May 29, 2008

To the Town of Union Plan Commission:

My name is Michael Vickerman, and I am here tonight representing RENEW Wisconsin’s 320 members who support EcoEnergy’s Community Wind initiative. This three-turbine project would supply Evansville Water & Light with a zero-emissions, locally available and renewable source of electricity for a minimum of 20 years. We urge the Town of Union to adopt a reasonable ordinance that would allow the construction of this community-scale project to proceed.

RENEW acknowledges that every energy source presents trade-offs, and wind-generated electricity is no exception. However, if one looks at this project through a broad lens that takes into account gaseous emissions, energy and price security, and economic impacts to local landowners and governments, there’s no question that the benefits of this project far outweigh the detriments. EcoEnergy’s proposal advances a number of public policy objectives in a single stroke. These objectives include:

1) Securing adequate supplies of energy from a sustainable sources;
2) Buffering ratepayers from future electricity surcharges caused by the rising cost of diesel fuel, coal, and natural gas;
3) Reducing air and water emissions from generation sources;
4) Preserving working farms and pasture land;
5) Reducing the flow of capital out of Wisconsin for energy purchases; and
6) Increasing the flow revenues into Wisconsin’s energy-producing communities.

If erected, EcoEnergy’s Community Wind project would diversify Wisconsin Public Power Inc.’s resource mix, which is at present heavily weighted toward the combustion of fossil fuels imported from other states and nations. This overreliance on fossil fuels is the primary reason why energy prices are rising this year. Bear in mind that when the cost of diesel fuel increases by 60% over 12 months, the cost of coal delivered to Wisconsin power plants will go up. And when the price of natural gas shoots up by more 50% since January 1, utilities become motivated to look for energy sources whose price they can lock into. Windpower is one of those few energy sources that can help utilities there.

There is one additional benefit from a Community Wind project that might not be apparent today: electricity for vehicular transport. WPPI, which now has four plug-in hybrid vehicles, is a leading utility advocate for electrified transportation. It now costs the average car owner about $8.00 to buy enough gasoline to drive 50 miles. The amount of electricity it takes to drive 50 miles, some 12 to 13 kilowatt-hours, costs an electric vehicle owner about $1.50. Given the current disparity of costs between electricity and gasoline, it seems to me that the transition to plug-in vehicles is a matter of when, not if. I believe that plug-in vehicles, whether hybrids or all-electrics, will become a common sight on city streets in five years. Why? Because the alternative–to leave things the way they–will become too expensive for the average person. And when these vehicles hit the mass market, their owners will want to fill their batteries with clean, renewable, locally produced energy. Imagine the feeling of security, environmental responsibility and civic pride that Evansville citizens would experience knowing that the electricity that powers their motor vehicles is produced from a wind project that’s visible from town. The EcoEnergy Community Wind project can make that future possible for Evansville and the surrounding area, if you let it.

Michael Vickerman
509 Elmside Blvd.
Madison, WI 53704