Second Wind Developer Forsakes Wisconsin for Greener Pastures

Citing Wisconsin’s inhospitable regulatory climate, Midwest Wind Energy, LLC (MWE), a Chicago-based developer of wind generation installations, became the second developer in two weeks to suspend all wind energy development activity in Wisconsin.

This setback follows Chicago-based wind developer, Invenergy, LLC, that announced last week it had canceled a 100-turbine wind project in southern Brown County. Both announcements come on the heels of a March 1 vote by a legislative panel to suspend a Public Service Commission (PSC) rule establishing standards for local government review of windpower projects. That body, the Joint Committee for the Review of Administrative Rules, voted yesterday to introduce legislation to repeal the wind siting rule (PSC 128) and direct the Commission to promulgate a new rule.

In 2006 MWE proposed erecting a 98 megawatt (MW) prospect in southern Calumet County, north of We Energies’ Blue Sky Green Field installation. Called Stony Brook, MWE’s proposed development was stymied in 2007 and 2008 by a combination of moratoria and arbitrary ordinance changes imposed at the county and township level. In an interesting twist, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals in 2009 invalidated Calumet County’s wind ordinance, after determining that local governments lack the authority to restrict wind energy systems beyond what is allowed in state statutes.

“One wonders if our political leadership appreciates the economic damage being done to Wisconsin when it decided to pull the welcome mat out from under the wind industry,” says Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin. ‘The industry’s exodus to greener pastures will cause manufacturing and construction jobs to migrate to states that are friendlier to wind energy. It will be a challenge for Wisconsin businesses that participate in the wind energy supply chain to avoid being caught up in the collateral damage caused by the prevailing climate of in-hospitality,” Vickerman says.

MWE’s 98 MW Stony Brook facility represents about a $230 million investment in a locally available source of renewable energy that would generate more than 130 construction jobs, support 10 permanent high-tech jobs, yield an annual flow of nearly $400,000 to host local governments and more than $500,000 to host landowners, as well as create manufacturing and consulting opportunities for a host of Wisconsin businesses.

An early entrant to the Wisconsin wind development scene, MWE secured permits for two mid-sized windpower facilities now operating: Cedar Ridge, a 41-turbine, 68 MW project in Fond du Lac County; and Butler Ridge, as 36-turbine 54 MW facility in Dodge County. Cedar Ridge is owned by Alliant Energy and Butler Ridge is now owned by NextEra Energy Resources.

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