Wind turbine issue turns slowly

Posted on October 25, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Jobs, Wind | Tags: , , |


From an article by Tom content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

In Columbia County, the biggest wind farm in the state is nearly complete.

Ninety turbines are being erected by Wisconsin contractors including the Boldt Co., Edgerton Contractors and Michels Corp., in a $367 million project. On a typical day this year, about 175 workers have been on the job, pouring foundations, constructing towers and hoisting turbines and blades into place.

The activity comes despite a stalemate on wind turbine siting that wind power supporters say threatens to make the We Energies Glacier Hills Wind Park not only the largest but the last major wind farm to go up in the state.

But wind developers are expressing hope that a logjam can be broken, after recent conversations between the governor and several wind development firms.

Since this year, wind industry representatives say five companies have suspended or canceled work on projects in Wisconsin.

At issue is the Walker administration’s work to address pressure from opponents of wind farms, including the Wisconsin Realtors Association, who say that wind projects are interfering with private property rights of homeowners who live near turbines – and the effects of noise and shadow flicker from the turbines.

Gov. Scott Walker was backed by wind farm opponents in his 2010 election campaign and included a bill to restrict wind farm development in the jobs package he unveiled in his first weeks in office.

But concern about stalling all development and business for Wisconsin firms resulted in pushback against the Walker bill, which ended up being the only piece of legislation that was left to die out of the initial jobs special session.

Criticism of wind turbine siting persists, with state Sen. Frank Lasee, a possible candidate for U.S. Senate, recently unveiling a bill calling for a statewide moratorium on wind turbine construction until more research is done on the health effects of the devices.

“We met with Gov. Walker to discuss how we can work together to allow the economic benefits of wind energy to help boost Wisconsin’s economy,” said Mike Arndt, a Wisconsin native who now is vice president of Element Power, a company developing projects around the country. Arndt was one of the wind industry representatives who met with Walker two weeks ago.

Among Element’s projects is $300 million to $400 million wind farm in Manitowoc and Kewaunee counties.

The Walker administration is now sending signals that it’s seeking middle ground on the wind controversy.

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