ROTHSCHILD -- Wausau-area residents will have their final opportunity Tuesday to weigh in on a controversial biomass power plant proposed in Rothschild.
The project, a joint partnership of Milwaukee-based utility We Energies and Domtar Paper, has generated strong opinions from supporters and opponents alike since it was announced in September 2009. Public hearings on the project held by local entities and state regulators have drawn crowds in the hundreds, and on Tuesday, those hearings will draw to a close.
Both the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Public Service Commission must approve permits for the project before construction can begin.
The utility initially pushed for confirmation of the project by both agencies before the end of 2010. We Energies spokesman Brian Manthey said construction still can be completed before 2013, making the plant eligible for a federal tax credit.
The members of the PSC could rule on the project at any time. DNR regulators gave preliminary approval for an air permit earlier this month, a key step for We Energies.
The approval process has been incremental, first at the local level with height variances from the village of Rothschild and the city of Wausau. The PSC also gave preliminary approval for the project and rejected requests for a comprehensive study of its potential environmental effects by opponents and environmental groups.
The plant, located next to the Domtar Mill on Old Highway 51 in Rothschild, would burn woody biomass from tree tops and other collected wood, supplying Domtar with steam for its paper-making process and We Energies with energy to sell.
The Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules (JCRAR) has now scheduled a special meeting on March 1st to consider suspending the PSC128 Wind Siting rule that our industry worked on in 2009-2010 that are scheduled to take effect on March 1st. If the JCRAR suspends the PSC128 rule, before it otherwise would take effect that same day, we will be back where we started two years ago on wind siting reform in Wisconsin.
Job openings likely in sustainable industries for executives, trades, scientists, engineers, planners
Two years ago, Stevens Point resident Rob Peck decided to make a career change.
"My kids were grown ... and I thought I would really like to do something different," Peck, 50, said. "I wanted to get into something that would be good for the community and society in general."
So, after years of working in manufacturing and real estate sales, Peck applied to Mid-State Technical College to become a renewable energy specialist and energy-efficiency technician.
Now a design consultant at Northwind Renewable Energy in Stevens Point, which specializes in designing and installing renewable energy systems, Peck helps customers engineer the perfect solar energy system for their home or business.
Hired about a year ago, Peck was one of two MSTC students who interned with Northwind last summer. Josh Stolzenberg, one of Northwind's owners, said the business plans to take on three new interns this summer. If things work out with the interns, Stolzenberg and his partner, Craig Buttke, plan to hire two of them.
Peck is one of many Wisconsinites looking toward sustainable technologies to shape his next career move. According to Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Chief Labor Economist Dennis Winters, sustainable industries and technologies have and will continue to play a key role in current and emerging job markets in Wisconsin.
The DWD projects that by the year 2018 "professional, scientific, and technical services" industry will be among the top 10 employers in the state.
"'Green,' as it were, actually permeates all industries and occupations," Winters said.
We Energies has received draft air permits for both the construction and operation of its 50-megawatt cogeneration plant to be co-located at a Domtar Paper mill in Rothschild, Wis.
Following the issuance of the draft permits from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is a 30-day public comment period and hearing, according Brian Manthey, We Energies media relations representative. The public hearing is scheduled for March 1, after which time, the WDNR will make the final decision on the permits. “It should be noted that all of our local permits and variances have passed governmental bodies unanimously,” Manthey said. “We have been pleased by the strong support in the community and we would expect that to continue at the hearing.”
If you are an elected official/decision-maker (plan commissioner, board/council member, etc.) or opart of the planning/zoning community, get more information by droppping an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
STEVENS POINT -- The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point is using competitions as a way to engage students in plans to reduce energy use across the campus.
Students in residence halls currently are competing in two contests -- one in energy and one in recycling -- that, in addition to offering prizes, organizers hope will teach students sustainable practices that will stick long after graduation.
