Catching Wind updates latest news on wind in Wisconsin

Posted on April 5, 2012. Filed under: Energy Policy, Wind |

Catching Wind, a newsletter from RENEW Wisconsin, includes the following updates on wind in Wisconsin:

Siting rule survives challenge, takes effect
Capping a bitter four-year struggle, the Legislature cleared the path for wind energy development to resume in Wisconsin under clear and consistent rules.

By adjourning without passage of bills restricting wind development, the Legislature allowed a statewide permitting rule developed by the Public Service Commission (PSC) to take effect.

Community wind sweeps into western Wisconsin
Two privately owned utility-scale wind turbines are set to rise this spring near Organic Valley Cooperative’s distribution center in Cashton, home of Wisconsin’s first Community Wind project. Called Cashton Greens, the wind project is a joint venture of LaFarge-based Organic Valley and La Crosse-based Gundersen Lutheran Health System.

St. Croix County Wind Project seeks PSC approval
In a first for the Badger State, western Wisconsin, specifically, St. Croix County will provide the backdrop for a high-profile permitting battle over a utility-scale wind energy project. The 41-turbine project would be located in the towns of Forest and Cylon, about 30 miles northeast of Hudson.

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RENEW Cheers End of Wind Siting Impasse

Posted on March 16, 2012. Filed under: Wind |

More information
Michael Vickerman
Director, Program and Policy

RENEW Cheers End of Wind Siting Impasse
Improved Regulatory Climate Will Attract New Projects

Capping a bitter four-year struggle, the Legislature cleared the path for wind energy development to resume in Wisconsin under clear and consistent rules.

By adjourning without passage of bills restricting wind development, the Legislature allowed a statewide permitting rule developed by the Public Service Commission (PSC) to take effect. That rule, which the PSC issued in late 2010 after extensive deliberation and public comment, was suspended by a legislative oversight committee on March 1, 2011.

“During the PSC rule suspension, wind development slowed to a virtual standstill, resulting in the loss of millions of dollars in construction and manufacturing opportunities, as well as a significant revenue hit to landowners and local governments,” said Michael Vickerman, Program and Policy Director of RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide organization advocating for more clean renewable energy.

For 2012, wind energy companies in each of the states surrounding Wisconsin are constructing hundreds of megawatts of new generating capacity, compared with a projected addition of five megawatts here, enough to power only 1,000 houses, according to Vickerman.

“We hope this outcome will end the wind industry’s exodus to greener pastures. As with any other economic sector, the wind industry will flourish in a welcoming environment where the rules of the road are clear and consistently applied. We believe that the long-delayed rule will provide the certainty needed by investors, contractors, local governments, and landowners.”

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GOP bid to block wind power rules fails

Posted on March 8, 2012. Filed under: Wind |

To steal a line from Billy Crystal in The Princess Bride, the bill is mostly dead, but not completely dead. In other words, it’s possible that the bill could again come to the floor for another attempt to pass it, but it’s very, very unlikely.

From a story by Patrick Marley and Lee Bergquist of the Milwuakee Journal Sentinel:

Madison – Rules for the wind industry crafted when Democrats ran state government will likely go into effect after a Republican effort to block them failed Wednesday in the state Senate. . . .

The wind industry rules were written by the Public Service Commission, but Republicans temporarily stopped them from being implemented after they took over the Legislature after the November 2010 elections. To permanently prevent the rules from going into effect, Republicans needed to pass a new bill by next week, when the legislative session ends.

Senate Republicans put forward a bill requiring the PSC to write new wind rules, but they pulled the bill back Wednesday because they didn’t have the votes to pass it. Sen. Frank Lasee (R-De Pere) said there was no way to get the measure passed, leaving the rules written by Democrats to soon go into effect.

Republicans control the Senate 17-16. All the Democrats and Sen. Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) opposed blocking the rules, meaning Republicans were one vote shy of passing their bill.

The wind bill came up short on votes a day after mining legislation failed because Schultz sided with Democrats against that measure.

Schultz said he opposed blocking the wind rules because the wind industry, which has operations in his district, needs certainty after recent years of tumultuous policy-making for wind energy.

“If we send this back (to the PSC), we just further indecision on this,” he said.

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ACTION ALERT! Wisconsin Senate set to vote on overturning wind-siting rule

Posted on March 6, 2012. Filed under: Wind |


The Wisconsin Legislature is scheduled to wrap up its regular session calendar on March 15th. With the end of session approaching, there has been a lot of legislative activity, as lawmakers attempt to push through legislation before time runs out.

Unfortunately, it comes as great concern that Senate leadership has scheduled a full Senate vote on Senate Bill 50 — legislation that would repeal PSC 128, the consensus guidelines for siting wind farms on which the future of wind energy in our state relies.

Also, we have just been informed by Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald’s office that the bill will be scheduled for a floor vote today.

