State regulators on Thursday rejected an application to build a new wind farm in St. Croix County, citing concerns about turbine noise the project would generate for nearby homes.
The state Public Service Commission voted 2-to-1 to reject Emerging Energies’ proposal to build the Highland wind farm, which was proposed to generate 102.5 megawatts of power from 41 turbines.
Commissioners said that they were rejecting the proposal “without prejudice,” in essence leaving the door open for the developer to file a new application for the project, after it conducts a new noise study using more conservative assumptions about the background noise in the area.
The Highland project is the first wind farm to be ruled on by the state commission since Republican Gov. Scott Walker appointed two commissioners, a majority of the three-member panel.
Commissioner Eric Callisto, the lone remaining appointee of former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, said he would have approved the project but would have attached conditions binding the developer to protect nearby landowners from excessive turbine noise.
Noise studies by the applicant found that 20 homes would experience noise levels above the 45 decibel standard at night, but the commission could work with the developer on “micro-siting” issues after new analysis was done, he said.
The Highland project is the only large wind energy project currently in active development in the state. The state’s utilities have already built enough wind farms to comply with the Wisconsin renewable portfolio standard, which requires that 10% of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2015.
During the commission’s meeting in Madison, commissioner Ellen Nowak said the applicant didn’t prove that all the wind project would result in noise levels below 45 decibels at night, the standard that’s in Wisconsin’s wind siting rule.
As a result, she said she concluded the project was not in the public interest.
In their decision, the PSC decided not to attach special requirements concerning low-frequency noise, after wind consultants studied the impacts of low frequency noise from wind turbines the same developer built near Green Bay.