The newly elected Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, has just proposed a piece of legislation that would effectively kill the development of wind energy projects in the state. His proposal, which is included as part of a piece of legislation that he says will help the state’s economic situation, would require all new wind farms to be built at least 1,800 feet away from their own property lines — a distance almost quadruple of what is now required. If passed, the bill would legally halt construction on twelve proposed wind farm projects, kill $1.8 billion in revenues and ruin the prospects for 950 new jobs in the state.
Wind critics in Wisconsin say that turbines decrease property values, cause unnecessary noise and create vibrations in surrounding property. It seems the Governor is siding with those that don’t want turbines around and noted that the proposal was written to protect homeowners. The current laws — aside from stating wind turbines must be built at least 450 feet from their own property line — require turbines to be placed at least 1,250 feet from any nearby homes (the proposed legislation would require a 550 foot larger separation). When questioned by the Wisconsin State Journal an aide to Walker sidestepped the issue by saying, “Governor Walker is focused on ensuring Wisconsin has a business climate that allows the private sector to create 250,000 jobs across all economic sectors.”
Those in the pro-wind farm camps are flabbergasted by the legislative proposal and say the 1,800 foot distance between a property line and wind turbines is an impossible distance to cover. “It would in essence shut down wind energy in the state,” said Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association. “It is one of the most onerous regulations we have seen.” Wisconsin currently lags behind other midwestern states with their 449 megawatts of wind energy — Minnesota, Illinois and Iowa all generate thousands of megawatts of wind energy each year. If this legislation passes, wind companies will most likely take their business to more wind-friendly states rather than dealing with Wisconsin’s rules. It’s hard to believe that the state could meet their goal of producing 10% of their energy from renewables by 2015 with a law like Governor Walker’s.
Lead image by Bodoklecksel