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3/12/09: Senator Plale's Goliath Turbine Siting Reform Bill, and a word from David.

Senator Plale's Goliath-Sized Turbine Siting Reform Bill, and a word from a Town-Sized David:

A Home in a PSC approved Fond du Lac County wind farm, Near the town of Byron, 2009


A draft of a bill that would allow the Public Service Commission to repeat the wind turbine siting disasters in Fond du Lac and Dodge Counties is being introduced by Senator Jeff Plale, (D- South Milwaukee)

It should be noted that Senator Plale will have no wind turbines in his district, and no constituents who will be affected by this bill. The main impact will be on residents of rural Wisconsin.

Though the bill mentions no specifics about setbacks, noise limits, and other siting concerns, it is very clear about giving turbine siting approval to the PSC.

The PSC approved the siting of turbines 1000 feet from non-participating residents homes, and a noise limit of 50 decibels. Residents in the PSC approved wind farms of Fond du Lac and Dodge Counties are now having a hard time living with the disastrous results.


Home in PSC approved wind farm near the Town of Byron, Fond du Lac County, Winter, 2009

When a senator introduces a bill intended to strip away the power of elected officials of our towns, villages, and counties, in order to hand this power to appointed members of the Public Service Commission, we say it's time to contact our legislators.

Below is a letter from Douglas Zweizig, Acting Chair of the Town of Union's Plan and Zoning commission about this issue. Dr. Zweizig is also Professor Emeritus, School of Library and Information Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Though this letter is addressed to Senator Erpenbach, the content holds true for all of us in the state.

After you read it, please call your legislators (click here to find out who they are and how to contact them) and let them know if they want wind turbine siting reform, it should be based it on the Town of Union's Large Wind Ordinance, not "recycled ordinance guidelines provided by an out-of-state utility"

(Click here to download the Union Ordinance)

(Click here to download the Wisconsin draft Model ordinance, which has since been pulled from the PSC website)

Dear Senator Erpenbach,

Sometimes a David just does a better job than a Goliath.

In 2007, landowners in the Town of Union (population just over 2,000) were approached by EcoEnergy (a wind turbine vendor) about placing large wind turbines on their properties.

In August 2007, the Town of Union Board enacted a temporary stay on wind turbine development in order to allow time to write a local ordinance for their governance.

Over the past 18 months, I have been the acting chair of the Town of Union Plan Commission as it developed its recently adopted Ordinance No. 2008-06, Wind Energy Systems Licensing Ordinance.

When our volunteer citizen Wind Turbines Study Committee began its work to prepare a draft ordinance, they naturally turned to Wisconsin’s Public Service Commission and its Draft Model Wind Ordinance for Wisconsin.

However, it turned out that the Draft Model Wind Ordinance for Wisconsinwas a poor guide for the creation of a responsible ordinance.

The hundreds of pages of literature that the Committee had reviewed included cautions about the effects of wind turbines on human health.

Where the PSC’s Draft Model Wind Ordinance for Wisconsin uses setbacks of 1,000 feet from dwellings, the Committee found 16 studies and reports from governments, physicians, and professional societies that stipulate setbacks of 1⁄2 mile or more in order to protect human health (10 of those sources set setbacks at 1 mile or more).

The Committee sought to learn the basis for the PSC recommendation and required a Freedom of Information request to learn that there was no rationale for the 1,000 foot setback—that the distance had been provided by a Florida utility!

While the PSC recycled ordinance guidelines provided by an out-of-state utility, our citizen Committee collected and evaluated hundreds of studies and reports and produced a report for our Town’s Plan Commission together with a draft ordinance. (The report and the minutes from the Committee’s 14 open meetings are available in the Evansville public library.)[Click to download final report] [Click to download minutes]

The Plan Commission worked with this draft ordinance and its supporting materials for eight months, holding its own hearings and working through the ordinance line-by-line. The resulting ordinance has been cited and requested across the country.

The PSC’s Draft Model Wind Ordinance for Wisconsin is no longer available on the Wisconsin PSC website.

