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How Could Small Scale Distributed Energy Benefit Wisconsin Agriculture and Rural Communities?
Miscellaneous Publications No. 1, April 2009
by Gary Radloff and Alan Turnquist

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Wisconsin's agricultural sector and rural communities could be big winners under policies that encourage small-scale renewable energy solutions. Biomass to heat is already a viable solution for many Wisconsin businesses and communities. Recent research including a U.S. Department of Energy study found Wisconsin has almost 15 million tons of potential biomass for energy. How much biomass can be sustainably produced and harvested and how much Wisconsin communities will benefit from bioenergy and other renewables is still an open question, however. For now, local energy production represents an important enough part of our state's economic future that new policy steps should be crafted to assure that the economic and energy returns go to rural Wisconsin residents and that groups undertaking distributed energy projects are able to manage risk in the nascent bioenergy market. To conclude, the following are key points for crafting policy to maximize the agriculture and rural benefits in the renewable energy future: creating a greater range of policy tools to catalyze distributed energy systems, making sure these policy tools support efforts to keep some of the energy for local use where it makes sense, crafting policy that integrates both local and global ecosystem services into bioenergy markets and public programs, recognizing that small-scale projects need parity with large-scale incentives.

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