Wind farm firm keeps turbine project spinning

Posted on December 12, 2008. Filed under: Wind |

From an article by Paul Snyder in The Daily Reporter:

Summit Ridge Energy LLC isn’t yet ready to let a Monroe County Circuit Court ruling kill a 60-turbine wind farm proposal for the towns of Ridgeville, Wells and Wilton.

“At this point we’re talking with our consultants and looking at all our options,” said Susan Dennison, spokeswoman for Summit Ridge’s parent company, Chicago-based Invenergy LLC. “I don’t think we’re ready to say it’s over.”

After the company developed the Forward Energy Center wind farm in Fond du Lac and Dodge counties, Invenergy planned to build its next Wisconsin farm on land in Ridgeville, Wells and Wilton.

All three towns in 2007 granted Summit Ridge conditional-use permits for the wind farm, but Ridgeville and Wilton vetoed those permits, prompting Summit Ridge to sue.

As the case played out, the two towns also passed ordinances requiring wind farms to be set back a half-mile from property lines. Wilton Supervisor Tim O’Rourke said the ordinance leaves little developable space in the town.

Monroe County Circuit Court Judge Michael McAlpine at the end of November upheld the two towns’ vetoes, but ordinances and withdrawn permits might not be enough to stop the farm.

The development’s estimated energy output is just less than 100 megawatts. Ridgeville Chairman Mike Luethe said he would not be surprised if Summit Ridge increases the capacity to more than 100 megawatts, which, by law, puts project approval in the hands of the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin.

If Invenergy is willing to wait, it might not need to increase capacity. Several state lawmakers said the Legislature will try to pass a bill establishing statewide requirements for wind farms, regardless of size.

That possibility does not sit well with small communities that passed their own ordinances.

“If (lawmakers) do that, they take power away from local governments,” Luethe said. “I’m a big believer in local government, and I think it’s hard for them (lawmakers) to make decisions about areas where they don’t even know what it looks like.”

But local governments might have an ally in state Rep. Andy Jorgenson, the newly appointed chairman of the Assembly Committee on Renewable Energy and Rural Affairs. The Fort Atkinson Democrat said he sympathizes with local governments on development issues. But he would not commit to opposing statewide wind farm regulations, arguing any developments need to be considered if they can help the state snap out of the economic crisis.

“We need to hear what the concerns of the local governments are because it’s something we can all learn from,” he said. “But it’s a discussion I’m looking forward to having, and hopefully we can come together on a decision.”


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