The fight over Wisconsin’s wind future
From a story by Lou Hillman on WLUK Fox 11, Green Bay:
It’s free, it’s everywhere and some think it’s the answer to our ever-increasing energy needs.
“Wind is the most feasible resource for most states because of its ability to scale up,” said Michael Vickerman, the executive director of RENEW Wisconsin. The non-profit group has been advocating for nearly two decades for widespread wind development in the state.
Wind turbines also provide struggling farmers a financial lifeline of thousands of dollars each year.
“For me, it’s a good thing,” said Gary Koomen, a landowner in the town of Morrison.
But as the state Public Service Commission continues to green light large-scale wind developments throughout the state, more and more people are speaking out against the projects.
“We need to slow down until things get put into place to regulate these industrial monsters to a safe and healthy level,” said Jon Morehouse, the spokesman for Brown County Citizens for Responsible Wind Energy. The group represents more than 200 people who are against large scale wind development in southern Brown County.
Right now, 9 commercial wind farms are operating in the state, with a total of more than 300 wind turbines. Though, 18 more wind farms have been proposed, which could push the number of turbines in the state upwards of 1,000.
The largest proposal on the table is 100 turbines in southern Brown County. The project is being developed by a private company from Chicago called Invenergy.
“I’ve always been a supporter of alternate energy to start with so it kind of appealed to me a consumer,” said Gary Koomen.
Koomen signed up to have two turbines on his farmland. He stands to pocket roughly $10,000 per year for each turbine. That kind of money can make life a little easier.
“Fun money,” laughed Koomen. “I’ll probably take a vacation.”
The push for wind development in the state stems back to 1999 when Wisconsin set its first renewable energy goal. The idea is to find energy sources that are sustainable.
Currently, utility companies are required to be providing 10% of electricity from renewable sources by 2015. Experts say, right now, the utilities are only about half way there.
“Without the standards, they have no reason to add more renewable energy,” said Michael Vickerman, of RENEW Wisconsin.