By Susan Squires
Post-Crescent staff writer
CHILTON – Opponents lost their appeal for a moratorium on wind turbines Thursday, but succeeded in persuading the Calumet County Planning and Zoning Committee to ratchet up some regulations.
Midwest Wind Energy LLC and EcoEnergy LLC, both based in Illinois, each want to erect about 49, 400-foot wind turbines in the Calumet County towns of Chilton, Rantoul, Stockbridge and Brothertown. They would be the largest windmills in the state.
While wind proponents were virtually invisible at previous meetings, about 20 people wearing “I support wind energy” buttons turned out for Thursday’s session. One of the suitors, Midwest Wind, provided the buttons.
“This country needs not to depend on other countries (for energy). I don’t care where we put them up, just get them up,” Chilton resident Ed Wenig said.
Calumet County boasts some of the highest wind speeds in Wisconsin. Land owners stand to earn between $5,000 and $8,000 a year for hosting the turbines, while the state-mandated payments to local governments would total about $24 million over 30 years. The windmills would provide enough power for about 25,000 homes.
Opposition to the huge turbines, however, has been fierce. More than 400 people signed petitions asking for a moratorium and dozens of people testified against the proposed projects at an Aug. 3 hearing. Their worries included noise, diminished property values and the effect such large turbines would have on flight-for-life helicopters.
Thursday, the seven-member committee accepted 17 recommendations from county staff. They ranged from dismissing fears about property values and rescue helicopters to requiring wind farm developers to file site reclamation plans and hire consultants to ensure the turbines won’t cause stray voltage, a problem that affects dairy cattle’s productivity.
After the proposed changes are incorporated into the ordinance, the committee will hold another public hearing. The County Board has the final say, possibly in October.
“Basically, they didn’t change anything,” disappointed turbine skeptic Gene Sinner said Thursday. Among the changes Sinner had hoped to see were restrictions on turbines’ proximity to businesses. “Some people spend more time at work than they do at home.”
The committee’s tweaks sat just fine with button-wearing wind proponents, however.
Town of Brothertown farmer Don Lisowe said he visited a wind farm in Lincoln County.
“I had to turn off my (car) engine to hear them,” said Lisowe, who said he is interested in leasing land to Midwest Wind.
Susan Squires can be reached at 920-993-1000, ext. 368, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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