The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin has informed officials with the Highland Wind Farm project that its application for construction of a 41-turbine facility is officially complete and can move forward.
The official notice from the PSC is dated March 29, 2012, and relates to a project proposed for the Town of Forest in the northeastern part of St. Croix County.
“This is a major hurdle to clear and now the review process can begin,” said Jay Mundinger, a spokesman for the Highland Wind Project. “We believe we’re one step closer to delivering the economic, social and environmental benefits that this project has always promised.”
In January the PSC listed more than 60 questions for Highland Wind Farm developers (Emerging Energies LLC) to address before the state agency could accept the application.
Now that the application has been accepted, the PSC has 180 days to review the application for Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, which is required for the project to be approved.
The proposed $250 million Highland project would generate 102.5 megawatts of electricity from its 41 turbines. An electric substation would also be required to be constructed in the Town of Cylon.
“This has been an emotional journey for supporters and critics alike, but the review process is just beginning and we encourage everyone to participate in future hearings,” said Mundinger.
Mundinger says the Highland project team will continue to provide updates to the elected officials of the towns of Forest and Cylon and its residents as the process moves forward.
If the project gains final approval, Mundinger said a construction work force of 100 will install the turbines on properties throughout the Town of Forest. He claimed that six to eight permanent employees would be required to operate the wind farm. Mundinger has indicated previously that developers hope to install the turbines by the end of 2013.
Elected officials with the Town of Forest have corresponded with the PSC about its concerns over the project. Concerns range from health impacts to land rights issues.
Last week, a number of Forest residents met with the St. Croix County Health and Human Services Board to express their concern over possible health impacts of turbines that operate near people and animals.
The board approved the writing of letters in support of their concerns, and also called upon the state to commission a study into such health effects.
Some residents claim the wind farm doesn’t belong in the Town of Forest, because homes will be too close to many of the turbines. The turbines, as proposed, do follow setback guidelines established by the state.
The wind farm has been a controversial topic in the Town of Forest for several years, after the previous town board voted to approve a development agreement and other permits with the turbine company.
As a result of that action, the elected officials were recalled by voters and an entirely new town board was put in place.
When the town took action to rescind the previous agreements and permits, Highland officials changed their original and smaller proposal so that the project exceeded 100 megawatts of electricity generation. Projects over 100 megawatts fall under the approval authority of the PSC, thus bypassing town and county approval processes.
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