Despite state rules that eliminate virtually all local control from the application process, state Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) said Thursday he thinks there’s “a fairly good chance” that Town of Sherman officials can stave off development of a wind farm in their community that seems almost universally opposed by residents.
“I think there’s a fairly good chance that they can keep this from moving foward,” Grothman said. “They have to provide an avenue for some windmills, but it doesn’t have to be easy. Ultimately, companies don’t like to set up shop where they don’t feel welcome.”
Grothman suggested, as did many of those who spoke before the Town Board on Tuesday night at the Silver Lake Fire Hall, that town officials impose bonds and fees and stretch out the process as long as possible in hopes the state Legislature may revisit rules that govern wind farm development.
“In January, (when the Legislature reconvenes) we may be able to make it more difficult,” Grothman said.
Hubertus-based EEW Services LLC has told Town of Sherman leaders it intends to submit a formal application to begin construction next year of the Windy Acres Wind Farm on 400 acres east of state Highway 57, west of county Highway CC and north of county Highway A.
The wind farm would consist of four wind turbines, with blades reaching 500 feet high. They would generate nine to 12 megawatts of electricity, enough for about 4,000 average residential homes, and connect to a substation in the Town of Holland, developers say.
William Rakocy, managing member of EEW Services, could not be reached for comment. Rakocy said earlier he hopes the wind farm would begin operating in late 2013.
The state rules had been adopted by the state Public Service Commission under former Gov. Jim Doyle and the Democrat-led Legislature in 2009. But the Republican-led 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.
The project requires the blessing of the Sherman Town Board, even though state rules governing wind farm siting supersede local ordinances.
Town Board Chairman Bill Goehring hesitated to comment on the pending application because he hasn’t seen it yet, but on Thursday said, “We will move forward and put together as strict an ordinance as we can. There will be some strategy sessions down the road. We’re looking at it very deliberately to see what our options are.”
The Town Board has until the beginning of the fourth month after the application is received before it must make a decision.
“That could put us into early January and that might give the Legislature time to regroup and come up with something else,” Goehring said. “The Legislature has our hands tied. I think we could be more responsived to our local citizens if we had some more control in this. I’m very thankful for Sen. Grothman answering our questions and being helpful in this area.”
Goehring said he expected the matter to be on the next Town Board agenda on Aug. 7.
If the wind farm is built, it’s not clear who will buy the energy.
Alliant Energy and We Energies both currently meet requirements that 10 percent of the energy consumed by retail customers comes from renewable sources such as wind and solar.
WE Energies spokesman Barry McNulty said his company is not involved in the Town of Sherman project and won’t be.
“It’s more beneficial to our customers if we can generate the energy ourselves and it’s too small of a project,” he said.
Grothman suggested that the power generated by the wind farm would be sold on the open market to utilities outside the area or, as is commonly done, sold as energy credits to utilities on the national or international market.
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