Winds of change for energy industry

Posted on Mar 2, 2011 :: Insight on Business.
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As we’ve seen in Madison the past few weeks, the political winds can quickly change.

The wind power industry is finding that out firsthand. Just this week, the Wisconsin Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules suspended the Wisconsin Wind Siting Rules on the very day the rules were set to go into effect. (For more on the wind industry, please see this story in the March edition of Insight.) The rules would have created statewide standards for setbacks – the minimum distance between a turbine and a nearby home – and other permitting requirements for wind turbines on small wind projects.

Supporters of wind power say the changes threaten future wind power developments and job growth.

“The wind power industry has already created over 2,000 direct and indirect jobs in Wisconsin, and further growth expected in both project development and wind turbine manufacturing shows we could create a lot more,” says Denise Bode, chief executive officer of the American Wind Energy Association.

The Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) held several hearings during the past two years gathering input from stakeholders and wind energy proponents before making their decision.

As to what happens next, there is a bill in the Legislature that would ask the PSC to review its policy again. But with so much on the Legislature’s plate (there’s that little thing called the budget to contend with), it’s unclear when the matter will come up.

Now, wind energy supporters are waiting and hoping companies look to other states to erect their wind turbines.

–By MaryBeth Matzek