Local officials have begun reviewing an application for a proposed wind farm in the Town of Sherman, while also asking state regulators for a moratorium on pending wind farm applications.
The town’s newly passed wind ordinance has been in effect since April 1, and under state law, town leaders were given 45 days from that date to review the developer’s application to ensure it’s complete. Once the application is deemed complete, they’ll have another 90 days to hold a public hearing and then vote to approve or reject it.
But Sherman Town Chairman William Goehring said town officials feel that the state-imposed time line should be put on hold given unresolved questions about potential health risks with wind farms and a lack of clarity under state law on how wind farms can meet noise standards.
Only when the state adopts new regulations addressing those issues, or deems that such rules are not needed, should the moratorium be lifted, according to a letter submitted by the town to the state Public Service Commission.
State law “is vague and doesn’t address everything,” Goehring said.
The developer, Hubertus-based EEW Services, LLC, hopes to begin construction this 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 turbines would also connect to a substation in the Town of Holland.
Concerns over compliance with noise standards halted the company’s proposal for a $250 million wind farm in St. Croix County in northwestern Wisconsin. The PSC voted to deny a construction permit for the wind farm and then rejected the developer’s appeal.
The company has since filed new information on that project with the state that shows it can comply with the noise limit.
Sherman officials say the PSC acknowledged in denying the St. Croix project that further study is needed regarding health concerns. Town leaders also feel there are unanswered questions about how noise standards are imposed.
In their letter to the PSC, town officials asked the commission to recognize that it would be “poor public policy” for municipalities to make wind farm decisions under the state-imposed time lines “when there is much left to be learned.”
“The towns and other municipalities need the flexibility to wait until these issues are better understood before making decisions on applications,” the letter said.
The wind farm proposed in the Town of Sherman 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.
Jayn Mundinger, spokesman for Hubertus-based EEW Services, LLC, said the company is currently reviewing the town’s wind ordinance to ensure there are no additional items to address in its application.
“We feel it’s a good project and we have landowners who are excited about it,” Mundinger said.
Wisconsin law places wind farm siting decisions almost entirely in the hands of the state Public Service Commission, as state wind turbine-siting rules supersede local ordinances. However, the project still requires formal approval by the Sherman and Holland town boards.
There are 500 or so property owners within 1 mile of the proposed site, with some of those residents having already formed an opposition group, Sheboygan County Communities for Responsible Energy.
Mundinger said the company so far has been directly contacted by about a dozen people who are for the project and another dozen or so who are against it.
— Information from the Associate Press was used in this story. Reach Josh Lintereur at 920-453-5147.
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