EcoEnergy seeks state OK for turbines in Calumet

Posted on March 19, 2008. Filed under: Wind |

After months of battling local opposition to a mid-sized wind project that required town and county approval, EcoEnergy announced an expansion of the project to more than 100 MW and, consequently, moved the permitting process to the Public Service Commission and out of the hands of town boards.

From an article by Ed Byrne in the Appleton Post-Crescent:

A wind energy firm planning to develop turbine fields in Calumet County says it is no longer going through local regulation to get the project approved. Instead, Curt Bjulin, Wisconsin project manager for EcoEnergy, said his firm is seeking approval from the state Public Service Commission for the project in the towns of Chilton and Rantoul.This is the latest salvo in a battle that’s gone on for nearly two years between wind farm developers and Calumet County residents who fear the effects dozens of 400-foot turbines will have on neighbors’ lives and health.

“We have had a great relationship with Calumet County, but there have been a series of moratoriums, revisions and amendments to the wind energy ordinance,” Bjulin said. “There is not much certainty.”

A spokesman for one of the opposition groups that formed in Calumet County said Friday he fears the PSC will offer residents less protection than the county’s ordinance.

“The PSC would be using a cookie-cutter approach to this thing,” Town of Chilton resident Lee Bjork said.

Bjork and his contemporaries are increasingly frustrated with the lack of leverage they seem to have, compared with the turbine developers.

They turned out in force last week to oppose a bill before the Legislature that would have given the PSC approval authority over all wind farm developments in Wisconsin. The Senate withdrew the bill, but to Bjork it seemed a rare victory.

“Nobody holds their feet to the fire,” he said. “Nobody questions them. Nobody asks, ‘Can you guarantee the sound won’t exceed 40 (decibels)? Can you guarantee property values won’t go down?'”

Bjulin said the process of getting the project approval through the PSC is longer and costly, but it is a known process, unlike going through the county.

“The wind energy facility in Calumet County will cost $220 million and predictability is very important with that kind of investment,” he said.

Bjulin said the PSC already has handled the approvals of three large wind energy projects in Wisconsin.

“It is not a new process for wind energy projects,” Bjulin said. “The PCS has regulatory authority over projects of over 100 megawatts.”

Bjulin said EcoEnergy’s Calumet County project was originally under 100 megawatts, but the project was upsized to have one that would qualify for PSC approval.

“Because of a number of considerations, we added an extra turbine and so it is over the 100 (megawatts) number now,” Bjulin said.


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