Archive for January, 2011

Walker’s wind proposal is hasty

Posted on January 31, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Wind | Tags: , , |

From an editorial in the Appleton Post Crescent:

The issue of wind turbines and where to put them is a hugely controversial issue in Wisconsin. It’s a hugely complex issue, too, with numerous perspectives and philosophies about it.

That’s why Gov. Scott Walker’s attempt to change the rules about wind turbine siting is hasty and ill-considered.

As part of his regulatory reform legislation, Walker wants to change the minimum distance from a turbine to the nearest property line from 450 feet to 1,800 feet.

By doing so, he’s interjecting himself into a debate that has been going on for a long time — and had seemingly reached a conclusion — without a solid grounding of rationale.

The wind turbine issue has been most notable in eastern and northeastern Wisconsin because its wind patterns are conducive to generating power. In recent years, the debates had been conducted at the town or county level. They were often fierce debates, pitting neighbor against neighbor and sometimes family member against family member.

The prospect of a patchwork of regulations that may vary greatly led the Legislature to determine there should be a statewide standard. The Public Service Commission appointed an advisory committee to recommend one. Last year, the committee — stacked with wind energy proponents — came up with the 450-foot rule and another that said a turbine had to be 1,250 feet from a neighboring residence. The PSC approved the recommendation and the rules are supposed to take effect this year.

It’s understandably a divisive — and personal — issue. If you were a property owner, would you want a turbine near your home? Would you be concerned about its effects on your property value, health and quality of life? Sure.

But there’s also the perspective of economic development. Wind-turbine construction is a budding industry in Wisconsin. In fact, New North, the economic development organization for northeast Wisconsin, has a specific focus on promoting the many companies in our area that are or could be involved in building wind turbines.

Wind industry proponents say Walker’s rule will kill their business in our state, costing $500 million in planned projects. They say Walker’s just carrying the water for the Wisconsin Realtors Association. Those who identified themselves as being in the real estate industry gave more than $500,000 to Walker’s $9 million campaign, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

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Coalition discredits realtors’ wind assessment

Posted on January 28, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Wind | Tags: , , |

A news release issued by the Wisconsin Energy Business Association:

A group of over 60 Wisconsin energy businesses and organizations distributed a memorandum to legislators today to respond to the factual inaccuracies and misrepresentations in a memorandum
distributed by the Wisconsin Realtors Association last week, including the following points:

1. There is no credible evidence that existing wind development in Wisconsin has depressed property values in Kewaunee County.
2. There is no credible evidence that existing wind development in Wisconsin has depressed property values statewide.
3. The property value study cited by WRA contains several methodological errors and weaknesses that greatly reduce its value.
4. WRA’s discussion of windpower’s impacts on commercial and residential construction is wholly one-sided and overlooks the benefits from building energy-producing systems on rural land.
5. WRA’s characterization of the rule’s promulgation is inflammatory and untrue.
6. A longer setback distance is not necessary given PSC 128’s strict regulation of sound and shadow.

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Illinois wind advocates advise Wisconsin’s renewable energy developers to ‘Escape to Illinois’

Posted on January 27, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Wind | Tags: , , |

From a news release issued by The Illinois Wind Energy Association:

(CHICAGO) — Today the Illinois Wind Energy Association (IWEA) invited wind power developers working in Wisconsin to focus their efforts on Illinois, where Governor Pat Quinn and the Illinois General Assembly have worked to streamline regulations for the wind energy business.

Wind developers have been apprehensive about investing in Wisconsin since Governor Scott Walker proposed legislation that would effectively ban wind development from the Badger State. With these new job-destroying regulations on the table, IWEA is happy to highlight the much more business-friendly climate just to the south.

Recently introduced in the Wisconsin legislature, the War on Wind Initiative would dramatically extend setback distances from wind turbines in the state. If adopted, the bill would mandate a minimum setback requirement of 1,800 feet from neighboring property lines, far exceeding the setback distance from occupied dwellings specified in a rule issued by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin.

“Even the strictest county setbacks in Illinois are nowhere near as extreme as what Wisconsin would have if this bill passes,” said IWEA Executive Director Kevin Borgia. “Illinois has no statewide minimum setbacks.”

As Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, said to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel last week, “it is one of the most onerous regulations we have ever seen.”

“In light of Wisconsin’s War on Wind, IWEA invites developers to focus their resources on Illinois,” Borgia said. “Businesses with wind farm proposals in both states are likely to focus their efforts on locations with the most beneficial regulatory climate. If the legislation is adopted, that location will not be Wisconsin.”

