Committee sets March 1 to vote on suspension of wind siting rule

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

From the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA):

The Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules (JCRAR) has now scheduled a special meeting on March 1st to consider suspending the PSC128 Wind Siting rule that our industry worked on in 2009-2010 that are scheduled to take effect on March 1st. If the JCRAR suspends the PSC128 rule, before it otherwise would take effect that same day, we will be back where we started two years ago on wind siting reform in Wisconsin.

Movie showing: The Economics of Happiness

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Economics of Happiness
March 23 - Madison, Wisconsin
When: 7:00 pm, Wednesday, March 23

Where: Humanities Bldg (corner of Park St. & University Ave.), Room 3650, UW, Madison WI

Sponsored by: Business, Environment, and Social Responsibility Program, Wisconsin School of Business, UW Madison.

Co-sponsored by: Dane Buy Local, Fitchburg Fields, Slow Money Wisconsin, Sustain Dane, Transition Towns Madison.

From the movie's Web site:

The Economics of Happiness describes a world moving simultaneously in two opposing directions. On the one hand, government and big business continue to promote globalization and the consolidation of corporate power. At the same time, all around the world people are resisting those policies, demanding a re-regulation of trade and finance—and, far from the old institutions of power, they’re starting to forge a very different future. Communities are coming together to re-build more human scale, ecological economies based on a new paradigm – an economics of localization.

We hear from a chorus of voices from six continents including Samdhong Rinpoche, the Prime Minister of Tibet's government in exile, Vandana Shiva, Bill McKibben, David Korten and Zac Goldsmith. They tell us that climate change and peak oil give us little choice: we need to localize, to bring the economy home. The good news is that as we move in this direction we will begin not only to heal the earth but also to restore our own sense of well-being. The Economics of Happiness restores our faith in humanity and challenges us to believe that it is possible to build a better world.

Dane County nursing home to hold show off solar energy at open house on Saturday

Thursday, February 17, 2011

From an article by in the Bill Novak in The Capital Times:

The new $22.6 million Badger Prairie Health Care Center is almost ready to open, and Dane County wants to show it off to the public before residents start moving in.

A community open house is set for 2-4 p.m. Saturday, giving Dane County residents a chance to tour the state-of-the-art facility, which will be home to up to 120 residents.

Badger Prairie is located on the east side of Verona, near the intersection of Business 18/151 and Maple Grove Road.

"Our brand new county nursing home offers our most vulnerable citizens the comforts of home and quality care in a warm atmosphere," said County Executive Kathleen Falk.

The facility features private bedrooms with private baths, all grouped into "households" of 8-11 residents, each household having a kitchen, living room, dining area and sunroom, with outdoor patio and flower garden.

Badger Prairie Health Care Center is the first nursing home in Wisconsin to incorporate major energy-saving features like geothermal energy for heating and cooling and solar-powered systems for hot water.

Badger Prairie is the oldest, continually operating health care facility in Dane County and likely the entire state of Wisconsin.

Walker bill could put millions in transit aid at risk

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

From a blog post by Patrick Marley on

Madison -- Wisconsin communities could lose $70 million or more in federal aid for transit systems under a bill quickly moving through the state Legislature, opponents of the bill are warning.

The measure by Gov. Scott Walker would strip most union rights away from most public employees. That could put in danger federal aid for buses because U.S. law requires that collective bargaining rights remain in place to get federal funds, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

"It’s a $70 million problem," said Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha). "That’s not small change."

Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie denied the bill would affect federal transit funding.

"The budget repair bill meets all of the federal requirements to continue to receive federal transportation aid," Werwie said in a statement.

But according to the Department of Labor’s website, the Federal Transit Act "requires the continuation of any collective bargaining rights that were in place when the employer started receiving federal funds."

Werwie declined to say if an amendment was needed to the bill now pending in the Legislature. Andrew Welhouse, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said he did not know if lawmakers would amend the bill to address the federal transit funding.

Don’t stymie wind power in Wisconsin

Monday, February 14, 2011

A letter to the editor of the Wisconsin State Journal by Jake Smith, Madison:

Dear Editor: Gov. Scott Walker is proposing new wind siting rules that place such strict requirements that they all but eliminate the possibility of any new wind projects. The siting rules approved by lawmakers in December are the result of two years of study and need no further strictures.

Wind power in Wisconsin is a developing industry and has potential to address climate change with clean, renewable wind energy. Why would Walker want to stymie a burgeoning industry? The approved rules would support economic development by providing manufacturing, construction, operation, development, etc. It is counterintuitive that he is proposing up-regulation on something that could kick-start the Wisconsin economy.

