Archive for September, 2009

Dueling survey results differ on climate change and energy

Posted on September 30, 2009. Filed under: General |

Two surveys released on September 28, 2009, produced widely different results on Wisconsinites’ opinions on climate change and renewable energy.

From a news release about the survey conducted by the Forest County Potawatomi:

[Crandon, Wisc.] In anticipation of state legislation to reduce greenhouse gasses which cause climate change, a recent statewide poll shows a majority of Wisconsin voters favor action by the State of Wisconsin to reduce carbon emissions.

When asked, “Do you favor or oppose the State of Wisconsin taking action to reduce (its) emissions of gases like carbon dioxide in Wisconsin that cause global warming?” nearly three-fourths of voters (70%) favor the State of Wisconsin taking action to reduce carbon emissions. Only 24% of voters oppose taking action.

Support for action to reduce emissions also crosses party lines, with majorities of Republicans (53%), independents (67%) and Democrats (87%) favoring action by the State of Wisconsin.

“Carbon pollution threatens to dramatically change our world for the worse,” said Forest County Potawatomi Attorney General Jeff Crawford. “We have a responsibility to our children and grandchildren to be good stewards of the environment.”

The poll also found that two-thirds of Wisconsin voters favor requiring utilities to generate 25% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025.

From the press release on the survey conducted by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce:

MADISON – With jobs dominating the public’s mind, a statewide poll of voters found over 60 percent say Wisconsin should not enact its own global warming policies, favoring national and international approaches, WMC reported Monday.

Also, voters oppose global warming proposals that hit them in the pocketbook with increased energy prices or potential job losses, the poll found. In 2007, Governor Jim Doyle convened a Global Warming Task Force that called for numerous new regulations to limit greenhouse gas emissions. The Legislature is likely to consider some of those proposals later this session.

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Isthmus anti-wind article called an opinion-piece

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

A letter to the editor of Isthmus from Jennifer Heinzen, president of RENEW Wisconsin:

Dear Editor,
This letter is in response to Brian McCombie’s article, “The War over Wind,” dated September 10, 2009. McCombie’s article brought the fear-mongering, myth-based, ultra-wacky hysterics of Wisconsin anti-wind activists to the front page of an otherwise reputable publication.

“Wind turbine syndrome” is the latest attempt to halt the installation of clean, renewable energy in our state. Those opposed to wind power projects have historically voiced concerns of annoying shadows, noise, and a ruined view shed of their otherwise perfect neighborhood. But about a year ago, internet stories of wind turbines making people sick began to surface, and it caught the public’s attention. Your reporter was duped into believing these outrageous claims and proclaiming them as fact.

The fact is that there are thousands of wind turbines installed all over the world, and in many places they’ve been operating for decades without any medical concerns of “wind turbine syndrome.” Wisconsin is finally starting to install clean, renewable energy – and that progress has been harmed by a handful of extremists more concerned about their property value than the economical and environmental benefits of wind power.

I am a teacher. As such, I expect my students to be able to separate fact from fiction. Clearly you do not require the same from your reporters. Didn’t anybody check the article for accuracy or journalistic integrity? There were many factual mistakes – names of companies, the state’s renewable energy portfolio of 10% by 2015 (not 25% by 2025), the attempted explanation of “spinning reserve” and how the electrical grid works – that should have been caught before publication. The article had a strong anti-wind sentiment and said next to nothing about the benefits of wind power. It named pro-wind lobbyists but no anti-wind lobbyists. Why?

I have spent many hours on and underneath wind turbines of all sizes, and have never felt sick. Nor have any of the systems’ owners/hosts that I’ve met. What makes me sick is the profound hatred these near-sided, selfish, wind opponents have towards change and progress. Did McCombie visit a wind farm? Did he hear jet engines?

I wouldn’t have been at all surprised if I read an article like this in the Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter or Calumet County’s Tri-State News. But this is the Isthmus! How in the world did this make front-page “news?” I’m absolutely disgusted and no longer consider this a publication worthy of my patronage.

I am one of the many people who have worked endless hours for many years trying to educate the public about the benefits of renewable energy and wind power, and McCombie’s article is the perfect example of why my job can be so challenging. His final report merely repeated the voodoo-science spewed on anti-wind websites. Unfortunately, his words were printed on the front page, and presented as “truth” and/or “news” to your readers. This should have been printed in the “opinion” section, if at all.

Jenny Heinzen
Manitowoc, Wisconsin

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Anti-wind article damages Isthmus’ credibility

Posted on September 28, 2009. Filed under: Wind |

To the Editor:

There’s a word to describe the unexamined regurgitation of antiwind talking points sprinkled throughout Brian McCombie’s article “The War Over Wind,” September 11, 2009), but journalism isn’t it. Stenography is much closer to the mark.

