Measure would put Wisconsinites to work producing safe, reliable wind energy

MADISON ā€” Representatives from the business, farm, labor and environmental communities stood behind State Senator Jeff Plale (D-South Milwaukee), Representative Jim Solestki (D-Green Bay) and Representative Phil Montgomery (R-Ashwaubenon) in the Capitol today as they introduced a bipartisan bill designed to create jobs by eliminating barriers holding up the construction of small and medium sized wind developments.

“The current patchwork of regulations for permitting wind farms keeps developers from investing millions in Wisconsin’s economy and putting 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 bill will help Wisconsin take an important step toward becoming a leader in the emerging clean energy economy.”

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 designed by opponents of wind energy to kill projects in their area. These ordinances have stalled the construction of an estimated 600 megawatts of wind power in our state. Senate Bill 185 would create uniform state standards that permit the construction of safe wind farms.

“The time has come to cut the bureaucratic red tape stalling wind farm development and break ground on a clean energy economy,” said Schryver. “Simplifying the regulations for permitting wind farms will help spark economic growth while reducing our overdependence on the fossil fuels that pollute our air and water.”

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.

“Renewable energy is an extremely competitive field, and unless we act now to simplify the permitting process for wind farm developments, we will lose family-supporting jobs to neighboring states,” Schryver said. “This bill is an important step toward improving our economy, our environment, and our quality of life.”