Fond du Lac County, host of 168 wind turbines, supports PSC siting rules

Friday, February 11, 2011

Testimony of Sam Tobias
Director of Planning and Parks
Fond du Lac County

Before the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules
February 9, 2011

(starts at 3:45:30 pm on Wisconsin Eye)

Thank you for the opportunity to speak before you today -- chairs and committee members as well.

I’ve been with Fond du Lac County for 25 years in a couple of different roles but at this point I’m with the county planning and parks director. You have to know just a bit about Fond du Lac County to understand where I’m coming from and what’s been happening in Fond du Lac. In our county we do not have county zoning, every town in our county, all 21, each has their own individual zoning ordinance. They administer their zoning ordinances. At times, with wind siting issues especially, they depend heavily on their attorney, and they all pretty much use the same attorney. They’ve come up with pretty much the model that’s being used in the PSC rule. And it’s worked very well, and that’s my point here today is we’ve been a test-bed so to speak in Fond du Lac.

The program has worked in Fond du Lac County. Why do I say that? The six town boards in Fond du Lac County that are the six towns that are host to wind turbine projects are all still in place. If this were truly a monumental issue, and truly had widespread health effects, and hazards, nature hazards, those types of things, I don’t think those six town boards would be in place today, but they are.

We’re home to three major utility scale wind turbine projects -- 168 turbines, 268 MW of electricity capacity. Again, the towns, the 8,000 to almost 9,000 town residents, that are involved in these facilities. We don’t have 8,000 to 9,000 people here today protesting against the rules. There are people with concerns, but it’s not the majority by any stretch of the imagination.

Town government took the lead, as I said previously. In permitting, in regulating wind farms in Fond du Lac County and I think they’ve done a very great job. Again, our setbacks are very similar in our towns as to what’s in our state rule. Utility-scale wind farm in Wisconsin mean a lot to local businesses -- from the sandwich supply lunch truck, that comes out to construction sites, to Michels Corporation in Brownsville that’s got 200 people that have been involved in developing wind projects in our county and elsewhere around the state. By their estimations, there are probably four projects out there that are being discussed and are in the works, 100 MW or more each, so there’s projects queued up that need some predictability in outcome, and that’s what this rule does.

I’ll go back to creating a level playing field. This is the same kind of thing that the Wisconsin Realtors Association asked for in ’99 and 2000 – the Wisconsin Smart Growth law. I’m a planner so I supported them in those efforts and that was a big thing that they really wanted. They wanted a level playing field. And I think in this situation, the same rule applies, the same situation applies. Let’s provide a level playing field. We’re not going to have turbines in every corner of the state of Wisconsin. These companies are going to go where the resource is. The resource is fairly limited in our area. . . .

Committee takes no steps to ban wind turbines

Thursday, February 10, 2011

RENEW Wisconsin submitted the following statement at the public hearing of the Joint Committee for the Review of Administrative Rules on wind siting rules (PSC 128).

Governor Walker and legislative leaders reportedly will seek a change in the rule when the governor appoints a new chair of the three-person Public Service Commission when Commissioner Mark Meyer's term expires March 1. With no legislative action, PSC 128 will become effective on March 1, 2011, and will remain in effect until changed by the PSC.

Good morning, my name is Michael Vickerman. I am here to represent RENEW Wisconsin, a nonprofit advocacy and education organization based in Madison. Incorporated in 1991, RENEW acts as a catalyst to advance a sustainable energy future through public policy and private sector initiatives. We have over 300 total members, and more than 60 businesses around the state, including Biogas Direct (Prairie du Sac), Bleu Mont Dairy (Mount Horeb), Bubbling Springs Solar (Menomonie), Crave Brothers Farm (Waterloo), Convergence Energy (Lake Geneva), Emerging Energies (Hubertus), Energy Concepts (Hudson), Full Circle Farm (Seymour), Full Spectrum Solar (Madison), GDH, Inc. (Chilton), H&H Solar (Madison), Kettle View Renewable Energy (Random Lake), Michels Wind Energy (Brownsville), North American Hydro (Neshkoro), Northwind Renewable Energy LLC (Stevens Point), Pieper Power (Milwaukee), Organic Valley (LaFarge), Quantum Dairy (Weyauwega), Renewegy (Oshkosh), and Seventh Generation Energy Systems (Madison).

