5/23/09 EVEN MORE Badgers Speak Out: Should the state take away local government's power to decide where and how wind turbines are sited in your community?
MORE LETTERS TO THE EDITOR:
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GIVE US BOTH SIDES OF THE STORY
Sustainable energy is a necessary and laudable goal but the WSJ should present both sides of the wind controversy, instead of portraying opponents as hysterical NIMBYs and doing Big Wind’s bidding by printing pictures of turbines in pastoral settings like the one that occupied the front page of the Opinion section last Sunday.
Your picture shows an industrial wind operation in Montfort which I believe has an 1800 foot setback. It would be nice for you to show the homes with 1000’ set-backs like at Byron near Brownsville. Anyone viewing those looming giants can only say “Oh my God”.
Although titled the “Public Service Commission”, the PSC is hardly a watchdog for the public. It seems to operate instead as a rubber stamp for the Governor and the energy industry. This is evidenced by the 1000 foot set-back, approved by the PSC and provided by a Florida development company with a goal of siting as many turbines as possible. What this does to those living too close to turbines is not their concern.
Before there was Big Wind, there was Big Oil and Big Tobacco. We are still discovering the collateral damage and unintended consequences of those industries.
WIND TOWERS SHOULD NOT BE SITED IN POPULATED AREAS
I am writing in response to your May 16 editorial "A Win for Wind Power in Wisconsin".
My wife and I, along with several hundred others, attended the public hearing on SB 185/AB 256. I waited nine hours to finally be able to testify at 8:00 PM in opposition to the proposed legislation.
I am appalled by your insensitive and uninformed attitude that opposition to wind energy systems is due to "alarming concerns, commonly based in misinformation".
I live near the Forward Wind Project in Dodge County. We had to fight the project at great cost to prevent wind towers from being sited on the Horicon Ledge adjacent to the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge.
The only concession we won was that the project was required to have a two mile setback from the Horicon Marsh (we asked for four miles), instead of the one mile the company wanted.
Several friends who now live in the project area (not by their choice) are now subjected to constant noise and frequent blade flicker. It is affecting their health, depreciated their property value and destroyed the aesthetic quality of the rural countryside.
What we have learned, but what proponents of wind energy ignore, is that wind towers should not be sited in populated areas.
The negative effects of wind towers are downplayed and grossly misrepresented by the wind companies and the Public Service Commission.
Your editorial states that local governments are not capable of making informed decisions. Just the opposite. Local governments are becoming informed.
Trempeleau County, Calumet County, the Town of Union (in Rock County) and others have spent many months thoroughly researching wind energy and then wisely adopted restrictive ordinances requiring greater setbacks of turbines from residences and property lines.
With greater setbacks to protect health, wind towers can not be sited in populated areas.
Now the wind companies want the Public Services Commission to set siting standards that will overrule the local ordinances so that they can build wind energy systems wherever they want, irregardless of the effects on people and the landscape.
This legislation would give siting authority for small projects to the PSC, which is in the pocket of the utilities.
The wind companies argued that we are losing jobs and sending money to other states for electricity, so therefore we should build wind towers wherever the wind companies want.
Are we going to trade temporary construction jobs for the long term health of our rural residents?
It is easy for those who don't live in wind project areas to say we should promote wind energy in Wisconsin. They don't have to live with the effects of the wind towers.
Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa and the open prairie states, where there is low population, is the appropriate place to build wind energy systems.
I urge your readers to become truly informed about wind energy. I urge them to oppose legislation that will take away local authority to protect their residents.
The old windmills may have been quaint, but monsterous 400-foot wind towers (as tall as a 40 story building) covering the countryside for miles are not.
We currently have only 300+ wind towers in Wisconsin. It will take 12,000 to 14,000 wind towers to meet the state alternative energy goal.
Do your readers want our rural landscape to look like an industrial site? Energy conservation in Wisconsin — not windmills — is the answer.
THE HIDDEN PRICE OF WIND POWER
Wind Siting Reform has nothing to do with one’s opinion of wind power as a renewable energy source.
In order for industrial wind turbines to be massively installed in WI there had to be a legislative mandate and obscene federal subsidies. It was not because of the free market system or public demand.
For utility companies to comply with the mandate, quantities of 400 feet tall or more industrial wind turbines can only be installed if:
- They are located 1000 feet or less from a WI resident’s home.
Property rights are taken away from non participating landowners.
