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As Obama Extols Wisc. Cleantech, Fears of Governor's Anti-Wind Policies Grow

Pres. Obama unwittingly visits a wind plant that could go under if Gov. Walker's policy rollback occurs. Solar, however, is being left to flourish for now

By Maria Gallucci

Feb 7, 2011

President Obama's recent visit to a Wisconsin town to trumpet its cleantech success has inadvertently shone a spotlight on the state's new governor and his plans to reverse a law that advocates say is needed for the wind industry to stay afloat.

Manitowoc, about 80 miles north of Milwaukee and on Lake Michigan, is home to two major renewables firms: , which makes high-efficiency lighting and solar products, and , a manufacturer of towers for utility-scale wind turbines.

Obama toured the one-time shipbuilding city of about 34,000 people following his Jan. 25 as an example of success in his efforts to foster investments in clean energy projects.

At the Orion plant, the president lauded the state's $850,000 tax credit plan, signed by former Democratic governor, Jim Doyle. The policy helped the solar products maker create 170 jobs and retain 115 positions by expanding its manufacturing capacity and building a new headquarters.

"We need to get behind clean energy companies like Orion. We need to get behind innovation," Obama at the plant. "This plant and company have been supported by tax help give a leg up to renewable energy companies."

The president also praised the 250 manufacturing jobs at the Tower Tech plant — jobs he said will help slash the nation's energy bills, make the planet safer and keep America competitive by growing its renewable energy industry.

But now — in light of a bill by newly elected Gov. Scott Walker, a Tea Party-backed Republican — wind industry officials say that Obama's stop at Tower Tech was unwittingly ironic.

Wind Investors Urged to 'Escape to Illinois'

The Wind Siting Reform bill would mandate turbines go up at least 1,800 feet from property lines, the strongest regulation in the country. The restrictions would prohibit any future wind projects from being built and threaten the same jobs that Obama heralded just weeks ago, the industry says.

While the state legislature agreed last week that it would not take up the bill during the current special legislative session, Walker has pledged to continue to fight for tougher regulations, according to news reports.

The governor's goal is to somehow reverse legislation that went into effect on Jan. 1, after heated controversy last year. Initial efforts led by the , which argues that turbines decrease property values, sought to further restrict the turbines' proximity to people. After lengthy proceedings, the legislature ultimately established a 1,250-foot setback requirement, or 3.1 times the total height of the wind turbine.

The issued an "" urging its members to lobby against the wind provision of the governor's special session, which he called in order to focus on employment — he's vowed to create 250,000 new private sector jobs — and economic development.

Jeff Anthony, AWEA's director of business development, said in the alert that no wind project being proposed or under construction could move forward under the bill, resulting in the loss of more than 700 megawatts in Wisconsin's wind energy capacity and $1.8 billion in investment from projects already planned, plus a loss of 2 million job hours in aggregate employment impacts.

He said that many of Wisconsin's 2,000 to 3,000 jobs in the wind energy industry would leave the state "as developers look for other locations outside of Wisconsin without onerous requirements."

Turbine Noise

I don't know where you people come up with this stuff. Even when you're within 300 meters of a turbine, it's no louder than the refrigerator in your house (40 dB).

Also, the problem of variable generation can easily be solved by wide geographic distribution of turbines, or grid storage. The wind is always blowing somewhere. The reason wind farms might require backup generation is that we haven't invested enough in them yet, in research or in actual deployment. You think coal-fired boilers, or natural gas plants, or nuclear started off as foolproof? Of course not.

Turbines are folly

The governor is opposing these because the health effects are becoming known.  Sleepless nights cause people to get sick.  That's not Green, or Clean.  Company's have railroaded these and the governor is listening to the people.  Further, there is NO empirical peer reviewed science that these provide any net benefit.  NO coal fired plant ever closed because wind energy picked up slack.  These actually require the burning of fossil fuels or they would not even go on the grid.  GET A CLUE folks. Obama has fallen for the oldest PR trick in the book on these.

Go clean with geo-thermal.  It provides a real benefit.  Go green with conservation which has proven benefits and a fraction of the costs. 

Choosing wind is part of a religion that requires the sacrifice of our first born to appease the climate gods.  It is about as useful as tossing a baby to the nile crocodiles. 

Noisy wind turbines

Like unwelcome guests at a dinner party, these noisy turbines tower over hapless home owners.  You need a 5,000 foot setback to keep this low frequency noise from penetrating the walls that residents will soon be climbing. Denmark has halted ALL on shore wind turbine building because of massive noise complaints.

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