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Wind developer seeks rehearing after PSC’s split decision

A wind farm developer is making one more run at convincing state regulators that the turbine’s it’s planning to build will meet Wisconsin’s statewide noise standards.

In a filing with the state Public Service Commission Friday morning, Emerging Energies said it was providing new information demonstrating that it could comply with a 45-decibel noise standard at night for nearby homes.

Nighttime curtailment of wind turbines for affected homeowners can be done, to comply with the commission’s noise limit, said Tim Osterberg, one of the principals involved with project development.

Emerging Energies’ new analysis concluded that, depending on the turbine used, the overall electricity production from the project would be reduced by 1.6% or 4.5%, but that the restriction “will not negatively impact the project to a degree that makes the project uneconomic,” Osterberg said.

But in its decision, the PSC said it was concerned about the use of curtailment as a tool to meet the noise standard. The commission said that while it recognized that curtailment was allowed by the state’s wind siting rule, it concluded that “it is prudent to ensure compliance with applicable audible noise limits using conservative computer modeling prior to construction.”

In other words, developers should design a wind farm so it can comply with the noise standard without the use of curtailment, the commission decided.

The commission’s decision was based on the vote of two commissioners appointed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker. The lone commissioner appointed by Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle dissented, saying the agency’s decision was changing the rules of the game adopted in the state’s wind siting rule.

Instead of requiring a developer to comply with one noise standard – 50 decibels – during the day, and a more restrictive standard of 45 decibels at night, the PSC is now requiring a 24-hour standard of 45 decibels, commissioner Eric Callisto said.

“It makes no sense to simultaneously allow turbines to operate at 50 dBA during the day, while also requiring that those same turbines be site-designed in advance to never, under any circumstances, operate at levels that exceed 45 (decibels). But that is exactly the effect of the Final Decision, and it is the chief reason why it is incorrect.”