The head of a wind industry trade group and a lobbyist for the Wisconsin Realtors Association squared off over Gov. Scott Walker’s wind farm siting proposals.
Denise Bode, chief executive of the American Wind Energy Association weighed in Friday on Wisconsin’s proposed wind-siting rule, calling it “the biggest barrier” to wind development in the country.
“This will be the biggest regulatory barrier in terms of setbacks in the country,” said Denise Bode, chief executive of the AWEA, based in Washington, D.C., in an interview Friday afternoon. “You’re adding a new regulator barrier and putting a ‘closed for business’ sign on Wisconsin for wind development.”
A restrictive environment for wind development will create a chilling effect for companies that manufacture parts for wind turbines to want to open plants in the state, following the lead of firms like TowerTech in Manitowoc and Ingeteam, which is building a factory in the Menomonee River Valley.
Many states have no setback requirements, deferring to local units of government. Of those that do, none has a setback as far as Wisconsin’s proposal, Bode said.
But Tom Larson, chief lobbyist for the Wisconsin Realtors Association, said the proposal is a strong defense for property rights.
“We think that with this bill Wisconsin would be the only state in the country to have an adequate setback for property owners,” said Larson.
He called the rule adopted by the Public Service Commission “the poster child for Scott Walker’s regulatory reform on how administrative rules are made,” noting that the rule was enacted by an agency and not elected government officials.
Developing wind farms in Wisconsin has generated more controversy than in some other states in part because its areas most suitable for wind turbines are more densely populated than rural expanses of Iowa, Minnesota and the Dakotas that host wind projects.
Opposition to wind farms led some counties to enact wind power moratoriums and other restrictive rules. The patchwork of local rules stalled projects, prompting the state Legislature to pass legislation to set a statewide standard.
Bode said the industry wasn’t pleased with – but could live with – the standard that was adopted by the Public Service Commission last year, Bode said.
Dan Ebert, who chairs the state’s wind siting advisory council, said the end result wasn’t perfect, but it did a better job at balancing the competing interests with this issue.
“We shouldn’t have the Realtors Association dictating energy policy in this state,” he said.
The proposed rule is more aggressive than the PSC rule because it would cover large utility-scale wind farm as well as smaller wind farms, said Ebert, a senior vice president with WPPI Energy in Sun Prairie.
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