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Obama visits wind tower fabricator; lady welder gets a hug

Posted on January 27, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Wind |

From an article by Sarah Kloepping in the Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter:

MANITOWOC – Not many people can say they have spoken to the president, and even fewer can say they’ve hugged him.

Tower Tech Systems/Broadwind Towers employee Melissa Peters is now a member of that small group who can claim both.

“I got to hug him. I can’t believe he let me do that,” said Peters, who was welding when Obama came to speak to her on Wednesday during his two-hour tour of Manitowoc.

“He asked how long I worked here and said I must really like it if I’ve been here for almost four years. … It went so fast. It’s definitely a chance in a lifetime experience. . . .”

During his approximately 20-minute tour of Tower Tech, Obama saw how a wind turbine tower is manufactured – from raw-plate steel through the process of forming, welding, painting and moving a completed tower section, which can weigh up to 200 tons.

“Him being here, just his presence, kind of supports the industry we work in,” Tower Tech Systems president Paul Smith said. “He complimented the workmanship that he saw. He was really impressed with what we do. . . .”

“President Obama is essentially asking the same of our country – bring together all of our best talents and solutions and help our country and other countries maximize their energy potential – sustainably, cleanly and profitably.”

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Walker needs to carefully weigh wind farm rules

Posted on January 27, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Wind | Tags: , , |

From an editorial in The Northwestern, Oshkosh:

Gov. Scott Walker made an abrupt and startling U-turn in his pro-business, pro-jobs agenda last week when he proposed regulations that would cripple, if not kill, the wind energy industry in Wisconsin. It was a breath-taking about-face for Wisconsin’s new governor who campaigned on sound bite slogans: “Help is on the way” and “Wisconsin is open for business.” Apparently not for wind farms.

Walker’s proposal would quadruple the wind turbine setbacks from property lines from 450 feet to 1,800 feet. If passed by the legislature, Walker’s rule would make Wisconsin’s wind farm regulations the strictest in the nation and would be a death sentence for wind farm development in Wisconsin, industry leaders said.
“It would in essence shut down wind energy in the state,” Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association told the Wisconsin State Journal. “It is one of the most onerous regulations we have seen.”

The cost: $1.8 billion in long-term investment in wind farm projects in the state, including $500 million over the next two years and an additional 950 jobs planned projects would create.
Given those facts, Walker’s proposed regulation is perplexing on a number of fronts.

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Tapping into Wisconsin’s energy potential should be bipartisan goal

Posted on January 26, 2011. Filed under: Biomass, Economic development, Wind |

From an article by Tom Still in Wisconsin Technology News:

MADISON – Unless someone strikes oil in Oshkosh, discovers natural gas in Necedah or mines coal in Colfax, the state of Wisconsin is destined to remain largely dependent – perhaps for decades – on outside sources of energy that power its homes, businesses and vehicles.

That economic dependency can be slowly but steadily reduced, however, if Wisconsin builds on its emerging expertise around development of new sources of energy.

Two recent news events sounded alarm bells for those who believe Wisconsin has the right combination of natural resources, research capacity and private sector know-how to begin charting a new energy future. In rapid order, Gov. Scott Walker introduced regulations that would make it harder to build wind-power projects in some parts of Wisconsin and he cancelled plans to convert a UW-Madison power plant from coal to biomass.

There may be logical reasons for the new administration’s specific actions. Some people have complained that current state rules allow wind generators to be built too close to private property, and the conversion of the UW-Madison’s Charter Street plant to burn switchgrass pellets was estimated to be $75 million more expensive than burning natural gas.

The larger danger is that Wisconsin could lose momentum around the development of much-needed energy technologies – advanced wind, next-generation biofuels, energy storage systems and much more – if the message is sent that energy and conservation innovation isn’t welcome or valued.

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Survey shows strong support for wind energy in Grant County

Posted on January 25, 2011. Filed under: General |

In the fall of 2007, Grant County landowners received a survey conducted by The Southwestern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.

Question 30 on the survey asked respondents if Grant County jurisdictions should pursue Ethanol Plants, Solar Energy or Wind Energy alternatives as a form of economic development.

Data compiled from those surveys shows overwhelming support for Wind and Solar Energy with marginal support for Ethanol. The proposed White Oak Wind Farm falls within Smelser Township, Cuba City, Hazel Green, Hazel Green Township and Dickeyville.