On behalf of all our members that have an interest in wind generation, RENEW Wisconsin took the lead in bringing together diverse groups and companies and forging a broad and bipartisan coalition to support legislation establishing statewide permitting standards for all wind generators in the state of Wisconsin. The fruit of that labor, 2009 Act 40, was signed into law in September 2009.

I am here today to encourage this Committee to take no action on the PSC 128 rule that is scheduled to take effect on March 1st. The Commission's rule is a good-faith compromise that balances the state's interest in promoting a preferred energy resource with the interests of neighboring landowners.

The PSC rule will provide wind energy developers with regulatory certainty -- a clearly defined set of requirements which they must comply with in order to obtain a permit. Such stability and clarity in the wind permitting arena has been absent from Wisconsin for the last 13 years, which, more than any other reason, explains why Wisconsin utilities own more wind generating capacity in Iowa and Minnesota (329 MW) than they do in Wisconsin (235 MW).

I would like this committee to consider the following points:

Ashland hospital, ahead of biomass curve, saves money

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

From an article by Joe Cadotte on

An idea sketched on a napkin inside an Ashland restaurant 27 years ago has transformed the Memorial Medical Center into one of only two or three hospitals nationally that runs off of waste wood.

With 99 percent of the hospital’s energy needs coming from wood that might otherwise have been discarded, the Ashland hospital is many steps ahead of the biomass trend we’re seeing today.

In 1984, MMC administrators were looking for ways to restrain health care costs. Their plan was to use a wood burning boiler to supplement three gas boilers that were installed in 1972 when the facility was built. . . .

During its design phase, MMC Vice President Les Whiteaker was in charge of assessing the cost effectiveness of the boiler. “I thought it would take three to four years for the boiler to pay for itself,” he said. To his surprise, energy savings were sufficient to offset the $468,000 investment in just 30 months.

Over the years those savings have amounted to more than $6 million. By burning wood, the hospital annually saves $400,000, making medical services 22 percent less than the state average.

Scientists see no basis for turbine 'infrasound' health problems

Monday, February 07, 2011

From an article by Jim Dulzo on the Web site of Michigan Land Use Institute:

. . . when they could not find an independent organization willing to underwrite such a study, they paid for it themselves. AWEA [American Wind Energy Association] and CanWEA [Canada Wind Energy Associaiton] assembled eight scientists and doctors to survey the available scientific literature on the known health effects of living near wind turbines.

Collectively, the eight have strong research or clinical experience in public health, otolaryngology, noise-induced hearing loss, balance and hearing disorders, clinical medicine, audiology, infrasound acoustics, industrial sound pathology, wind and turbine physics, and turbine sound measurement and siting.

Their review of 140 different studies and papers issued in 2009, largely from Europe, where wind farms are common and located quite close to residential areas, is called Wind Turbine Sound and Health Effects; An Expert Panel Review.

The panel points out that the environment and our bodies are awash in infrasound, much of it naturally occurring. It finds Dr. Pierpont’s list of maladies too poorly characterized to be medically useful. It finds a markedly stronger correlation between subjects’ claimed turbine syndrome symptoms and their initial attitudes toward turbines than between their symptoms and their level of exposure to turbine sounds.

Windpower opponents quickly attacked the industry funded findings as biased, something that Mike Klepinger, who formerly worked at Michigan State University Extension Service, where he wrote the agency’s wind turbine siting guidelines, says is not surprising.

“Of course, whenever you invite industry into a panel, the whole panel becomes suspect,” Mr. Klepinger said in an interview with Great Lakes Bulletin News Service. “They say, ‘It couldn’t possibly be operating scientifically.’ But you look at the who’s who on the [panel] list, and you kind of have to give the industry an A-plus for trying to make the panel objective.”

Their three major conclusions:

  •  “There is no evidence that the audible or sub-audible sounds emitted by wind turbines have any direct adverse physiological effects.
  • “The ground-borne vibrations from wind turbines are too weak to be detected by, or to affect, humans.
  • “The sounds emitted by wind turbines are not unique. There is no reason to believe, based on the levels and frequencies of the sounds and the panel’s experience with sound exposures in occupational settings, that sounds from wind turbines could plausibly have direct adverse health consequences.”

Gov. Walker's office to keep pushing new wind turbine rules

Friday, February 04, 2011

From a story on WTAQ, Madison:

MADISON, Wis. (WTAQ) - Governor Scott Walker’s office says it will keep trying to limit the locating of new wind energy farms in Wisconsin – even though his own Republicans in the Legislature are not going along with it for now.

