Talks Business
July 2019

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Saratoga Wind Farm in northeast Iowa.

Saratoga Wind Farm in northeast Iowa.

Saratoga Wind Farm is Now Operating

MGE's Saratoga Wind Farm, located in northeast Iowa, came online in February. The 33 turbines generate enough energy to power about 47,000 Madison-area households. Saratoga is MGE's largest wind farm, and its turbines stretch nearly 500 feet high. 


Rosiere Wind Farm - 20 Years of Wind Energy

MGE's Rosiere Wind Farm—our first wind farm—turned 20 years old this year. When MGE built the 11-megawatt wind farm in Kewaunee County, Wis., it was the largest wind farm east of the Mississippi River. See photos and a video at


Outsmart Utility Scammers

When a caller threatens to turn off your gas or electric service because of a past-due bill, you'll pay attention. Impersonating utility employees, fraudsters rush businesses into taking action before they have time to think about what’s happening. Suspect a call is fraudulent? Hang up and call MGE at (608) 252-7222. Learn more about utility scams.


MGE's Shared Savings Ends

Since the program started 25 years ago, MGE's Shared Savings has helped almost 400 businesses finance energy-saving improvements. MGE congratulates the business owners who have worked with us through Shared Savings to reduce their energy use. This type of financing will no longer be available through MGE, but there are other resources. Both Focus on Energy and PACE Wisconsin offer financing programs. 


Fleets Go Electric

Are electric vehicles a good fit for fleets? Watch and see how the City of Madison will save money and reduce emissions by going electric.

USGBC's 2019 Leed Rating System Update

The newest version of LEED is LEED V4.1 Beta, with the Beta indicating that the version is in its review phase. Version 4.0 has been active since November 2013. Version 4.1 Beta was released in March 2018. No end-of-review period has been posted, but the U.S. Geen Building Council (USGBC) is accelerating new version adoption timelines.

According to the USGBC, this new update allows a pathway for the more than 76,000 certified projects worldwide to get additional recognition and show ongoing performance improvements. In addition, carbon and source energy are now a metric, a first for LEED. The LEED V4.1 energy use baseline is ASHRAE 90.1 2016. The Wisconsin commercial building code references IECC 2015 (which also allows ASHRAE 90.1 2013) so prospective teams will likely need to get the newer version of ASHRAE 90.1 (2016) as well as review the 2018 WI amendments to the IECC 2015 to ensure Wisconsin code compliance.

This brief discussion reviews two of the more common USGBC LEED rating categories: Building Design and Construction (BD&C) and Operation & Maintenance (O&M). BD&C ratings are for new construction projects while, as the title suggests, an O&M rating applies to existing buildings. It is common for BD&C projects to seek an O&M rating to maintain a USGBC and LEED profile. This article does not cover the variations between the rating systems for schools, retail, data centers, warehouses, distribution centers, hospitality and health care.

The LEED O&M identifier applies to existing buildings. But since there is also a LEED O&M Interior category, the term LEED O&M Existing Buildings notes the difference between the two types:  Existing Buildings and Interiors.

New software, Arc, was an issue in 2017. This tool connects people and projects from around the world. The platform takes in building energy use data and provides benchmarking and performance indicators to allow tracking and collaboration as well as help project teams learn from each other. The long-term vision appears to provide a more streamlined submission and certification process for LEED ratings.

While there has always been a LEED Energy and Atmosphere (EA) category, the way to get points in this category is significantly changing. This is a step in the right direction for the health of people and the blue marble we live on.

The most significant change in V4.1 is the move toward measured historic energy use for attaining points for existing buildings. For existing buildings, the Energy Performance credit is based on 12 months of accurate (source) energy use data. The number of points in this category is also a function of greenhouse gas emissions; i.e., the lower the energy use and greenhouse gas emissions compared to a baseline, the more points. In addition, there are also points associated with demand management, newly renamed as grid harmonization. Better definition of additional prerequisites and points is expected on final release.

For a bit of added detail, both the source energy use and the greenhouse gas emissions scores are a function of gross floor area, weighted occupancy, weighted operating hours, outdoor air temperature and location. These noted parameters are used to calculate an energy score compared to the performance of a group of high-performance buildings for which the USGBC has actual data.

However, as noted, the measured energy use approach only applies to Existing Buildings seeking an Operation & Maintenance certification. While it is possible that a Building Design and Construction project (new building) could seek a rating connected to energy performance after 12 to 18 months of use, this is not yet a LEED option. It is important to note that design professionals think about design energy-use targets a lot. Nearly every article in the USGBC magazine and the ASHRAE Journal lists 12 months of benchmarking data in kBtu/SF/yr for new high-performance buildings. Perhaps this will be a rewards option for LEED Building Design and Construction projects in the near future.

The language from the USGBC BDC V4.1 (new construction) related to building energy use follows. Establish an energy performance target no later than the schematic design phase using one of the following metrics:  (1) kBtu per square foot-year (or kWh per square meter-year) of site energy use; (2) the same approach is also permitted with source energy, kBtu per square foot-year (kWh per square meter-year); (3) GHG emissions tracked in pounds per square foot-year (Kg per square meter-year); or (4) calculate the energy cost per square foot-year (cost per square meter-year).

The chosen metric above feeds into one of three options with the goal of reducing energy use and greenhouse gases. Those options are:  (1) modeled simulation performance, (2) Prescriptive Compliance following ASHRAE 50% guides, and (3) System Optimization which is an option looking for percent reductions below ASHRAE 90.1 2016.

So, while a target value of kBtu/SF/yr (site or source) is selected and hopefully reached in the compliance process, the end goal is points rather than demonstrating the building is operating at a certain energy intensity level after 12 or more months of actual use. This is a lost or avoided educational opportunity by the design community and others which is repeated year after year.

For newcomers to LEED, it is important to note that not all points are discretionary. That is, there are numerous prerequisites that must be met before moving onto points that count toward a rating.  In the existing building O&M EA category, these are Energy Efficiency Best Management Practices and Fundamental Refrigerant Management. A candidate building needs to attain a baseline energy use performance such as described by ASHRAE 90.1 2016 prior to claiming improvements. If the building team is seeking an Interiors rating option, energy sub-metering may be needed for the portion of the building seeking the rating. Given that there are often both central and local energy-using systems in commercial buildings, this could be involved and complicated but, in concept, a good idea. On a related note, many campuses do not meter individual buildings or at least not to the level of sophistication required for LEED points. Metering would need to be reviewed and possibly upgraded on each building prior to seeking an O&M rating.