Wisconsin regulators reaffirm wind farm support

The Wisconsin Public Service Commission decided to let stand its July approval of the Forward Energy Center, a 200 MW windpower project serving four Wisconsin utilities.


September 2, 2005

Michael Vickerman, Executive Director
RENEW Wisconsin

PSC Reaffirms Forward Wind Project's Benefits to Environment

Madison, WI - RENEW Wisconsin hailed today's Public Service Commission decision letting stand its July approval of the Forward Energy Center, a 200 MW windpower project serving four Wisconsin utilities. The Commission's reaffirmation of its earlier decision came in response to Horicon Marsh System Advocates' petition to rehear the matter.

"The Commission made the correct call the first time around," said Michael Vickerman, Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin, a Madison-based advocacy organization that supports greater use of clean, locally available and nondepleting energy sources. "The scientific evidence introduced into the hearing record left little doubt that the presence of wind generators near Horicon Marsh will have negligible impact on bird populations."

Given the collapse of oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico, Vickerman continued, "We cannot afford to delay the installation of locally available and environmentally responsible renewable power sources -- whether from wind, solar, small scale hydro, wood, or livestock manure."

"The Forward project would be built in the state's most productive location for large-scale wind development. From an environmental, economic, and energy security perspective, large-scale wind is vastly preferable to fossil-fuel generation, and the PSC's decision underscores this emerging reality," Vickerman said.

The petition for rehearing was part of a larger campaign coordinated and funded by several out-of-state environmental groups. They issued opinion pieces and radio advertisements calling on Governor Doyle to intervene in the appeal process and unilaterally order the western boundary of the Forward Project to be pushed as far as five miles away from the marsh, compared with the two-mile buffer set by the PSC.

"Governor Doyle wisely rejected the call and allowed the PSC to exercise its independent authority free from the political interference that the groups hoped to manufacture through their unscientific arguments and overblown rhetoric," said Vickerman.

In evaluating the project's likely impact on the immediate area, the PSC decision said, "The research at existing wind farms tends to show that birds do successfully avoid wind turbines, because the mortality rates are low."

In the same document, the PSC also found that "other man-made hazards, such as tall communications towers with guy wires, brightly lit buildings, glass windows, and automobiles pose greater risks to birds than wind turbines."

These groups damaged their own credibility by referring to the turbines as "crane Cuisanarts," added Vickerman. "Fortunately, the PSC stood fast in the face of their failed attempts to whip up public hysteria."


RENEW Wisconsin is an independent, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that acts as a catalyst to advance a sustainable energy future through public policy and private sector initiatives. RENEW is a member of the Wisconsin Renewable Energy Network, a subcontractor to Focus on Energy. Visit RENEW at www.renewwisconsin.org or e-mail Michael Vickerman at mvickerman@renewwisconsin.org.

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