A legal battle in northeastern St. Croix County highlights the difficult issues of wind-generated power. Talk to anyone and they will, in general terms, talk about wind power as a good, efficient and cheap energy source for the times – be it today or tomorrow.
Try finding a location to construct wind generators and suddenly you’ve got yourself a first-class controversy, complete with arguments among neighbors, recalls and lawsuits.
Such is the case in St. Croix County in the town of Forest.
The controversial energy project in Forest has come under fire and may be stopped by a federal lawsuit which was filed by a citizens’ group in February. That suit was also supported by action of a new town board that was elected through a successful recall election. The former board had approved the proposed wind energy project last summer.
A citizens’ lawsuit was filed in February. In March, the new town of Forest board voted to rescind a wind energy development agreement and other approvals that had been granted to a wind developer. The project, being proposed by a private developer named Emerging Energies, is in jeopardy.
The project in Forest called for 39 wind towers. Each tower stands about 500 feet tall.
Many landowners in the town had signed leases with the wind firm, but were prohibited from discussing the project. When the rest of the town’s residents got “wind” of the deals, the uprising began.
Now there are battles over setbacks, noise, quality of life, health, property value, safety and more. Emerging Energies, LLC, has also threat-ened the new town board with legal action.
A similar scenario developed in the eastern part of the state when a Chicago wind energy developer, Invenergy LLC, dropped its plan to build a large wind farm near Green Bay.
Opponents in the Green Bay area are expressing the same concerns and claim they will continue to work to prevent the “irresponsible development of industrial wind projects.”
State energy regulators are now trying to come up with a plan to help support wind projects. Regulators may be asked to go back to the drawing board to develop statewide rules governing wind power projects, under a bill to be considered this week.
The Legislature’s joint committee for review of administrative rules voted earlier this month to temporarily block a wind farm site rule developed by the state Public Service Commission.
Supporters of wind energy development say legal problems will stall development, leading to a loss of jobs tied to wind turbine construction as well as revenue for host property owners and local governments. There seems to be plenty of controversy over, among other things, setbacks for wind towers.
A property rights bill introduced by Gov. Scott Walker in January would restrict wind towers from being placed less than 1,800 feet from a property line. That bill had the apparent support of wind farm opponents and the Wisconsin Realtors Association.
In its most recent wind farm decision, the PSC ruled that 1,250-foot setbacks be required for We Energies’ Glacier Hills Wind Park, now under construction in Columbia County.
The bottom line is, when wind towers begin popping up in either populated areas, or rural countryside, there is likely to be plenty of opposition. A group of wind towers doesn’t do much for the scenic value of any topography.
Despite all the virtues of wind power, developing a power source to a degree where it would have a significant impact could be difficult when facing “not in my backyard” neighborhoods.
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