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Wisconsin sees spike in interest in wind energy production

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin is seeing growing interest in wind energy as production costs decline and utilities look toward renewable energy.

Michael Vickerman, policy director for clean energy nonprofit RENEW Wisconsin, told Wisconsin Public Radio that three wind projects are being considered in the state’s southwestern region.

“Those three prospects account for about more than 300 megawatts of wind generation,” Vickerman said. “To put that in perspective, that’s about 40% of what’s operating today in the state of Wisconsin.”

The state currently produces about 737 megawatts of wind, which accounts for 3% of electricity generated in Wisconsin.

PRC Wind, a Minneapolis-based wind energy company, recently proposed a project to construct 100 megawatts of wind energy in Montfort.

Another wind project proposed by EDF Renewables, an American subsidiary of a French company, has been met with opposition in Green County. The plan would bring 24 wind turbines near the town of Jefferson. Residents have voiced concerns about potential health issues from living next to the turbines.

Many utilities that have pledged to reduce carbon emissions are investing in wind energy, Vickerman said.

“Just about all the electric utilities in Wisconsin now have committed themselves anywhere from 40-100% carbon reduction by a particular date,” he said.

John Hensley, vice president of research and analytics for the American Wind Energy Association, said the cost of wind production has dropped since 2009. Power purchase agreements between a wind project and an electricity buyer remain at low prices, around $20 per megawatt hour or 2 cents per kilowatt hour, Hensley said.

Hensley said another factor driving wind energy demand is “the stable policy environment that we have at the national level with the five-year phase-out of the production tax credit, which is the primary federal incentive for the U.S. wind industry.”

This year is the last to qualify for the credit, he said.

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