Supporters of renewable energy say a We Energies wind farm now under construction might be the last big wind project built in the state in the near future after a Chicago developer canceled a big project near Green Bay.
We Energies is building the $367 million Glacier Hills Wind Park in Columbia County, northeast of Madison.
On Monday, Invenergy LLC canceled its plan to build a wind farm that would have had 100 turbines, 10 more than We Energies is building at Glacier Hills.
The Ledge Wind Energy Center project south of Green Bay would have generated 150 megawatts of electricity, but was the most controversial wind project proposed in the state, as local residents concerned about noise and shadow flicker from wind turbines mobilized in opposition to the project.
Residents in rural Brown County have been the most outspoken group in the state in support of Gov. Scott Walker’s property rights bill restricting wind farm development, and in opposition to rules developed last year by state energy regulators for where wind farms can be located.
Alissa Krinsky, an Invenergy spokeswoman, said the local opposition to the project wasn’t a factor in the company’s decision.
Instead, the company cited uncertainty in Wisconsin over the rules wind power companies must comply with to obtain project permits.
A legislative committee voted along party lines earlier this month to block a new statewide rule governing locations of wind farms from going into effect. The rule was developed by the state PSC in response to a directive from the state Legislature.
In a letter to the PSC, Invenergy said it could not justify further investments in the project “while substantial uncertainty persists regarding relevant project regulations.”
The company said it would work with industry and state leaders to forge a regulatory environment that’s more conducive to wind development and investment. “At the same time, we’ll increase our development efforts outside Wisconsin, in states that offer more regulatory certainty,” Invenergy said.
The company has also built natural gas-fired power plants in Wisconsin and the Forward Wind Energy Center near the Horicon Marsh three years ago. It has built wind projects in Canada and across the country, including Illinois, Texas and West Virginia.
In Wisconsin, several smaller wind power developments are still expected to go forward this year, including a seven-turbine project also in southern Brown County.
That project received a building permit last week from the Glenmore Town Board, despite protests from wind power opponents.
Other projects expected to be built include small developments in Monroe and Calumet counties, said Michael Vickerman, executive director of the advocacy group Renew Wisconsin.
But large wind projects are expected to remain stalled as the Legislature and Walker administration shift away from the Doyle administration’s support for wind power development.
Vickerman projected that the Ledge Wind project would have provided $600,000 a year in payments to local communities and Brown County. The changing environment surrounding wind energy in Wisconsin is likely to affect companies beyond wind power developers.
At a recent energy conference in Milwaukee, Tom Boldt, chief executive of Boldt Construction, said his firm planned to remain active in wind power development in other states, as prospects for such projects appear to be diminishing in Wisconsin.
Boldt has built several large wind farms and is one of the state contractors hired by We Energies to work on the Glacier Hills development.
Uncertainty about the state’s wind power situation comes as the Legislature and Walker administration may consider bills to relax the state’s renewable electricity mandate.
Under state law passed with bipartisan support more than five years ago, 10% of Wisconsin’s electricity must come from renewable sources – including wind, solar and landfill gas-to-electricity projects – by 2015.
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