Statement by Michael Vickerman, Executive Director, RENEW Wisconsin, on Public Service Commission approval of the Bent Tree Windpower Plant:
The Public Service Commission today cleared the way for Alliant Energy’s Wisconsin utility to construct a 200 MW windpower plant project in southern Minnesota. Once operational, the Bent Tree project will be a productive source of renewable energy that will provide lasting benefits to Minnesota’s economy and environment. Since it will be Alliant’s Wisconsin customers who foot the bill, however, it is reasonable to inquire whether the current utility practice of outsourcing renewable energy production to other states is a good thing for Wisconsin’s economy.
It is true that windpower projects in Iowa and Minnesota are lower-cost sources of electricity than those in Wisconsin. However, when a Wisconsin utility locates a renewable energy project in another state, Wisconsin loses the economic boost from building and operating that project—construction and maintenance jobs, component manufacturing, tax receipts to local governments, landowner payments, etc.
In a weakening economy, we should question the wisdom of outsourcing renewable energy production to other states. A Bent Tree-sized facility in Wisconsin would generate $800,000 a year in local government revenues and about $700,000 a year in lease payments to landowners. It would also create hundreds of jobs for operating engineers, ironworkers, electricians, specialty haulers, and wind energy technicians. Is cheaper electricity from distant sources a reasonable trade-off for lost employment opportunities and revenues to state and local governments? RENEW does not believe so.
Legislative approval of state-wide uniform siting standards for wind energy projects would certainly help reduce the regulatory risks involved in utility development of projects in Wisconsin.