Rate dispute might doom local wind power project

Posted on April 6, 2010. Filed under: Economic development, Wind |

From an article by Karen Rivedal in the Wisconsin State Journal:

A local company’s plan to build a small wind farm just outside Madison and create more than 100 jobs is hanging by a thread amid a standoff with Madison Gas and Electric Co. over the price of electricity to be generated at the site.

The company, Wave Wind LLC of Sun Prairie, says it needs 8 cents per kilowatt-hour to make the project viable. MGE is only willing to pay 2.9 cents.

“That rate won’t even allow us to put a shovel in the ground,” said Tim Laughlin, president of Wave Wind at 4589 Highway TT. “The utilities have to recognize that (green power) will be part of the culture. It will be part of what we’re dealing with on all levels, and they’ll have to figure out a way to make it work.”

Wind-farm supporters say the project – which the company likely will move to another state if a deal can’t be worked out – would produce clean energy for 2,400 homes annually, for just a few pennies more on a $50 monthly bill.

But MGE says it can get renewable energy even more cheaply now and potentially well beyond 2020.

Renewable energy expert Michael Vickerman agreed that locally produced wind energy wouldn’t be the cheapest option, given competition from states like Iowa and Minnesota, which have stronger, steadier wind patterns.

But he said a local wind farm could still generate significant energy and would cost only “marginally more” than other sources, with benefits beyond dollars and cents.

“MGE has a customer base that is deeply committed to sustainable energy,” said Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a Madison nonprofit that promotes clean energy. “It sends a powerful signal to component manufacturers, to the construction and building trades, to local governments and to economic development officials.”

MGE officials did not return calls for comment.


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