Health effects from exposure to living next to an electrical plant that has rotating blades that span 256 feet or more are completely ignored or treated with indifference.
There isn’t any government regulation for an operating wind farm.
There isn’t any government procedure for complaint resolution.
There isn’t any type of accountability for production of energy.
Elected officials have the intrinsic responsibility to protect public health, safety and welfare.
WHERE ARE THE HOUSES?
"Your picture in last Sunday’s Opinion section portrayed a peaceful display of wind turbines but where are the houses? If you’re endorsing a bill that will allow the PSC to site wind turbines 1,000 feet from a residence, you should show houses in the picture so people in our state will know what they are in for.
You say concern about problems with wind turbines are commonly based on misinformation. What misinformation are you referring to? Have you visited or spoken to anyone who lives within a PSC-approved wind industrial project? Were you at the 8 hour public hearing where so many who are having trouble with turbines gave testimony? If not, could your support for this bill be based on misinformation?
You cannot understand the health and safety impacts of poorly sited wind turbines without listening to the people who are living with them. If safe siting cannot be accomplished within an area, turbines must not be forced upon us by the PSC so the state can reach its renewable energy goal.
Tax-payers are footing the $3.5 million bill per turbine. They are about 27% efficient. In other words, 73% inefficient. Conservation and efficiency is the answer.
From Lori McIlrath
Town of Arlington,
Columbia County Wisconsin
WAKE UP AND SMELL THE SUNSHINE
Can we please stop the lame editorials parroting the wind industry lobbyists?
I was at the hearing on May 12th. People living in PSCW approved industrial wind generating facilities with 1000 foot setbacks testified, and said they were lied to by the wind industry, and that the 400 foot tall wind turbines are noisier than the wind developers claimed, and that they are suffering.
The utilities want the wind turbines, because they are the cheapest, least effective, way to reach a badly formulated RPS, and keeps them burning coal. Business as usual, and the taxpayers pick up the bill for inefficient harmful low benefit infrastructure.
Solar is the answer. We all know this. Solar can be installed on existing infrastructure (roof tops, parking lots, along noisy highways, and even power poles!), creates more and varied jobs, won't destroy our roads or our sleep, and gives us the security of daily generation even if the grid goes down.
Wind vampires hate sun. If solar is unfeasible, why did WPPI install PV panels at it headquarters? Why is WDOT using solar on its construction alert signage? Why is solar feasible and reliable enough for New Jersey and Germany, but not for Wisconsin?
From Kevin Kawula
Town of Spring Valley
Rock County, Wisconsin
LIVING WITH PSC-SETBACKS
I am a resident of the Cedar Ridge Wind farm in Fond Du Lac County. I want you to know the turbines make a lot more noise than we were told. Developers said they would be no louder than a refrigerator.
I really do not know much about noise levels but what is the noise level of a commercial jet coming through the middle of your house at 2:00 am in the morning?
The noise is extremely loud and actually shakes the whole house. It wakes the whole family up at night. It also spooks our horses so bad that we can't even ride them on our trails anymore. Our dogs won't even come out of there kennel because there afraid of the noise. As for the shadow flicker it is terrible. It affects all of my 100 acres. Yes all 100 acres. That is my home.
I’ve complained about it and gotten the run-around. I am sick and tired of being lied to. This bill will make the entire state subject to the same PSC setbacks and noise levels that are causing so much trouble for my family. We need help here and we’re not getting it.
From Daniel Haas
Town of Eden
Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin
WIN FOR WIND POWER IS THE LOSS OF LOCAL CONTROL
Shame on you. “Hodgepodge. Mixmaster. Barrier. Threat.” You incite your readership in “A Win For Wind Power in Wisconsin ” by use of inflammatory and unsubstantiated allegations.
You make broad accusations without explaining the issue. You imply that a minority of citizens stands in the way of environmental progress.
What you fail to mention is that a group of intelligent, articulate and very well- educated leaders within their own communities have challenged the legislature to re-think proposed legislation which provides broad power to the PSC to regulate industrial wind turbine sitings.
These enormous turbines are potentially dangerous to health and safety and need to be sited a safe distance from human habitation. The debate is primarily over what that safe distance should be. Credible well-researched studies were brought to the legislative hearing to which you refer. Intelligent and well-reasoned testimony was given.
The merits of wind power are not the issue. The issue is who in the state should have power to wield when siting these monsters: a state regulatory body or the citizens who will live near them and be most affected. Get your story straight!
