December 9, 2010

RENEW Wisconsin
Michael Vickerman

Final Wind Siting Rule Improves Clean Energy Outlook

With the changes made at the Public Service Commission’s (PSC) open meeting today, wind developers in Wisconsin can look forward to a set of workable statewide permitting standards that will facilitate the development of well-designed wind projects.

At the meeting, the Commission adjusted the requirements on two issues of critical importance to the wind industry: set back distances and compensation to neighboring residents.

“Today’s decisions culminate a four-year effort to set Wisconsin’s permitting house in order,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide renewable energy advocacy organization.

“The final rules strike a reasonable balance between protecting public health and safety and advancing wind energy generation, a proven pathway for creating well-paying jobs and increasing revenues to local governments,” Vickerman said.

Initially, the rule did not specify a definite setback distance between turbines and residences and community buildings neighboring the host property.

“By setting a maximum setback distance of 1,250 feet, the rule would not impose economic burdens on wind developers seeking to install newer and larger wind turbines now available in the market, such as the 2.5 megawatt turbines being erected at the Shirley Wind Farm in Brown County,” according to Vickerman.

Regarding compensation to non-participating residences, the commission decided to uncouple the annual compensation level instead of linking the size of the payments to the payment received by the host landowner. The commission’s move resolved the most problematic feature that had been in the rule.

“We thank the Commissioners for their hard work and their willingness to work through a number of very complicated and thorny issues that do not lend themselves to easy resolution,” Vickerman added.

The rules promulgated by the PSC are a product of landmark legislation adopted in 2009 to establish statewide siting standards for wind energy siting. Legislative committees will have 10 days to review the rules after formally receiving them. If they take no action, the rules take effect on January 1, 2011.