A task force is recommending that wind farm developers in Wisconsin offer to make payments to homeowners who live near the projects.
That recommendation is among the proposals forwarded to the state Public Service Commission by a wind turbine site advisory council that has been meeting since March.
The PSC is expected to consider the proposals by the end of August and forward them to the Legislature for review.
The goal is to strike a balance between adding wind power and protecting nearby homeowners who are concerned about shadow flicker and noise from towers that can rise hundreds of feet in the air.
The wind siting council’s final report resulted in a compromise from a task force that included wind developers and utilities as well as homeowners and town officials from areas that are host to wind power developments, said Dan Ebert of WPPI Energy, who chaired the panel.
The council reached agreement on three-fourths of its recommendations, he said.
“While the council did not ultimately reach consensus on every single item, a significant majority support the report in its totality. The question of how and where to site wind generation is complex and sometimes controversial.”
The council was created by a state law aimed at creating uniform wind power siting standards to replace a hodgepodge of local regulations that have cropped up around the state, including outright bans adopted in some areas. The rules target small wind farms that are issued permits by local governments. Utility-scale wind farms must be approved by the PSC.
“The patchwork of local ordinances and zoning and permitting processes … threatened to grind wind development in Wisconsin to a halt and send wind developers and significant economic development opportunities to neighboring states,” the report says.
To reduce the tension between property owners who host wind turbines and those who don’t, the council is advocating that nearby property owners be given a financial stake in a project by the developer.
The council reached that recommendation even though a majority of the council concluded that wind farms do not reduce property values for nearby landowners, the report says.
Most of the council’s recommendations are supported by an 11-4 majority. In a minority report, those who opposed the recommendations said the council’s makeup was skewed toward groups or businesses with a financial stake in wind power projects.
The four – two Realtors, a local government official and a public member – said the recommendations are not restrictive enough.
Realtor members George Krause and Tom Meyer recommended that the PSC conduct its own study concerning the impact of wind power projects on property values. “Property value effects need to be addressed in order to ensure that wind farm developers and operators are not benefitting from imposing economic hardship on their neighbors,” they said in the report.
Andy Hesselbach, wind farm project manager for We Energies, said some of the council’s proposals are more restrictive than the PSC imposed for the Glacier Hills Wind Farm, the utility wind project now under construction in Columbia County, northeast of Madison.
The proposal to offer nearby property owners a financial stake in exchange for an easement is similar to what We Energies has in place for Glacier Hills, which will be Wisconsin’s largest wind project to date.
We Energies is offering certain landowners compensation if they agree not to erect large structures in certain areas that would diminish the effectiveness of the wind resource, Hesselbach said.
“A good clean wind resource has value to us, so to put up a whole lot of grain towers on a property would reduce (energy) production,” he said.
As a state, Wisconsin needs six more wind farms the size of the 90-turbine Glacier Hills project to achieve the state’s renewable energy mandate that 10% of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2015.
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