Wind for Wisconsin urges legislators to support wind siting reform

DATE: 9/15/2009

The members of Wind for Wisconsin urge you to vote for AB 256 and SB 185 as amended by Substitute Amendment 2.

AB 256 and SB 185 have and deserve bipartisan support. The legislation:
• Increases Wisconsin’s energy independence;
• Reduces our dependence of fossil fuel which is subject to great price volatility;
• Will help create jobs;
• Will strengthen rural economies by giving land owners hosting wind turbines new income from rental payments.

The legislation offers benefits to our economy both for the short and long-term. The Operating Engineers report that construction of WEPCO’s Blue Sky Green Fields project created 400,000 labor hours. Wind projects that are developed in Wisconsin can also rely on the manufacturing capabilities of our state. For instance, Tower Tech in Manitowoc is poised to build the towers for Wisconsin-based wind farms. Passage of this legislation will also signal to national and international wind companies that Wisconsin is open for business.

We urge your support.
*Wind for Wisconsin is a single purpose coalition organized to pass wind siting reform with the financial support of Wind on the Wires and RENEW Wisconsin.

Wind siting reform gains strong bipartisan vote in committee

On a 6-1 vote, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Utilities, Energy, and Rail passes SB185, wind siting reform

Date: August 4, 2009
Contact: Noah Seligman, 608-310-3338

The 7-member Senate Committee on Commerce, Utilities, Energy, and Rail voted 6-1 to advance SB 185 (Assembly companion AB 256), wind siting reform, to the full Senate.

The vote was bipartisan, with four Democrats and two Republicans on the committee voting in favor of the bill.

Wind siting reform has 20 cosponsors in the Assembly and 11 in the Senate, with support from both parties.

A substitute amendment was added on a unanimous vote that would require the PSC to hold two public hearings outside of Dane County as part of its rule-making. The amendment also provided additional wildlife protections, technical changes, and responsible consideration of Smart Growth planning in regulating wind energy projects.

“The bipartisan committee approval demonstrates strong consensus on the need for wind siting reform,” said Curt Pawlisch, spokesman for Wind for Wisconsin. “Wind siting reform will be an engine for economic activity in Wisconsin, attract new investment opportunities, and support current state energy policy.”

Wind for Wisconsin is optimistic that a floor vote in the Senate would garner the same strong bipartisan support demonstrated in committee and among cosponsors.

If It Is Broke Please Fix It; Wisconsin Needs Uniform Siting Standards

Date: July 15, 2009
Contact: Noah Seligman, 608-310-3338

Circuit Court decision affirms problems with wind energy regulatory framework
A Court of Appeals decision today (Ecker Brothers V. Calumet County) ruled that local units of government do not have the power to adopt siting standards of general applicability for wind energy systems. This decision eliminates several restrictive ordinances that purported to regulate wind energy, but merely served to block wind energy development.

“The ruling casts substantial uncertainty about wind energy regulation in Wisconsin. In order for the state to move forward with a balanced approach to renewable energy growth, the legislature must pass uniform siting standards,” said Curt Pawlisch, an attorney for RENEW Wisconsin, one of the sponsoring organizations for the Wind for Wisconsin coalition. “We urge the legislature to act quickly and pass uniform sitting standards when it returns in September.”

SB 185/AB 256 directs the Public Service Commission (PSC) to initiate an administrative rule-making process to establish statewide siting standards for wind energy projects. The PSC is an independent regulatory agency dedicated to serving the public interest. The bill draft requires the PSC to establish an advisory committee of diverse interests to advise the Commission on the rules. AB 256 was vote out of the Assembly Committee on Energy & Utilities on a 10-2 vote last month, and has strong bipartisan support like its Senate companion.

“The Court did more than simply declare Calumet County’s wind ordinance to be unlawful,” said Michael Vickerman, Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin.

“The Court’s decision also stripped away the legal foundation supporting all Wisconsin ordinances that contain blanket restrictions on wind projects. The decision erases unreasonable local ordinances that effectively prohibited any new wind development in this state for projects under 100 MW.

“A commitment to wind energy development will serve as an economic catalyst for Wisconsin, creating jobs in manufacturing, construction, transportation, and operation & maintenance of wind turbines,” Vickerman said. “SB 185/AB 256 makes our state more attractive to manufacturing and other supply chain businesses that create state jobs. By establishing statewide standards for siting small and medium sized wind farms, legislators can provide enduring economic opportunity for Wisconsin,” he said.

Wind Siting Bill Passes Major Legislative Hurdle with Strong Bipartisan Support

Contact: Amber Meyer Smith, Program Director, 608.251.7020 ext. 16, 608.347.6026 (cell)

Madison, Wis. – Wisconsin could soon see greater growth in the promising wind energy industry after the Assembly Committee on Energy and Utilities passed Assembly Bill 256 today, a bipartisan bill that would encourage growth in the clean energy industry by replacing a chaotic patchwork of local regulations with sensible statewide standards for permitting safe wind farms.

