1/11/09 A tale of two windfarms and an extra 250 feet: PSC approves Glacier Hills Project AND Brown County Invenergy Ledge Wind Project moving "Full Speed Ahead"
PSC Approves wind farm in Columbia County
By Jane Burns,
Wisconsin State Journal,
January 11 2010
The state Public Service Commission on Monday gave verbal approval to Wisconsin Electric Power Co.’s request to construct a new wind electric generation facility in Columbia County at a cost of between $335 million and $435 million.
The Glacier Hills Wind Park, with 90 wind units, is planned for the towns of Randolph and Scott in the northeast part of Columbia County. It will be the largest wind farm in Wisconsin, said PSC chairman Eric Callisto.
Construction is expected to begin this year with completion set for late 2011.
Documents associated with WEPCO’s applications can be viewed at http://psc.wi.gov/. Enter case number 6630-CE-302 in the boxes provided on the PSC homepage, or click on the Electronic Regulatory Filing System button.
PSC imposes bigger setbacks for Glacier Hills turbines
Journal Sentinel, www.jsonline.com
January 11, 2010
We Energies will be allowed to build its wind farm northeast of Madison, but commissioners attached conditions designed to blunt the impact of turbines on nearby homes.
During a meeting Monday afternoon approving the project, commissioners imposed a 1,250-foot setback between turbines and the houses of residents who aren’t hosting turbines. Members of the Public Service Commission also agreed to set special summertime noise restrictions, limiting how loud the turbines could be at night.
We Energies had proposed a 1,000-foot setback, and the PSC estimated its restriction imposed Monday would disqualify 15 turbine sites the utility had selected. It’s unclear how many of the 118 total sites that the utility has identified would be affected by the bigger setback, utility spokesman Brian Manthey said.
However, commissioners rejected by 2-to-1 a proposal that would have required the Milwaukee utility to make “good neighbor payments” to property owners who aren’t hosting turbines.
Eric Callisto, PSC chairman, said the payments would be appropriate given the concerns raised by homeowners who live near wind turbines, but commissioners Mark Meyer and Lauren Azar said the amount of the payments would be difficult to calculate. Azar said authorizing the payments would put the agency on a “slippery slope” in terms of setting a precedent for other cases.
Two of the three commissioners also recommended that We Energies use a more comprehensive bidding process for future wind projects.
The commission will discuss that and other issues further when the PSC takes up its final decision on the case at a meeting tentatively set for Jan. 20.
PSC approves Glacier Hills without Invenergy agreement
January 11th, 2010
We Energies can build the 90-turbine Glacier Hills Wind Park in Columbia County without a requirement to buy power from Chicago-based Invenergy LLC.
The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin on Monday approved the We Energies’ proposal, expected to be the largest wind farm in state history. Commissioners denied a request by Invenergy that the project only be approved if We Energies agrees to also buy power from Invenergy’s yet-to-be-built, 100-turbine farm near Green Bay.
The Chicago firm last year filed as an intervener in the PSC review of Glacier Hills to help finance the Ledge Wind Farm proposal. Invenergy argued an agreement to buy power from Ledge could generate money for the project and help We Energies advance toward its state-set goal of generating 10 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2015.
The three commissioners Monday said Invenergy was trying to get a fair shake for its project. However, the PSC review of Ledge might not end until much later this year, and commissioners agreed there is an obvious timing problem.
“We’re not here to negotiate or set terms,” said Commissioner Mark Meyer. “The Invenergy project is not something that’s real yet.”
Mark Leaman, Invenergy’s senior vice president, said after Monday’s meeting that he is disappointed by the decision.
“There wasn’t a level playing field this time around,” he said. “(We Energies) did not put out a request for proposals for power purchasing, and the only way for us to get into the discussion was by filing as an intervener.”
However, Leaman said, he was reassured by the commissioners’ discussion about requiring utilities to put out RFPs for long-term purchased-power agreements as part of proposing future projects.
