A more than 400-acre property in the Town of Sherman could become home to Sheboygan County’s first commercial wind farm.
A Hubertus-based developer, EEW Services, LLC, told leaders of the southern Sheboygan County township this week that it intends to submit a formal application to begin construction there next year on the Windy Acres Wind Farm.
Under the proposal, four wind turbines would be built on a stretch of land located east of state Highway 57, west of county Highway CC and north of county Highway A.
William Rakocy, managing member of EEW Services, said the site is well-suited for a wind farm due to its wind capacity and proximity to transmission infrastructure.
“The first thing we look for is adequate wind resources, and the second thing we look for is adequate transmission and then thirdly, willing participants,” he said.
The wind farm would produce between nine and 12 megawatts of electricity, or enough power for about 4,000 average residential homes. The turbine blades would reach as high as 500 feet and connect to a substation in the Town of Holland.
The project is on the smaller end in Wisconsin, where the largest wind farm – Glacier Hills, in Columbia County – can produce 162 megawatts of power, according to Chris Kunkle of the Wisconsin Energy Business Association.
Should the project go forward, Rakocy said his firm has tentative plans to begin operating the wind farm in the fourth quarter of 2013.
The project will require the blessing of the Town of Sherman Board, though approval is ultimately in the hands of state regulators at the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, as state rules governing wind farm siting supersedes local ordinances.
The state requires all property owners within one mile of the turbines to be notified of the project proposal. About 500 neighbors have been contacted, according to Rakocy.
Town officials say they expect to hear opposition to the project, though the Town Board can really only consider whether the project meets state requirements – such as 1,250-foot setbacks from homes and noise standards – in deciding whether to approve it.
“The town’s hands are really tied,” said Town Chairman William Goehring. “If there are some who are for it, and some people who are against it, all we can do is ensure they are in compliance with state regulations.”
The town is in the process of drafting a local wind ordinance though it essentially must mirror the state’s rules. A draft ordinance could be introduced to the board as early as Tuesday, though Goehring said no action would be taken by the board at this point.
Rakocy said that EEW – which previously developed a wind farm in Brown County and is in the permitting process with two others in St. Croix and Manitowoc counties – has considered a project in the town for some time.
However, in Wisconsin wind energy development has been slowed by uncertainty over the state’s wind siting rules, which finally went into effect this spring.
The state rules had been adopted by the PSC under former Gov. Jim Doyle, but the state Legislature voted in March 2011 to stop the rules from going into effect. Lawmakers needed to vote again by this spring on whether to permanently shelve them and never did, meaning the rules are now in effect.
During that time, neighboring states saw a considerable amount of wind development, such as Illinois, where that state added more wind power capacity in a single year in 2011 than Wisconsin has total, Kunkle said. Wisconsin now ranks 18th nationally in total installed wind capacity.
The siting rule is currently being challenged in court in Brown County by several parties, including the Wisconsin Realtors Association and the Wisconsin Towns Association, and Kunkle said that’s created additional uncertainty for wind developers in the state.
The industry as a whole has also been slowed by the pending expiration of a federal tax credit at the end of the year, though Rakocy said the Sherman project – which would be built too late to qualify for the existing credit – will go forward whether or not the credit is extended.
Rakocy said it’s too early to provide a firm cost estimate but said wind farms this size typically cost up to $2.5 million per megawatt to construct, which would put the Sherman project in the $30 million range.
According to Rakocy, the wind farm would likely require up to two employees to handle maintenance and operational duties.
The farm would be built on property owned by a separate private land owner, who would lease more than 400 acres to accommodate the project.
The property is mostly farmland and forest, according to Rakocy, who said it would be a single project and not something they intend to expand over time.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding