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1/12/09 PSC approves Glacier Hills, admitting residents "will make sacrifices in many ways" -- 

“In making this decision,” said Chairman Eric Callisto, “I know that people will make sacrifices in many ways.”

That applies, he said, to We Energies customers who will pay, with higher utility bills, the project’s estimated $352 million to $420 million cost.

But, he said, others who might have to “sacrifice” include people who live near the wind turbines and who might be bothered by the noise they make and by a strobe phenomenon called shadow flicker, from sunlight reflecting from turning turbine blades.

“When erected,” Callisto said, “these turbines will be, visually, the center of attention, for better or for worse. They are not silent. And they cause shadow flicker.”

 

Wind Farm gets initial go-ahead, but PSC puts conditions on WE energies project.

By Lyn Jerde, Daily Register, portagedailyregister.com

January 11 2010

MADISON – The Glacier Hills Wind Park, which could be the largest in the state, will rise from the farm fields of eastern Columbia County, the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin decided Monday.

But the three-member commission called for We Energies to meet several conditions in building the 90-turbine wind farm, including a minimum of 1,250 feet of distance between the turbines and the buildings on nonparticipating property; limits on the noise generated by the turbines; and the possibility that people whose property is surrounded by the turbines might have their property bought out.

PSC staff will draft a detailed list of the conditions based on the discussion at Monday’s meeting, said PSC spokesman Timothy Le Monds. The commission is scheduled to vote on the details of the condition Jan. 20, Le Monds said.

We Energies plans to build 90 turbines, each as much as 400 feet high, on rented land covering a 17,300-acre footprint in the Columbia County towns of Randolph and Scott. It would be Wisconsin’s largest wind farm to date.

In voting unanimously to grant a certificate of public convenience and necessity to allow construction of the 90-turbine wind farm, the commissioners acknowledged that not all people will be happy about their decision.

“In making this decision,” said Chairman Eric Callisto, “I know that people will make sacrifices in many ways.”

That applies, he said, to We Energies customers who will pay, with higher utility bills, the project’s estimated $352 million to $420 million cost. But, he said, others who might have to “sacrifice” include people who live near the wind turbines and who might be bothered by the noise they make and by a strobe phenomenon called shadow flicker, from sunlight reflecting from turning turbine blades.

“When erected,” Callisto said, “these turbines will be, visually, the center of attention, for better or for worse. They are not silent. And they cause shadow flicker.”

But commissioners agreed that the necessity of creating more energy from renewable resources such as wind – required of utilities by state law – must be weighed against the effect the turbines might have on people who live near them.

“I empathize,” said Commissioner Mark Meyer, “and I have a great deal of compassion for those who will experience the effects of wind turbines. I will not deny these effects. But I must balance all the interests.”

In doing so, the three commissioners offered numerous conditions that We Energies must meet in building the wind park.

One of the key conditions: a minimum 1,250-foot setback separating the turbines from the homes of people who did not lease their land for the turbines’ construction.

This almost certainly will mean that some of the 90 proposed turbines will have to be moved from their preferred location, or possibly be eliminated, commissioners said.

Commissioners discussed, at length, how such setback would be measured, with Callisto proposing that it start from the tip of a turbine’s blade at its maximum arc. The commissioners agreed, however, that it would be measured from roughly the center of a turbine to the center of a structure on land owned by nonparticipating landowners.

The commissioners also called for a noise limit of 50 decibels day and night during winter months and 50 decibels by day and 45 decibels by night during warmer months, because many people like to sleep with windows open on warm nights.

Brian Manthey, spokesman for We Energies, said the company was encouraged by the decision and that it will work within the parameters set by the PSC.

The 1,250-foot setback might mean that some of the 90 preferred sites will not be used; the company will look at 28 alternate sites, Manthey said.

It’s possible there could be fewer than 90 turbines. If the number stays at 89 or more, it will be the largest in the state based on number of turbines.

The Blue Sky Green Field Wind Energy Center in northeast Fond du Lac County has 88 turbines and produces 145 megawatts of electricity. The project description says Glacier is projected to produce 207 megawatts.

“Obviously, we’re still going to have a pretty good-sized wind farm,” he said.

He said despite the PSC’s questions, he thought the commission was positive about the project.

“They have quite a job to take in all the different aspects of a project of this magnitude,” he said.

Other conditions that We Energies must meet will include:

• A provision allowing for a buyout of some nonparticipating landowners who are surrounded by turbines.

• Measures to deal with shadow flicker for people who experience problems with it.

• A local committee to be appointed to address concerns and complaints related to the wind farm, though We Energies also would have to be prepared to address such complaints directly.

