Note: See a longer article on I wrote Walker’s move, which was published on the Renewable Energy World website
When Scott Walker was inaugurated as Wisconsin’s new Governor earlier this month, he called a special session of the state legislature, dubbed the “Wisconsin in Open for Business” session. All bills will be focused on improving the state’s business climate, something that is always a GOP priority, and which in these tough economic times, has widespread support.
But his regulatory reform bill has a wild card tucked inside: a new and stricter setback standard for industrial wind farms. While the proposal is being attacked as a job-killer, it appears to AEI that the Governor has his pulse on one of the key ways that the wind industry might gain easier acceptance in the years to come.
In response to tough local rules that were seen as anti-wind, the Wisconsin legislature called for statewide standards that localities cannot exceed; after a couple years of meetings, the state’s PRC recently adopted a new statewide standard of 1250 feet from homes. Governor Walker’s bill would increase setbacks statewide to 1800 feet from property lines.
While this would still not protect neighbors from hearing wind turbines, which are often quite audible at a half mile and can be heard to a mile or more in some situations (many suggest setbacks in these larger ranges), it is a substantial increase. Wind industry spokesmen immediately slammed the change, claiming that it would basically preclude new wind farms in the state and kill jobs. These critiques ignore a key provision of the Governor’s proposal: neighbors closer than 1800 feet can agree to let turbines go up, presumably in exchange for some compensation from the wind company.
It appears that Governor Walker understands that what will move the wind industry forward is regulations that may help local communities to feel more comfortable about the likely impacts of new wind farms, rather than standards designed primarily to ease the placement of new wind farms. The combination of larger setbacks, and provisions for neighbors to sign waivers, is the right direction for growing this industry without sacrificing the quality of life of rural communities.
Here are three articles in the local press on the proposal: Simple announcement of the bill, and statement from Governor A fairly balanced article that includes comments from developers and those supporting the measure Longer, also balanced report, with quotes from AWEA, the Governor, and local supporters of the proposal