The state Senate has passed legislation that could ease wind farm development in Wisconsin. The bill’s author, South Milwaukee Democrat Jeff Plale, says local regulations makes siting wind farms too difficult.
“There are companies who want to come here, who want to bring those jobs here, but they don’t,” said Plale. “They bypass us for Minnesota, they bypass us for Iowa, they bypass us for South Dakota. In part because the wind resources are better in those states, but also because of the patchwork quilt that we’ve established in the state of Wisconsin.”
The measure – which gives the state Public Service Commission rule setting authority for all wind farms – passed on a bipartisan 23-9 vote and now heads to the Assembly. Plale said there are still some misconceptions about the legislation. He noted the measure does not establish specific standards for wind farms in the state. “What this bill does is it gets the ball rolling, it gets the discussion going,” he said.
Critics charge the bill will allow the PSC to quickly push through wind energy projects, without determining how they’ll impact those living around them. Plale said they’ve worked to address those concerns with a citizens panel which will work with the PSC.
Green Bay Republican Rob Cowles said the legislation is different from a bill the Senate debated last session. “The health amendment is critical. I’m confident that the commission will take health considerations into account,” said Cowles. “And the decommissioning part, you know, what do you do with these wind turbines when the time comes when they’re not operating? That’s in there.”