‘video logging’). Below are two videos. The first we edited together from our stop in Fort Atkinson, WI, where we gave a talk at the Cafe Carpe and met a number of people making a difference on global warming. The second is a video of our day biking from Fort Atkinson to Madison, where we were warned of tornadoes all day long. (The second is a bit more exciting…)

Let us know if you enjoy these and would like to see more!

A night in Fort Atkinson:

(Note: a great website for energy audits in Wisconsin:

Avoiding storms on the way to Madison: