July 7, 2010
Collectively drawing upon the individual roadblocks that developers experienced in permitting wind energy projects in Wisconsin, a group of renewable energy stakeholders urged the Public Service Commission to adopt standards that can’t be undermined by additional restrictions imposed by local governments.
The comments, submitted on behalf of 38 signatories, addressed the draft siting rule published by the Commission in mid-May. The draft rule proposed standards applicable to all wind energy systems — large and small — erected in Wisconsin. In the next phase of this proceeding, the Commission will review the public comments before issuing a final rule in August.
The rule will specify, among other things, setback distances from neighbors, sound limits, shadow flicker durations, procedures for decommissioning inoperable turbines, and mitigating electronic signal interference.
Noting that local governments would have discretionary authority going beyond the legislation’s intentions, renewable energy supporters recommended specific changes to give developers a greater sense of certainty in the permitting process.
“We are willing to work collaboratively and cooperatively with political subdivisions to establish mutually agreeable provisions beyond the requirements of the rules,” the stakeholders said in their joint comments. “However, we cannot develop wind projects in Wisconsin if current uncertainty regarding political subdivision requirements continues.”
“Many worthy projects have been stalled by changes made to ordinances after the project application was filed,” said Michael Vickerman, Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin, a
renewable energy advocacy organization and a signatory to the joint comments. “We have to ensure that the rules don’t create opportunities for new restrictions that could bring wind energy development to a standstill.”
One example of such a restriction would be a requirement on developers to guarantee property values in the project area, Vickerman said. “Those kinds of conditions have nothing to do with protecting public health and safety, but would certainly increase wind development costs. Their real purpose would be to make wind energy an economic non-starter in whichever community that adopts those requirements.”
The comments submitted on behalf of renewable energy stakeholders can be retrieved at this link — http://psc.wi.gov/apps35/ERF_view/viewdoc.aspx?docid=134452
RENEW Wisconsin (http://www.renewwisconsin.org/) is an independent, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that acts as a catalyst to advance a sustainable energy future through public policy and private sector initiatives.