State regulators won’t need to see additional health testing at the large Shirley Wind Farm in southern Brown County before deciding whether to approve another wind power development in western Wisconsin.
The Public Service Commission based its recent decision on testing conducted in December aimed at determining whether low-frequency noise generated by wind turbines at the site in Glenmore was responsible for the residents’ health complaints.
Scientists did not find a correlation but recommended further testing at the site. The PSC used the Shirley study and also examined a wind farm study from Massachusetts while conducting an environmental assessment for the Highland Wind Farm project, which is still under review and would be located in western Wisconsin’s St. Croix County.
An environmental assessment determines whether an environmental impact statement is necessary. If it is, it would mean further scrutiny from the regulatory agency. It was determined no new information would result from additional review.
“Potential impacts of the (Highland Wind Farm) would not have a significant environmental effect on the human environment,” Kathleen Zuelsdorff, the PSC’s environmental review coordinator said in a statement.
The PSC has not concluded that a link exists between adverse health effects and wind turbines, she said.
Katie Nekola, general counsel for Clean Wisconsin, said the PSC decision confirms the study showed no link between low frequency noise and health effects. Clean Wisconsin is an environmental group that advocates clean energy.
“The report recommended further study, and we support that,” she said.
Steve Deslauriers, spokesman for Brown County Citizens for Responsible Wind Energy, a citizens advocacy group fighting operations at the Shirley Wind Farm, said he is hopeful the PSC will not approve another wind project before determining the cause of the health problems of residents at Shirley.
“The PSC and the state of Wisconsin can not ignore the suffering in Glenmore,” he said in an email.
Approval of the Highland project would be “irresponsible,” he said.
Approximately 50 individuals living near the farm submitted affidavits to the Public Service Commission, listing health effects, including ear infections, heart palpitations, muscle and joint pain, malaise and other symptoms.
The PSC decision does not mean further testing is off the table at Shirley. The Wisconsin Towns Association adopted a resolution asking the Public Service Commission to enact a moratorium to prevent wind turbines from being permitted and installed until further studies are done that investigate the link between turbines and health concerns.
The towns association is a group more than 1,200 towns that lobbies for those units of government at the state and federal level.
“We’re hearing from towns that have had concerns about wind turbines coming in,” said Richard J. Stadelman, the towns association’s executive director. “Citizens in those areas have had concerns of potential health issues. Based on the December report … we believe that additional study should be done before they can become harmful in individual communities.”
Last month, the Brown County Board of Health took the first steps to draft an ordinance regarding wind turbines amid the health complaints. Glenmore, where the turbines are located, also is drafting a wind siting ordinance.