Sheboygan Press, April 17, 2009
Wisconsin should move ahead with uniform rules and regulations for siting power-generating wind turbines that could be applied statewide.
State Sen. Jeff Plale of South Milwaukee is circulating a bill to that effect in hopes of getting bipartisan support before it is introduced in the Legislature. A similar plan was proposed late in the last legislative session and was wisely shelved because there wasn’t enough time to fully explore the idea and hold public hearings.
Since this measure will take away some local control that planning and zoning rules would cover, input from local government officials, as well as the public, is critical to coming up with a workable plan.
Current state law gives the Public Service Commission the responsibility for review and approval of large wind power proposals, but smaller projects are left for local governments to decide.
Wind power is not a passing fad. It has to be a part of the solution to weaning the U.S. from fossil fuels. Until the recession hit, wind power generation was among the fastest growing industries in the nation. And, Wisconsin has chosen to be a leader, not a follower in the use of renewable sources of energy. By 2015, the goal is to have 20 percent of the electricity produced in the state come from sources other than coal- or gas-fired power plants.
It would still be best for wind turbine siting decisions to remain solely with local governments.
Neighboring Fond du Lac County is an example where it can work. Leaders in several towns have done a good job of balancing the concerns of neighboring residents with the need for renewable sources of energy in developing regulations on setbacks and noise.
But it is quite apparent that the desire to come up with reasonable rules is not universal. Some towns have written siting rules in such a way to ban wind turbine projects entirely.
There is time to conduct hearings and gather information, and a uniform set of rules on wind turbines will help Wisconsin reach a cleaner energy future sooner, rather than later.