Editorial: Wisconsin must grow cleaner energy jobs
From an editorial in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Renewable energy can help the state develop new jobs. Wisconsin should be open to those businesses, too.
If Wisconsin really wants to be open for business, it can’t shut the door on developing clean energy jobs. Right now, thanks to legislative and gubernatorial foot-dragging, that’s the case for the development of new wind farms.
That’s a mistake that Gov. Scott Walker and the Legislature should correct. The good news is that it might be corrected; wind energy developers say they are more optimistic after recent conversations with the governor, according to an article this week by the Journal Sentinel’s Thomas Content.
The wind industry in Wisconsin is becalmed in part because Walker and the Legislature sent a message last January that they weren’t much interested in wind farms. They did that by putting on hold wind farm siting rules developed by the state Public Service Commission after much work and compromise.
If that message isn’t changed, We Energies’ Glacier Hills project could be the last big project for quite a while in the state. That would be bad for jobs, business and the environment. While renewable energy can’t yet fill the base load needs of Wisconsin energy consumers, the more power generation that can be pushed into renewables such as wind and solar, the better off the state will be.
And not least because clean energy is a job growth area. A study by the Environmental Law and Policy Center in Chicago found that there are more than 300 businesses in Wisconsin related to solar and wind power, employing more than 12,000 people. One-hundred seventy-one businesses are involved in wind energy.
But don’t expect that to grow: Content reported that five companies have suspended or canceled work on projects in Wisconsin this year. Michael Vickerman of Renew Wisconsin, a nonprofit group that supports development of renewable energy, reports that companies in Wisconsin are now developing projects – in other states. That’s no way to grow the clean energy economy in Wisconsin.
Those opposed to wind farms often talk about a loss of property values and health concerns for neighbors. But Vickerman says there isn’t a shred of evidence for either. Property values in Kewaunee County and Fond du Lac townships with wind farms have kept pace with townships without. And that’s over 12 years of operation.