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Friday, April 3, 2009

Enact statewide standards for wind turbines

An editorial in The Tomah Journal:

One of these days, the world will no longer have access to fossil fuels. Oil and coal are finite resources, and while they might last well into the 22nd, 23rd or 24th centuries, they will be depleted at some time in our history. And long before they run out, they will become more difficult and expensive to extract. Remember the oil that John McCain wants to get from the Atlantic Coast? Drilling there can’t be sustained until oil hits $60 per barrel and stays there, which translates into at least $2.50 for a gallon of gas.

Renewable energy must replace fossil fuels sometime, and the process may as well start now. Part of the solution is wind energy. Unfortunately, it has proven to be a contentious issue in Wisconsin. It’s almost impossible for a private-property owner to put a wind turbine on his or her property without the threat of a lawsuit. Wind projects in the Monroe County townships of Ridgeville and Wilton have been halted by ordinances that, in effect, outlaw wind-generated power.

Wind power won’t reach its full potential until the state establishes uniform standards for siting wind turbines. Obviously, health and safety concerns must be considered in any legislation. Opponents have legitimate concerns over noise, flicker and ice buildup. However, it’s an unavoidable reality that that energy generation must occur somewhere. Would wind-turbine opponents like an oil refinery in the township? How about a coal-fired power plant? A nuclear power plant? Even solar power creates controversy. A solar developer in California is stymied because he can’t get powerlines built across the desert.

While wind can’t come close to filling our energy needs, it certainly has a role to play in a diversified, renewable energy network. Somehow, we must resolve the tension between a public that wants all the conveniences of modern life but doesn’t want to live anywhere near a facility that makes those conveniences possible. An honest debate over statewide standards for wind turbines would be a good start.

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