By the year 2015, 10% of Wisconsin’s power must come from renewable energy. Windmills are one answer, and not everyone is happy about it.
Eighty-six towering turbines line the sky in Dodge and Fond du Lac counties, just west of Highway 41. It’s part of the Forward Wind Energy Center.
Project manager Mick Baird of Chicago-based Invenergy explains: “You’ve got to have wind, the transmission, you have to have land and public support, and we had all four of those,” Baird says.
Roman Nickel’s land now sprouts windmills, along with soybeans. It’s a sight he never envisioned when he bought the land in 1972.
“I think it is a good thing. With the price of fuel going the way it is, we gotta do something,” Nickel says.
Nickel gets paid for using his land. The wind energy generated there gets sold to four Wisconsin utility companies, and can power up to 50,000 houses a year!
“We look forward to being a part of the renewable energy solution for the state,” Baird says.
Much of the community wanted nothing to do with windmills.
Joe Breaden is the president of the Horicon Marsh Systems Advocates. “The turbines in my estimation are a scar on the landscape, and they’ll be a scar for at least 30 years,” he argues.
His group fought hard against the project. “My main complaint is it’s never been totally researched as to the effects on wildlife,” Breaden explains.
In addition to effects on birds, Breaden is disgusted that these turbines built by private companies are subsidized by the Federal government.
“It’s corporate welfare. The money is given to these companies from the government and it comes out of your pocket,” Breaden warns.
After a 4 year battle, many residents of Fond du Lac and Dodge counties once opposed to the project now find themselves accepting them as part of the natural landscape, but many continue to fight and are concerned about the effects the turbines will have on the local environment. Store clerk Teri Bintzler has seen it all.
“There are still signs up, people have fought it and they don’t want them anymore, but it’s quieted down a little bit,” she says.
It’s a fight that’s far from over….and will likely continue to generate debate as the number of windmills increase. Two other wind farms are in the works in Fond du Lac County, and others are expected to pop up across the state in the next few years.
By the end of the year, Wisconsin will likely have 235 turbines generating power for more than 100,000 homes.
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