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6/2/10 Wind siting council finally discusses setbacks and immediately gets pushback from Rep. Soletski of Green Bay who does not like what he is seeing.

Wind council adds variables to turbine debate

SOURCE: The Daily Reporter

June 2, 2010

By Paul Snyder

A Wisconsin lawmaker has some advice for the council charged with developing rules for small wind farms: Keep things simple.

Members of the state’s Wind Siting Council on Wednesday said noise and shadow flicker limits need to be considered to help determine how far wind turbines should be placed from residences. But State Rep. Jim Soletski, D-Green Bay, chairman of the Assembly Committee on Energy and Utilities, said trying to determine turbine setback distances by incorporating decibel standards for noise and hour limits for shadow flicker presents too many variables for statewide rules.

“The more variables you throw in,” he said, “the less likely you’ll have wind power in Wisconsin.”

Still, Dan Ebert, the Wind Siting Council’s chairman, said after presentations on noise and setback distances that the council could focus on factors besides distance measurements from residences or property lines.

“I do believe there is a compromise and consensus that can be reached,” he said.

Other members said the council will have to establish a setback distance before it gives its final recommendation to the state Public Service Commission. That recommendation is expected this summer.

“We’re going to have to have a number,” said Larry Wunsch, a Brownsville landowner. “I don’t want to leave that open.”

But Wunsch said the council needs to have more discussion about issues relating to noise, shadow flicker and real estate effects of turbine development before determining an appropriate distance.

Nevertheless, Wunsch suggested a setback distance of 2,500 feet from property lines.

Tom Meyer, a Realtor with Madison-based Restaino & Associates Inc., also suggested a setback distance of up to 2,600 feet from property lines.

But anything more than 1,000 feet would be excessive, Soletski said, and leave too little room for developers to build wind farms.

The council’s discussion Wednesday was the first of what could be many debates in determining an appropriate setback distance, Ebert said.

The council was formed by state law passed last session that mandated the state provide turbine placement standards for wind farms that generate less than 100 megawatts of electricity.

Wind farms that generate more than 100 megawatts are subject to PSC approval, but until the new law passed, local governments had control over turbine placement standards for any projects generating up to 99 megawatts of electricity.

Trying to determine placement standards on sound and shadow flicker setback leaves too much room for ambiguity, Soletski said.

“I think we just need a distance,” he said. “Otherwise what’s the purpose of having the council?”

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