PSC Chairman Eric Callisto said Invenergy’s request sparked important debate about purchased power.
A state administrative rule requires utilities consider purchased-power agreements as an alternative to building new power plants. However, Callisto said, he wants to discuss refining the RFP process to include an analysis of how much renewable power is needed to meet state goals as well as a third-party analysis of associated agreement costs and evaluations of agreements extending beyond 20 years.
The commissioners Monday declined to agree on any of those terms, but will discuss them in the next week. The details are expected next week when the PSC issues its final report on Glacier Hills.
We Energies spokesman Brian Manthey said the decision will not stop the company from talking about future agreements with Invenergy.
Invenergy, meanwhile, is discussing agreements with other utilities to try to finance Ledge’s construction. Leaman would not provide the names of those utilities or the project’s price tag, but said the company will continue trying to acquire state approvals.
“We won’t start construction until we have a power sales contract,” he said. “But (We Energies) and other utilities will need renewable energy in the future. Today’s decision won’t stop us moving forward.”
PSC’s final order expected next week
We Energies got an initial green light for its proposed 90-turbine wind farm, but a final order to build will not be issued until next week.
The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin on Monday approved the utility’s proposal to build the Glacier Hills Wind Park in the towns of Randolph and Scott. However, commissioners said they want 10 more days to discuss project details, including turbine placement and whether the PSC should require utilities request proposals for purchased-power agreements from electricity providers.
PSC spokeswoman Teresa Weidemann-Smith said commissioners want to iron out those details for the final report, which is expected Jan. 22. She said the commissioners’ approval likely will not change.
“The project is a go,” Weidemann-Smith said.
But We Energies also has to review some of the commissioners’ suggestions, such as requiring 1,250-foot setbacks instead of the utility’s proposed 1,000-foot setbacks from buildings. If the changes go through, the utility might have to reduce the number of turbines it intends to build.
“It’s difficult to comment on everything that was discussed today,” said We Energies spokesman Brian Manthey. “We still have to take a look at everything that was said today and determine how that impacts the project.”
The wind farm could cost up to $434 million and generate up to 209 megawatts of electricity, depending on what kind of turbines the utility uses.
Despite setback, Brown County wind farm "full speed ahead"
A developer who wants to build a major wind farm in Brown County said today it would persevere despite state approval for a competing project in Columbia County.
Invenergy LLC had asked the state Public Service Commission to reject the We Energies project in Columbia County or approve both projects jointly.
Chicago-based Invenergy is seeking state approval for the Ledge Wind Energy Project, which would include 100 turbines south of Green Bay in the towns of Glenmore, Wrightstown, Morrison and Holland. It would be the first large-scale wind farm in Brown County and the largest anywhere in Wisconsin.
The Public Service Commission today approved the slightly smaller Glacier Hills Wind Park, rejecting Invenergy’s request to be involved in that development.
Invenergy senior vice president Mark Leaman later expressed disappointment, but said that the company would still pursue state approval for the Brown County wind farm.
“We’re moving full speed ahead,” he said.
Invenergy has said that Ledge Wind Energy Park could be in operation by 2011 and that it would generate enough electricity to power about 40,000 homes.
EARLIER NOTE FROM THE BPWI RESEARCH NERD: The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin has voted to approve WE Energies’ proposed Glacier Hills Wind Plant in Columbia County. They indicated their intention to approve the project early in the hearing, but asked for some conditions, including an increasing the setback from non-participating homes from 1000 feet to 1250.
The conditions did not include property value guarantees or good neighbor agreements for non-participating residents. There was discussion about asking the utility about doing something for two non-participating families that will have over seven turbines within 2640 feet of their homes. It was suggested that the utility either buy their homes or come to some sort of financial agreement with the homeowners.
The 90 turbine wind farm will be sited in the towns of Randolph and Scott.
Scroll down to see maps of homes and turbine locations for this project.
More on this developing story as information becomes available.