“Wind energy holds the potential to address many of the greatest problems facing our state – it can clean our environment and reduce global warming pollution while reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and creating jobs for hard working Wisconsinites,” said Amber Meyer Smith, program director at Clean Wisconsin the state’s largest environmental advocacy organization. “With so much to gain, we’re extremely encouraged that the legislature seems poised to eliminate administrative barriers holding up the development of this promising infant industry.”

As other industries struggled in poor economic times and cut workers, the wind energy industry grew immensely in 2008 – increasing its national workforce by 70 percent to over 85,000 workers. Unfortunately, while wind developers stand ready to invest in Wisconsin’s economy and put Wisconsinites to work building safe wind farms, a complicated system of over-stringent local regulations currently puts our state at a disadvantage to neighboring states, holding up more than an estimated 500 megawatts of wind farm development in the state.

Assembly bill 256 would charge the Wisconsin Public Service Commission with studying and determining safe permitting standards for wind farms, then replacing the current disorganized system that discourages the growth of the wind energy industry with sensible statewide standards.

“In challenging economic times, why not help investors put Wisconsinites to work supplying clean energy to power our homes, schools and businesses?” said Smith. “The Assembly Committee on Energy and Utilities deserves praise for carefully crafting legislation that ensures safe wind farms will be permitted across the state.”

Unlike energy produced from dirty fossil fuels, wind farms developments serve as an investment in Wisconsin’s economy by putting Wisconsinites to work producing clean, renewable energy. With growth of the wind energy industry, Wisconsinites will manufacture wind turbine parts, operate machinery necessary to erect and maintain wind turbines, and build access roads. Wind farms also provide a valuable new source of revenue to farmers who can lease their land to wind farm companies to harvest energy from the sky as farmers continue to cultivate crops from fields below.

“Why send billions of dollars out of state for dirty, polluting fossil fuels when we could invest in our own economy and produce clean energy right here in Wisconsin?” said Smith. “We applaud the representatives on the Assembly Committee on Energy and Utilities for their bipartisan vote today to make Wisconsin a cleaner, better place to live.”

Assembly Bill 256 now moves to the Senate and the full Assembly for a vote. The full Assembly could vote on the measure as early as next week.

Clean Wisconsin, an environmental advocacy organization, protects Wisconsin’s clean water and air and advocates for clean energy by being an effective voice in the state legislature and by holding elected officials and polluters accountable. Founded in 1970 as Wisconsin’s Environmental Decade, Clean Wisconsin exposes corporate polluters, makes sure existing environmental laws are enforced, and educates citizens and businesses. On behalf of its 10,000 members and its coalition partners, Clean Wisconsin protects the special places that make Wisconsin such a wonderful place to live, work and play. Phone: 608-251-7020, Fax: 608-251-1655, Email:, Website:

Wind siting reform and local control

From Wind for Wisconsin:

SB 185/AB 256 would direct the PSC to establish statewide siting standards for wind energy projects. Projects fewer than 100 MW in size would still be reviewed and approved by a local unit of government after the rules are adopted.

+ The status quo is the only approach to wind siting that would leave local control completely unchanged. The status quo has stalled over 600 MW of potential wind projects forfeiting thousands of Wisconsin jobs and millions of investment dollars.
+ The bill draft requires the PSC to establish an advisory committee of diverse interests to advise the Commission on the rules. Representatives from local units of government will be part of that advisory committee.
+ In 2006 the WTA passed a resolution at its annual convention entitled “Uniform Standards for Public Health or Safety of Wind Energy Systems.” The resolution called for uniform standards, and was the impetus for wind siting reform legislation.
+ The bill draft from the previous legislative session was negotiated with the Wisconsin Counties Association and the Wisconsin Towns Association. The WTA was in favor of wind siting reform last session while the WCA was neutral.1 The bill draft for the current legislative session is substantively similar.
+ An amendment from the Wisconsin Realtors Association (supported by Wind for Wisconsin) allows local governments to deny a project application if a project would be sited in an area that has been primarily designated for future residential or commercial development.2
+ Under SB 185/AB 256, local units of government would maintain their central role in the regulatory process for wind energy systems. Applications for wind energy projects under 100 MW in size would still be subject to review and approval at the local level.

Local governments would be responsible for enforcing permit standards. Local governments would maintain control over their roads including restoration requirements and regulating driveway use (access roads).

In the coming weeks, the state Legislature will have a chance to make it easier for clean energy creating wind turbines to proliferate in Wisconsin…Critics likely will charge that the bill is an attack on local control. However, it still lets local governments make wind-siting decisions, and allows those who disagree with them to appeal to the PSC and the courts.3
-Eau Claire Leader-Telegram

1 The WTA has registered in opposition in 2009. The WCA has remained neutral.
2 Maps adopted under s. 66.1001(2)(b) on or before June 1, 2009.