Articles filed under Energy Policy from Wisconsin
State regulators want to study what it would take to implant giant wind turbines in Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, a move that might someday lead to new power for Wisconsin but cost millions of dollars and transform serene lake views. The three-member Public Service Commission voted unanimously Thursday to begin assessing whether the concept can be executed, the power it could generate, the costs and public sentiment. "There's enough unanswered questions that it's a matter of public policy. We should explore it," said Eric Callisto, commission Chairman Dan Ebert's executive assistant. "The economics have to dictate this makes sense. But right now we're in something of an information vacuum."
State regulators want to study what it would take to implant giant wind turbines in Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, a move that might someday lead to new power for Wisconsin but cost millions of dollars and transform serene lake views. The three-member Public Service Commission voted unanimously Thursday to begin assessing whether the concept can be executed, the power it could generate, the costs and public sentiment. "There's enough unanswered questions that it's a matter of public policy. We should explore it," said Eric Callisto, commission Chairman Dan Ebert's executive assistant. "The economics have to dictate this makes sense. But right now, we're in something of an information vacuum."
Calumet County Board supervisors approved changes to the county's wind ordinance when they met last Tuesday, March 18. Among the biggest changes to Chapter 79 of the county's ordinances is boosting the setback distance for wind turbines from the existing 1,000 feet to 1,800 feet. Public participation at the meeting included residents from the New Holstein area speaking to the 1,800-foot setback requirement. Speakers said they felt citizens surrounding the farm property no longer had a voice. Implications of not passing the ordinance will have self evident effects," one speaker said. The construction of wind turbines was described as "the most contentious issue" this county has faced in years.
It can fight all it wants, but Calumet County will get a wind farm, said Peter Dorn. "It's just a matter of time," said Dorn, a member of the county's Planning, Zoning and Farmland Preservation Committee. "Any time the state government steps in and recognizes its dealing with a big industry, local control is going to end." The state recognized it with wind farms, and even though legislation to establish statewide standards for approving wind farm development failed to survive the State Senate last week, Dorn said he knows it will be back when the new legislative session starts in January. "It just delayed it a year," he said. "That's all."
A wind energy firm planning to develop turbine fields in Calumet County says it is no longer going through local regulation to get the project approved. Instead, Curt Bjulin, Wisconsin project manager for EcoEnergy, said his firm is seeking approval from the state Public Service Commission for the project in the towns of Chilton and Rantoul. This is the latest salvo in a battle that's gone on for nearly two years between wind farm developers and Calumet County residents who fear the effects dozens of 400-foot turbines will have on neighbors' lives and health.
Legislation that would have given the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin exclusive jurisdiction over the siting of wind energy turbines died in the state Senate on Wednesday. "We voted and there was an amendment to have a citizens' review committee, much like the farm siting bill," Sen. Alan Lasee, R-Rockland, said. Because of the proposed amendment, Lasee said the proposal -- in the form of Senate Bill 544 -- bill was sent back to committee, effectively killing it for this year. ...A wind energy firm planning to develop turbine fields in the town of Chilton and Rantoul in Calumet County has decided to no longer go through local regulation to get the project approved. Curt Bjulin, Wisconsin project manager for EcoEnergy LLC, said his firm is now going through the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin to get the project approval.
Town of Union wind study committee chair Tom Alisankus said he thinks legislators heard citizens' calls to take a longer look at the issue. "People were actually no longer just listening to what was being told to them by the wind energy proponents," he said. "They were actually looking at things like the research we did, the actual facts that have been surfaced." Vinehout said it's time to bring the sponsors of the bill and its opponents together to revise the bill and develop a good policy and political decision.
The bill was effectively killed Wednesday when it was referred back to a scheduling committee. A spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker, D-Weston, said there were no plans to bring it to the floor today, the last day of the Legislature 's regularly scheduled session. Opponents said they wanted to include local governments and other groups more directly in writing the new state rules. Wind farms being proposed around the state include a plan to put six turbines in the town of Springfield in northwestern Dane County. The key dispute over the proposal -- by Sen. Jeff Plale, D-Milwaukee, and Rep. Phil Montgomery, R-Ashwaubenon -- is how far wind farms should have to be set back from surrounding homes to protect property owners from
The state Legislature is considering two bills aimed at standardizing wind power regulation by ordering Wisconsin Public Service Commission officials to approve statewide rules for turbine sites. The bills also would prohibit local governments from creating more restrictive ordinances. "It just seems like we're writing the PSC a blank check," Barry-Kawula said. "It seems to me like there wouldn't be any harm done to just slow it down." Assembly and Senate versions of the bill were introduced at the end of February, and each had a public hearing last week. The Senate Committee on Commerce, Utilities and Rail approved the bill Friday, two days after its hearing.
