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Monday, May 11, 2009

Bill would start process for state-wide wind farm standards

Editor's note: Legislative committees will hold a hearing on the bill (Senate Bill 185 and an identical companion Assembly Bill 265) on May 12 in the State Capitol.

From an article by Brad Bryan in The Country Today:

Bipartisan legislation introduced in the state Senate last week seeks to make it easier for developers to build wind turbines in Wisconsin.

Authored by State Sen. Jeff Plale, D-South Milwaukee, Rep. Jim Solestki, D-Green Bay, and Rep. Phil Montgomery, R-Ashwaubenon, the bill would keep local municipalities from putting in place restrictive, anti-wind ordinances.

Tremplealeau County and the towns of Magnolia and Union in Rock County recently adopted ordinances that make it difficult, if not impossible, to construct wind turbines.

In 2007, Trempealeau County adopted an ordinance with a 1-mile setback limit from any occupied dwelling, which some have called the strictest anti wind power regulations in the country.

"There literally isn't one square inch in Trempealeau County where you can lawfully place a turbine," said Ryan Schryver, an advocate with Clean Wisconsin. "It's no accident that every municipality uses different setbacks. There are no standards."

Senate Bill 185 would establish statewide setback and other standards and would require a Public Service Commion-led stakeholder committee to oversee the process.

"I think everyone will get a seat at the table," Schryver said. Among those at the table would be non-compensated landowners, PSC representatives, developers and other state agencies.

The bill would not, however, automatically roll back the strict standards already in place in some towns and counties.

"It's not going to trump any existing ordinances without taking them into consideration," Schryver said.

Ron Winn of Ettrick hopes the bill would roll back existing ordinances.

Winn is suing Trempealeau County for the right to build a turbine on his property.

Winn, who is suing on his own behalf, is a partner in the development company AgWind Energy Partners, which had erected test towers near Ettrick before a wave of backlash killed the project.

Because of the pushback it received in Trempealeau County - and the resulting expense - the company has set its sights on other wind projects, including one near Alma in Buffalo County.

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