But this one-sided article raises an unsettling question: why did the reporter, and by extension Isthmus, leave out so much counterbalancing material in its haste to present windpower in an unambiguously negative light?

Why, for example, was there no mention of Madison Gas & Electric’s Kewaunee County wind energy project? This 17-turbine installation has produced emission-free electricity since 1999. Much of its output feeds MGE’s hugely successful Green Power Tomorrow program. Earlier this year, the two townships hosting the project approved an extension of the project’s conditional use permits without any debate or discussion whatsoever. Considering how controversial the project was 11 years ago, when the townships voted on MGE’s application, this is a remarkable change of attitude. This suggests that the local residents have managed to adapt to life among wind turbines, even though some of the neighbors can hear the whooshing sounds at times.

In another material omission, the reporter failed to mention a recent Court of Appeals decision that overturned Calumet County’s arbitrarily restrictive wind energy ordinance. Taking note of Wisconsin’s 15-year-old wind energy siting law, the Court ruled in July that local units of government lack the power to adopt permitting standards of general applicability on wind energy systems. The ruling effectively dismantled the legal foundation supporting blanket restrictions on wind development that had been adopted by a dozen or so counties and towns. By overlooking this critically important bit of judicial history, the reporter effectively implied that the bills supported by the Wind for Wisconsin coalition constituted a naked power grab, when in fact the Court found that local governments had been overstepping their authority all along.

The fact-checking that went into this article appears to be non-existent. (Example No. 1: Invenergy, not Alliant, built and operates the 86-turbine project near Horicon Marsh. Example No. 2: Wisconsin has a legislatively mandated renewable energy goal of 10% by 2015, not the 25% by 2025 claimed in the article.) However, these examples of slipshod reporting seem positively benign when compared with the frothy brew of distortions, innuendo, omissions of fact, unfounded speculation and outright hysteria served up by your reporter.

Indeed, with this one article, you managed to toss into the dumpster whatever credibility your publication had built up over the years in the area of environmental reporting.

Michael Vickerman
Executive Director
RENEW Wisconsin
222 S. Hamilton St.
Madison, WI 53703

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Keep RENEW working for more renewable energy

Posted on September 26, 2009. Filed under: General |

Good news! RENEW’s top policy priority over the last two years, legislation to establish uniform, science-based permitting standards for windpower projects, has been approved and will soon be law!

Publicly supported by more than 60 organizations and businesses, Senate Bill 185 cleared the Wisconsin Senate September 15 on a 23 to 9 vote. One day later, the same bill cleared the Assembly on a 65 to 31 vote. Governor Doyle has pledged to sign SB 185 into law.

We are deeply indebted to our lobbyist and to our Wind for Wisconsin coalition partners who closed ranks and worked hard to overcome a determined opposition and secure passage of this landmark bill.

We especially thank our members and others who contributed financially to our two-year campaign to put Wisconsin’s wind energy permitting house in order.

But that’s just the first step. The spotlight will soon shift to Public Service Commission (PSC), the agency that will develop the permitting standards.

To ensure that the rules promulgated by the PSC are fair, reasonable and based on science instead of speculation, we need to engage the wind industry and its supporters in the forthcoming rulemaking process. A catalyst is needed to provide an organized voice for wind energy interests in this proceeding. Just as it was for the legislative campaign, the catalyst for creating that organized voice before the PSC will be RENEW Wisconsin.

We can do what needs to be done with your help. Please join RENEW to put the necessary resources into our ongoing priority for wind in Wisconsin.

Michael's signature (2)

Renewal form - Fall 2009
Click on the form above to print it out and send it in with your membership.

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CWESt’s report adds noise to wind debate

Posted on September 25, 2009. Filed under: Wind |

From a commentary by Peter Maldonado, RENEW Wisconsin:

A document released by the wind opposition group Coalition for Wisconsin’s Environmental Stewardship (CWESt) claims to find a cause-effect link between wind turbines and reduced property values, but the self-described study fails to provide significant statistical data supporting its contention. The document, titled “Wind Turbine Impact Study,” also contains a “literature review” that turns out to be nothing more than a Google search trawling through opposition web sites for subject matter.

Given CWESt’s opposition to expanding wind generating facilities in Wisconsin, one can understand the organization’s decision to release a preliminary draft of this paper only a few days before the Legislature’s vote on Senate Bill 185, a bill directing the Public Service Commission to develop uniform permitting standards for wind energy systems. As stated in the cover page, the author, Appraisal Group One (AGO), specializes in “forensic appraisal, eminent domain, stigmatized properties and valuation research.” Our aim here is not to criticize the stated purpose of the report, merely to assess the validity of its methods and results. As the old adage goes, “garbage in, garbage out.”