From Janet Kassel
Town of Janesville
Rock County, Wisconsin
Should the state overhaul regulations for wind farms?
These letters are in response to a WSJ editorial endorsing a bill which would override existing wind ordinances and strip local government of its say in where and how industrial wind farms will be sited in their districts.
Click here to read Better Plan's interchange with Scott Milfred, editor of the WSJ editorial page, regarding what the WSJ's support of this bill is based on, his use of the word NIMBY and, to his credit, his willingness to allow us to share our interchange, for which we are grateful.
Windmills will clutter Wisconsin's landscape
Look again at the picture on the front page of last Sunday's Opinion section. Do we really want windmills on every acre of land in Wisconsin to obstruct the beautiful sunrise and sunsets we have?
Should this be the answer to the perceived, man-made but unproven "science" of global climate change? Let's also consider the birds that are killed by these things. A picture is truly worth a thousand words in this case.
-- Robert Jensen, Waunakee
Continue to work with local governments
The wind industry enjoyed exceptional growth last year. While governments, businesses and families are experiencing major budget shortfalls, the wind industry wants more from taxpayers and ratepayers. This industry is being driven by greed.
The unprecedented growth in wind capacity in 2008 indicates no need for siting reform. Wind developers must continue to work with local governments for approval of wind turbine projects.
A one-size-fits-all rule developed by the Public Service Commission will not adequately address the diverse land use in Wisconsin. Only local control of land use can protect the health and safety of residents, agricultural activity and property rights.
The process vegetable business, a $750 million industry that employs thousands, will be in serious jeopardy if growers are unable to use pesticides in a timely manner with aerial application. It was made clear at one hearing that Wisconsin pilots will not fly inside or half a mile downwind of a turbine facility.
This hysterical approach to wind development by advocates and developers is going to harm Wisconsin's citizens and our economy.
-- Jim Bembinster, Evansville
Make it easier to build wind farms
Wind farm regulations should be reformed.
Time is against us. We have to be able to build more -- even smaller wind farms. Thirty years ago or so, we were allowed to build a wind charger on our farm, business or house to save electricity and put some back in the power system.
I think ethanol plants should have wind farms to supply their power needs and maybe the areas they are in. If given more flexibility, there could be wind farms for housing developments or big farm operations.
-- Larry Zimmerman, New Lisbon
Our wise leaders want them - in your backyard
Sunday's editorial argued that authority regarding wind power installations ought to be taken from local governments and given to the state. The reason for this is that locals may not want wind farms in their backyard and they should be governed by Smart People Who Know Better What Is Good For Them.
This makes sense, particularly if you look at the way the power centers in Madison and Milwaukee have always treated the rest of the state. We don't want wind farms where they would obscure the view of the Capitol, and who cares about the yokels in, say, Kekoskee?
We should take it a step further and strip the states of any authority, giving it entirely to Washington. Folks there know full well that nobody counts outside of the East and West coasts.
All wind farms (which still appear to have problems actually being effective purveyors of power) could all be stacked in meaningless areas like Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Wyoming, where nobody of any importance lives.
If it were left to Washington, maybe we'd even have wind farms in Downtown Madison. That'd be at least a Pyrrhic victory for the folks in Iron Ridge.
-- Dave Marohl, Sun Prairie
Unbiased research essential before reform
If I thought for a minute that Wisconsin had my best interest at heart, I would be all for state control of wind farms. But that is not the case.
When the primary source of information for the control of wind farms comes from the wind farm industry, you can bet that it is skewed to the benefit of the wind farm industry. The regulations are written such that local governments have to base any exceptions on scientifically-defendable facts, but the regulations aren't based on science.
When a local government entity looked into the proposed wind farm regulations, they found little to no research being used for the basis of how far back a turbine should be from homes and other health-related concerns.
The wind industry has been told "no" by local governments, so the industry went to state government and cried a river of tears, just like the farm industry did to get the livestock facility (factory farms) siting regulations passed.
If the State Journal did some digging to find the facts, I think the paper's editorial board would have come to a different conclusion.
-- Steve Oakeson, Evansville
Consider adjacent land values, quality of life
Regarding your wind farm editorial, I am in favor of the state setting standards for the placement of wind turbines, provided that two things are given due consideration:
• The quality of life of those living near the placements.
• The impact on land values at and near the placement sites.
My son-in-law is involved with this same question in Illinois, and his property is in danger of being devalued.
