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St. Croix County wind farm project moves forward

The Highland Wind Farm project has taken a step toward completion with the approval of a proposed sub- station in the town of Cylon.

The plans for a $5 million substation were approved by the St. Croix County Board of Adjustment June 28 and set the stage for construction with some conditions. Earlier the town of Cylon approved the project.

The Public Service Commission (PSC) deemed the wind farm application complete in a letter March 29 for a 41 turbine site in the adjoining town of Forest. Both townships are in the northeast corner of the county.

Project spokesman for the Hubertus, Wis., company, Jay Mundinger said the actions showed, “more residents and elected officials are seeing the value of this wind project and how it positively impacts their communities and Wisconsin as a whole,” in a news release July 2.

Residents of the town of Forest protested construction of the turbines near them citing possible health issues, lowered property values and impact on their rural way of life at a county health and human services board meeting in March.

The wind turbines would reach some 500 feet in height and could be placed within 1,250 feet of a residence, under state rules.

The PCS will review the proposals and conduct public hearings in the fall before making a decision on the $250 million project.

It is expected to generate 102.5 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 30,000 homes, Mundinger said. Emerging Energies of Wisconsin, LLC is the project developer.

The Highland Wind Farm proposal calls for a 26,550 acre boundary with 11 alternative locations in addition to the 41 turbine sites.

The project is expected to employ 100 or more construction workers and six to eight permanent employees. It will connect to Xcel Energy’s 161-kilovolt transmission liner near the border between the towns of Forest and Cylon, the company said.

Some 6,200 acres are under lease from property owners for turbine sites, access roads and distribution lines.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported July 3 federal tax credits for the wind industry are due to expire at the end of the year and there is no clear indication Congress will extend them. Some developers are shelving new projects. The production tax credit (PTC) was created in 1992 and gives wind farms a credit of 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced. The credit has been extended seven times but has lapsed from time to time.

“Wind farm development has some long lead items which underscore the benefit of the long term PTC extensions,” said Mundinger. “While the extension of a PTC would be beneficial for continuing the jobs that have been created and adding new jobs to the clean energy sector, we believe there are alternatives in the event the PTC is not extended.”