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Wisconsin hits new solar milestone

Posted on September 24, 2009. Filed under: Solar |

From a news release issued by Focus on Energy:

Recently completed projects are honored for contributing to 2.5 MW achievement

(Sept. 23, 2009) – On Sept. 22, 2009, Focus on Energy, Wisconsin’s statewide resource for energy efficiency and renewable energy, celebrated the milestone of achieving a combined solar-electric generation capacity of 2.5 megawatts (MW).

To commemorate the milestone Eric Callisto, Chairperson of the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, honored the Town of Menasha, Wis., and the Navarino Nature Center of Shiocton, Wis., for contributing to the 2.5 MW with the recent installation of their solar electric systems.

Both systems were installed by Energize LLC of Winneconne, Wis. The two projects, along with more than 580 other Focus on Energy co-funded solar electric systems, were completed with technical and financial assistance from Focus.

“The renewable energy industry is booming — In fact, since Focus on Energy started cofunding installations in 2002 it took six years to reach the first MW. Now, in less than two years we’ve reached a total of 2.5 MW,” said Chairperson Callisto.

“Hopefully we’ll see Wisconsin’s job market and economy overall parallel the growth.”

In addition to receiving a commemorative plaque marking the 2.5 MW achievement, Chairperson Callisto presented the Town of Menasha with a Focus on Energy incentive check for $50,000, and the Navarino Nature Center with a Focus on Energy incentive check for $30,955. These financial incentives provided by Focus on Energy will be used to defray the cost of the solar electric systems.

The influence of solar electric systems on Wisconsin’s energy landscape is significant as they are expected to generate enough electricity to power about 350 average Wisconsin homes a year. Additionally, the systems are offsetting the burning of more than 2,650 tons of coal each year and preventing nearly six million pounds of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere per year. That’s equivalent to removing more than 550 cars from the road.

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Tech college may test new wind turbine

Posted on September 22, 2009. Filed under: General |

From an article by Josh Lintereur in the Sheboygan Press:

Japanese firm could make turbines in state

A Japanese wind energy company would like to install and test a next-generation wind turbine at Lakeshore Technical College in the coming months that it could eventually manufacture in Wisconsin, school officials said Wednesday.

MECARO Co., Ltd., of Japan, approached LTC last year about using the school’s Cleveland campus to both test and offer demonstrations of the new turbine, which generates more power at a lower wind speed than a traditional turbine.

LTC President Mike Lanser said the turbine would generate a portion of the school’s energy needs — the school already has one turbine and has plans for a second — and would serve as an education tool for its Wind Energy Technology program.

More importantly, it could create jobs.

“Depending on how successful their field data is, they are looking to manufacture it locally, which means jobs,” said Lanser, who estimates that the turbine could be installed on campus by early spring.

Gov. Jim Doyle met with MECARO officials this week as part of his 10-day trade mission to Japan and China, where he also sat down with officials from Hitachi, which would market the turbines.

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New permitting rules in store for wind power in Wisconsin

Posted on September 21, 2009. Filed under: Wind |

A commentary
by Michael Vickerman
RENEW Wisconsin, Executive Director

The Wisconsin Legislature took a giant step towards reviving wind energy development in the Badger State by passing Senate Bill (SB) 185, a bill that creates uniform permitting standards for wind turbines, regardless of size and location. Currently, about 500 MW of proposed windpower installations are stalled in the absence of clear, consistent, and predictable regulations at the local level. Another proposed facility, a 98 MW wind project in Manitowoc County permitted in 2005, was recently cancelled.

The legislation enjoyed bipartisan support in both chambers. SB 185 cleared the Senate Tuesday on a 23-9 vote and the Assembly a day later on a 65-31 vote. Governor Jim Doyle is expected to sign the bill into law.

Upon the enactment of SB 185, the Public Service Commission (PSC) will open a rulemaking proceeding to promulgate rules that specify the maximum restrictions that a local government may impose on the installation of wind energy installations, regardless of size and location. During the rulemaking process, the PSC will receive advice and guidance from a stakeholder committee to be convened in the next several weeks.

The bill directs the PSC to establish minimum setback distances that provide reasonable protection for neighboring residences and occupied structures as well as standards for decommissioning turbines at the end of their operating lives. The rules will also address several other issues relating to the protection of public health and safety, including sound measurement protocols, maximum sound thresholds, moving shadows, communication signal interference and lighting.

The passage of SB 185 culminates a grueling two-year effort by RENEW Wisconsin and other renewable energy supporters to seek a legislative fix to the patchwork quilt of local regulations that has made Wisconsin a veritable minefield for commercial wind developers. In late 2007, RENEW enlisted wind developers, environmental groups and labor to join forces and push back against the blanket restrictions against wind development being adopted by local governments.

Out of this effort emerged Wind for Wisconsin, a broad-based coalition consisting of more than 60 companies and organizations representing farm, labor, environmental, health, and manufacturing constituencies. The bipartisan nature of the final votes reflected the diversity of groups and businesses united behind the Wind for Wisconsin banner. The breadth of its supporters enabled Wind for Wisconsin and its legislative champions to overcome a well-organized network of opposition groups.

The legislation was sponsored by a Democratic and Republican legislator in each house.

Notwithstanding the substantial winning margins in both chambers, the legislation narrowly survived eight weakening amendments in the Assembly. One of the amendments would have required the PSC to establish setback standards from buildable parcels of land. That amendment was defeated on a tie vote.

RENEW wishes to thank the legislators who supported SB 185, as well as the lead sponsors of the legislation—Sen. Jeff Plale (D-South Milwaukee), Sen. Randy Hopper (R-Fond du Lac), Rep. James Soletski (D-Green Bay) and (Rep. Phil Montgomery (R-Green Bay). We greatly appreciate the solidarity that was forged with our Wind for Wisconsin allies and thank them for their commitment and hard work they bestowed on this initiative. Finally, we are especially indebted to our campaign quarterback, Curt Pawlisch, and his dedicated team at Cullen, Weston, Pines & Bach. It was Curt who kept our coalition focused on the task at hand and fully engaged in mobilizing political support for a new wind permitting policy enabling Wisconsin to achieve its renewable energy goals.

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Calumet County wind ordinance in jeopardy; Welch softens PSC rhetoric

Posted on September 18, 2009. Filed under: Wind |

From an article by Jim Collar in the Green Bay Post-Crescent:

CHILTON — Calumet County’s crusade to create restrictive blanket rules for turbine construction suffered another setback after the state Legislature passed a bill this week that would create a statewide standard for placing turbines.

The bill will hit the desk of Gov. Jim Doyle, who is expected to sign it. County Board Chairman Bill Barribeau said state standards — which would be set by the Public Service Commission — would override local ones.

The county’s wind turbine ordinance dictated setbacks and maximum heights and sound levels for all turbine construction within its zoning jurisdiction. An appeals court struck down the ordinance in July, saying each proposed project has to be reviewed on its own merits.

The county has appealed that decision to the state Supreme Court, which might be the county’s last resort as renewable energy advocates and business interests have banded together to push for less-restrictive rules for building turbines.

“The board will decide whether to continue forward or not,” Barribeau said of the county’s petition to the Supreme Court, “but I’d assume we would.”

Calumet County has been a hotbed of debate in recent years that’s largely pitted farmers against those in residential areas as developers set eyes on its windy terrain. . . .

Bob Welch, a former state senator and consultant for Calumet County Citizens for Responsible Energy, said that because the bill asks the Public Service Commission to establish the rules, residents still would have a voice in creating reasonable solutions for turbine placement. The citizens group is one of several that organized in opposition to wind-farm projects in the county. . . .

Wind-farming opponents have gone beyond basing arguments against turbines on aesthetics to concerns over whether turbines set close to homes can cause health problems for residents. Those will be among arguments presented to the Public Service Commission when it considers a statewide standard.

“(The Public Service Commission has) been known to take science-based views, and we’re pretty confident that the science is on our side,” Welch said.

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New rules for wind projects clear Assembly

Posted on September 17, 2009. Filed under: Economic development, Wind |

September 16, 2009

Michael Vickerman
RENEW Wisconsin

Wisconsin wind energy prospects advanced with bipartisan Assembly support for legislation to set uniform statewide permitting rules.

Under the Wind for Wisconsin umbrella, more than 60 organizations as diverse as unions, trade associations, environmental advocates, health groups, and renewable energy manufacturers sought uniform permitting standards for future wind developments.

As in the State Senate, Senate Bill 185 won bipartisan approval from 48 Democrats and 17 Republicans voting in favor of passage.

Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a nonprofit sustainable energy advocacy organization, expects Governor Doyle to sign the bill into law.

“The Assembly’s vote is critical to reviving the development of a high priority renewable energy resource in accordance with Wisconsin energy policy,” said Vickerman.

“We believe that wind energy suppliers will see the action as an invitation to locate and do business in Wisconsin. Our economy will benefit from the investment and jobs in a sustainable energy future,” Vickerman said.

“We look forward to working with the Public Service Commission in shaping the specific standards for permitting wind projects,” Vickerman said.

“RENEW and our members thank Rep. James Soletski (D-Green Bay) and Rep. Phil Montgomery (R-Green Bay) for guiding the proposal through the Assembly. The entire legislature should be proud of this accomplishment, which we view as a prerequisite for a more aggressive renewable energy standard likely to be included in a comprehensive global warming legislative package,” commented Vickerman.

The bill now goes to Governor Doyle for his signature before becoming law.

Read additional statements from Rep. James Soletski and Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan.

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