I am writing you, as my Senator, because some are advocating that local governments should not be permitted to enact local guidelines for the placement of wind turbines and that the state should make these determinations.

I think that an examination of the working of the Public Service Commission and of our Town’s Plan Commission would show that our process and its result are demonstrably superior to that of the PSC in this case.

Until there is a reform of the operation of the Public Service Commission, I do not think that we should entrust the welfare of Wisconsin residents to their neglectful care.

Clearly, it would be preferable for a State agency, with its resources and expertise, to develop guidelines for the placement of large wind turbines that take into account the
health of Wisconsin residents.

Our small Town was required to spend considerable time and resources to do the kind of work that should have been done by the State, but, since the PSC has neglected that responsibility, the process the Town of Union pursued appears to have developed a superior product.

I do not believe that the Public Service Commission should be entrusted with this responsibility unless it is audited, reformed, and supervised.

Our process led us to focus on the central issue from the perspective of Wisconsin residents.

The substance of our ordinance, I believe, addresses the duty of government to protect its citizens—in this case, to protect the health and safety of residents of the State from the negative effects of a large wind turbine system being installed too closely on a neighboring property.

The research and the case studies reviewed by our Committee showed that large wind turbines located within a half-mile of a residence have a high probability of producing sound that wouldbe injurious to those dwelling in the residence.

Our recommended ordinance does not unduly limit what a person may do on their own property, only addressing the impacts on neighboring residents. The residents in need of protection are those on neighboring properties who may be affected by the noise or hazard that come with the installation of a large wind turbine.

These residences are provided protection by the required half-mile setback and by required
sound studies to ensure that sound levels will not beharmful. However, provision is made in the ordinance for neighboring residents to enter into an agreement to reduce the distance of a large wind turbine from their residence should they choose to do so.

I must admit that when I first began to inform myself about this issue, I was skeptical of the seemingly hysterical reports of effects of sound from the turbines. After all, seen from a distance, they seem rather elegant, slow-moving providers of green energy.

However, as I have learned more and have visited properties surrounded by large wind turbines, I have come to understand that what looked like hysteria was more likely desperation expressed by citizens who were suffering serious effects, had been failed by their government, and were either going to have to move (if possible) or suffer these effects for the next thirty years.

I am strongly in favor of alternative energy sources. My wife and I are installing a geothermal heating/cooling system on our rural property and are investigating investment in photovoltaic and wind energy systems.

We support and contribute to such Wisconsin organizations as Clean Wisconsin, the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, and the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, as well as related national organizations.

We are concerned that environmental organizations, in their zeal to reduce our dependence on carbon-based fuels, would overlook the damaging effects of locating large wind turbines
too close to populations.

Finally, I think that there has been too little attention paid to the personal property aspects of large wind energy systems. While I believe that the state should allow great latitude for what one does on his/her own property, I also believe that the state should regulate what effects a property owner can produce on neighboring properties.

In effect, the Wisconsin Public Service Commission has chosen to ignore these effects on
neighboring properties and has permitted large wind energy systems to commit a nuisance, “a nontrespassory invasion of another’s interest in the private use and
enjoyment of land.”

When Wisconsin residents’ sleep is interrupted by the operation of wind turbines and when they have to leave their property to avoid the effects of shadow flicker, then it would seem that the characteristics of a nuisance are manifested.

I, and others from the Town of Union, would be glad to meet with you or other members of the Committee on Commerce, Utilities, Energy, and Rail at your convenience to expand on or provide evidence for these observations.

I would also ask to be notified of any public legislative hearings to be held on the proposed legislation.

Best regards, Doug Zweizig

March 11, 2009

Evansville, Wisconsin

NOTE FROM THE BPWI RESEARCH NERD: Click on the image below to watch a video recorded from the porch of a home in Fond du Lac County. The turbine in this video is less than 1600 feet the house. The PSC approved the siting of turbines 1000 feet from homes in this wind farm. (Contact us by clicking here if you'd like us to send you a copy of this video on DVD)

Posted on Thursday, March 12, 2009 at 01:30PM by Registered CommenterThe BPRC Research Nerd | Comments Off

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