Panel seeks uniform standards for turbines
Responding to counties and towns that are restricting development of small wind farms, one lawmaker plans to introduce a bill that would call for similar standards to be enacted for wind turbines across Wisconsin.
The proposed bill was among the initiatives recommended by the state’s Task Force on Global Warming. In a report last week, the panel, composed of utilities, environmental groups and industry, recommended that the state enact the wind-siting changes.
Local ordinances that restrict wind power could make it harder to reach the goal, required by state law, for Wisconsin to generate 10% of its power from renewable energy by 2015, the task force said.
Drafts of the bill were being circulated and revised last week in Madison. A hearing on the bill could take place this week.
“The way things stand now, it’s easier to build a 100-megawatt wind farm in this state than it is to put up two or three turbines,” said Roy Thilly, chairman of the task force and president of Wisconsin Public Power Inc., a consortium of municipally owned utilities.
State law requires state regulators to approve large wind farms but leaves the decision-making on smaller projects to local units of government.
Oppositionis coming from residents in rural parts of the state who are concerned about having to look at the turbines. They also are raising concerns about noise generated by wind power projects.
“There are impacts from wind turbines that the people of the state as a whole should recognize,” said Richard Stadelman of the Wisconsin Towns Association. “There’s this mad rush to do a lot to add more alternative energy, but we need to recognize that some people are going to have to live with these things in their backyard.”
Although the final version of the bill isn’t ready, Stadelman said the towns association supports changes that would call for standardized requirements for how close a wind turbine could be placed to another house or property line, so long as local units of government still have authority to rule on whether the turbines are built, he said.
A provision of the legislation being drafted would give wind power developers – or those opposed to wind farms – the option of appealing a local government’s decision about a wind project to the state Public Service Commission.
The action comes after several counties – Fond du Lac, Calumet and Trempealeau – enacted ordinances restricting how close a wind turbine can be built to another home.
“Three of the most windy counties are on record now by enacting ordinances limiting the ability to site windmills,” said state Sen. Jeff Plale (D-South Milwaukee), chairman of the Senate utilities committee and a member of the global warming task force. Plale plans to introduce the bill. Given the short amount of time before the legislative session ends March 13, it’s unclear whether the legislation can be enacted this year, he said.
An ordinance enacted in Trempealeau County in December bars wind turbines from being built within a mile of a habitable building.
“It’s effectively a ban because you really can’t find a spot anywhere in Trempeleau County that’s more than a mile from a house or from a school,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of the environmental group Renew Wisconsin.
Vickerman said he’s optimistic the PSC will adopt standard wind siting requirements that would allow more wind projects to move forward.
By Thomas Content
24 February 2008
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