Opinion: Wisconsin should embrace wind energy

Source: By MARK REDSTEN May 18, 2013, Milwaukee Journal Sentinal • Posted: Monday, May 20, 2013

Roadblocks to wind power harm the economy and the environment

Over the past few years, Wisconsin’s wind industry has faced an unreasonable number of obstacles, more than any other form of energy production, nearly grinding the job- and energy-creating potential of this critical sector to a halt. If Wisconsin is going to move its economy forward, it needs to stop pushing back and open the door to clean, renewable wind energy.

Fortunately, the door has started to creak open.

On April 29, the Brown County Circuit Court dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Wisconsin Realtors Association that claimed the state’s wind siting rule, PSC 128, was improperly enacted. The judge disagreed and ruled that the Public Service Commission lawfully enacted a balanced and comprehensive wind siting rule.

Two days later, the PSC reopened the Highland Wind case, just two months after initially denying the application to build the 102.5-megawatt facility, which would create an estimated 100 jobs in St. Croix County and generate enough clean energy to power 29,000 homes.

Given all the challenges and hurdles in recent years, it’s no surprise that few wind companies believe the state’s “Open for Business” mantra. In 2011, a legislative committee voted on party lines to suspend the state’s bipartisan wind siting rule that set reasonable, uniform statewide standards. By the time the rule was reinstated a year later, the fallout of that suspension was measurable: five projects were ultimately suspended or canceled around the state, taking hundreds of jobs that would have been created in and for Wisconsin to Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa and elsewhere.

In addition to the February denial of the Highland Wind project, a few state legislators have pulled out the stops in recent months, making false accusations about wind energy and wind advocates, and introducing bills that would make it impossible to build wind farms in Wisconsin if passed.

If we want to create jobs, keep money circulating in our state economy, and protect our environment and our residents, it’s time to stop manufacturing barriers to clean, renewable wind energy.

Wind is the second-fastest growing industry in the nation, and by blocking Wisconsin’s participation in the clean energy economy, we are losing valuable jobs to our Midwestern neighbors and beyond. Each year, we send over $12 billion of our own money out of state to import electricity and dirty fossil fuels. And we are making our friends and family sick. For instance, in Wisconsin alone, nearly one in 10 children suffers from asthma, which is worsened by coal power plant pollution.

Wisconsin residents overwhelmingly support wind energy; in fact, a January 2012 poll conducted by a bipartisan research team found that 85% of Wisconsin voters would like to increase the use of wind power to meet our state’s future energy needs. Now that the court has upheld Wisconsin’s sensible statewide wind siting rules and Highland is back in play, let’s continue to open the door to clean energy. The future is now, and renewable, reliable wind energy will help power a healthy, clean future for Wisconsin.

Mark Redsten is the executive director of Clean Wisconsin.