May 15, 17-20, 2010
CHE's 2010 Place-Based Workshop explored sites of energy production and consumption around Wisconsin and northern Illiniois. For the first time, this workshop was organized as a series of day trips leaving from Madison, with one overnight stay at Starved Rock State Park in Utica, IL. Another first for CHE was that this workshop coincided with the Spring 2010 CHE Methods Seminar, which produced a remarkable set of documents on issues of energy from both historical and contemporary perspectives.
The itinerary of this workshop, like CHE's previous workshops, reflected CHE's eclectic approach to environmental issues. Where else but a CHE workshop do public service commission employees get to talk to geographers, and poets get to tour LEED buildings? Where do employees at nuclear and coal plants talk to historians and sociologists about their jobs? Where do engineers talk with county board members about aesthetic issues involving wind farms? And where else can all of these folks have a picnic at a rural homestead that is disconnected from the grid?
Itinerary of 2010 Place-Based Workshop, "Energy in the Upper Midwest"
Saturday, May 15 - The workshop began with a one-day session on issues of energy and the environment. This included overview lectures from John Nelson and Public Service Commissioner Lauren Azar in the morning, and walking tours of energy facilities on the UW campus in afternoon. From Science Hall the workshop moved to the Charter Street plant to discuss its conversion from coal to biomass, and then moved to tour the new LEED-certified building of the Wisconsin Institutes of Discovery. The day ended with a tour of UW and MGE's West Campus CoGen facility.
Wednesday, May 19 - Sign at Byron NuclearDeparting from Starved Rock, the workshop made its way to Byron, IL to tour Exelon's Byron nuclear generating station. After an orienting talk from the station's managers, the group toured a training simulator of the control room, the turbine deck, and the dry cask storage pad. The tour was followed by a talk from Exelon CEO and UW alum John Rowe who offered his insights on the history of the nuclear industry and the future of energy production in the United States.
Thursday, May 20 - Steve Brick The workshop's final day was spent at Wisconsin's largest consumer of energy, the NewPage Corporation's facities in and near Wisconsin Rapids. The group learned about the plant's biomass and hydro facilities as well as its pulp and paper operations. Making a final return to Madison, workshop particpants reflected on what they had learned about energy production and consumption over the course of the week, and the scope of the energy challenges that lay ahead.