As Sheboygan County preps for wind turbine proposals, here's what to know — including how they can be rejected. | Maya Hilty | Sheboygan Press | Feb. 7, 2022 | www.sheboyganpress.com
SHEBOYGAN – Nearly 10 years ago, a proposed wind farm in the town of Sherman – which would have had the first commercial wind turbines in Sheboygan County – sparked strong opposition from residents.
Similar concerns are resurfacing since the Sheboygan Press published in late January that a developer filed initial permits to build 16 673-foot tall wind turbines around the county. The developer of the project is still unknown.
Here’s a look at past wind projects in Sheboygan County, what the approval process for the wind turbines may look like and how residents are reacting to news of the wind turbines.
Towns can only reject wind project proposals on the basis of failure to comply with state regulations
A developer has not yet applied to build wind turbines in Sheboygan County, but is expected to do so in coming months.
That’s because an unknown developer filed permits for 16 wind turbines with the Federal Aviation Administration, with the goal for construction to begin in 2024.
The FAA – which is not able to release the name of the developer – will OK the project based on whether the proposed turbines will disrupt air traffic. Then, the developer will go to either the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (if the project is 100 megawatts or larger) or local municipalities (if the project is under 100 megawatts) for final approval.
The towns and villages affected cannot reject a proposal based on local opposition; however, towns’ wind siting criteria cannot be more strict than the PSC guidelines.
Even if town boards are “100% against wind,” all they can do is ensure that proposed projects are in compliance with state regulations, such as a minimum 1,250-foot setback between the wind turbine and any non-participating homes, explained William Goehring, chairman of the town of Sherman and a Sheboygan County board representative for District 24.
If local ordinances are too strict and challenged in court, the ordinances can be thrown out and developers essentially have no restrictions on wind project siting, Goehring said.
When a wind farm was proposed in 2012, the towns of Sherman and Holland jointly hired an attorney to develop local wind ordinances in compliance with PSC guidelines, which are still up to date, Goehring said.
Under Sherman’s ordinance, a developer’s application to build wind turbines must describe anticipated impacts to local infrastructure including roads, model noise impacts, map shadow flicker zones for each turbine and include a decommissioning plan for the turbines, among other things.
On the same day a developer files an application with Sherman, they must also provide written notice to residents within a mile of the proposed location.
Within 45 days from when the application is filed, Sherman officials must determine whether the application is complete and may ask for clarification if any sections are deemed incomplete, at which point the developer must provide additional information.
The town must also hold at least one public meeting to inform people about the proposal.
“I think Sherman is well-positioned to deal with whatever application we get,” Goehring said. “I assume that some of the other townships may adopt similar ordinances if they don’t have one.”
Unknowns prompt ‘angst and questions’ among residents
The Sheboygan Press article published in late January was the first Sheboygan County towns heard of the likely-to-be proposed wind turbines, according to town officials the Sheboygan Press reached out to.
The turbines have stirred a lot of interest and conversation, said Jackie Veldman, the District 23 representative on the Sheboygan County Board.
“There are a lot of unknowns regarding this possibility and this, in turn, has caused a lot of angst and questions among residents,” she said.
Josh Karmasin, a board member for the village of Cascade, agreed.
“It’s just one email after another coming in,” he said.
Some people’s concerns include the height of the turbines, potential health impacts from shadow flicker and noise, fall zone damage should one collapse and the potential for road damage from the process of bringing in the turbines, Veldman said.
Others are worried about a drop in property values surrounding the turbines and potential ecological impacts of the turbines.
Laurie Werner, a town of Sherman resident who has formed a Sheboygan Turbine Opposition Citizens Group, is also worried that if there is little resistance to these turbines, more could be proposed in the future.
“I’m getting calls, getting emails. I think we’re going to have more people this time and people engaged earlier because we did this same thing 10 years ago,” Werner said, referencing a proposed Sherman wind project in 2012.
The most frequent question Veldman has received is where the turbines will be proposed, she said.
The exact coordinates of the proposed turbines, according to the FAA database, are as follow:
Latitude, Longitude (NAD 83 datum)
Some past wind projects in the county spurred controversy, including one commercial project that was abandoned
Randy Faller and Maureen Faller, of Kettle View Renewable Energy, LLC, left, pose with Kathy Preder, Mike Preder and Ed Ritger, Thursday, August 25, 2011, by the windmill that got its blades installed, in Random Lake, Wis.
The 673-foot wind turbines currently proposed to the FAA would be the tallest, but far from the first, turbines in Sheboygan County.
Smaller turbines exist on a handful of farms around the county.
For instance, a 120-foot wind turbine installed on a farm just outside of Random Lake in 2011 was financed by a neighbor, Ed Ritger.
“The future is not in coal mines and the oil wells,” another longtime neighbor of the property, Chester Swanson, told the Sheboygan Press at the time. “We’ve got to harvest nature’s abundance and the sun and the wind, and I think this is great.”
Another small turbine on a farm was approved in Mitchell about 10 years ago with some resistance and some support from residents, Veldman said.
The Village of Cascade also built two wind turbines in 2010 to power the municipal wastewater treatment plant.
Those turbines were put up “with a fight back and forth,” Karmasin said.
Resident Susan Lodl sued village board members for violating open meeting laws regarding the turbines and won, according to Karmasin.
“We get complaints about noises, flickers,” Karmasin said. “I would like to take them down,” he said, adding that the turbines are one of the reasons he ran for village board.
Residents also voiced strong opposition to a commercial wind farm proposed in the town of Sherman in 2012.
A Hubertus-based developer, EEW Services, LLC, had proposed building four 500-foot wind turbines on a 400-acre property in the Town of Sherman. The turbines would connect to a substation in the Town of Holland.
About 150 people showed up to a Sherman town meeting about the wind farm asking what they could do to stop it, the Sheboygan Press reported.
A handful of state representatives, including Rep. Dan LeMahieu and then Sen. Glenn Grothman, attended the meeting and promised to try to change state law to allow more local control over wind turbine siting – though no changes to state laws have been made since.
Sherman town officials responded to the developer asking for some clarifications on the application, Goehring said.
“The response we got was that it may cost (the developer) more than it was worth to provide all that information,” he said.
The town never heard back, and the wind farm was not built.
It was the developer’s decision to abandon the project that prevented the wind turbines from going up, Rhonda Klatt, the Sherman town clerk and treasurer clarified at a board meeting last week.
“Sherman and Holland didn’t stop them. We couldn’t stop them,” she said.
At the meeting, town of Sherman board members assured a small audience they would do what they could, which was to thoroughly review the newest wind project if and when an application was filed.
Board member Kris Klein said, “We will do all the research we can possibly do under our guidelines.”
URL to article: https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2022/02/09/sheboygan-county-preps-for-wind-turbine-proposals-what-to-know-including-how-they-can-be-rejected/