RENEW board president responds to anti-wind comments of Rep. Ziegelbauer

Posted on January 29, 2009. Filed under: General |


From a letter to State Representative Bob Ziegelbauer, who is also Manitowoc county executive, from Jennifer Heinzen, who is chair of the board of directors of RENEW:

Dear Representative Ziegelbauer,

This letter is in response to your comments made in The Daily Reporter dated January 24 concerning the Manitowoc County Board of Adjustment’s recent rejection of a seven-turbine wind farm. I am for many reasons baffled and disheartened by your statements, and ask for a few moments of your time to consider my words.

I am the lead instructor at Lakeshore Technical College (LTC) for the Wind Energy Technology program, a 2-year associate degree for aspiring wind turbine technicians. It is the only such program in the state, and we have worked very hard to make LTC nationally-recognized for its efforts in promoting conservation and renewable energy. Our 65 kW wind turbine started producing electricity for the campus in August of 2004, and nearly 30 students have climbed the tower since then. Two more wind turbines will be erected at LTC by 2010. Construction for the first will begin in just a few months.

As a state-certified master electrician and technical college instructor, I have a strong interest in keeping jobs at home. Promoting renewable energy in Wisconsin encourages conservation, efficiency and environmental stewardship. It also opens an exciting new market for a plethora of “green” jobs in the commercial, industrial, agricultural, and residential sectors. I work with the Department of Commerce, International Association of Electrical Inspectors, Wisconsin Distributed Resources Collaborative, and the Rural Energy Management Council to provide training for electricians in renewable energy. These classes and seminars fill up quickly and are in high demand statewide.

Manitowoc supports wind power in many respects. Companies like Tower Tech and Manitowoc Crane are prospering because of their connections to the wind industry. Orion Energy Systems recently obtained a permit from the City of Manitowoc to erect a large wind turbine at their new facility, and Manitowoc Public Utilities will likely be adding wind power to their energy portfolio. It’s ironic that this county, while supporting wind energy in so many ways, has also become notorious for writing ordinances that may as well say “no wind turbines allowed.”

I was a member of the Manitowoc County Wind Energy Systems Advisory Committee from 2005-2006. I had been asked by the County Board Chair to join this committee because of my experience with wind systems and my position at LTC. I accepted, believing naively that simple education was the remedy to the controversy. I thought the committee would only need certain fears eased, myths dispelled, and questions answered.

Unfortunately my attempts to help the committee write a reasonable ordinance were thwarted by the relentless storytelling and fear-mongering tactics used by the WINDCOWS, the Manitowoc-based wind energy opposition group. I underestimated their passion and dedication to the cause of essentially outlawing wind energy. As a result, the group created unrealistic and highly restrictive ordinances for wind farms, as well as small, privately-owned systems.

My defeat was both frustrating and inspiring. I dove into energy policy and legislation, and I am now president of the board of directors for RENEW Wisconsin. As you know, RENEW is a Madison-based, nonprofit organization that promotes clean energy. We have been working diligently on a statewide siting campaign that will hopefully end these expensive and extravagant local battles. (This 7-turbine project has been debated for nearly five years!) We have strong support from a wide variety of stakeholders and are confident that the legislation for uniform siting will pass this year.

Please believe our intent is in no way to belittle local communities or imply that anyone is “dumb,” as you stated in the article. But when irrational and unfounded fears are propagated and allowed to infest the minds of our local decision-makers, the madness must be stopped. I honestly don’t understand why the WINDCOWS and their allies hate wind power… Money? Aesthetics? I quit trying to rationalize it long ago because it really doesn’t matter. . . .

I hope you will reconsider your views on wind power here in our own back yard. The fuel is clean, renewable, abundant, and free. The concept is simple and the technology is readily available. Wind turbines are beautiful! They represent ingenuity, wisdom, forward-thinking, sustainability, and energy independence.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my views. I would be happy to speak with you more on this subject if and when you are interested.

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    A statewide nonprofit dedicated to promoting economically and environmentally sustainable energy policies and practices in Wisconsin.

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