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Homeland Security policy puts Wisconsin Windpower projects in jeopardy
Homeland Security Policy Puts Wisconsin Windpower Projects in Jeopardy
A recently adopted requirement on the Department of Defense to study and report on the effects of windpower installations on military readiness has mutated into an open-ended stop-work order on projects in Wisconsin, according to RENEW Wisconsin Executive Director Michael Vickerman.
Enacted in January 6, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006 instructed the Department of Defense (DOD) to assess the effects of wind energy installations on nearby military radar installations and submit a report within 120 days. In its report to Congress, which was due last week, DOD was specifically ordered to study the potential for adverse effects as well as mitigation measures that can remedy interference that can result from radar signals bouncing off spinning blades.
By all accounts, the original Congressional language was aimed at one project. However, DOD and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have decided to expand upon the original study directive and apply it to all proposed windpower installations in the United States. On March 21, 2006, the two agencies circulated an Interim Policy on Proposed Windmill Farm Locations, stating that “[t]he DOD/DHS ... Interim Policy is to contest any establishment of windmill farms within radar line of the National Air Defense and Homeland Security Radars. This is to remain in effect until the completion of the study and publishing of the Congressional Report.” (See accompanying policy statement from the American Wind Energy Association)
There are pending in Wisconsin proposals to build more than a dozen wind generation facilities. They range in size from single-turbine installations to large wind farms numbering over 100 turbines, for a combined total of 900 megawatts (see accompanying wind project summary table). The path to permit requires project developers to obtain from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) a notice stating that the installation is not a hazard to air navigation. Until this year obtaining FAA clearance for wind projects was strictly routine.
Since the new DOD/DHS policy took effect, however, the FAA has issued Notices of Presumed Hazard to several Midwestern wind projects under development, including four in Wisconsin, effectively halting their further development. Among the projects held in abeyance are Midwest Wind Energy’s Butler Ridge in eastern Dodge County and Invenergy’s Forward Wind Center in Fond du Lac and Dodge counties. These two projects, totaling 250 MW, have received all necessary state and local permits to proceed with construction. Other Wisconsin projects, including We Energies’ 88-turbine Blue Sky/Green Field installation, are likely to run afoul of the FAA’s clampdown unless the DOD/DHS Interim Policy is modified or rescinded.
RENEW Wisconsin is very concerned that this policy will lead to lost revenues and job opportunities communities expecting to host wind projects. Furthermore, this de facto moratorium comes just when Wisconsin utilities are preparing to invest in new renewable energy sources, as required under the recently enacted Act 141. Until this barrier emerged, utilities had planned to procure a substantial portion of this new energy from windpower, the lowest-cost source of renewable electricity available .
Katie Nekola, energy program director for Clean Wisconsin, said: “This is the worst possible time to place roadblocks in the way of wind development, when Wisconsin is making critical decisions about building new generation. Wind energy is by far the best choice we have, and has to be an available option.”
RENEW Wisconsin’s Michael Vickerman issued the following statement on the DOD/DHS Interim Policy:
“It is not clear what criteria the FAA is using to contest these proposed windpower installations. What is more, the DOD study is already behind schedule and may not be completed until the fall. Both factors have combined to paralyze wind development efforts in Wisconsin and other Midwestern states. And if this de facto moratorium persists through the summer months, it may not be possible to build a wind project here in time to capture the federal tax credits which were extended last August through the end of 2007. The direct and indirect economic damage that will accrue from a one-year suspension of wind farm construction in Wisconsin will easily reach the tens of millions of dollars. Coal and natural gas must be imported in Wisconsin to make up for the lost wind generation, resulting in higher energy costs and more air pollution.”
“It must be noted that a number of U.S. government installations have both wind turbines and functional radar, and the British military has a track record of successfully addressing this challenge. Notwithstanding its concern over “clutter” on radars caused by wind turbines, the British military was able to reach an accommodation with the wind industry there without stifling wind farm construction in large stretches of territory. What is the justification then for DOD/DHS’s perverse policy of blanket opposition to wind projects unlucky enough to be within the tracking area of one radar installation? Why is the British Ministry of Defense so resilient on this issue and its U.S. counterpart so feeble by contrast?”
“Whatever its intentions may have been, Congress surely did not envision bringing the wind industry to a standstill while the DOD study drags on beyond the statutorily mandated deadline. But in a time when satisfying America’s voracious energy appetite has become the principal objective of U.S. foreign policy, Congress must not allow this example of agency overkill to cripple the development of domestically available renewable energy resources like wind. The economic, environmental and energy security benefits that windpower delivers to Wisconsin and the other 49 states are too great to be sacrificed needlessly on the altar of national security. “
“Put another way, if windpower is allowed to be thwarted on the dubious presumption that military radar operations would be irreparably compromised, then we have no choice but to conclude that the terrorists have already won the war.”
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