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The fight over Wisconsin's wind future; 18 more wind farms proposed

It's free, it's everywhere and some think it's the answer to our ever-increasing energy needs. ...more and more people are speaking out against the projects. "We need to slow down until things get put into place to regulate these industrial monsters to a safe and healthy level," said Jon Morehouse, the spokesman for Brown County Citizens for Responsible Wind Energy.

It's free, it's everywhere and some think it's the answer to our ever-increasing energy needs.

"Wind is the most feasible resource for most states because of its ability to scale up," said Michael Vickerman, the executive director of RENEW Wisconsin. The non-profit group has been advocating for nearly two decades for widespread wind development in the state.

Wind turbines also provide struggling farmers a financial lifeline of thousands of dollars each year.

"For me, it's a good thing," said Gary Koomen, a landowner in the town of Morrison.

But as the state Public Service Commission continues to green light large-scale wind developments throughout the state, more and more people are speaking out against the projects.

"We need to slow down until things get put into place to regulate these industrial monsters to a safe and healthy level," said Jon Morehouse, the spokesman for Brown County Citizens for Responsible Wind Energy. The group represents more than 200 people who are against large scale wind development in southern Brown County.

Right now, 9 commercial wind farms are operating in the state, with a total of more than 300 wind turbines. Though, 18 more wind farms... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

It's free, it's everywhere and some think it's the answer to our ever-increasing energy needs.

"Wind is the most feasible resource for most states because of its ability to scale up," said Michael Vickerman, the executive director of RENEW Wisconsin. The non-profit group has been advocating for nearly two decades for widespread wind development in the state.

Wind turbines also provide struggling farmers a financial lifeline of thousands of dollars each year.

"For me, it's a good thing," said Gary Koomen, a landowner in the town of Morrison.

But as the state Public Service Commission continues to green light large-scale wind developments throughout the state, more and more people are speaking out against the projects.

"We need to slow down until things get put into place to regulate these industrial monsters to a safe and healthy level," said Jon Morehouse, the spokesman for Brown County Citizens for Responsible Wind Energy. The group represents more than 200 people who are against large scale wind development in southern Brown County.

Right now, 9 commercial wind farms are operating in the state, with a total of more than 300 wind turbines. Though, 18 more wind farms have been proposed, which could push the number of turbines in the state upwards of 1,000.

The largest proposal on the table is 100 turbines in southern Brown County. The project is being developed by a private company from Chicago called Invenergy.

"I've always been a supporter of alternate energy to start with so it kind of appealed to me a consumer," said Gary Koomen.

Koomen signed up to have two turbines on his farmland. He stands to pocket roughly $10,000 per year for each turbine. That kind of money can make life a little easier.

"Fun money," laughed Koomen. "I'll probably take a vacation."

The push for wind development in the state stems back to 1999 when Wisconsin set its first renewable energy goal. The idea is to find energy sources that are sustainable.

Currently, utility companies are required to be providing 10% of electricity from renewable sources by 2015. Experts say, right now, the utilities are only about half way there.

"Without the standards, they have no reason to add more renewable energy," said Michael Vickerman, of RENEW Wisconsin.

Vickerman says wind is the best renewable resource Wisconsin has, which is why he predicts a flurry of development in years to come.

"Wind will be the workhorse of all the renewable energy family. That's true elsewhere in the Midwest," he added.

The issue of wind development has divided communities and pitted neighbors against each other. One of the biggest fights continues to be over how close the massive turbines should be to neighboring properties.

Currently, many of the wind turbines are setback about 1000 feet. There are many people, however, who think they should be significantly farther away.

"It can have mental and physiological effects on your body. There are 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 Jon Morehouse, the spokesman for a group opposed to the project.

Wind developer 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 wind development manager for Invenergy.

Though, Gary Koomen spoke with his neighbors about their concerns before signing up for the project. He said he wouldn't have done it if they didn't want him to.

"Probably not. I value the relationships I have in the neighborhood," said Koomen.

The state has decided it wants to study the impact of wind turbines a little bit more. A 15 member wind siting committee was recently formed to advise the Public Service Commission on issues like noise levels and setback distances.

"These are legitimate points of disagreement and the more we can come to terms on those two issues, the better off we will all be," said Michael Vickerman.

Vickerman is on the PSC's wind siting committee. The committee's goal is to come up with standards and rules for permitting large scale wind projects in the state.

Vickerman says uniform requirements are important because many communities have passed their own wind-related laws -- some of which are designed to try and slow wind developmental.

The local laws may not even matter, however, because approval of large scale projects ultimately falls in the hands of the PSC.

"We have to resolve this issue before the wind industry gives up on Wisconsin," said Vickerman.

Some admit that's what they want.

"Whatever happened to using less and using less to the point where we save and use what we have more effectively. The wind thing does nothing but produce more," said Jon Morehouse.

Much like the wind itself, the debate over wind development looks to be unending.

The PSC wants to have standards in place for permitting wind projects in

the state by as early as this summer.

Officials at Invenergy tell FOX 11 they hope to start construction on 100 turbines in Brown County by 2011.

The question is: can these proposals withstand mounting opposition from the people who actually have to live among the wind turbines? The answer is still blowing in the wind.


Source: http://www.fox11online.com/...

MAY 6 2010
https://www.windaction.org/posts/26106-the-fight-over-wisconsin-s-wind-future-18-more-wind-farms-proposed
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