The state Senate this week could take up a bill establishing statewide guidelines for wind farms, but it'll take a strong gust to get it to the governor's desk by Friday. The Senate Committee on Commerce, Utilities and Rail passed the bill with a 4-3 vote Friday, following a long and contentious hearing Wednesday that prevented the committee from taking action. With the legislative session ending Friday, the wind farm bill is running out of time. The bill stipulates that any local regulations of wind farms be consistent with rules established by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin.
Wind farm legislation sailing through the Legislature lost its breeze this week. ...Opponents object to giving control of that standard to the PSC. "This bill will preempt all local control over building wind farms," said Glenn Stoddard, an attorney and partner in Cwest, a group formed to help preserve local control over wind farm approvals. "Even though it says local governments still can make the final decision in the matter, that decision is still directed by the PSC." Stoddard added that the wind energy bill isn't needed, because the PSC has to approve any project that generates more than 100 megawatts of energy. "These companies that build the farms just want a green light and a blank check," he said. "This bill is just something that was compromised in the back room."
Michael Vickerman, Executive Director at Renew Wisconsin, said, "Small wind farm proposals currently are forced to wade through a quagmire of overly restrictive local ordinances during the zoning and permitting stages of the projects. Many of these local ordinances were designed by small groups of wind opponents to specifically prevent the construction of turbines in the area. This bill puts smaller wind developments on a fair track for consideration and approval.
Responding to counties and towns that are restricting development of small wind farms, one lawmaker plans to introduce a bill that would call for similar standards to be enacted for wind turbines across Wisconsin. The proposed bill was among the initiatives recommended by the state's Task Force on Global Warming. ... Local ordinances that restrict wind power could make it harder to reach the goal, required by state law, for Wisconsin to generate 10% of its power from renewable energy by 2015, the task force said.
The push has both environmental and economic ramifications because politicians and the business community are hopeful that the state can exploit home-grown technology and the use of biofuels such as those that could be produced by the state's paper- and wood-product industry. But tackling climate change while balancing competing agendas will be daunting. Environmentalists on the 29-member panel fear Doyle won't go far enough, while representatives of business worry a shift away from energy sources such as coal will lead to higher electric prices.
State Rep. John LeMahieu, R-Cascade, told the Assembly Energy and Utilities Committee that town board members take "a lot of grief" from the public when they approve wind farms. He cited the recall election held Tuesday involving a Calumet County board supervisor who favored a wind farm project. "Unless the towns approve them, we won't have wind farms in this state. They're certainly not going up in the city of Fond du Lac," he said. Under LeMahieu's bill, $208,000 in utility aid payments would be shifted this year from Fond du Lac County to the towns in which Cedar Ridge, Forward Energy and Blue Skies Green Fields are located.
A moratorium on construction of industrial wind turbines continues in Calumet County. On Jan. 15, the county board approved a 70-day moratorium, the third one enacted since the board began studying the issue in 2003. Wind turbines have become a contentious issue between wind-energy companies and farmers in support, and other farmers and county residents in opposition. A news release from RENEW Wisconsin states the moratorium in Calumet County and restrictive ordinances in Manitowoc County have halted four wind projects totaling 200 megawatts, enough to power 60,000 homes.
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.
WPSC joins several other utilities that have already sought rate hikes to recover costs for anticipated increases in fuel prices. They include Wisconsin Power and Light, We Energies, WI Gas and Northern States Power. The greatest increase is being sought by We Energies, which is asking for electric rate hikes of about 7.5 percent for 2008 and 7.5 percent for 2009. The company says the money is needed to help pay for its investments in the Blue Sky Green Field wind project in eastern Wisconsin, significant air quality control equipment at the company's existing power plants, new electric generating units at Port Washington and Oak Creek, and construction of transmission upgrades and additions by the American Transmission Co.
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.