WAUSAU – Residents in the southwestern portion of Marathon County could see a wind farm installed as early as 2021.
Anywhere from 17 to 27 turbines could be installed in the area by EDP Renewables, according to meeting minutes from a June 6 Marathon County Infrastructure Committee meeting.
The issue was brought to the committee first because road agreements would have to be reached because of the weight of the windmills, which have to be transported via truck, said committee chairman John Robinson. Road use agreements would have to be reached with the town of Eau Pleine, the town of Brighton and with Marathon County, according to the minutes.
EDP Renewables is a company based in Portugal, with operations present in 13 other countries, including the United States, according to its website. The company has one other wind farm in Wisconsin, in Lafayette County, said Michael Vickerman, the policy director for RENEW Wisconsin, an organization that advocates for clean energy.
Robinson said EDP Renewables made a presentation to the committee in June, answering questions about wind farms and the turbines they’re made of.
According to a memo to the Environmental Resources Committee from Dominique Swangstu, the county zoning administrator, several requests for information about the county’s processes and regulations regarding wind farms have been made in recent months. Because of that, the memo states, revisions will need to be made to regulations, and an application for conditional use for wind and/or solar energy interests will have to be created.
Robinson said agreements between landowners and EDP Renewables have already been signed.
“Most of the area is under contract already,” he said. “The county is not party to the agreements.”
Robinson said payments will be made to landowners accordingly. He did not say how many agreements had been reached or how many landowners had signed.
As for what’s next, Robinson said the county is attempting to schedule a Towns Association meeting for residents to get more information and ask questions. A date has not yet been set.
Across the state, there are 433 wind turbines, creating enough energy to power 172,000 homes, according to the RENEW Wisconsin website. Vickerman said wind farms are cropping up quickly across the Midwest, and thanks to new technology Wisconsin is now able to take advantage of the clean energy source. The turbines are taller now, therefore reaching the wind streams.
“We’re glad to see turbines have been developed and refined where it’s possible to have them in central Wisconsin,” he said. “It didn’t used to be.”
He said developers typically look for places that are more windy and predominantly rural so there’s a lower population density.
Vickerman said a wind farm would be a good idea for Marathon County for several reasons, the first being a source of energy without any sort of pollution. But, he said, it could possibly be helpful to the farmers giving up space in their fields and in return receiving payments at a time where farming is uncertain.
“It could be an economic lifeline to some farmers,” he said.
Wind farms aren’t without controversy. In Green County, a wind farm in south central Wisconsin is being staunchly opposed because residents are worried about losing property value and about the proximity of the turbines to their homes, among other concerns. And in Brown County, residents fought back against a wind farm development for years, claiming that the turbines made them nauseous, caused headaches and made sleeping difficult. Eventually, in 2017, experts decided the Shirley Wind Farm wasn’t a health risk, and the farm was to remain open.
Heather Allen, program director of RENEW Wisconsin, said ongoing conversation about whether wind turbines cause health issues is extensive, but no research has ever proven any adverse effects. Plus, she said, the turbines are helping to cut down on using other sources of fuel to create power.
“This is clean energy,” she said. “I want to emphasize that this is clean, safe power.”
Correction: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Heather Allen.
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