WisBusiness: Senate committee approves amended wind energy system siting bill

By Tracy Will
For WisBusiness.com

A state Senate committee today voted 6-1 to approve a bill to establish statewide siting standards for wind energy projects.

“It’s time to make decisions and if we are to get away from reliance on Mideast oil, we need to find a way to site these wind energy systems,” said Sen. Bob Wirch, D-Kenosha.

Senate Bill 185 directs the state Public Service Commission to work on statewide siting standards. It also establishes a citizen board to determine a variety of guidelines and a timetable for local municipalities to weigh in on community concerns relating to the safety and health effects of proposed wind-energy system sites.

Sen. Neal Kedzie, R-Elkhorn, was the only vote against the bill.

“I still have concerns about local control and am not convinced that this is the end-all or cure-all to all our energy problems,” Kedzie said

The committee unanimously approved two amendments from Sen. Rob Cowles, R-Green Bay. One would require financial responsibility from the wind-system operator to cover the costs of decommissioning  defunct systems.

“There was a case in California where some towers were abandoned. We’re trying to prevent that,” Cowles said.

Cowles’ other amendment requires the PSC to address a number of potential problems posed by wind towers including health effects, setback, shadow flicker and other concerns.

“We focused on health. That was the predominant concern. [PSC chair] Eric Callisto agrees with that and we trust Eric and his staff to come up with something good,” Cowles said.