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8/26/09 Wind turbines, the village of Freisland, and the fate of local control

 Detail map of one section of the proposed wind farm.

Friesland looks to protect itself from wind farm

FRIESLAND - Members of the village of Friesland's planning commission Tuesday shared horror stories of a wind farm in a nearby county, but said that the prospect of another wind farm near the village is only one of many reasons why Friesland wants to extend its zoning authority up to 1.5 miles from the village limits.

Village President Carl Vander Galien, who chairs the planning commission, said the village has long wanted to "protect itself from undesirable construction or operations that might be too close to the village."

And, he acknowledged, 35 of the 90 wind turbines proposed for a We Energies wind farm in the towns of Randolph and Scott would fall into that category.

Much of Tuesday's meeting, which attracted about 15 spectators, focused on four of the commission's members recounting their Aug. 15 trip to We Energies' Blue Sky Green Field Energy Center, an 88-turbine development in northeastern Fond du Lac County that began operation in 2008."Minimally, it was eye-opening," said Commission Member Russ Syens of the tour, which began with meeting with wind farm neighbors near Chilton and included visits to two farms where turbines are located.

Syens said people who live near the wind farm complained of health issues, including sleeplessness, from vibrations and noise, including "unheard sounds" that could people could feel.

Commission member and village trustee Steve Williams said he not only heard reports of "shadow flicker" caused by light reflecting from the turbines' blades; he also experienced it.

"Those propellers spinning made me kind of woozy," he said. "It was a very strange feeling."

The Friesland visitors also heard reports of poor television reception, real estate agents reluctant to try to sell homes located near the wind farm and stunted crops near the turbines. For example. Syens said, soybeans that are normally knee-high at this time of year were only ankle-high within 60 to 70 feet of a turbine.

Commission member and village trustee Char Holtan said at least one farmer has a wind tower of his own to generate electricity for the farm - indicating, to her, that people in the area are not necessarily opposed to the concept of wind-generated electricity.

However, she said, the large numbers of turbines that could be 300 to 400 feet tall affected quality of life in the area near Blue Sky Green Field.

"And this is all countryside," she said. "It's not like here, where we'd have a populace of 300 or more people surrounded by windmills."

That was one reason why Williams recommended that the village of Friesland not enter into a joint development agreement with We Energies - a recommendation that the planning commission unanimously approved.

"It would be in Friesland's best interest," he said, "not to even negotiate with [We Energies]."

But if the village succeeds in attaining authority for extra-territorial zoning, Vander Galien said, the village's zoning rules would apply to all land within a 1.5-mile radius of the village limits. Those regulation include rules against structures more than 80 feet high, he said. Therefore, We Energies would have to get a conditional use permit from the village for every one of the approximately 35 turbines located within that radius - all in the town of Randolph, one of two Columbia County towns (the other is Scott) that have not ratified Columbia County's zoning ordinances.

Vander Galien said the extra-territorial zoning might also affect any large farm operations that might come into the area, and it would for sure affect any future construction on the United Wisconsin Grain Producers (UWGP) ethanol plant located just outside of Friesland. Vander Galien said UWGP officials have expressed concern about the prospect of extra-territorial zoning.

The Friesland Village Board, he said, would have the final say about extra-territorial zoning, but it can't happen without the formation of a committee composed of three representatives from the village and three representatives from the town of Randolph.

Commission Member Gary Steinich said the Randolph Town Board had proposed appointing, as the town's representatives, the three voting members of the town board - chairman David Hughes and supervisors Jim Sanderson and Brian Westra.

Vander Galien said the Friesland Planning Commission will ask that the town's three representatives include no more than one town elected official.

Status of Glacier Hills Wind Park

We Energies is proposing a development in the Columbia County towns of Randolph and Scott, called Glacier Hills Wind Park, which would include 90 turbines (55 in Randolph, 35 in Scott) capable of generating up to 207 megawatts of electricity - enough to supply about 45,000 homes annually, transmitted through underground cables and distributed through an existing transmission line.

The wind farm would be located in a 17,300-acre area. About 250 land parcels, owned by 45 different people, have already been leased for the construction of turbines.

A public hearing on the proposal was scheduled for July 13 in Friesland, but was delayed until late October or early November to allow the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin time to draft an environmental impact statement.

The draft statement can be viewed online at www.psc.wi.gov, by entering docket number 6630-CE-302.

Comments for the impact statement are being accepted through Sept. 4. They can be submitted online via the Public Service Commission Web site or by writing to Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, 610 N. Whitney Way, Box 7854, Madison, WI 53707-7854. Opinions also can be expressed by phone at (608) 266-5481 or toll-free (888) 816-3831.

The public hearing, which will be held in the area where the wind farm is proposed (most likely in or near Friesland), entails formal testimony from proponents and opponents of the project, taken under oath before an administrative law judge. The three-member commission will utilize transcripts of the testimony in making the decision, probably no sooner than January, whether to grant a "certificate of public convenience or necessity" required for the construction of the wind farm.

[CLICK HERE to see maps, read more about this project, and find out how to file a comment with the PSC]


Posted on Wednesday, August 26, 2009 at 09:55AM by Registered CommenterThe BPRC Research Nerd | Comments Off

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