If this bill passes, Wisconsin would immediately lose jobs. It would kill $1.8 billion of potential investment in Wisconsin, translating into millions of lost hours in construction labor as well as manufacturing jobs producing wind turbine components. This comes at a time when Wisconsin was ranked this week as 50 out of 50 states for generating private-sector jobs – that’s right, every other state in the country ranked better at private-sector job generation than Wisconsin, which actually lost jobs during that period.

These wind rules resulted from two years of hard work and compromise. They provide a critical foundation for future wind power development in Wisconsin. If these important rules are repealed, Wisconsin’s future wind projects and industry jobs will be lost. See background information and suggested talking points farther below.

Please call the following Senators’ offices IMMEDIATELY, and tell them to “VOTE NO ON SENATE BILL 50!”

Jon Erpenbach: 1–608-266-6670
Kathleen Vinehout: 1-608-266-8546
Dale Schultz: 1-608-266-0703
Rich Zipperer: 1-608-266-9174
Rob Cowles: 1-608-266-0484
Michael Ellis: 1-608-266-0718

If you have any questions, feel free to contact Don Wichert at 608.255.4044 at RENEW Wisconsin

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Ritger-Preder Wind Turbine Powers Family Farm in Southeastern Wisconsin

Posted on February 16, 2012. Filed under: Energy Finance, Food, Sustainability, Wind |

“Sustainable family farm operation powered by renewable wind energy”
February 16, 2012

The rising cost of oil and fertilizers, coupled with growing concerns over the use of pesticides and hormones, have spurred the growth of sustainable farming operations across the United States.

Jeff and Kathy Preder—owners and operators of the Jeff-Leen Farm in Random Lake, Wisconsin—became part of that movement in the late 1990’s, when they set out “to produce the healthiest food products possible, in a sustainable manner, without the use of growth hormones, antibiotics, or steroids.”

But the Preder’s vision of a sustainable farming operation included more than just low-input food production. With the help of Random Lake attorney and renewable energy champion Ed Ritger, the Preders are now powering their farm with clean, renewable wind energy…Read more here.

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Pierce County wind farm plan still in limbo

Posted on February 11, 2012. Filed under: Wind |

From an article by Jeff Holmquist in the Pierce County Herald:

The future of a proposed wind farm project in St. Croix County remains in doubt, even as progress is being made on an application before the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin.

The $250 million Highland Wind Project was first proposed about four years ago, when Emerging Energies of Wisconsin LLC approached the Town of Forest in northeast St. Croix County about its idea to install about 40 wind turbines on various properties. Studies of wind in the area proved that the region is well suited for the generation of wind energy. Average wind speeds in the town are about 16 to 17 mph, which is sufficient to turn a large turbine and thus generate electricity.

Since completion of the study, the company worked quickly to gain the necessary agreements, easements and approvals.

The project came to a screeching halt, however, when some township residents objected to having the large turbines scattered throughout the municipality. Some claimed the turbines posed a health risk, while others didn’t want the rural atmosphere of Forest to be compromised.

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Great Lakes Wind Can Invigorate Wisconsin’s Economy

Posted on February 8, 2012. Filed under: Wind |

From a news release issued by the Sierra Club:

Madison, WI – Today, decision makers, community members, utilities, developers, and advocacy groups met in Madison for a stakeholder meeting about the promise offshore wind in the Great Lakes.

“Great opportunities await Wisconsin in the form of an incredible natural resource – the winds of Lake Michigan right here on our shores,” explains Mary Ann Christopher, a partner at Michael Best & Friedrich in Milwaukee and member of the Great Lakes Wind Collaborative. “Europe and Asia are leading the way with almost 4,000 MW of off-shore wind in operation and almost 6,000 MW more under construction. Wisconsin can follow suit, bringing jobs, investments, and clean energy home by developing offshore wind in the Great Lakes.”

Experts from both sides of Lake Michigan gathered to discuss how we can responsibly develop offshore wind while reaping economic benefits.

“Offshore wind development in the Great Lakes and off the Atlantic Coast is likely to create jobs in Wisconsin in manufacturing, shipbuilding, boat building, wind farm construction, port operations, and maintenance of offshore wind farms,” noted Bob Owen, an energy consultant from Middleton.

“Wisconsin’s breadth of relevant manufacturing and wind construction expertise is unparalleled in the Great Lakes Region. Wisconsin could be a leader in freshwater offshore wind technology and related employment.”

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Wisconsin lawmakers weary of wind setback issue

Posted on February 7, 2012. Filed under: Energy Policy, Wind |

From an article by Dan Haugen on Midwest Energy News:

Wisconsin’s politically contested wind-turbine siting rules would quietly go back on the books if the state’s legislature doesn’t take up the issue this session.

While it’s premature for wind energy supporters to declare victory, the rules’ opponents appear to have little appetite for reopening the controversy, according to observers.

“This is an issue they don’t want to have anything to do with right now,” says Michael Vickerman, director of Renew Wisconsin, a renewable energy advocacy group. “It’s kind of reached the radioactive phase.”

The first-in-the-nation rules were aimed at streamlining the messy, often shifting patchwork of local setback rules, which govern the distance wind developers need to leave between turbines and adjacent homes. A 2009 law instructed regulators to comes up with a statewide setback policy. After two years of hearings and debate, they issued rules restricting turbines from within 1,250 feet of neighboring residences.

