A news release issued by Advocates for Renewable Energy, a coalition which includes RENEW Wisconsin:

For Immediate Release
April 6, 2010

For More Information Contact:
Shaina Kilcoyne: (608) 310-3338

As the article below chronicles, Wave Wind LLC, a Dane County-based wind services company, is ready to build a six-turbine, 10-megawatt project in western Dane County and sell the electricity to the local utility, Madison Gas & Electric (MGE). All the necessary permits have been issued and the turbines are set to be delivered in June.

Unfortunately, Wave Wind cannot find a buyer for the project’s output. MGE contends that it does not need new supplies of renewable electricity until after 2020. Moreover, wholesale power prices are at historic lows, and the standard buyback rate available to third-party power producers like Wave Wind is not sufficient to make the project economically viable. As Wave Wind president Tim Laughlin put it, the standard rate “won’t even allow us to put a shovel in the ground.”

The upshot? Wave Wind will likely install those turbines in another state. Should that happen, most, if not all, of the jobs and business opportunities created by the construction and operation of this facility will follow the turbines to the state in which they are installed. Wisconsin’s loss will be a gain for Iowa or New Mexico.

This is not an isolated phenomenon, nor is it limited to wind energy. Dairy operations and food processors looking to recover energy from their organic wastes also find it difficult to justify investments in biodigesters, even with Focus on Energy incentives. A policy solution is clearly needed to bridge the difference between the production costs of small-scale renewable energy systems and the cost of operating 40-year-old coal plants that have been fully amortized. Neighboring Minnesota now has nearly 500 megawatts of community wind due to a statute that encourages it. Such projects have a very minor impact on overall electric rates. Within the Clean Energy Jobs Act, Wisconsin has the opportunity to promote small-scale renewable energy projects as well.

Two provisions in the Clean Energy Jobs Act are tailored to help producers of locally available renewable energy overcome the economic barriers cited above:

+ A 10% in-state renewable energy set-aside by 2025. This provision would more than double the output from existing renewable generating units in Wisconsin.
+ Incentives and other provisions targeted for smaller renewable generating facilities. These provisions would encourage small-scale, community-based renewable projects throughout the state.

Developing a truly sustainable platform to support Wisconsin’s economic future requires a commitment to local energy sources like wind, organic wastes, wood, solar, and small-scale hydro. Passing the Clean Energy Jobs Act will make it easier to attract and retain the private sector enterprises that drive job growth as well as strengthen rural economies.