The eight wind turbines being built in the town of Glenmore would never have been allowed if they had to comply with the siting rules newly approved by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, a state wind energy expert said.
“That project would be almost impossible to situate in Wisconsin” under the PSC guidelines, said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a Madison nonprofit group that promotes clean-energy strategies. “Those will be the tallest and largest wind turbines in the state.”
CH Shirley Wind LLC has begun construction of a 20-megawatt wind facility that includes a 20-year power purchase contract with Wisconsin Public Service Corp. The company said last year that it was investing $50 million in the project.
The PSC on Monday adopted rules for projects that produce less than 100 megawatts of power after its appointed wind siting council spent five months studying the issue.
Those rules include stringent limits on where turbines can be placed on someone’s property, using a formula based on the height of the turbines and their distance from residences, property lines, public roads and overhead electric transmission lines.
The 492-foot-high turbines in the Shirley Wind project wouldn’t meet PSC specifications, Vickerman said. But the project can proceed under the grandfather clause.
Vickerman praised the PSC for adopting what he called “the strongest statewide rules of any place in the nation. If you look at the rules as a layer of different conditions, the sum total result is a very stringent list of requirements. You won’t find that in Ohio or Minnesota.”
In addition to the setback limits, the PSC put limits on shadow flickers and noise levels. It also gave local governments the authority to require wind energy system owners to compensate property owners within a half mile of a wind turbine site who don’t have turbines on their land.
It remains to be seen what impact the new rules will have on the proposed Ledge Wind Project planned by Invenergy LLC in the towns of Morrison, Glenmore, Holland and Wrightstown in southern Brown County. The company wants to build 100 wind turbines exceeding 100 megawatts, which puts it outside the scope of the new rules.
Ed Marion is a Madison-based attorney who has been hired by the Brown County Citizens for Responsible Wind Energy – a nonprofit composed of local residents and led by a board of directors – which opposes the southern Brown County wind farm proposal.
Marion said he expects the company to soon refile its application for the Ledge Wind development with the additional knowledge of the PSC rules for smaller projects.
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