• Agreements with local emergency responders regarding landing spots for airborne emergency vehicles, such as helicopter ambulances.

• Further study, paid for partly by We Energies, of the effects of wind turbines on flying species such as bats and birds.

The commission, however, rejected a proposal from the village of Friesland that We Energies should pay the village a fee to compensate for property value losses stemming from turbines within 1.5 miles of the village.

It also rejected a proposal that, once the wind farm is up and running, We Energies should be required to shut down a coal-burning electric plant.

The target year for the turbines becoming operational is 2012.

Daily Register Editor Jason Maddux contributed to this story.

"If the Commission allows WEPCO to continue construct Glacier Hills and operate all of its existing coal-fired capacity, WEPCO’s ratepayers will be paying over $525 million for a new facility that is not needed to satisfy demand and will not result in overall CO2 emission reductions."

-Clean Wisconsin's Glacier Hills project post hearing brief

´╗┐NOTE FROM THE BPWI RESEARCH NERD:  If We Energies does not shut down a coal burning plant, Clean Wisconsin testitifed there will be no reduction in CO2 /green house gasses from this project. [SOURCE]

"Hot Air on Wind Energy: Don't expect wind power to replace coal as the nation's main source of electric power, whatever Obama's interior secretary said."

CLICK HERE to read all of what FactCheck.org has to say about wind energy and coal. FactCheck.org is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania.


 No matter how you may feel about the issue of climate change, there is one point few will argue: air pollution is a serious problem. How will the the Glacier Hills project help?

The 'greater good' of building our industrial scale wind farms, such as the one the PSC has approved in the Columbia County Towns of Randolph and Scott, are supposed to help to solve that problem by replacing our coal plants. This is the 'greater good' that residents are being asked to make sacrifices for.

On the surface it seems pretty logical and simple: just replace dirty coal with clean wind.

The problem is not a single coal fired plant has ever been taken off line in exchange for wind power. Not in the US, not anywhere in the world, including Denmark and Germany, two countries that use the most wind power in their energy mix, and yet continue to burn fossil fuels at an unchanged rate.  In fact, during Germany’s expanded use of more renewable energy, they've also built more coal plants.

 The elephant in the room is this: If coal fired plants are not taken off line in exchange for renewable energy, the current level of air pollution remains the same.

Which brings us to the state of Wisconsin, home to about 300 industrial scale wind turbines with hundreds more being proposed.

The question about what actual impact Wisconsin wind farms are having in terms of reducing current levels of air pollution in our state has never been fully addressed by state environmental organizations except in theory. Theoretically they should reduce GHG, but what are the facts?

 Clean Wisconsin decided to step up and ask the hard questions. Their conclusions are presented in the post-hearing brief filed with the Public Service Commission in response to the proposed Glacier Hills wind farm.

QUOTE:"This practice means that approval of Glacier Hills alone would have literally no impact on GHG reductions. On the contrary, WEPCO would have a financial incentive to generate as much electricity as possible from its coal-fired facilities."

 Though Clean Wisconsin supports the project for the economic benefits it may bring, they clearly point out that unless WEPCO retires a coal burning plant, the construction of the Glacier hills wind farm [and Invenergy's alternate proposed wind farm] will have no effect on reduction of green house gasses in our state.  And they clearly lay out the reasons why.

QUOTE: "One could therefore theoretically satisfy the RPS requirement of a specified percentage of electricity generation from renewable resources while undermining the global warming objectives of reducing GHGs emitted into the atmosphere. That is precisely what will happen here if the Commission does not restrain WEPCO’s electricity generation from coal-fired facilities."

QUOTE: "If the Commission allows WEPCO to continue construct  Glacier Hills and operate all of its existing coal-fired capacity, WEPCO’s ratepayers will be paying over $525 million for a new facility that is not needed to satisfy demand and will not result in overall CO2 emission reductions."
QUOTE: “For these reasons approval and implementation of either of the wind power proposals will not achieve their intended effect of reducing GHGs and will result in significant excess capacity unless the Commission also requires WEPCO to reduce its coal-fired generating capacity."

 There is no indication that WEPCO intends to shut down any of its coal fired plants in exchange for wind energy.

 By their willingness to acknowledge and address the difficult questions head on, Clean Wisconsin proves themselves to be an organization truly committed to protecting Wisconsin's environment and finding real ways to reduce current levels of pollution in our state.

The complete text of the Clean Wisconsin post hearing brief can be downloaded at the Public Service Commission’s website by clicking here and the Glacier Hills docket docket number 6630-CE-302

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