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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Walker's windbreak

From an editorial in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Gov. Scott Walker's proposal on wind turbine setback requirements would kill jobs and hurt the state's renewable energy portfolio. The Legislature should reject it.

If Gov. Scott Walker is serious about creating jobs in Wisconsin - and we believe he is - he should not turn his back on job-creation opportunities that are available in green industries. Yet he seems to be doing exactly that, a primary example of which is proposed regulation that could effectively kill wind energy production in Wisconsin.

Walker's proposal would require an 1,800-foot setback for wind turbines from nearby properties. Wind farm developers and supporters say that such a requirement would kill or severely curtail 10 of the 12 wind projects underway or proposed. That means a loss in jobs; it also means a significant reduction in the amount of renewable energy that would be available to the state in coming years.

Given the reality of climate change and likely new regulations that will be needed to mitigate the human factor in climate change, reducing renewable energy alternatives is a very bad idea.

Walker's proposal also overturns the good work of an advisory committee and the state Public Service Commission that spent the past two years coming up with a less restrictive setback requirement of 1,250 feet for large turbines. As Keith Reopelle of Clean Wisconsin noted in an op-ed on Wednesday, the PSC held six rounds of public comments and received input from all the major stakeholders.

Some of those stakeholders may have been unhappy with the consensus that was reached, but the result was a reasonable compromise after an open process. To throw that all out and replace the PSC rule with the most restrictive statewide setback regulations in the country would be a mistake.

Walker seems to be reacting to a fear that wind turbines lower property values and limit development. But a 2009 study by the Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found no evidence "that home prices surrounding wind facilities are consistently, measurably and significantly affected by either the view of wind facilities or the distance of the home to those facilities."

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