Statement of RENEW Wisconsin before the Government Operations, Public Works and Telecommunications Committee in Opposition to Senate Bill 71
March 13, 2013
Good afternoon, my name is Michael Vickerman, and I am submitting testimony today on behalf of RENEW Wisconsin, a nonprofit advocacy and education organization based in Madison.
Incorporated in 1991, RENEW acts as a catalyst to advance a sustainable energy future through public policy and private sector initiatives. We have over 250 total members, and more than 100 businesses around the state, including Bleu Mont Dairy (Mount Horeb), Crave Brothers Farm (Waterloo), Convergence Energy (Lake Geneva), Current Electric (Brookfield), DVO, Inc. (Chilton), Emerging Energies (Hubertus), Energy Concepts (Hudson), Full Circle Farm (Seymour), Full Spectrum Solar (Madison), Kettle View Renewable Energy (Random Lake), Michels Wind Energy (Brownsville), Morse Group (Beloit), North American Hydro (Neshkoro), Northwind Renewable Energy LLC (Stevens Point), Pieper Foundation (Milwaukee), Organic Valley (LaFarge), Quantum Dairy (Weyauwega), Renewegy (Oshkosh), SunVest (Waukesha), Symbiont (Milwaukee), W.E.S. Engineering (Madison) and Werner Electric (Neenah).
On behalf of all our members that have an interest in advancing clean, locally produced, cost-effective wind generation, RENEW Wisconsin took the lead in bringing together diverse groups and companies and forging a broad and bipartisan coalition to support legislation establishing statewide permitting standards for all wind generators in the state of Wisconsin. The fruit of that labor, 2009 Act 40, was signed into law in September 2009. As directed by the Wind Siting Law, the Public Service Commission promulgated PSC 128, a rule that sets forth uniform, science-based standards for local government review and regulation of wind power systems in Wisconsin. PSC 128 took effect on March 16, 2012.
In evaluating the merits of SB 71, RENEW asks the Committee to consider the following points:
- In terms of setback distances as well as maximum allowable sound levels and shadow flicker duration, PSC 128 is the strictest statewide standard for permitting windpower systems in the United States. The provisions in PSC 128 are, on balance, stricter than the conditions specified in the prior permits issued by local governments or the PSC.
- The statewide rule is the culmination of two uninterrupted years of agency involvement in wind siting proceedings. It is the product of a highly deliberative process that elicited substantial input from the Wind Siting Council and the public. The Siting Council looked at all the health-related studies that were in the public domain at that time, and tailored its recommendations accordingly. The record built on the major issues is nothing short of encyclopedic.
- All 412 utility-scale wind turbines currently operating in Wisconsin were permitted before PSC 128 took effect a year ago. Because PSC 128 does not have a track record, there is no factual foundation for asserting that PSC 128 inadequately protects public health and safety.
- An independent expert panel established by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Public Health gave wind a clean bill of health in January 2012, based on analyzing all available scientific studies. The agencies stated: “There is no evidence for a set of health effects from exposure to wind turbines that could be characterized as a 'Wind Turbine Syndrome'…we conclude the weight of the evidence suggests no association between noise from wind turbines and measures of psychological distress or mental health problems.” This is as true today as it was 14 months ago.
- The PSC rule was intended to provide wind energy developers with regulatory certainty -- a clearly defined set of requirements which they must comply with in order to obtain a permit. This lack of certainty and predictability in the local permitting process would be paralyzing to wind developers and would bring wind development to a standstill.
- The PSC rule was intended to provide wind energy developers with regulatory certainty -- a clearly defined set of requirements which they must comply with in order to obtain a permit. Allowing local governments to opt out of PSC 128 would undermine the chief rationale for the Wind Siting Law--uniform standards consistently applied across all jurisdictions in Wisconsin. This lack of certainty, consistency and predictability in the local permitting process would be paralyzing to wind developers and would bring wind development to a standstill.
- Allowing local governments to opt out of PSC 128 would jeopardize current proposals that have been configured to conform with PSC 128. It is extremely challenging to redesign windpower projects to meet different standards than those that informed the original proposal.
Restricting windpower development in Wisconsin will result in a net loss of construction and manufacturing opportunities in the clean energy sector, dry up investment and business start-up opportunities here at home, deprive local governments of a stable source of local payments, and force young adults committed to this career path to relocate to other states. In addition, passage of this bill would further exacerbate Wisconsin’s dangerous overreliance on imported fossil fuels, causing certain environmental harm.
For the reasons enumerated above, RENEW Wisconsin urges rejection of SB 71.
Program and Policy Director
March 13, 2013