Collaborations between UW Colleges & UW-Extension
We will highlight accomplishments of current efforts and invite your interest in developing ones. Your ideas for features are welcomed!
2007-08 Program Innovation Fund project: Earth, Wind and Fire Project helps Businesses and Communities Tackle energy Challenges in Northwestern Wisconsin.
Northwestern Wisconsin is home to innovative businesses and communities struggling to overcome energy and land-use related challenges. Farmers, manufacturers, and other energy entrepreneurs have invested time and money into growing renewable energy businesses while creating jobs and contributing to a cleaner environment. Likewise, local governments are tackling higher energy costs by developing pro-active energy plans to become more fiscally and environmentally responsible. In terms of land use, they recognize that a thriving bio-energy economy means successfully addressing the soil and water management challenges they face.
Despite all the attention, long-term success in the emerging "bio-economy" is not guaranteed for either businesses or local communities. Success depends on informed decision-making; strategic investments; and an equitable balance between the utilization and protection of our natural resources. The project began by convening regional renewable energy roundtables in Spooner, Eau Claire, Baldwin, and River Falls. Economic developers, conservationists, local government staff, utilities, farmers, loggers, and other businesses sat down to discuss past development experiences and reflected on those experiences to describe the opportunities and barriers facing bio-energy development in the region.
Following the roundtable sessions, the project partners designed and organized forums, tours, conferences, and strategic planning sessions that reached over 600 individuals, businesses, and community leaders in Northwest Wisconsin. Barron, Polk, St. Croix, Ashland, Bayfield, and Chippewa County UW-Extension, Eau Claire Continuing Education, and faculty from UW-Barron and UW-River Falls partnered to deliver a series of educational programs. Highlighted activities included:
- Over 300 participants attended four bio-energy forums in Rice Lake, Ashland, Chippewa Falls, and New Richmond and increased their awareness and knowledge of renewable energy options, renewable energy feasibility analysis and financing, community energy planning, and bio-energy projects in their own backyards.
- 90 people joined one of two renewable energy field tours visiting solar, wind, bio-energy, district heating/cooling, geothermal, hydropower projects in Polk, Barron, Pierce, and St. Croix Counties.
- 50 people participated in a workshop at the Spooner Ag Research Station where utilities, farmers, conservationists, and economic developers learned about and discussed the opportunities for utilizing Switch Grass, Miscanthus, and Hybrid Poplars for bio-energy production.