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Sen. Frank Lasee, R-Ledgeview, seeks ban on wind farm construction

GLENMORE – The sights and sounds outside her son’s window made Sarah Cappelle consider something once unthinkable: Trying to sell the home in which her family has lived for generations.

The two-story house off Glenmore Road, however, has become less dream than nightmare since wind turbines were erected in 2010 on farmland just to the southeast.

Worries about the effects of the structures prompted Cappelle and husband Dave to stand in support Monday as state Sen. Frank Lasee, R-Ledgeview, proposed a state ban on wind-turbine construction until studies have deemed the turbines don’t harm humans and animals.

“It’s not fair to put something so noisy and so large so close to people, unless you can be sure it’s safe,” Lasee said.

A bill he introduced Monday would declare a moratorium on construction of wind farms until the state Public Service Commission is in possession of a report that ensures that turbines like those dotting the landscape in this southern Brown County town don’t cause health problems. He wasn’t sure if the bill would gain the support needed for passage in the chamber, but said proposing it is the right thing to do.

Wind farms have prompted passionate debate, but limited agreement, on their long-term impacts on humans. And lack of regulatory agreement in Wisconsin, particularly on the issue of how far a turbine must be from a property line, has tempered developers’ enthusiasm about erecting wind farms. A corporation earlier this year scrapped plans for a 100-turbine development in the Morrison-Glenmore area.

A large wind farm planned for Calumet County by Midwest Wind Energy of Chicago was placed on hold. Tim Polz, vice president of Midwest Wind, said his company had spent three years and about $1 million developing the project.

Backers of wind energy say it is a clean, safer alternative to coal and nuclear energy, pointing to the fact that they don’t consume fuel and don’t produce ash or other waste. They also say wind-development could create thousands of jobs in technology and construction.

Opponents say turbines can be noisy, unsightly, problematic for birds and bats and, most important, cause vertigo and sleep disorders. Concerns are growing about a condition labeled “wind-turbine syndrome,” and a daylight phenomenon called “shadow flicker.”

Regulators say the state’s wind developments are safe, and that they fall within noise-emission limits.

The Cappelles believe their toddler son’s inability to sleep, their 6-year-old’s recurring ear infections and Sarah’s never-ending colds are a product of the Shirley Wind development near their home.

They say that family members had never had health problems until the turbine near their house went into service last fall. Lasee said he knows of at least three Glenmore-area families who have left their homes because of health problems that, while not formally diagnosed, didn’t appear until nearby turbines went on-line.

A real estate agent has told the family that no one likely would pay fair market value for a house with a view of a wind turbine.

“My mother grew up here. My grandmother was here for 50 years,” Sarah Cappelle said. “This is where I always wanted to raise our kids. But now, I’m not sure if we should stay.”