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3/30/11 Wind rules head back to PSC under new Chairman AND Down under or up over, it's the same old song: secretive wind developers keep tearing up rural communities


SOURCE: Marketplace Today

March 30, 2011

by Steve Prestegard

For the second time in less than a year, statewide wind siting rules developed by the state Public Service Commission were sent back for more work.

Tuesday’s vote nullifies the rule developed last year and requires the commission to start over.

Last year the PSC modified the rule slightly but not enough to satisfy groups who have mobilized to block wind farm developments, including the large Ledge Wind project in Brown County that developer Invenergy canceled last week.

At issue is how close turbines may be erected from nearby properties. Wind farms in Wisconsin have used setbacks of 1,000 feet from nearby homes, in the case of the Blue Sky Green Field wind project in Fond du Lac county, and 1,250 feet, in the case of the Glacier Hills Wind Park now under construction in Columbia County.

But opponents of wind farms, concerned about noise and shadow flicker from turbines, are seeking much bigger setbacks, and Gov. Scott Walker this year proposed a bill that would establish setbacks of 1,800 feet from a property line — which would mean even farther from a nearby residence.

Tuesday’s vote came one day after Gov. Scott Walker appointed a fellow Republican, former state Rep. Phil Montgomery, to chair the state Public Service Commission.

The wind siting issue will be among the key decisions facing Montgomery, along with a proposed biomass plant We Energies has sought to build at a Domtar Corp. paper mill in North Central Wisconsin.

Montgomery will start his term Monday, succeeding commissioner and former state Sen. Mark Meyer.

The bill that was introduced and passed by the committee on Tuesday would give the PSC six months to come up with a new wind siting rule. But the PSC won't have to meet that deadline until six months after the bill is passed, signed by Gov. Walker, and published, said Jason Rostan, the legislative committee clerk.

The Legislature’s joint committee for review of administrative rules voted Tuesday to punt the thorny issue of how close wind turbines should be from nearby properties back to the state Public Service Commission.

The committee voted 5–3 to introduce the bill along party lines, with Republicans in support and Democrats against. The same committee had voted earlier this month to block the PSC wind siting rule from taking effect.

Tuesday’s vote essentially ends development of the rule it drafted last year, and requires the commission to start over on a new one.

Wind energy developers said they wanted to see the rule go into effect because it gave developers guidance on how to proceed with investments in wind projects.

But Republicans sided with wind-farm opponents and the Wisconsin Realtors Association and Wisconsin Towns Association, which considered the PSC rule to favorable to wind-industry interests and too restrictive from a property rights perspective.

NOTE FROM THE BPWI RESEARCH NERD: This story could have been written about any Wisconsin community targeted by wind developers: Sneak into a community and offer the big landowners big money to agree to host turbines and most importantly keep their mouths shut about the plan. These moves are straight from the wind developers playbook.


SOURCE: Goulburn Post, www.goulburnpost.com.au

March 30, 2011

by Alby Schultz

There was a public meeting in the small town of Boorowa in my federal electorate of Hume a short while ago.

A good percentage of the population packed the ex-services club to hear first-hand about the rumours swirling through the community that this area was to be the site of a massive wind generation project.

There were audible gasps from the audience as it was revealed that the project was indeed real, that it would span some 35 kilometres and involve the construction of more than 100 turbines.

There were more gasps when it became apparent that the wind energy developer had actually been in negotiations with some of their neighbours for many months.

The meeting heard that the farmers who had been quietly persuaded to host the turbines would reap tens of thousands of dollars in rental a year.

They heard about pilots who wouldn’t fight fires or dust crops if they had to fly in the vicinity of the giant swirling blades.

They heard about possible health effects for those on neighbouring land ranging from heart palpitations to migraine headaches.

But this is not an argument against wind power. It is also not a criticism of farmers who have struggled through a decade of drought and see the way clear to make some alternative income.

There may indeed be areas where wind turbines can be built and where the impact is minimal. But there are many areas where they should not be constructed. As things stand though I truly fear our rural social capital – as fragile as our topsoils – is in places being chopped to pieces by turbine blades.

We need to start by calling a spade a spade. These turbines are not ‘farming’. That is Orwellian nonsense. This is industrial scale power production in green clothing. These are major commercial developments and should be considered in the same way as any major development.

A decade ago wind turbines were almost human in scale. But the turbines which some of the Boorowa farmers will have built near their homes (the closest will be just over a 1000 metres away) are truly gargantuan. If one of these turbines was standing on Sydney Harbour, its blades would be well clear of the top of the Harbour Bridge.

I warrant that should a neighbour decide to build a two storey extension overlooking the backyard of one of these Sydney bureaucrats there would be an immediate cry of “you can’t destroy my amenity and land value like that!”

And yet when a farming community raises concerns about mega turbines they are labelled ‘nimbys’ (not in my backyard).

Local decision making must be put back into prime place. At present it is hopelessly biased towards the developer. The state government boasts that large wind developments are considered ‘critical infrastructure’ and given the red carpet treatment with a guaranteed four month approval processes.

Communities are provided just 30 days to digest and provide comment before the Minister gives the project a tick. Better still the states should all revisit the National Wind Code which the Howard Government proposed in 2006 and which they rejected.

The code would have seen legislation eventually produced right around the country better protecting local community rights.

Wherever large wind generation projects arrive the plot is predictable. A wind company identifies an area with good wind resources and reasonably close to the national grid. They begin quiet negotiations with landowners.

In my view, these power companies preying on landholders who in most case have had no cash-flow as a result of nine years of heartbreaking drought. Well down the track others in the community find out.

Those who have done the deals face bitterness and anger. Those who missed out feel betrayed and angry. Sydney based bureaucrats need to understand the impact this has in small rural communities.

There is precious little interaction when you live on a property an hour or more from your rural centre – perhaps just at special events or football or cricket matches. Wind turbine money in my electorate has poisoned those relationships.

Families stop talking to each other. Animosity and bitterness run deep. Whole rural farming communities are fractured and it lasts for years. The NSW Industry Department’s website says that whilst planned or operating wind power installations in NSW will deliver 960 megawatts at present there is potential to grow that to 3000 megawatts (a 300 per cent increase)!

The implication of that for rural communities in Hume, and elsewhere, are truly frightening unless we give local communities far more say over whether or not they want wind turbines of this scale in their area.

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