-- Gerald McConoughey, Richland Center
Need real debate on wind's pros and cons
Your editorial makes the assumption, I think falsely, that wind power makes sense both economically and esthetically for Wisconsin, and you dismiss anyone who disagrees with your position as misinformed.
There are many problems with wind power. One big technical problem with wind is that it is unreliable -- the wind does not always blow with sufficient velocity to generate power and, as a result, fossil fuel or nuclear power plants need to be kept on line to provide power when wind power is unavailable.
So no fossil fuel power plants are idled by investing in wind, which is exactly what happened in Denmark, where massive investments in wind have been made.
And environmentally, windmills are ugly and despoil the landscape as they slowly rust in the sunset.
I would like to see as a true debate on the merits of wind-generated power. Instead of editorials that take a position but do nothing to inform, there should be real discussion pro and con.
-- Dennis G. Reinen, Lodi
Property owners should consider small turbines
Regarding wind power, those who say they want to bring jobs and money to Wisconsin typically ignore the role that individual property owners could have, while others go well beyond public health and safety in developing wind turbine ordinances, including "small" turbines. The only standard that warrants attention is public health and safety.
A mere four-foot square piece of property and a bit of wind are all that is needed to generate income that covers use, meets needs and provides some benefit to others. Most of the smaller wind turbines sold and installed by our company require winds of only 4.5 to 10 mph to generate maximum outputs. Given that the state's wind speed average is 16 mph, even a 30 kw or 50 kw turbine, on a pole 40 feet to 80 feet in height, can operate efficiently.
And the return on such an investment is phenomenal. The federal income tax credit is 30 percent of project cost, plus accelerated depreciation of 50 percent the first year.
However, this federal money will not come if local regulations and moratoriums stand in the way of individual property owners who want to act.
-- David J. Gonzalez, CEO, Planet Turbine, Reedsburg
Kudos to towns with turbine ordinances
I was appalled by the State Journal's insensitive and uninformed attitude that opposition to wind energy systems is due to "alarming concerns, commonly based in misinformation."
Research has shown that wind turbines should not be sited in populated areas. Turbine noise and blade flicker affect the health of people living near them, depreciate property value and destroy the aesthetic quality of the rural countryside.
Several Wisconsin counties and towns thoroughly researched wind energy and wisely adopted ordinances requiring greater distance between turbines and residences as well as property lines to protect the health of nearby residents.
The wind companies now want the Public Services Commission to set siting standards that will overrule local ordinances so they can build wind energy systems wherever they want, regardless of the effects on people and the landscape. The wind companies are only interested in profits.
Why is Gov. Jim Doyle trying to force wind turbines on rural residents? The place to build them is in low population states that want them. Get informed. Energy conservation in Wisconsin -- not wind turbines -- is the answer.
-- James Congdon, Horicon
Wind farm resident calls it 'a nightmare'
I live in the Public Service Commission-approved Invenergy wind farm in Fond du Lac County, and it's a nightmare. Allowing turbines 1,000 feet from homes, 440 feet from property lines and a 50-decibel sound limit is irresponsible and was obtained with no scientific data regarding health and safety.
Health effects are numerous: interrupted sleep, sleep deprivation, headaches, ringing and buzzing in the ears, anxiety, anger, loss of balance, lack of motivation, nausea, light-headedness, loss of memory, fatigue, chest pains and weight gain due to chemical imbalance, to name a few.
It's not just the audible noise. Most significant is the low frequency noise emitted by the 400-foot industrial wind turbines. And shadow flicker is a major issue for many residents.
Those who drive to a wind farm and say they don't hear anything are showing ignorance. They do not live here. Property values plummet. Some realtors tell residents they will not market a home that won't sell anyway.
The siting bill by Sen. Jeff Plale, D-South Milwaukee, needs to be defeated, and a moratorium needs to be in place until all health issues are remedied. Get educated at
-- Gerry Meyer, Brownsville
Will wind industry be sued like tobacco firms?
I can tell you -- because I'm living it -- that turbines are being sited too close to people's homes.
The shadow flicker in the house is sickening, the noise is unbearable and the constant vibrations we are exposed to are unhealthy.
And the diminishment of people's hard-earned assets because of the "loss of saleability," as the real estate agents put it, is a crime.
I see the day when enough of this information has been exposed and the turbine industries are sued like the tobacco industry was for the damage they have done to innocent victims.
-- Sandy Vercauteren, Byron