4/4/10 Invenergy Goliath vs rural residents of Brown County: The Art of Turning Neighbor Against Neighbor
WIND PROPOSAL DIVIDING COMMUNITIES: 100 WIND TURBINES PROPOSED FOR BROWN COUNTY
Reporter: Lou Hillman, www.fox11online.com 4 May 2010
MORRISON – Imagine dozens of wind turbines, standing 400 feet tall, stretching across the farm fields of southern Brown County.
They’d be spinning, day and night, for at least the next 30 years.
Some believe it’s a picture of progress.
“Of course it is. Wind has been used since the beginning of time,” said Glen Martin, a landowner in the town of Morrison.
Others see it as a major misstep.
“What do you do when the wind don’t blow?” said Dick Koltz, a landowner in Wrightstown.
Nine commercial wind farms are already up and running in Wisconsin, but on the table is a proposal for the largest project yet: 100 wind turbines in southern Brown County. It’s known as the Ledge Wind Energy Project.
The project has been proposed by Invenergy, a private wind developer from Chicago.
“The beauty of wind, once it’s installed, it just runs and runs and runs without harmful commodities having to be used up,” said Kevin Parzyck, the project development manager for Invenergy.
“We’re not claiming this is the end all for all power needs. It’s one component of the mix,” said Parzyck.
Parzyck said the electricity generated by the wind turbines would be sold to utility companies in Wisconsin.
The current proposal places 54 turbines in the town of Morrison, 22 in Holland, 20 in Wrightstown and 4 in Glenmore.
One would be on Glen Martin’s farmland in the town of Morrison. He believes the wind turbines are a necessary step towards energy independence.
“We have to produce this electricity and power some place, just like we have to grow a crop some place, just like we have to mine coal some place. This all has been to be done some place and this is a good place to do it,” said Martin.
But it’s not just about going green. Landowners would be paid as much as $10,000 per year for each turbine on their property. That’s quite the bonus, especially for farmers who have seen their share of struggles.
“Let’s face it, it would be nicer and times are tough. I’m sure the last couple of years swayed some of them into doing it. It is attractive,” said Dick Koltz.
Koltz signed a contract to have one turbine on his farmland in the town of Wrightstown, but said he’s now having serious doubts. His opinion changed drastically after seeing the wind turbines up close on a trip to Fond du Lac County.
“It just sort of hit me that this should never be. Not this close and not the area. It just wasn’t a good feeling,” said Koltz.
The feeling was so bad, in fact, Koltz is trying to get out of his contract with Invenergy.
Many of his concerns are being voiced loudly by the group Brown County Citizens for Responsible Wind Energy. Spokesman Jon Morehouse says the group is made up of neighbors who think the turbines are unsightly and unsafe.
“It can have mental and physiological effects on your body. There is also the low frequency sound waves as well as the sounds waves that you can hear and those have negative effects from sleep depravation to increase blood pressure,” said Morehouse.
Invenergy denies those claims.
“There’s anecdotal evidence of certain people with problems but there are no scientific studies that there are problems with wind noise,” said Kevin Parzyck, the project development manager for Invenergy.
The opposition group’s more than 200 members still aren’t convinced. They continue to show up at town hall meetings to voice their concerns.
The group’s spokesman turned down an offer to have three turbines on his property. It could have made him nearly one million dollars.
“I would never do something on my land that would negatively affect somebody else in our community,” said Jon Morehouse.
Others say they just don’t care if their neighbors don’t like the project.
“If I decide to go ahead and put something up like that, that’s my right,” said Glen Martin.
Even though Invenergy has been signing up landowners to participate in the project, the company is still in the process of modifying its application with the state. That application will ultimately be reviewed and voted on by the Public Service Commission — a process we’re told is likely still several months away.