Wind farms built in certain areas of the state could end up preventing farms growing potatoes and beans from using airplanes to spray their fields with pesticides and insecticides, agricultural representatives told a state Senate hearing in Madison on Wednesday.
“If large-scale wind energy plants would be sited in areas of intense vegetable production, the result could be devastating crop losses,” said Tamas Houlihan of the state Potato and Vegetable Growers Association.
The group is seeking “some kind of system for compensation in the event of losses due to siting of wind energy facilities that prevent the use of aerial application,” he said.
At issue is a set of rules that the state Public Service Commission developed this summer after a series of public hearings and recommendations by a wind siting advisory council.
Developers are concerned that some of the restrictions may force them to develop wind projects out of state instead of here. And they left opponents of wind farms critical that the PSC didn’t go far enough to restrict how close wind turbines can be built to nearby homes.
Sen. Jeff Plale (D-South Milwaukee), chair of the Senate commerce, energy and utilities committee, said he wants to see the rules sent back to the PSC for more work. Plale was the author of a bill that led to the rules created by the PSC. If the Legislature does not send the rules back, the rules would take effect.
Nick George of the Midwest Food Processors Association, said sending the rules back would help the agency incorporate a compensation system that the farm groups have developed in consultation with other stakeholders.
Wind developers object that setback rules will make it impossible to build some projects, and deprive the state of economic development opportunities.
Michael Arndt of Oregon-based Element Power said his company is proposing a $300 million project that would create 150 construction jobs and 15 maintenance jobs as well as $2 million in revenue for local landowners.
“And the project may not be viable if the proposed rules are adopted as they stand today. It will force us to basically deploy our development dollars in neighboring states.”
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