Wind farm debate cranks up in state Legislature

Posted on January 26, 2009. Filed under: Wind |

From a story by Paul Snyder in The Daily Reporter:

A Madison environmental group wants the state, rather than local governments, to oversee wind farm placement after a five-year push for seven turbines in Manitowoc County failed.

“There should be legislation in the next few weeks,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of the nonprofit RENEW Wisconsin. “Our concern is that local control is being abused, and smaller, independent wind farm developers aiming at community-scaled projects will just be deterred from coming here.”

The Manitowoc Board of Adjustment last week rejected the latest request by Hubertus-based Emerging Energies LLP to build the seven-turbine farm, which would send 15 to 20 megawatts of electricity to the town of Mishicot. Orville Bonde, the board’s chairman, declined to comment on the rejection because, he said, Emerging Energies is planning to sue the county.

Representatives from the company could not be reached for comment before deadline Friday.

Manitowoc County Executive Bob Ziegelbauer called the rejection the latest of many disputes over the project between the county and the company.

“They argue that our ordinance is too restrictive,” he said. “We think it’s reasonable and was created in good faith. This isn’t the final say in the matter by any means.”

Manitowoc County’s ordinance, adopted in 2004, calls for a minimum distance of 1,000 feet from a turbine to a property line. It also contains a noise restriction that turbines cannot create sound five decibels more than ambient noise.

“What does that mean?” Vickerman said. “If you fire up a leaf blower, that shoots up the ambient noise level 25 decibels. Do you measure it over crickets? What about a dog barking?”

Vickerman said the rule is an example of the way wind farm ordinances have been abused since the state ruled in 1994 that local governments can approve or deny the projects if they generate less than 100 megawatts.

A bill to create statewide regulation of all wind farm projects, regardless of energy output, failed to make it out of committee in the last session and could be hotly contested if it re-emerges this year.

Vickerman said state Sen. Jeff Plale, D-South Milwaukee, who led the Senate charge for the bill last year, likely will lead it again this year.


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