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Wisconsin eyes wind import possibilities

Construction workers with Sanderfoot Wind Corp., Appleton, pour concrete for the base of a wind tower in the Alliant Energy Cedar Ridge Wind Farm project east of Eden in this Oct. 25, 2007, file photo. Wisconsin Power & Light Co. is proposing a wind farm for Freeborn County, Minn., that would generate energy for Alliant’s Wisconsin customers.  AP photo by The Reporter, Justin Connaher

Construction workers with Sanderfoot Wind Corp., Appleton, pour concrete for the base of a wind tower in the Alliant Energy Cedar Ridge Wind Farm project east of Eden in this Oct. 25, 2007, file photo. Wisconsin Power & Light Co. is proposing a wind farm for Freeborn County, Minn., that would generate energy for Alliant’s Wisconsin customers. AP photo by The Reporter, Justin Connaher

Paul Snyder
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There is no guarantee a wind farm construction boom will follow if Wisconsin establishes statewide standards for where such developments can be built.

“There’s still interest in Wisconsin,” said Robert Vosberg, senior vice president of engineering and asset management with St. Louis-based Wind Capital Group LLC. “But Minnesota is a better choice. There are a lot more rural areas and better wind speeds.”

Wisconsin utilities are on the clock to generate 10 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2015, and much of the state’s renewable power could ultimately blow in from the west.

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin on Wednesday held a public hearing for Wisconsin Power & Light Co.’s application to build a 200-megawatt wind farm in Freeborn County, Minn. The project, which also is moving through the Minnesota Public Utility Commission’s approval process, would generate power for Alliant Energy Corp. customers in Wisconsin.

With resources available beyond state borders and Alliant employees testifying Wednesday the company projects diminishing opportunities for new generation, opponents could argue more wind turbines in Wisconsin are unnecessary, said Lynda Barry-Kawula, co-founder of the renewable energy group Better Plan Wisconsin.

But she said that argument might not hold.

“I wish it made a difference,” Barry-Kawula said. “But even if we do import wind power from Minnesota or Iowa, (developers) will still try here.”

Barry-Kawula said she opposes a bill that would give the PSC final say on where wind farm proposals, of any size, can be built. State Sen. Jeff Plale, D-South Milwaukee; and state Reps. Jim Soletski, D-Green Bay, and Phil Montgomery, R-Ashwaubenon, introduced the bill Thursday.

Right now, the commission only reviews projects that would generate 100 megawatts or more.

“The public doesn’t quite understand that the fight doesn’t have to do with actual generation,” Barry-Kawula said. “Whether or not it produces the amount of energy the state needs, it’s still profitable for developers to put them up.”

Kevin Brady, a spokesman for Plale, said there is a major business factor driving the wind farm bill.

“I think we need to give utilities the incentive to invest in Wisconsin,” he said. “There’s over 600 megawatts of power that have been held off because of local wind ordinances.

“If we’re closing our borders to economic development, that’s a big mistake.”

Vosburg said although developers see potential in the state, utilities hustling to meet their 10 percent goal are more likely to look elsewhere in the immediate future.

“In trying to determine what’s most favorable for Wisconsin,” he said, “some of that power has to come in from Minnesota.”

But that does not mean the state should give up on its own resources, Brady said.

“We’re not North Dakota or Minnesota or Iowa,” he said. “We might not be a top destination, but I think when developers are looking at that next tier, we can be right there.”

2 comments

  1. In this wind story no mention is given to safe set backs from homes and the numerous and horrible health affects created by the industrial wind turbines being placed way to close to homes. I live in the Invenergy wind project in Fond du Lac County so I know as an affected resident the serious side affects of living in a wind project. The talk of renewable portfolio standards: Reduce them or eliminate them. The legislature created them in haste. These standards are impractical and unattainable. Instead of pushing through senator Plale’s bill there needs to be a moratorium on wind projects until all the health and safety concerns are researched and eliminated by safe set backs and sound levels. Wind energy is extremely inefficient and expensive. One of the major complaints of wind project residents is sleep deprivation. For the Guatominal Bay prisoners sleep deprivation is torture. Why is this torture allowed to be administered to wind project residents? The PSC approved this project and the Johnsburg, Blue Sky project. They were allowed to stick these industrial wind turbines up our hind ends. Now Senator Plale wants more state residents to feel the same pain by giving the PSC total control of wind project siting. This bill needs to be defeated.

  2. I can’t believe anyone actually buys the stuff you’re shovelling out, Mr. Meyer. If there was half-a-truth to your claims and you could prove, you could walk into any local court in your area and force the wind farm you’re complaining about down in about 30 minutes. My bet is that you wanted to benefit financially from the project, and wasn’t allowed to… or, maybe even more simply, you don’t like that your neighbors are making money on something you have to look at. There simply are *no* credible reports of *any* health and safety concerns with wind energy. I live in Minnesota where we have hundreds of turbines, and I think they are just beautiful.

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