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Friday, June 12, 2009

Unnecessary obstacles

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, June 12, 2009
The single biggest constraint on increasing wind generation of electricity in Wisconsin is the permitting process, according to Clean, Responsible Energy for Wisconsin's Economy, a group working on implementing the recommendations of the Governor's Task Force on Global Warming. And one of the biggest problems in the permitting process is local opposition to wind farms.

CREWE has said that over 600 megawatts of planned wind developments are stalled across Wisconsin "due to midstream changes in regulations and procedures." The Journal Sentinel's Thomas Content pointed out in an article on Monday that more than a dozen wind projects around the state have been slowed by local opposition.

That can't continue. What's needed, as CREWE officials argue, is regulatory reform and, specifically, uniform siting standards for all wind farms that would be built in the state. Such legislation has been introduced. It deserves adoption by the Legislature.

A report released Monday by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs said that cutting carbon dioxide emissions won't be cheap, but delaying action on addressing global warming will be worse, both for the environment and the Midwest economy, according to another article by Content. The group is urging that the Midwest turn the challenge of energy and climate change into a competitive advantage and says enactment of greenhouse gas regulations is "essential to the Midwest's future prosperity and competitiveness."

A recent study has preliminarily concluded that winds may be slowing in parts of the country because of global warming. However, the findings are still speculative, and those changes appear to be less in states bordering the Great Lakes. Wind power, we're confident, still can play a key part in a balanced energy mix and help to develop the green economy in Wisconsin and create new jobs.

Wisconsin has made significant progress on wind energy, but wind power still accounts for only about 5% of the power supply. That needs to be improved. Transportation difficulties, budget cuts and competition from other states are also obstacles to that improvement, and each needs to be dealt with.

But Wisconsin can improve its position, and the first step is approving uniform wind siting regulations for the state. Local officials and residents should still have a say, and not every project deserves approval. Some sites are clearly better than others. But the best way to deal with developing new sites is to have a uniform wind siting standard on which developers and energy companies can rely.

Wisconsin can do great things with wind and other alternative sources of energy. The time to start is now.

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