A wind farm developer is making one more effort to persuade state regulators that the turbines it wants to build will meet Wisconsin’s noise standards.
In a filing with the state Public Service Commission, Emerging Energies said it was providing new information demonstrating it could comply with a 45-decibel noise standard at night for nearby homes.
Emerging Energies wants to build the $250 million Highland Wind Farm in St. Croix County in northwestern Wisconsin.
At first glance, based on past PSC votes, the outlook for the developer doesn’t appear good. On a 2-to-1 vote, the PSC voted to deny a construction permit for the wind farm,, and then rejected the developer’s emergency appeal to keep the permit from being rejected.
But the PSC left the door open for taking a fresh look at the case, saying in its denial that it was under a court-imposed deadline to make a final decision on the matter. The PSC ruling invited the developer to do what it’s doing now – to come back with more information showing it can comply with the state’s noise limit for wind turbines.
Using nighttime curtailment of wind turbines for affected homeowners can be done to comply with the night noise limit, said Tim Osterberg, one of the principals involved with developer.
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 in a filing.
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 turbine siting rules, it concluded that “it is prudent to ensure compliance with applicable audible noise limits using conservative computer modeling before 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 to deny the project was changing the rules the PSC had set out in the state’s wind siting rule.
The statewide rule sets one noise standard for daytime – 50 decibels – and the more restrictive standard – 45 decibels at night, Commissioner Eric Callisto said. But the PSC is now in effect requiring the 45 decibel standard to be in place around the clock.
“We have uniform wind siting rules on the books,” Callisto wrote. “It is time to clearly and transparently apply them.”