Free Tuesday Trends sample: Wind energy rising, WEDC mixed and Leo Frigo Bridge falling

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Wind energy: Earlier this year, the state Public Service Commission rejected a plan by Emerging Energies of Wisconsin to construct a 102.5-megawatt, $250 million wind farm in far western Wisconsin, citing issues with the state’s noise standard for wind turbines. But last week, PSC Chairman Phil Montgomery says he’s now satisfied with the company’s proposal for the development, switching his vote and moving the Highland Wind Farm past the three-member commission 2-1. Emerging Energies vows to work with its new neighbors in St. Croix County to resolve lingering disputes over the potential 44-turbine wind farm, acknowledging the exhaustive debate over the project. A group lined up in opposition called Forest Voice says it’s disappointed in the PSC and will review the agency’s decision before deciding whether to appeal the decision in court. Environmental groups, meanwhile, praise the decision as a boon to wind energy, which they argue is supported by most Wisconsinites and will help air and water quality.


WEDC: The quasi-public agency appears to be getting a handle on its loans. But it falls short of a high jobs goal and shows a $34 million surplus at the end of fiscal year 2013 that may bring closer scrutiny from lawmakers. At a board meeting, Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. officials say $3.4 million of its loans are at least 90 days past due, including $1.8 million in collectable loans — a significant improvement from late last year, when it was revealed WEDC had not been systematically tracking loans since the switch from the old Department of Commerce and had at least $9 million past due by 30 days. The surplus, meanwhile, is a mixed bag for the agency. The Joint Finance Committee held back some of the agency’s funding in the budget process until it reported back on compliance with an audit, and now that there’s extra money on the table, some argue that should be used first. The agency also reports its efforts have created 11,058 jobs in fiscal year 2013 and retained another 26,255, well short of a 50,000 jobs goal. COO Ryan Murray said while WEDC divisions met most of their goals, the 50,000 mark was an “aspirational” number.


Leo Frigo Bridge: One of the main highways through Green Bay is suddenly and unexpectedly closed down by the state after a 400-foot section of the Leo Frigo Bridge is found sagging — the result of a concrete support pier settling by about two feet. And as the investigation as to why the pier slipped continues, officials say the bridge — which carries an average of 40,000 vehicles each day on I-43 across the Fox River — could be closed for a considerable amount of time. Gov. Scott Walker signs an emergency declaration for the bridge, enabling the state to seek federal funding to alleviate repair costs.