Grant County should pursue:

Strongly agree 22% 39% 48%
Agree 33% 45% 43%
Disagree 23% 5% 2%
Strongly dis. 9% 1% 2%
No opinion 13% 10% 6%
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War on Wind: Land use fight, not energy fight

Posted on January 24, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Wind | Tags: , , |

From an article by Kari Lydersen in Midwest Energy News:

One of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s first actions in office was to declare the state “Open for Business,” vowing to lure industry and create a quarter-million jobs.

But legislation Walker proposed as part of this initiative could strangle a growing state industry – wind power – with a stringent siting rule likely to make major future development nearly impossible.

Why would a pro-business governor support a plan that wind experts say would likely shoot down 11 proposed projects representing a $1.8 billion investment?

Wind developers and advocates say it is because of the influence of the state’s powerful real estate industry, whose leaders say wind turbines significantly decrease property values and prevent agricultural and open land from being transformed into residential
developments . . . .

Wisconsin Realtors Association chief lobbyist Tom Larson said Realtors were “definitely” the driving force behind the wind siting portion of Walker’s bill. He and other prominent Realtors also lobbied against the Wisconsin Public Service Commission’s new wind siting rule, set to take effect March 1, which created uniform statewide standards, including a setback of 1,250 feet from homes. . . .

“This is more of a land use fight than an energy fight,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin and a member of the state’s wind siting council. “The Realtors are afraid wind generation will slow down the conversion of agricultural land to residential land. They’re trying to drive a stake through the heart of wind development before the next project is permitted.”

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Walker is kowtowing to the Wisconsin Realtors Association

Posted on January 21, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Wind |

From an editorial in the Janesville Gazette:

The answer to this one is blowing in the wind. Why would Gov. Scott Walker support restrictions on wind turbines that essentially shut Wisconsin out of the market?

Walker has vowed to help create 250,000 jobs within four years. Closing the door to wind farms and toppling proposals already in the works will make that goal tougher to reach.

In other areas, Walker favors fewer regulations and more business opportunity to the point where critics say he endangers individual rights and protections. For example, some people fear that tort reform
legislation will make it difficult for families to sue when loved ones are harmed in nursing homes.

Yet in backing tighter turbine limits, Walker is showing more concern for neighboring property owners than for companies that produce, install and maintain these giants of green energy.

Sure, few residents want turbines close to their homes. The state Division of Public Health, however, reviewed more than 150 scientific and medical reports and concluded that turbines are safe.

Last year—after listening to months of testimony from residents, health experts and industry officials— the Public Service Commission adopted reasonable statewide rules. The rules, set to take effect March 1, streamline and replace a mixed bag of local limits. They require turbines to be set back 1,250 feet from the nearest home and 1.1 times the height of a turbine, or about 450 feet, from the nearest property line. They preserve authority of local governmental units to ease those restrictions.

The turbine industry didn’t like the rules but accepted them as a compromise. When Walker’s proposal would take the wind out of this alternative power, it’s no compromise at all.

Walker is kowtowing to the Wisconsin Realtors Association and snubbing his nose at one of the world’s fastest-growing industries. He wants the setback for any project not already under construction to be 1,800 feet from a neighboring property line unless the owners agree otherwise. That’s the length of six football fields minus end zones.

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Walker wrong on wind rules

Posted on January 20, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Wind |

From an editorial in the La Crosse Tribune:

Cue the overture to “Gone with the Wind.”

Gov. Scott Walker already has thrown back $810 million in federal funding for high-speed rail — and the jobs and investment attached — to other states, including Illinois.

Now, he wants to make sure Wisconsin blows an opportunity to develop wind energy — development that our neighbors to the west have blown past Wisconsin on.

Denise Bode, CEO of American Wind Energy Association, says the governor’s new regulations for wind energy would imperil a dozen Wisconsin wind farms worth $1.8 billion and 950 full-time jobs.

So, we’re forced to ask once again: When does Wisconsin get some of the 250,000 new jobs that Walker has promised — and when does he intend to stop creating jobs in other states at our expense?

The governor is pushing a regulatory bill that would quadruple the distance that a wind turbine is set back from another property. Opponents say that may kill any current or future wind-turbine operation.

In Walker-speak, that’s known as a job-killer.

The proposed regulations are especially troubling because they could cause problems for an innovative partnership between Gundersen Lutheran and Organic Valley. The two organization plan to split the $11.5 million cost of their project near Organic Valley’s distribution center in Cashton. A spokesman said they hope to order turbines within two weeks and begin generating electricity by November.

Isn’t that the type of entrepreneurial innovation and dynamic partnership that Wisconsin needs to grow the economy — especially with green energy?

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