On the day the rules were to take effect last March, however, a Republican-controlled legislative committee voted along party lines to suspend the statewide rules. Gov. Scott Walker instead proposed an 1,800-foot setback from the nearest property line, which the American Wind Energy Association said would essentially shut down the state’s wind industry.

Since then, wind developers have cited regulatory uncertainty in suspending or canceling five major developments totaling $1.6 billion in economic investment. Vickerman says wind energy supporters have successfully highlighted the economic consequences of Walker’s action, which is why party leadership seems to have lost interest in the fight.

“These guys are afraid because the issue has boomeranged on them,” says Vickerman. “Scott Walker does not really want to be known as someone who has killed jobs by basically shutting down the commercial wind industry in Wisconsin, and neither do the legislative leaders.”

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PSC must establish wind energy rules

Posted on February 1, 2012. Filed under: Wind |

From an editorial in the Green Bay Press-Gazette:

A committee wants Brown County to ask the state to pay medical bills for anyone becoming sick because of wind turbines, but we don’t think it’s the county’s place to make such a move.

The human services committee voted last week to seek emergency aid for families near the Shirley Wind Farm in the town of Glenmore, blaming the state for allowing what supervisors said was “irresponsible placement” of wind turbines. Several people testified to the committee that they or their neighbors have experienced conditions such as anxiety, depression and weight loss and fear they have been exposed to a greater cancer risk.

We feel for local residents who believe their health has been compromised by wind turbines. But until the state establishes setback rules and other regulations governing wind turbines, the county’s effort in this case is futile. . . .

If county supervisors want to make recommendations on setback limits or other issues involving wind turbines, they should do that and forward their opinions to the state. But a resolution seeking compensation for medical bills comes with the assumption that the wind turbines caused the problems in Glenmore. That’s a conclusion that hasn’t been determined.

Brown County has been a focus area for wind energy companies in recent years. The landscape is conducive to the placement of turbines because the topography helps produce a steady wind flow. An advocacy group — Brown County Citizens for Responsible Wind Energy — has lobbied for greater setback distances, saying turbines too close to residences and schools pose potential health problems.

The opposition led Illinois-based Invenergy Inc. to withdraw its plans to build a 100-turbine wind farm in the towns of Morrison and Glenmore.

The wind energy industry cites, with good reason, the fact that wind turbines provide a useful and necessary energy source. They also provide financial compensation for land owners who agree to have wind turbines erected on their property.

Still, some opponents say the negatives outweigh the benefits. Some have also claimed the turbines lower property values.

The responsibility for establishing wind energy rules rests with the Public Service Commission. A legislative committee suspended the PSC’s proposed turbine siting rules 11 months ago and instructed the state agency to work on a compromise that would be acceptable to both sides. PSC spokeswoman Kristin Ruesch told the Green Bay Press-Gazette Monday that no such compromise has been reached. She also said she doesn’t think the issue of medical bill payments has been part of the discussions.

We urge the PSC to accelerate the discussions to reach a compromise that will be acceptable to both sides and the state Legislature.

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Years later, Wisconsin wind farm fears fail to materialize

Posted on December 22, 2011. Filed under: Wind |

From an article by Rick Chamberlin in Midwest Energy News:

LINCOLN TOWNSHIP, Wis. — When the 31 Vestas wind turbines in northeast Kewaunee County, Wisconsin began producing electricity in the summer of 1999, a moderate Republican named Tommy Thompson was a few months into his fourth term as governor. Relative peace reigned between the parties in the legislature, statewide unemployment was at a record low and the Dow had just topped 10,000 for the first time.

But in Lincoln and Red River townships, where the turbines were erected, the climate was anything but mild. Residents’ tempers had been flaring since before April 1998 when Madison Gas & Electric (MGE) hosted the first meetings in the community about its plans to build 11.2 megawatts of wind power in the area. Wisconsin Public Service (WPS), a Green Bay-based utility, had also announced its intention to build a large-scale wind farm in the area.

Despite the heat, the two utilities found more than enough landowners in the two towns willing to host all 31 turbines, and the town boards soon voted to approve conditional use permits for the projects. But pressure from several vocal landowners convinced the Lincoln town board in February of 1999 to amend its zoning ordinance to require board affirmation of all applications for future conditional use permits. A few months later, both townships adopted 18-month moratoriums on future wind farm sitings.

“We had some real knock-down-drag-outs,” said Mick Sagrillo, who chaired a committee charged with evaluating the impact of the projects on residents and proposing any changes to the permit process. More than anything, Sagrillo said, people feared change. . . .

A 2003 study by the Renewable Energy Policy Project (REPP) found “no significant evidence that the presence of the wind farms had a negative effect on residential property values” in the communities closest to the Kewaunee County turbines. . . .

When asked if dollars promised to landowners and the townships have materialized, Jerabek said, “I haven’t had any landowners complain that they haven’t received their lease payment.”

An excellent video tells the same story.

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