Bill would result in cleaner environment and provide relief in tough economic times

MADISON — Wisconsin residents struggling in these tough economic times may soon find relief in the form of jobs building area wind farms after State Senator Jeff Plale (D-South Milwaukee) and Representative Jim Solestki (D-Green Bay) began circulating a bill yesterday that would eliminate barriers holding up the construction of small and medium sized wind developments. The bill saw immediate bipartisan support with Senator Randy Hopper (R-Fond du Lac) and Representative Phil Montgomery (R-Ashwaubenon) both signing on as co-sponsors of the bill.

“This legislation will spark economic growth and put hard-working Wisconsinites to work supplying clean, affordable energy to power our homes, schools and businesses,” said Ryan Schryver, clean energy advocate at Clean Wisconsin, the state’s largest environmental advocacy organization. “This legislation is long overdue.”

Wind developers must currently navigate a cumbersome patchwork of county ordinances and local regulations before beginning work on new wind farms. These regulations are often overly-restrictive, and have stalled the construction of an estimated 600 megawatts of wind power in our state. The bill circulating the Capitol to gain cosponsors (LRB 1048/4) would create uniform state standards that permit the construction of safe wind farms.

“This bill is an easy way for legislators to create jobs in our state at almost no expense to the taxpayer,” said Schryver. “Wind development projects stand shovel-ready. Now is the time to cut the bureaucratic red tape and break ground on a clean energy economy.”

Although still in its infancy, the wind industry is growing rapidly at the national level. As unemployment rose and other industries contracted last year, the wind industry grew by 70 percent in 2008, employing 85,000 individuals nationwide. Unfortunately, Wisconsin’s current permitting system discourages the development of small and medium sized wind farms, placing the state at a disadvantage in this growing industry.

In addition to creating new jobs assembling, erecting and maintaining wind turbines and constructing the service roads necessary to access them, the bill introduced today would both foster the growth of businesses that manufacture the components for wind turbines and provide a new source of revenue for Wisconsin farmers.

“Every day we allow the existing system to prevent the development of safe wind farms, we lose family-supporting jobs to neighboring states,” Schryver said. “Rarely do environmental organizations, business groups, farm interests, utilities and ratepayer protection groups agree on a single issue, but we’re all in agreement that Wisconsin cannot afford to wait to pass such simple legislation that will so greatly benefit our state’s environment, economy and people.”