May 6, 2011

Alliant won't pursue Green Lake wind farm, takes charge

By Thomas Content of the Journal Sentinel, 5 May 2011

Moves to restrict wind farm development in Wisconsin led a Madison utility to take a $5 million charge, citing the difficulty of being able to build the project in Green Lake and Fond du Lac counties.

“Events arising in the first quarter of 2011 lead us to conclude it would be difficult to effectively use the site for wind development,” said Bill Harvey, Alliant chairman and chief executive, during an investor conference call.

Alliant Energy Corp. had bought development rights to the project several years ago from NextEra Energy Resources, at a time the state was looking to increase its renewable energy targets.

The $5 million charge is in recognition of the fact that it will be much more difficult to build the wind farm given uncertainty in the state’s wind siting requirements, said utility spokesman Steve Schultz.

During his first month in office, Gov. Scott Walker announced a property rights bill that aimed to restrict wind farm development to move turbines farther away from nearby properties. Local groups that have challenged wind farms supported the move, but wind energy developers said it would make it tough to build wind farms in the state.

Walker’s bill is on hold, and the Legislature has moved to suspend a statewide siting standard that the wind developers had said they could live with.

As a result, no statewide standard currently exists, and the Legislature and Public Service Commission are continuing to discuss how to address wind standards.

Uncertainty in the state’s wind siting rules led two developers to cancel wind farm development in the state earlier this year.

Alliant had bought development rights for the Green Lake and Fond du Lac wind farm site several years ago, when Wisconsin and other states were moving toward adopting more aggressive renewable energy targets. A bill to expand the Wisconsin’ use of green power by 2025 died last year.

The project would have supplied about 100 megawatts of electricity, according to Alliant.

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