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10/24/10 They've known about the trouble since 2004: why is the Public Service Commission still pushing for short setbacks between turbines and homes? 


On Tuesday, November 9th the Assembly Committee on Commerce, Utilites, Energy and Rail will hold a full public hearing at the capitol because of questions raised regarding the  Public Service Commission's new wind siting rules for the state of Wisconsin.

The public is encouraged to attend and to provide testimony regarding specific concerns about the rules.

Tuesday, November 9th at 10:30 a.m. in Room 417 North at the State Capitol Building: Hearing relating to  Clearinghouse Rule 10-057



In 2004 the Energy Center of Wisconsin[1] published a report for the State of Wisconsin Department of Administration Division of Energy entitled, “A Study of Wind Development in Wisconsin, A Collaborative Report”. On page 48, under “Turbine Placement” it states:

The first generation of wind power projects in Wisconsin (particularly in Kewaunee County) showed that unless developers pay attention to the placement of turbines, noise and blade flicker could become significant issues for nearby residences.

The importance of turbine placement and wind farm design cannot be overemphasized. Developers need to make use of visual rendering tools to ensure their project explicitly evaluates the potential effect of noise levels and blade flicker on host landowners and adjacent property owners.

The proposed Wind Siting Rules do very little to ensure the fulfillment of this industry supported recommendation.

Wind development stakeholders will testify that these rules are the strictest wind siting rules in the nation.[2]

Last week, Goodhue County became the second county in Minnesota  in the last year to adopt wind siting rules which included a key provision that would impose a wind turbine setback of 10 “rotor-diameters” or about 1/2mile, from homeowners not participating in a commercial wind project —[3] unless those homeowners agree to less stringent standards.

Some wind siting council members were prepared to discuss other ordinances in the U.S. and internationally as provided in Act 40. The subject wasn’t opened for discussion. In fact, Wisconsin is breaking ground by taking away all local control in the development of wind projects. 

Shadow flicker modeling and noise modeling standards are left to the discretion of each wind developer. This is one area that should have more uniformity set by the PSC for input parameters.  Wind developers are not vetted by the state. There are no consequences for bad actors or modeling errors.  

Impacts should be mitigated with proper siting. There is too much emphasis on band-aid methods to comply and mitigate after the turbine installation instead of being confident that the PSC has put forth accurate siting rules.

Having a rule for notice of process for making complaints sent to all residents within a ½ mile before construction just signals the community that problems are most certainly expected.

Under the complaint process in the wind siting rules, the rule states that a complaint shall be made first to the owner of the wind energy system pursuant to a complaint resolution process developed by the owner.

It further states that after 45 days the complainant may then petition the local government for review of a complaint.

The permitting authority is the local government. Complaint resolution should be administered by them.

Unlike a wind turbine owner, the town or county boards are elected officials who have the intrinsic responsibility to protect the health and safety and welfare of their constituents even if the rules remind them that they are restricted by statute 66.0401.

The rules should be clear on what procedural methods and tools the local governments have to investigate complaints.

For example how do they determine if noise limits are exceeded? What is the definition of “curtailment” and how shall that be measured?

There should be a stipulation for funds to be collected before project construction, and held in escrow to address investigation of complaints after the project is operational, as provided for in the permitting and construction process.  In addition there should be a clear procedure for an appeal process to the PSC if the wind turbine owner determines the complaint resolution is unreasonable and refuses to comply.

The rules are silent on mechanisms of enforcement. Local governments need to know what their enforcement authority is. Most towns do not have authority to issue citations for non-compliance in operations in their towns. What tools does a local government have to ensure that the siting standards are met without burdening the community with litigation costs for 25 years?

A wind project may be the single most intrusive development that engulfs a community.

Have the Wisconsin legislators carefully reviewed the evidence that wind energy will live up to the marketing rhetoric; reduce our dependency on foreign oil, reduce C02 emissions and reduce imports of fossil fuels?

If so, then more lessons need to be learned from our existing installed wind projects to make continuing development sustainable. Accepting the same methods of planning developments as in the past has done nothing but fuel opposition. The wind siting rules as written have done nothing to minimize this.

Cathy Bembinster

Evansville, WI 53536


[1] http://www.ecw.org/prod/231-1.pdf

[2] http://renewwisconsinblog.org/2010/08/30/vickerman-wisconsin-poised-to-adopt-the-strictest-statewide-siting-rule-on-large-wind-turbines-in-the-nation/

[3] http://www.republican-eagle.com/event/article/id/69492/


Better Plan would like to thank Cathy Bembinster for providing us with a copy of their testimony so we can share it here.

CLICK HERE  to watch Wisconsin Eye video of the Senate Committee wind rules hearing. After you click on the link, click "Watch" under 10.13.10 Senate committee on Commerce, Utilities, Energy and Rail.

Better Plan would also like to thank Wisconsin Eye for making this video available to the public.


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