A proposed wind farm in northern Dodge County got a step closer to reality. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals has affirmed a Dodge County Circuit Court judge ruling that construction can proceed on a wind power project that borders northern Dodge and Fond du Lac counties.
More than a year ago, Dodge County Judge John Storck decided the Public Service Commission was correct when it authorized the construction of the $250 million Forward Wind Energy Center. He confirmed the agency’s action of granting a certificate of public convenience and necessity.
The Horicon Marsh System Advocates had appealed the commission’s decision last fall. The group wants the wind turbines farther away from the Horicon Marsh.
Members of the group argued the PSC decision to approve the project with only a two-mile setback requirement from the Horicon Marsh was not supported by evidence and the “PSC acted arbitrarily in not waiting for additional environmental impact studies to be completed.”
Late last week, the court of appeals affirmed Dodge County Circuit Court Judge John Storck’s ruling and adopted his decision as its own, according to the opinion and ordered issued by the court.
More than a year ago, the state’s regulatory body approved plans from Chicago-based Invenergy to begin work on a 200-megawatt wind farm on 50 square miles in the two counties. The wind farm, with a proposed 133 turbines, is expected to generate enough to power 72,000 homes a year.
One of the stipulations is the nearest turbine is to be built at least two miles away from the 14-mile long Horicon Marsh.
On Sept. 2, 2006, the PSC denied a request from the Horicon Marsh System Advocates for a rehearing on the decision.
The advocacy group filed a petition requesting the county court set aside the PSC’s decision and seek further consideration of the plans.
The petition claimed the PSC’s decision was based on erroneous interpretations of the law, it is based on findings of fact that are not supported by substantial evidence, and the decision violates state and federal statutes.
In court, the Dodge County judge handed down a 14-page memorandum decision and order which has been upheld by the court of appeals.
“This case represents a conflict between competing environmental values,” Storck wrote in his decision. “On one hand there is the need for renewable, nonpolluting energy sources. On the other hand, the western edge of the proposed wind farm will be located about two miles from the Horicon Marsh, which all parties conceded is a wetland of ‘international importance and a national treasure.’”
Petitioners are concerned the wind farm will interfere with bird and bat populations in and around the marsh.
“It is not the court’s role to decide whether the PSC’s decision is good public policy, or to strike its own balance between promoting renewable energy and protecting avian populations in the Horicon Marsh,” the judge wrote. “The issue this court must decide is whether the PSC erroneously approved the application for a CPCN (certificate of public convenience and necessity). It is not the function of this court to determine this state’s energy policy.
“Despite what some might believe, this is not a simple conflict between ‘economic development’ and ‘environmental protection,’” Stork wrote. “Rather, the Forward Energy project represents a conflict between worthy environmental goals.”
Storck affirmed the PSC’s decision in its entirety.
By Diane Graff of the Daily Times staff
31 July 2007
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