Wind farm bill would govern state

Posted on February 24, 2009. Filed under: Climate change, Wind |

From an article by Paul Snyder in The Daily Reporter:

State Sen. Jeff Plale says he is weeks away from introducing a new bill establishing statewide guidelines for wind farm development.

But meshing existing municipal ordinances into one that would govern the state has some bracing for a fight.

“When you jump into something really quick, as Wisconsin did with ethanol, you end up seeing some bad results,” said Magnolia Town Supervisor David Olsen. “I hope they don’t try to just push things through. (Legislators) should be there to represent constituents, not lobbyists.”

Although Plale, D-South Milwaukee, conceded his attempt to get a statewide wind farm siting bill passed at the end of the last session was late-developing and criticisms that it was rushed were justified, he said he likes his chances this time around.

“We’re trying to build a broad-based coalition with a lot of stakeholders,” he said. “I think understanding of wind power is better than last time, and so is the general prognosis.”

State law gives the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin the right to approve any wind farm that would produce more than 100 megawatts of energy, while any wind farm producing less than that amount can be decided upon by local municipalities. Plale said the goal is to give the state the final word on any development, regardless of its output.

But Plale declined to give any details about the bill in terms of possible setback distances or whether county or municipal governments that already have ordinances in place would be grandfathered in. He said details are still under negotiation, but suggested local ordinances might not set the best parameters for state law.

“If we’re going to make renewables a priority in this state,” he said, “we can’t have one community dictating policy for everyone else.”

Wisconsin instituted a mandate of producing 25 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2025.

Magnolia, which enacted its own ordinance earlier this year requiring half-mile setbacks for turbines from homes and businesses, would be a good example to follow, Olsen said.

“Just for sound and flicker-flash purposes,” he said, “I think it’s very fair.”

Yet wind farm developers looking to build in locales with such ordinances remain hamstrung by the terms and argue such setbacks leave no viable land on which to build multiple turbines.

Legal battles already surfaced in response to Trempeleau County’s one-mile setback ordinance, and last week Hubertus-based Emerging Energies LLP filed a complaint against the Manitowoc County Board of Adjustment’s ruling against the company’s request for a conditional-use permit to build a seven-turbine wind farm.


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