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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

PSC adds protections for residents in latest wind farm approval

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) issued its final order on construction of We Energies' Glacier Hills Wind Park. The order included, among others, several provisions to allow residences to seek remedies should they feel bothered by turbines in the project (numbering follows the numbering in the written PSC order, pages 48-54):

10. WEPCO shall operate the project in a manner that meets noise limits of 50 dBA during daytime hours, and, upon complaint by an affected resident, shall be permanently reduced to 45 dBA during nighttime hours for areas related to the complaint. Nighttime hours are defined to include those hours between 10:OO p.m. to 6:00 a.m. daily, from April 1 through September 30. The requirement to meet the seasonally reduced nighttime noise limit shall be triggered by the receipt by WEPCO of any complaint regarding nighttime noise levels. Methods available for WEPCO to comply with both the daytime and nighttime noise limits shall include, but are not limited to, operational curtailment of the turbine or turbines contributing to the exceedance of the noise limits. WEPCO is relieved from meeting the nighttime noise limit if the affected resident agrees to a financial settlement. Compliance with noise limits shall be measured or otherwise evaluated at the outside wall of the non-participating residence. WEPCO shall provide notification to potentially affected residents of the provisions of this Final Decision relating to noise limits prior to initial operation of the project.

11. WEPCO shall evaluate compliance with the noise limits included in this Final Decision as part of its post-construction noise study. The post-construction noise study shall be conducted as described in the most current version of the PSC Noise Measurement Protocol. WEPCO shall file a copy of the post-construction noise study report with the Commission.

12. WEPCO shall construct its project using a minimum setback from non-participating residences of 1,250 feet.

15. WEPCO shall work with local electric distribution companies to test for stray voltage at all dairy operations within one-half mile of any project facility, prior to construction and again after the project is completed. WEPCO shall work with the distribution utilities and farm owners to rectify any stray voltage problems arising from the construction and operation of the project. Prior to any testing, WEPCO shall work with Commission staff to determine the manner in which stray voltage measurements will be conducted and on which properties. WEPCO shall provide to Commission staff reports of the results of stray voltage testing.

16. WEPCO shall work with landowners to mitigate the effects of shadow flicker. WEPCO shall provide shadow flicker mitigation for residences experiencing 25 hours per year or more of shadow flicker. Residences shall be eligible for mitigation if computer modeling shows that shadow flicker would exceed 25 hours per year, and the property owner need not document the actual hours per year of shadow flicker to be eligible. Residences that exceed 25 hours per year of shadow flicker based on logs kept by the resident shall also be eligible for mitigation. The requirement to mitigate shadow flicker at eligible residences shall be triggered by the receipt by WEPCO of a complaint regarding shadow flicker. WEPCO shall allow the resident to choose a preferred reasonable mitigation technique, including but not limited to, installation at WEPCO's expense of blinds or planting. WEPCO shall provide notification to potentially affected residents of the provisions of this Final Decision relating to shadow flicker prior to initial operation of the project. WEPCO may provide shadow flicker mitigation for residences experiencing less than 25 hours per year of shadow flicker.

17. WEPCO shall maintain a log of all complaints received regarding the project. The log shall include, at a minimum, the name and address of the complainants, nature of the complaints, and steps taken by WEPCO to resolve the complaints. WEPCO shall make copies of this complaint log available, at no cost, to the monitoring committees authorized by the town of Randolph and town of Scott JDAs.

18. WEPCO shall coordinate with local first responders and air ambulance services regarding the development of an emergency evacuation plan, including the locations of alternate landing zones. The plan shall include provisions for public inspection of the plan, as appropriate. WEPCO shall file the final plan with the Commission, using the Commission's confidential filing procedures, if necessary.

19. WEPCO shall follow the provisions of the town of Scott and town of Randolph JDAs regarding radio and television interference. In addition, WEPCO shall consult with affected residents regarding the residents' preferred reasonable mitigation solution for radio and television interference problems, prior to implementing remedial measures, and that the preferred solution shall be made permanent.

20. WEPCO shall follow the provisions of the town of Scott and town of Randolph JDAs regarding cellular communications interference. In addition, WEPCO shall work with affected cellular providers to provide adequate coverage in the affected area. Mitigation techniques for lost or weakened cellular telephone communications shall include, but are not limited to, an additional micro-cell, cell, or base station facility to fill in the affected area. The micro-cell, cell, or base station may be installed on one of the structures within the wind energy facility.

21. WEPCO shall develop and file a plan with the Commission, for Commission approval prior to construction, to reduce the individual hardships to the Smitses and Regneruses. The plan shall be developed in consultation with these two families. The plan may include, but is not limited to: relocation of turbines to reduce the number of turbines within one-half mile to no more than seven turbines; providing annual payments to these two families, not to exceed the amount paid to participating residents receiving payment for one turbine lease; or, purchasing the properties at fair market value.

22. Compliance with setback provisions for non-participating residences shall be measured from the centerline of the turbine tower to the nearest point on the foundation of the residence.

25. WEPCO shall provide up to $150,000 of funding towards an operational curtailment and bat mortality study at GHWP, or a site with similar characteristics, as determined by Commission staff. These funds may be applied to a study effort undertaken by another entity or, if no other study can be identified, WEPCO shall develop and coordinate a study and shall seek additional funding from other entities.

26. WEPCO shall provide proposed designs of the required bat and bird studies to DNR and Commission staff for review, and Commission staff shall approve the final study design.

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