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A proposed western Wisconsin wind farm, rejected in February, gets another try

Plans for a wind farm in western Wisconsin, rejected nearly three months ago, blew back to life on Thursday.

The state Public Service Commission voted 2 to 1 to give developer Emerging Energies, of Hubertus, a chance to offer new information showing that the proposed Highland wind farm would meet state noise standards.

In February, the PSC voted 2-1 against the $250 million project, which involves erecting more than 40 turbines over 26,000 acres in the towns of Forest and Cylon in St. Croix County, about 230 miles northwest of Madison.

In March, the PSC turned down an emergency request for a rehearing, calling it premature since the written order turning down the proposal had not been issued yet.

Madison attorney Glenn Reynolds, of Reynolds & Associates, represents the town of Forest, which has opposed the project. He said he was “totally surprised” by the PSC decision on Thursday.

“It’s a mistake,” Reynolds said.

But Jay Mundinger, a partner with Emerging Energies, said he was not surprised. “The commission did, sort of, invite us back if we did have some new information,” he said. “We’re pretty excited about it.”

State rules require that noise levels at night cannot top 45 decibels, or, for a handful of homes close to the turbines, 40 decibels.

Mundinger said a computer program can curtail the turbines “if such conditions warrant” that. He said those situations would be “very rare … depending on wind conditions and ground conditions.”

Reynolds said town residents would not be satisfied with that. “All the experts advised that mitigation is a bad strategy because who is responsible for notifying the computer that the noise levels are too high? If mitigation doesn’t work, the burden falls onto the landowners,” he said.

Reynolds said the town would prefer smaller, quieter turbines to be erected.

Under the Highland wind farm proposal, each turbine would be 500 feet tall and generate up to 2.5 megawatts of power.

In agreeing to reopen the noise portion of the case, PSC chairman Phil Montgomery said he expected Emerging Energies would propose the wind farm all over again if the earlier rejection stood.

“A new application is not the best use of resources,” Montgomery said.

No timetable was immediately available for the case to go through the regulatory process again.