Rural landowners and realtors told a panel of state lawmakers Wednesday that they should rewrite new wind turbine siting rules to require longer setbacks from neighboring homes. But people who work in the wind industry say that would drive jobs to other states.
Rules written by the Public Service Commission would require a 1,250-ft. setback between wind turbines and neighboring homes. Gov. Scott Walker proposed a longer setback and several GOP lawmakers on a committee considering the rule indicated they want more distance as well.
Leading the push for more space are rural landowners including Larry Wunsch of Fond du Lac County. Wunsch was also on the PSC committee that considered these rules. He says having a wind turbine next to his place has changed his life, something he tried to explain to other members about, including how the noise and flickering shadows from the wind farm near his home had driven down his property value.
“It seemed like every time we talked about sound and property values and things like that, we just kind of flew by it,” says Wunsch. “And today I’m telling you that the council I think was pro-wind. And I think that rule should be thrown in the wastebasket.”
But Gary Koster of wind turbine manufacturer Northern Power Systems says that would be a mistake. He says these turbines are lots of jobs to the state, as Wisconsin’s manufacturing industry is great at feeding the wind turbine supply chain. Overturning these siting rules, he says, worries him.
“I need to build my turbines and assemble my turbines as close as I can to my manufacturing,” says Koster. “Some of these parts are very large. If I can’t sell turbines in Wisconsin, big or small, why would I want to be here when I can be somewhere else that actually wants my business.”
Without any action, the new wind siting rules are set to take effect March 1st.
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