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Regulators vote to adopt standards allowing local governments to pay residents living near turbines  

Credit:  By Thomas Content of the Journal Sentinel, www.jsonline.com 30 August 2010 ~~

State energy regulators completed work Monday on rules that would restrict the location of wind turbines in Wisconsin.

The Public Service Commission voted 3-0 to adopt standards for noise and shadow flicker, and opted to allow local governments to require “good neighbor payments” to residents who live within one-half mile of a wind turbine but aren’t hosting a turbine on their land.

Commissioners have grappled with details of the rules during a series of meetings over the past few weeks, as the agency scrambled to complete the rules by the end of August. The rules are now being submitted to the state Legislature for review.

At Monday’s meeting, commissioners Mark Meyer and Lauren Azar supported a more stringent safety setback for wind turbines than had been proposed by the commission’s wind siting advisory council. PSC Chairman Eric Callisto said performance standards adopted in the rules meant that a more stringent setback wasn’t required. But Azar argued for a bigger safety setback because it is unclear how well the new performance standards will work.

“What we’re going to see is the loss of some quality land for reasonable projects that, if you followed the (performance) standards, would otherwise be safe,” Callisto said.

In a law passed earlier this year, the Legislature asked the commission to develop the standards that would eliminate a patchwork of regulations and wind-power bans that some counties have passed.

Callisto said in a statement after the meeting that he was pleased the commission has adopted the rules.

“Establishing clear and consistent siting standards is critical to removing the confusion that currently surrounds non-utility wind projects in Wisconsin,” he said.

The rules were controversial because of the tension between wind developers and property owners concerned about shadow flicker, noise and other effects caused by turbines.

The “good neighbor payments” and other restrictions will help address some of the tension, said Dan Ebert, chairman of the wind siting advisory council.

“For non-participating landowners, it’s this sense of loss of control, the sense of decisions being made without considering them, that has resulted in a lot of controversy,” he said. Giving those landowners “a stake in the project so that they will ultimately see some of the direct benefits will go a long way to reducing the controversy.”

The safety setback established by the commission would be 3.1 times the maximum height of a blade. That would be equivalent to the setbacks imposed by the commission when it endorsed the We Energies Glacier Hills wind farm in Columbia County.

The rules adopted govern smaller wind farms. Utility-scale wind farms remain under review under a separate process.

Source:  By Thomas Content of the Journal Sentinel, www.jsonline.com 30 August 2010

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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