UWSP has been exposing students to green living for years through more passive measures such as a "greenest dorm room." But by appealing to students' competitive natures and bringing whole residence halls together, contest organizers hope to engage students who otherwise wouldn't care.
"Wherever there is that added support, you see an increase in participation," said Cindy Von Gnechten, facilities designer for UWSP Residential Living. "Obviously, we want to educate them, but the biggest thing is to carry that with you as you go beyond the residence halls."
One competition, created internally, will pit residence halls against one another to see which one can cut its February energy usage the most, compared with a baseline from November. The hall with the biggest reduction will win three grand prizes.
Students also can be caught doing something green to be entered into a weekly raffle for environmentally friendly prizes.
UWSP residence halls also are participating in a national recycling contest, RecycleMania, in which universities across North America compete to decrease trash and increase recycling.
Testimony of Sam Tobias
Director of Planning and Parks
Fond du Lac County
Before the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules
February 9, 2011
Thank you for the opportunity to speak before you today -- chairs and committee members as well.
I’ve been with Fond du Lac County for 25 years in a couple of different roles but at this point I’m with the county planning and parks director. You have to know just a bit about Fond du Lac County to understand where I’m coming from and what’s been happening in Fond du Lac. In our county we do not have county zoning, every town in our county, all 21, each has their own individual zoning ordinance. They administer their zoning ordinances. At times, with wind siting issues especially, they depend heavily on their attorney, and they all pretty much use the same attorney. They’ve come up with pretty much the model that’s being used in the PSC rule. And it’s worked very well, and that’s my point here today is we’ve been a test-bed so to speak in Fond du Lac.
The program has worked in Fond du Lac County. Why do I say that? The six town boards in Fond du Lac County that are the six towns that are host to wind turbine projects are all still in place. If this were truly a monumental issue, and truly had widespread health effects, and hazards, nature hazards, those types of things, I don’t think those six town boards would be in place today, but they are.
We’re home to three major utility scale wind turbine projects -- 168 turbines, 268 MW of electricity capacity. Again, the towns, the 8,000 to almost 9,000 town residents, that are involved in these facilities. We don’t have 8,000 to 9,000 people here today protesting against the rules. There are people with concerns, but it’s not the majority by any stretch of the imagination.
Town government took the lead, as I said previously. In permitting, in regulating wind farms in Fond du Lac County and I think they’ve done a very great job. Again, our setbacks are very similar in our towns as to what’s in our state rule. Utility-scale wind farm in Wisconsin mean a lot to local businesses -- from the sandwich supply lunch truck, that comes out to construction sites, to Michels Corporation in Brownsville that’s got 200 people that have been involved in developing wind projects in our county and elsewhere around the state. By their estimations, there are probably four projects out there that are being discussed and are in the works, 100 MW or more each, so there’s projects queued up that need some predictability in outcome, and that’s what this rule does.
I’ll go back to creating a level playing field. This is the same kind of thing that the Wisconsin Realtors Association asked for in ’99 and 2000 – the Wisconsin Smart Growth law. I’m a planner so I supported them in those efforts and that was a big thing that they really wanted. They wanted a level playing field. And I think in this situation, the same rule applies, the same situation applies. Let’s provide a level playing field. We’re not going to have turbines in every corner of the state of Wisconsin. These companies are going to go where the resource is. The resource is fairly limited in our area. . . .
Governor Walker and legislative leaders reportedly will seek a change in the rule when the governor appoints a new chair of the three-person Public Service Commission when Commissioner Mark Meyer's term expires March 1. With no legislative action, PSC 128 will become effective on March 1, 2011, and will remain in effect until changed by the PSC.
Good morning, my name is Michael Vickerman. I am here to represent RENEW Wisconsin, a nonprofit advocacy and education organization based in Madison. Incorporated in 1991, RENEW acts as a catalyst to advance a sustainable energy future through public policy and private sector initiatives. We have over 300 total members, and more than 60 businesses around the state, including Biogas Direct (Prairie du Sac), Bleu Mont Dairy (Mount Horeb), Bubbling Springs Solar (Menomonie), Crave Brothers Farm (Waterloo), Convergence Energy (Lake Geneva), Emerging Energies (Hubertus), Energy Concepts (Hudson), Full Circle Farm (Seymour), Full Spectrum Solar (Madison), GDH, Inc. (Chilton), H&H Solar (Madison), Kettle View Renewable Energy (Random Lake), Michels Wind Energy (Brownsville), North American Hydro (Neshkoro), Northwind Renewable Energy LLC (Stevens Point), Pieper Power (Milwaukee), Organic Valley (LaFarge), Quantum Dairy (Weyauwega), Renewegy (Oshkosh), and Seventh Generation Energy Systems (Madison).
On behalf of all our members that have an interest in wind generation, RENEW Wisconsin took the lead in bringing together diverse groups and companies and forging a broad and bipartisan coalition to support legislation establishing statewide permitting standards for all wind generators in the state of Wisconsin. The fruit of that labor, 2009 Act 40, was signed into law in September 2009.
I am here today to encourage this Committee to take no action on the PSC 128 rule that is scheduled to take effect on March 1st. The Commission's rule is a good-faith compromise that balances the state's interest in promoting a preferred energy resource with the interests of neighboring landowners.
The PSC rule will provide wind energy developers with regulatory certainty -- a clearly defined set of requirements which they must comply with in order to obtain a permit. Such stability and clarity in the wind permitting arena has been absent from Wisconsin for the last 13 years, which, more than any other reason, explains why Wisconsin utilities own more wind generating capacity in Iowa and Minnesota (329 MW) than they do in Wisconsin (235 MW).
I would like this committee to consider the following points:
. . . when they could not find an independent organization willing to underwrite such a study, they paid for it themselves. AWEA [American Wind Energy Association] and CanWEA [Canada Wind Energy Associaiton] assembled eight scientists and doctors to survey the available scientific literature on the known health effects of living near wind turbines.
Collectively, the eight have strong research or clinical experience in public health, otolaryngology, noise-induced hearing loss, balance and hearing disorders, clinical medicine, audiology, infrasound acoustics, industrial sound pathology, wind and turbine physics, and turbine sound measurement and siting.
Their review of 140 different studies and papers issued in 2009, largely from Europe, where wind farms are common and located quite close to residential areas, is called Wind Turbine Sound and Health Effects; An Expert Panel Review.
The panel points out that the environment and our bodies are awash in infrasound, much of it naturally occurring. It finds Dr. Pierpont’s list of maladies too poorly characterized to be medically useful. It finds a markedly stronger correlation between subjects’ claimed turbine syndrome symptoms and their initial attitudes toward turbines than between their symptoms and their level of exposure to turbine sounds.
Windpower opponents quickly attacked the industry funded findings as biased, something that Mike Klepinger, who formerly worked at Michigan State University Extension Service, where he wrote the agency’s wind turbine siting guidelines, says is not surprising.
“Of course, whenever you invite industry into a panel, the whole panel becomes suspect,” Mr. Klepinger said in an interview with Great Lakes Bulletin News Service. “They say, ‘It couldn’t possibly be operating scientifically.’ But you look at the who’s who on the [panel] list, and you kind of have to give the industry an A-plus for trying to make the panel objective.”
Their three major conclusions:
- “There is no evidence that the audible or sub-audible sounds emitted by wind turbines have any direct adverse physiological effects.
- “The ground-borne vibrations from wind turbines are too weak to be detected by, or to affect, humans.
- “The sounds emitted by wind turbines are not unique. There is no reason to believe, based on the levels and frequencies of the sounds and the panel’s experience with sound exposures in occupational settings, that sounds from wind turbines could plausibly have direct adverse health consequences.”
Solar electric, solar water heating and wind electric are now forms of energy that can be installed at a residence to supply a portion or all the energy needs of a home and still be connected to the utility grid in the traditional manner.
MREA courses walk consumers and installers though basics to the installation.
To get find more information on how you can participate in this energy form, check out the MREA’s web site for a course near you or call 715-592-6595.
MADISON, Wis. (WTAQ) - Governor Scott Walker’s office says it will keep trying to limit the locating of new wind energy farms in Wisconsin – even though his own Republicans in the Legislature are not going along with it for now.
Spokesman Cullen Werwie says Walker will try to get the state Public Service Commission to adopt his proposal. That’s after Republican legislative leaders said they wanted more time to review the impact.
Walker wants wind turbines to be at least 1,800 feet away from neighboring homes, instead of the current 1,250 feet. The Wisconsin Realtors Association pushed for the change.
Walker said it would help property owners who say the turbines cause too much noise and flickering light. But the wind energy industry says it would be the most restrictive setback in the nation – and they’re calling it a de-facto ban on new wind energy projects.
The group Renew Wisconsin says it could put up to $1.8 billion worth of future wind projects in jeopardy. And Denise Bode of the American Wind Energy Association said it would make a mockery of Walker’s claim that Wisconsin is “open for business.”
We couldn’t agree more with Governor Walker’s goal of leaving an even better Wisconsin to our children and grandchildren. As the nation as a whole has discovered, the key to accomplishing that goal lies in fully participating in the clean energy economy. Governor Walker’s failure to mention this opportunity paired with his actions in recent weeks speaks volumes.
In his short time as Governor, Governor Walker has introduced legislation to eliminate Wisconsin’s $400 million wind industry, rejected $800 million in mass transit funding (sending jobs to Illinois in the process), and prevented a coal power plant from transitioning to a plant run on homegrown, Wisconsin biofuels.
This week, understandably, we are taking a lot of advice from Vince Lombardi. Wisconsin would do well to remember this one, “We would accomplish many more things if we did not think of them as impossible.”
It’s time Wisconsin quit treating the clean energy economy as an impossibility. Instead, we must commit - with a “singleness of focus” - to creating the kinds of jobs that will sustain ours and future generations.
Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to electing conservation leaders to the state legislature and encouraging lawmakers to champion conservation policies that effectively protect Wisconsin’s public health and natural resources. More information can be found at http://conservationvoters.org.
What could be Wisconsin's largest wind energy project is going up as scheduled, despite a proposal from Gov. Scott Walker that could make future wind farms more challenging to build in the state.
The governor's proposal calls for a minimum setback of 1,800 feet between neighboring property and the turbine towers in a "large wind energy system" (300 kilowatts or more).
Glacier Hills is a We Energies project whose 90 turbines, on approximately 17,350 acres in the towns of Randolph and Scott, could generate up to 207 megawatts. Construction - including roads leading to the tower sites and a headquarters on Columbia County Highway H in the town of Scott - started in May, and continues this winter with the installation of underground connections that will eventually link each of the turbines to the power grid. The 400-foot towers are scheduled to be built starting this spring.
Andrew Hesselbach, We Energies wind farm project manager, said any new setback rules would not affect the construction of Glacier Hills, which received approval from the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin in January 2010.
And, he noted, "Glacier Hills is already half-completed."
Walker's proposal, as outlined in Assembly Bill 9, calls for "the setback distance of at least 1,800 feet," unless the owners properties adjoining the site where a tower is planned, or property owners separated from the site's land by a road, agree in writing to a setback of less than 1,800 feet.
Hesselbach was one of 15 members of a wind siting council that the PSC last March to advise the commission on statewide setback rules for wind turbine towers - rules that were scheduled to go into effect March 1.
Those rules set 1,250 feet as a minimum setback - the same setback specified in the PSC's "certificate of public convenience and necessity" that gave the go-ahead for construction of Glacier Hills.