Final wind farm hearing Wednesday
By Lyn Jerde, Daily Register
October 28, 2009
Residents will have one last chance to have their say before the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin decides the fate of a proposed wind energy farm in northeast Columbia County.
Here are some questions and answers about Wednesday's public hearing on the Glacier Hills Wind Park, proposed by We Energies.
Q. Where and when will the hearing be held?
It will be held Wednesday at the Randolph Town Hall, which is located in the village of Friesland at 109 S. Madison St. (Columbia County Highway EF, just off Highway 33).
Public Service Commission Spokeswoman Teresa Weidemann-Smith said there will be two hearings - one beginning at 3 p.m. and the other at 7 p.m. Either of the hearings could be extended or continued to another day if there are more people wishing to testify than time allows, she said.
Q. Who will preside over the hearings?
Administrative Law Judge Michael Newmark will preside.
Q. Are the hearings like a courtroom proceeding?
In many ways, yes. People who testify will take an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Objections can be raised that could lead to testimony not being admitted to the record, with Newmark ruling on whether the objections would be sustained or overruled.
Q. Who can testify?
Anybody with an opinion for or against the proposed wind farm - consisting of 90 wind turbines, to be located on leased land in an area covering 17,300 acres in the towns of Scott and Randolph - can testify at the hearing.
Q. How will the testimony be used?
The testimony will be taken down verbatim by a court reporter and will be compiled for consideration by the members of the Public Service Commission: Chairman Eric Callisto and Commissioners Mark Meyer and Lauren Azar. The commission is expected to decide in January whether it will approve, reject or modify the We Energies application to construct the wind farm.
Q. Why does We Energies want to build a wind farm in Columbia County?
Utility companies operating in Wisconsin are being required by law to produce more and more of their energy from renewable sources such as wind and sun.
Walter "Doc" Musekamp, local affairs director for We Energies, said the proposed Columbia County location offers several advantages. It's located near an existing electric transmission system, and it's in an area that has pockets of reliable wind.
Altogether, the wind farm is expected to generate up to 207 megawatts of energy, enough to power at least 25,000 homes.
Q. Will Columbia County residents get any of the energy that the wind farm is expected to generate?
Yes and no. We Energies has electric customers in Wisconsin and Michigan but does not offer electric service anywhere in Columbia County. (A small portion of the county gets natural gas service from We Energies.) However, once power gets added to an existing grid, it's impossible to determine exactly where it originated - so, theoretically, some of the energy generated in Columbia County could wind up being used by Columbia County customers of utilities other than We Energies.
Q. Wasn't the public hearing on this project supposed to have been held last summer?
Yes. It was originally scheduled for July 13. But the Public Service Commission requested the delay to allow for the compilation of an environmental impact statement after residents of the towns of Scott and Randolph raised questions not addressed in an environmental assessment that the PSC released - questions about such things as the noise made by the turbines, their effects on flying wildlife such as birds and bats, effects on land use and long-term health effects for people who live near large wind turbines. These questions were addressed in the environmental impact statement, which came out early this month. The environmental impact statement, and other documents relating to the project, can be viewed on the Public Service Commission's Web site by going to www.psc.wi.gov and entering case number 6630-CE-302.
Q, If the commission approves the project, when would the wind farm be up and running?
A. No sooner than spring or summer 2011.
Q. If I can't make it to the hearing, may I express my opinion about the project to the PSC in written form?
A. The deadline for doing so was Wednesday. Any further expressions of opinion would have to be in the form of testimony at the public hearing.