Spokesman Cullen Werwie says Walker will try to get the state Public Service Commission to adopt his proposal. That’s after Republican legislative leaders said they wanted more time to review the impact.

Walker wants wind turbines to be at least 1,800 feet away from neighboring homes, instead of the current 1,250 feet. The Wisconsin Realtors Association pushed for the change.

Walker said it would help property owners who say the turbines cause too much noise and flickering light. But the wind energy industry says it would be the most restrictive setback in the nation – and they’re calling it a de-facto ban on new wind energy projects.

The group Renew Wisconsin says it could put up to $1.8 billion worth of future wind projects in jeopardy. And Denise Bode of the American Wind Energy Association said it would make a mockery of Walker’s claim that Wisconsin is “open for business.”

Win a Home Energy Checkup if you're an MG&E customer

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Wind farm going up as scheduled

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

From an article by Lyn Jerde in the Portage Daily Register:

What could be Wisconsin's largest wind energy project is going up as scheduled, despite a proposal from Gov. Scott Walker that could make future wind farms more challenging to build in the state.

The governor's proposal calls for a minimum setback of 1,800 feet between neighboring property and the turbine towers in a "large wind energy system" (300 kilowatts or more).

Glacier Hills is a We Energies project whose 90 turbines, on approximately 17,350 acres in the towns of Randolph and Scott, could generate up to 207 megawatts. Construction - including roads leading to the tower sites and a headquarters on Columbia County Highway H in the town of Scott - started in May, and continues this winter with the installation of underground connections that will eventually link each of the turbines to the power grid. The 400-foot towers are scheduled to be built starting this spring.

Andrew Hesselbach, We Energies wind farm project manager, said any new setback rules would not affect the construction of Glacier Hills, which received approval from the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin in January 2010.

And, he noted, "Glacier Hills is already half-completed."

Walker's proposal, as outlined in Assembly Bill 9, calls for "the setback distance of at least 1,800 feet," unless the owners properties adjoining the site where a tower is planned, or property owners separated from the site's land by a road, agree in writing to a setback of less than 1,800 feet.

Hesselbach was one of 15 members of a wind siting council that the PSC last March to advise the commission on statewide setback rules for wind turbine towers - rules that were scheduled to go into effect March 1.

Those rules set 1,250 feet as a minimum setback - the same setback specified in the PSC's "certificate of public convenience and necessity" that gave the go-ahead for construction of Glacier Hills.

Obama’s Bid to End Oil Subsidies Revives Debate

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

From an article by John M. Broder in the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — When he releases his new budget in two weeks, President Obama will propose doing away with roughly $4 billion a year in subsidies and tax breaks for oil companies, in his third effort to eliminate federal support for an industry that remains hugely profitable.

Previous efforts have run up against bipartisan opposition in Congress and heavy lobbying from producers of oil, natural gas and coal. The head of the oil and gas lobby in Washington contends that the president has it backward — that the industry subsidizes the government, through billions of dollars in taxes and royalties, not the other way around.

But even as the president says he wants to do away with incentives for fossil fuels, his policies continue to provide for substantial aid to oil and gas companies as well as billions of dollars in subsidies for coal, nuclear and other energy sources with large and long-lasting environmental impacts.

Mr. Obama’s proposal rekindles a long-running debate over federal subsidies for energy of all kinds, including petroleum, coal, hydropower, wind, solar and biofuels. Opposition to such subsidies — often euphemistically referred to as incentives, tax credits, preferences or loan guarantees — spans the ideological spectrum, from conservative economists who believe such breaks distort the marketplace to environmentalists who believe that renewable energy sources will always lose out in subsidy fights because of the power of the entrenched fossil fuel industries.

David W. Kreutzer, an energy economist at the conservative Heritage Foundation, argues that the federal government should take its thumb off the scale by eliminating subsidies for all forms of energy, even it if means slowing development of cleaner-burning fuel sources.

“We would like to get rid of all subsidies,” Dr. Kreutzer said. “We know that petroleum and coal survive just fine in places where there are no subsidies. I don’t know if that’s true for wind and solar now, but someday it will be, when the price comes down.”

H. Jeffrey Leonard, president of the Global Environment Fund, a private equity firm that invests in clean-technology ventures, said that the current subsidy structure was the legacy of 60 years of lobbying and political jockeying in Washington that largely benefits oil, coal, nuclear power and corn-based ethanol. He calls for scrapping all subsidies and letting fuel sources compete on equal ground.

Mr. Obama is not willing to go that far. . . .