11/6/09 Know anyone in Brown County, Wisconsin? Ask them if they know about the huge wind farm is heading their way.
WIND FARM PLAN STIRS DEBATE IN BROWN CO.; Developer seeks to build largest operation in state.
By Scott Williams
Green Bay Press-Gazette
Business has been slow, so dairy farmer Bernie Kozlovsky could use a little extra cash as much as the next guy.
But a developer’s offer of $6,000 annually for access to his property has Kozlovsky — and many of his neighbors — conflicted about whether to welcome a wind farm into southern Brown County.
The proposal by Chicago-based Invenergy LLC would be Brown County’s first major commercial wind farm and would be larger than any currently operating in the state.
Proponents say wind energy protects the environment and provides economic growth, while opponents fear the intrusion of spinning turbines that stand 400 feet tall.
As presented to state regulators, Invenergy’s plan calls for 100 turbines south of Green Bay in the towns of Glenmore, Wrightstown, Morrison and Holland.
Kozlovsky, who farms 80 acres in Glenmore, has made up his mind.
“I said, ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’” he said. “Sure the money’s tempting. But then you’ve got to step back.”
In addition to paying farmers and other landowners $6,000 a year or more to allow turbines on their property, Invenergy is offering the county and local communities a combined $600,000 annually in incentives.
Invenergy spokesman Kevin Parzyck said other Wisconsin locations were considered, but the topography of southern Brown County made it an ideal location.
“There’s good wind that can produce good energy,” he said.
The Chicago developer, which already has 18 wind farms throughout the country, outlined its plans in an application filed last week with the state Public Service Commission.
According to the application, 54 turbines would be erected in Morrison, while 22 would be in Holland, 20 in Wrightstown and four in Glenmore. Known as the Ledge Wind Energy Project, the farm would begin operation in 2011 and would generate enough electricity to power about 40,000 homes.
Wisconsin currently is home to nine commercial wind farms, the largest of which is owned by Milwaukee-based We Energies and includes 88 turbines in Fond du Lac County. Twenty more wind projects are under development statewide, including one in Glenmore that would involve eight turbines.
Another developer in 1998 erected two turbines elsewhere in Glenmore, in what was Brown County’s first commercial wind project.
Invenergy’s proposal for the county’s first large-scale operation is stirring strong reactions.
William Hafs, the county’s director of land and water conservation, said county officials support wind energy development because it is environmentally friendly.
Hafs noted that Gov. Jim Doyle has set a goal of utilizing renewable resources to generate 25 percent of the state’s energy needs by 2025.
“This is the future,” Hafs said. “It’s a clean energy, and it’s the way to go.”
The Public Service Commission will hold public hearings before deciding whether to allow the Invenergy development — a process that could take several months. County and town officials also will have an opportunity to review applications for zoning, building permits and other elements of the development.
Local officials in the development site say they have heard mixed feelings from residents.
Kevin Collins, a Morrison trustee, said some residents favor the project because of the economic boost, but others are opposed to the idea of altering the area’s rural aesthetics.
“I don’t think it’s for everybody,” Collins said.
Glenmore Chairman Don Kittell, on the other hand, called the development a boon to the region both financially and in terms of energy resources.
“We’re going to make some money,” Kittell said, “and we’re not going to run out of electricity."