Energy Policy and Wisconsin
There are many cases where people living near large turbines have claimed to have suffered negative health effects due to their continuous operation. ...This week there was a small bit of hopeful news for those opposed to the wind farm concept when State Sen. Frank Lasee (R-DePere) suggested that the PUC adjust its rules and move future turbines further away from homes. He also suggests the state take a closer look the possible health impact of wind farms.
Two families whom I represent have moved out of their homes because of illnesses they felt after eight wind turbines were built nearby; others want to move but can't afford to. A Fond du Lac family abandoned their $300,000 remodeled farm house because their 16-year-old daughter developed intestinal lesions and was hospitalized for them. After they moved away, she recovered.
It's true that wind turbine critics wanted a farther setback -- one figure that gets thrown around is a 2-kilometer setback, or more than 6,000 feet. But that the PSC's figure is less than critics wanted and more than developers proves nothing about the process that produced the PSC's rule.
Was, in fact, the process fair?
The tide of public anger is rising, as rural people lose trust in the agencies charged with their protection. Can those responsible for protecting us live with the damaged health and ruined lives that will be the consequences of their failure to conduct the studies necessary to find the truth?
Regulating small wind farms in Wisconsin often is akin to holding a jury trial without a judge.
Wind farm developers and municipalities argue their respective cases without anyone to referee the inevitable disputes that arise. That soon could change. ...Now it's up to the PSC to develop rules that are fair to everyone. Developers and local communities ultimately will be the judges of that.
This series of letters appearing in the Wisconsin State Journal provide important insights into how Wisconsin residents feel wind energy facilities in their communities and the State's efforts to assume authority over all siting of wind farms.
Underlying all of those concerns is the question of whether wind power is a long-term energy alternative that can survive without taxpayer subsidies.
"The biggest problem is the unreliability," said Ben Lieberman, a senior energy and environment policy analyst with The Heritage Foundation. "With wind power, you just don't know when the wind will be blowing."
Importantly, Lieberman noted, it's on the hottest days--the time of greatest energy demand--when wind power is most likely to fail.
the Calumet County Board has very limited authority under Wisconsin law to restrict wind towers. Wisconsin Statute 66.0401 states in part: No county may place any restriction, either directly or in effect, on the installation or use of a wind energy system, unless the restriction satisfies one of the following conditions: a) Serves to preserve or protect the public health or safety; (b) Does not significantly increase the cost of the system or significantly decrease its efficiency; or (c) Allows for an alternative system of comparable cost and efficiency.
Since this law was enacted in the early 1980s, there has not been one recorded case where a municipality was successful in banning wind towers outright.
Did you know that there's enough wind energy every day across the planet to power all human needs? Ditto for solar energy.
Knowing that I know this, what I say next may seem illogical: Wind and solar energy are not viable energy alternatives to power our country and likely never will be.
That pretty much leaves energy conservation as the only option everyone can agree on, and the challenge won't be resolved simply by building more energy-efficient devices and turning off the lights in rooms we're not using.
Either the "green" movement needs to lighten up on alternatives to fossil fuel or get used to the idea that we're going to be burning a lot of coal and natural gas for the long haul.
Decisions on electricity needs challenge all of us to use the best reasoning skills we have to solve real problems. The issues are many, and the evaluations of them are complex.