Proposed wind ban would put Wisconsin at a disadvantage in the clean energy economy

MADISON — The economic border battle is escalating as Illinois issues a call to Wisconsin wind energy companies to “escape to Illinois,” following Governor Scott Walker’s new special session bill that effectively bans new wind farms and kills jobs. The call comes two days before President Barack Obama’s visit to Wisconsin to highlight the economic benefits of investing in a clean energy economy.

“Even the strictest county setbacks in Illinois are nowhere near as extreme as what Wisconsin would have if this bill passes,” said Illinois Wind Energy Association (IWEA) executive director Kevin Borgia in a press release issued Monday encouraging Wisconsin wind businesses to move to Illinois. “Illinois has no statewide minimum setbacks.”

 Dubbed by IWEA as “Wisconsin’s War on Wind,” the press release follows a bill proposed by Walker that would require wind turbines to be 1,800 feet from the nearest property line. Wisconsin energy advocates and wind developers agree that the law amounts to an effective ban on new wind farms in the state.

“This invitation is a smart move by Illinois and its wind industry. That state’s favorable regulations make wind power an economic win for Illinois,” says Keith Reopelle, senior policy director at Clean Wisconsin. “Walker’s bill will immediately kill 11 proposed wind projects in Wisconsin and hundreds of jobs, while Illinois enjoys $3 billion in economic activity from wind.”

On Wednesday, President Obama is set to appear at Orion Energy Systems, an industry-leading company in Manitowoc that specializes in energy efficiency technologies for commercial and industrial spaces, to highlight the job-creating capabilities of the clean energy economy. But Wisconsin is already falling behind. Developers in Illinois put 498MW of wind power online in 2010, with another 400MW expected by mid-2011; by contrast, Wisconsin only added 20MW of wind power last year.

Using Walker’s own rhetoric, IWEA’s Borgia added: “…You are welcome here. Our talented workforce stands ready to help you grow and prosper… Illinois is open for business. In these challenging times, while Wisconsin is raising barriers, we are lowering them.”

“Illinois makes a good argument. This bill closes the door to the wind industry and sends a clear message that they’re not welcome in Wisconsin. The wind industry creates thousands of family-supporting jobs and can be an important component of Wisconsin’s economic recovery,” said Reopelle. “Our legislators should vote against this job-killing bill.”