Another wind farm in Columbia County?

Posted on February 2, 2010. Filed under: Wind |

From an article by Lyn Jerde in the Portage Daily Register:

Late this summer, about the time that We Energies starts construction on Columbia County’s first wind energy farm, the people of southern Columbia County might know whether the towns of Leeds and Arlington will be the site of the county’s second wind farm.

Officials of the Madison-based Wind Capital Group came to County Board’s planning and zoning committee almost 18 months ago. They asked for, and got, a conditional use permit for two test towers, each about 197 feet high, to measure wind velocity and direction, to determine if southern Columbia County has adequate wind to sustain a 25- to 33-turbine wind farm capable of generating up to 50 megawatts of electricity.

So far, the data collected at the test towers indicates that southern Columbia County’s wind seems sufficient to sustain a wind energy operation, said Tom Green of Wind Capital Group. The planned two-year testing period is scheduled to end in August.

Green said he continues to think that southern Columbia County would be a good location for what would be the company’s first Wisconsin wind farm, although it has operations in other states such as Iowa.

Wind Capital Group would sell the wind farm’s electricity to utilities.

But whether the wind farm goes in, he said, will depend on what the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin decides, as it sets parameters for wind farms – including setback from neighboring properties – that will apply throughout Wisconsin, and which cannot be made stricter by local authorities.

“You can’t have a patchwork of rules throughout the state,” Green said.

A new state law directed the PSC to set the statewide rules, which would guide municipalities, such as towns and villages, in regulating wind farms, said PSC spokeswoman Deborah Erwin.

The rules, when they are adopted, will apply to wind farms such as the one proposed by Wind Capital Group – operations that generate less than 100 megawatts.

Larger projects, such as the recently approved We Energies Glacier Hills Wind Park in the Columbia County towns of Scott and Randolph, require direct approval from the PSC. Smaller projects don’t need the commission’s approval, but would be subject to local regulations, provided that those regulations comply with the rules that the PSC soon will set.

But George Plenty, chairman of the town of Arlington, said officials in his town hope that an ordinance adopted last spring, requiring wind turbines to be at least 2,640 feet from buildings, still will be in place once the PSC establishes the statewide rules.

That ordinance, Plenty said, was in direct response to the proposed wind farm.


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