Sheboygan County wind farm: Grothman to introduce bill that would stop wind farm development in state
State Sen. Glenn Grothman said Monday that he plans to introduce a bill in January that would freeze renewable energy requirements for Wisconsin utilities at 2012 levels in an effort to stop wind farm development throughout the state.
The announcement comes as a Hubertus-based developer is looking to build a wind farm in the West Bend Republican’s senate district in southwestern Sheboygan County.
Grothman said the state’s existing renewable energy standard is being met primarily by wind farms, and he claims that wind projects have raised electricity costs, lowered property values and may be causing health problems for residents – claims wind proponents say are untrue and not backed by credible evidence.
“Whenever these things go up, it’s the same thing,” Grothman said, referring to the controversial nature of wind farm developments. “Nobody wants them around. I think very few of the people who push these actually live where wind farms go up.”
Wisconsin’s renewable energy requirement, enacted in 2006, requires 10 percent of the state’s energy to come from renewable resources by 2015. That’s on the low end when compared to nearby states, such as Illinois and Minnesota, which have among the most aggressive renewable standards in the country, requiring 25 percent of all power to come from renewable sources.
Grothman calls Wisconsin’s renewable standard “a mistake” that will trigger additional wind projects, despite their highly controversial nature.
Freezing renewable requirements at current levels would effectively end green energy development in the state and help keep electricity rates lower, according to Grothman.
“I don’t know why we could continue down a path that makes your electricity rates higher,” Grothman said.
Grothman’s bill follows an announcement earlier this summer by EEW Services LLC to build the Windy Acres Wind Farm in the Town of Sherman, which is located in Grothman’s senate district.
The wind farm would be built on 400 acres east of state Highway 57, west of county Highway CC and north of county Highway A. It would consist of four wind turbines that together could generate up to 12 megawatts of electricity, or enough for about 4,000 average residential homes.
EEW officials on Monday declined to comment on Grothman’s bill and how it would potentially impact their project.
However, the EEW wind farm doesn’t appear to be driven by the state’s renewable standard, as it’s located in WE Energies’ service area and the utility is not involved in the project. EEW has previously indicated that they haven’t determined where energy from the project would be sold, though both in-state and outside buyers are being considered.
Officials with RENEW Wisconsin, a Madison-based renewable energy advocacy group, said Grothman’s proposal would be “profoundly detrimental” to the state’s clean energy sector, which has seen substantial investments and job growth in recent years.
“It would send a big message to the wind industry that Wisconsin is not open for renewable energy business,” said Michael Vickerman, program and policy director with RENEW Wisconsin.
Vickerman also accused Grothman of “trading in rumor” when it comes to his claims about the negative impacts of wind energy, saying there’s “not a shred of evidence” showing wind turbines hurt property values. Vickerman also said state health agencies in Massachusetts and Oregon have concluded there’s no evidence that wind turbines cause health problems for residents.
Meanwhile, Vickerman said that wind energy has had a minimal impact on utility bills and that other factors, such as fossil fuel prices, play a much bigger role in driving up electricity prices.
The Town of Sherman wind farm has drawn opposition from residents living nearby, who, shortly after the proposal went public, formed the local opposition group Sheboygan County Communities for Responsible Energy.
Grothman has encouraged town officials to impose bonds and fees and stretch out the approval process as long as possible in hopes that the state Legislature revisits rules that govern wind farm development sometime next year, saying there’s a good chance that such efforts could keep the project from moving forward.
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