Wind siting process needs reform

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

To: All State Legislators

From: Madison Peak Oil Group

Re: Passage of wind siting reform bills (AB 899, SB 544)

The technology is mature. The investors are willing. The utilities are ready to take deliveries. And farmers and rural landowners throughout Wisconsin are eager to harvest the wind and help our state to meet a significant portion of our electrical demand using a 100% renewable, zero-emissions energy source.

Meanwhile, prices for oil, natural gas, and coal – fuels that are imported into Wisconsin -- are going through the roof.

But unfortunately, a handful of opponents are managing to sabotage real progress towards greater energy independence for Wisconsin. In the process they are blocking UsmallU wind projects and denying UsmallU rural landowners of badly-needed “wind farm” royalty income – modest revenue streams that would help family farmers and wildlife habitat owners to resist the relentless pressures of suburban and exurban sprawl.

Already, the backlog of stalled wind energy projects across Wisconsin is approximately 400 megawatts, about one-quarter of the generating capacity as a mid-sized coal or nuclear plant and enough to make a large contribution toward the renewable energy requirements of the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS). Although state law prohibits local jurisdictions from resisting wind energy developments unless the local regulations serve to protect public health and safety, a lack of state-wide standards for projects under 100 megawatts has given NIMBY (not in my back yard) wind energy opponents a big loophole to use scare tactics and the kind of obstructionism that forces township governments to either write their own wind energy standards from scratch or basically reject all proposals for UsmallU wind energy projects out of hand. Roy Thilly, co-chair of the Wisconsin Governor’s Task Force on Global Warming and president of Wisconsin Public Power, Inc. described the impasse this way: “The way things stand now, it’s easier to build a 100-megawatt wind farm in this state than to put up two or three turbines.”

It’s not fair. Mid- and small-sized wind energy developers, small land owners, and local municipalities deserve the same uniform, scientifically-rigorous standards and approval procedures as those which apply to ALL electrical energy projects over 100 megawatts. Consider the absurdity of restrictions which forbid the erection of a few wind turbines within a mile of neighboring residences but allow the construction of a full-size coal power plant or subdivision or major highway a few hundred yards away!

Every electrical energy source has an impact on the environment, but today’s commercial wind turbines, which number about 100,000 worldwide, do not threaten the health and safety of neighboring residents. The biggest impact of wind energy is visual – large towers standing astride rural hills and plains. If farmers and other people who actually make a living on the land are willing to host wind towers on their own properties, people who move to the country merely for aesthetic reasons should not be able to deny them a supplement to their livelihood.

Prompt action by the Wisconsin legislature is needed to resolve the current situation before our state’s ability to attract wind energy developments is further damaged. The Wisconsin State Legislature should pass AB 899/SB 544, which would:

(1) Grant the Public Service Commission the authority to establish, by rule, permitting standards that are uniformly applied by local or state government to all wind energy installations, regardless of size and location; and
(2) Create a procedure for appealing to the Public Service Commission those decisions rendered by local jurisdictions on wind energy installations under 100 megawatts.

Please call or email your State Representative and State Senator today and ask them to vote to pass AB899/SB 544. To find out how to contact your legislators visit Wisconsin State Legislature.



Why? said...

Hi Ed,

I totally agree with you, and have e-mailed my State Senator Alberta Darling to ask her to help pass the bill.

I'd have a wind turbine in my 1/2 acre surburban yard if I could get away with it, and I'm unfortunately too shady for solar roof panels.

Solar and wind are the ONLY way to go, and I do not understand WHY the USA and especially WI are SO behind with their thinking on this subject.

I have a retail store in Menomonee Falls and have been seriously considering a move to a location where I can display and sell and install wind turbines and solar cells. I don't know exactly where to begin but it's a subject that I am passionate about.