Town of Sherman wind farm opponents form group; Sheboygan County Communities for Responsible Energy hopes to stop project
Citizens living near a proposed wind farm site in the Town of Sherman have formed an opposition group in hopes of stopping the project.
Members of the Sheboygan County Communities for Responsible Energy group say they plan to work with local leaders and state legislators to amend new state rules that have eliminated local control for wind siting decisions.
“The problem we’re dealing with now is a consequence of failed public policy, and that’s where it needs to be addressed first,” said Edward Buck, who lives in the township and is a member of the citizens group.
Hubertus-based EEW Services LLC has told Town of Sherman leaders it intends to submit a formal application to begin construction next year on 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 proposed wind farm would consist of four wind turbines that together could generate up to 12 megawatts of electricity, or enough for about 4,000 average residential homes. The turbines would connect to a substation in the Town of Holland.
There are about 500 property owners within one mile of the proposed site, and so far about 100 families have become directly engaged in the opposition group – and even more have voiced displeasure with the project, Buck said.
Opponents are now urging town officials to impose bonds and fees and stretch out the approval process as long as possible in hopes the state Legislature revisits rules that govern wind farm development sometime next year. State Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) has encouraged the town to do the same, saying there’s a good chance that such efforts could keep the project from moving forward.
The state’s rules place wind farm siting decisions almost entirely in the hands of the state Public Service Commission, as state wind siting rules supersede local ordinances.
The state’s rules were adopted 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 place.
Jay Mundinger, spokesman for EEW Services, said the development firm has received a number of phone calls from residents regarding the project, and the majority have been positive.
“They believe the state is lacking in renewable resources, and they believe a small wind farm would be very acceptable to the community,” Mundinger said.
Mundinger said EEW will hold an open house for residents in the near future and continue to provide information as the proposal becomes more solidified.
The opposition group’s members have raised a host of concerns over the Wind Acres proposal, from the potential health hazards of living near a wind farm to its impact on property values.
“This isn’t a remote rural agricultural community,” Buck said. “There’s some really nice housing development going on out there, along with hobby farms and dairy farms.”
Buck, who is a research and development engineer in the energy industry, called it an “odd” project, given its relatively small size and placement in an area with little, if any, infrastructure to accommodate a wind farm.
Buck contends that same amount of energy could easily be achieved through solar power or natural gas, or by adding a small number of wind turbines to an existing wind farm.
Furthermore, there are concerns that the electricity produced by the farm won’t be used by state residents. The project site is in WE Energies’ service territory, and the utility is not involved in the project.
Buck and others have suggested that without involvement by WE Energies, electricity generated by the farm could be sold as renewable energy credits to out-of-state or international energy companies.
“This doesn’t benefit the people of Wisconsin,” Buck said.
Mundinger said that they haven’t settled on where energy from the project would go, though he indicated that both in-state and outside buyers are being approached.
Mundinger said EEW will submit a formal application by late September. Their goal would be to have the wind farm operating by late 2013.
“We’re still planning on moving forward and being as transparent as we can,” he said.
The project requires approval by the Sherman Town Board. The town is in the process of drafting its own local wind ordinance, though it cannot be more restrictive that the state’s rules.
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