MADISON – They only had three minutes at a time, but dozens of people packed into a state senate hearing room on Wednesday to voice their opinions about wind turbines.
They are responding to a new set of state-wide rules proposed by the Public Service Commission for large scale wind developments. The major issue is how close should wind turbines be to nearby homes.
The PSC wants it based on how loud they are. Opponents say the noise standards proposed will allow the wind turbines be too close.
“Nobody has any idea how loud and annoying 45 decibels is. I’ve lived in a wind farm for two years now, and I’m here to tell you that when the wind picks up, wind turbines are noisy,” said Larry Wunsch, a farmer from Brownsville.
The PSC says the rules are a fair balance between protecting citizens and providing wind developers with reasonable regulations.
“Finding that balance wasn’t easy and the rules the commission ultimately agreed to embody genuine compromise,” said Nathan Zolik, with the Public Service Commission.
The wind turbines not only help the state meet its renewable energy goals, they also provide a financial lifeline to the farmers who host them on their land.
Kim Egan, a farmer from Cuba City, says without state-wide standards, the project he wants to be a part of has little chance of success.
“Most projects will span over 2 or 3 townships, they’ll fit in the corner of 2 or 3 townships. If there are 3 separate criterias in 3 separate townships, you’ll never get anywhere,” said Egan.
The proposal would only require wind turbines to be setback about a quarter of a mile from a neighboring property. David Vind, a farmer from Arcadia, says a greater distance will reduce noise problems drastically and protect property values.
“Create a setback of half a mile from the property line that will allow developers to purchase easements if they wish to move closer,” said Vind.
Developers, however, have said a half-mile setback would make it much more difficult to find locations for the wind turbines.
Either way, the issue is still not settled. Senate Committee chair Jeff Plale (D- South Milwaukee) says he’s not ready to adopt the rules yet.
“I share a lot of concerns that have been raised and want to see this rule go back to the PSC for modifications,” said Plale.
PSC officials say they will work with the Senate Committee but there’s no timetable on when the modifications – if any – will be ready.
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