Wind Energy Update
For Glenmore, Morrison and Wrightstown
September 1, 2011
* Senate Bill 50/Assembly Bill 72, which repealed the PSCW wind siting rules that were to go into effect last March, are both just sitting in committee. No hearings have been scheduled.
* Senate Bill 98, which Is Senator Lasee’s bill to require a one-half mile setback from property lines, is also in committee. No hearing has been scheduled. This bill includes a requirement for an informational brochure and a 10-day period to back out of an agreement for landowners. These two items were added at my request on behalf of your three towns.
* Senator Lasee has now drafted a new bill that will put a moratorium on wind turbines until class one epidemiological studies are conducted on human and animal health effects. In our testimony at all the hearings and in meetings with legislators, our main emphasis has been that it is necessary to do these types of studies in order to determine safe setbacks. Such studies have never been done by the wind industry. An independent entity has begun a type of epidemiological study in two wind farms in the state of Maine. I drafted the bill language for the Senator’s office as regards the requirement for studies. They decided to link it with a moratorium. This bill draft was released yesterday to seek co-sponsors before being introduced.
* The PSCW case administrator for the wind siting rules confirmed today that they are still waiting for the legislature to pass SB-50/AB-72 before they proceed. Therefore, there is no new draft of the rules in the works.
Wind Energy Activity in Wisconsin
*The U.S. Department of Energy and the Midwest Independent System Operator still include many more wind turbines for Wisconsin in their planning documents. These plans are used by developers to assess potential markets. The Ledge has Wisconsin’s best onshore wind resource.
* The large Glacier Hills Wind Farm is under construction northeast of Madison but there are no other large projects approved or under review by the PSCW. Projects of 100 megawatts or more require the PSCW’s approval.
* A new state law allows utilities to classify more types and sizes of hydroelectric generation as renewable energy in meeting the state’s requirement that 10% of their generation shall be from renewable sources by 2015. This eliminates the need for more wind energy for most or all of the state’s utilities. However, wind developers could still construct wind farms in Wisconsin and sell the energy outside of the state.
* The State of Wisconsin has been trying to entice a developer of a new type of wind conversion system to build wind farms in Wisconsin. Their design funnels the wind to the ground and directs it into a ground level wind turbine/generator.
Wind and Health Research
* More and more research initiatives are exploring the effects of low frequency noise or infrasound (inaudible sound). There is an evolving body of evidence that infrasound does affect the health of certain humans and animals.
* These reports reflect how important it was that we addressed infrasound in Morrison’s ordinance.
Shirley Wind Farm
* The CH Energy Group sold the Shirley Wind Farm to DEGS Wind, LLC, subsidiary of Duke Energy Corporation on August 11, 2011.
* I contacted Duke Energy’s environmental director in Indiana to introduce them to some of the issues in Glenmore. This is important for all of your towns because Duke now owns ten wind farms including one that has grown in phases to 392 turbines. Once a company decides to expand a wind farm, it is difficult to turn that ship around. If they appreciate the issues early on, the final result will always be better.
* Duke had not appointed a site manager yet at the time of our discussion.
Evaluation of Health Complaints and Infrasound near the Shirley Wind Farm
* In an effort to gather information to assess the possible need to improve your town ordinances and to provide better information to legislators and the PSCW in the future, I have been interviewing certain residents near the Shirley Wind Farm and taking sound level readings to determine the level of infrasound. The results will be shared with you all, the county board of health, state legislators, PSCW and Duke Energy.
* Of those with whom I have met, five families have health complaints and one does not. Two families have moved out of their homes. This does not indicate any probability of problems because I have focused on those with complaints.
* I have interviewed one farmer who has lost an unusual number of cows and a bull. He is not jumping to conclusions. The state agriculture department, a vet and the electric utility is investigating to find any problem other than the wind turbines. I am evaluating the existence of infrasound near his farm. He is almost a mile away from the nearest turbine but infrasound can travel such distances and more.
Submitted by Glen R. Schwalbach, P.E.
On March 21, 2011, Invenergy informed the Wisconsin Public Service Commission they would no longer be pursuing the development of the Ledge Wind Energy Center. The Town Board will continue to monitor any wind energy applications under the rules as established by our Town Ordinance, to protect the health and safety of all town residents.
JANUARY 13, 2011
The PSC has informed they have submitted the proposed Wind Siting rules to the legislature. To review go to their website at http://psc.wi.gov and search under Docket 1-AC-231. The title of the Wind Siting rules packet is "Order adopting Final Rules."
The Residents that appeared at the town board meeting on January 13, 2010, have a website set up so share their information, their website is www.bccrwe.com
The proposed bill goes a long way toward providing improved health and safety for those people living near wind energy systems. Until medical experts and design engineers have true statistically-controlled epidemiological studies to better understand the effects of wind turbines upon human and animal health, we have to do our best to interpret varying opinions of scientists, engineers and medical experts who often have their own biases. Without such controlled studies, legislators must step in to protect citizens affected by projects which are built to capture the government-supported anomalies in the market, mostly in the form of tax incentives.
We provide the following comments and concerns with the current proposal for your consideration.
Concern #1: Rules do not directly apply to wind energy systems 100 MW and larger A huge concern is that this bill seems to only address the PSCW wind siting rules which apply only to wind energy systems under 100 megawatts. Act 40 only requires the PSCW to consider the provisions of these rules, not to abide by them for projects of 100 MW and larger. The PSCW and wind developers have made this distinction clear. The proposed requirements for additional setback is appropriate and reasonable but since the PSCW can be less stringent, developers may likely propose systems with more turbines or with larger capacity (which also means taller) turbines to fall under PSCW CPCN process instead of these rules. Solution: (1) This regulatory reform bill should require the PSCW to use these rules as the minimum standard for wind energy projects under their direct review. The conventional reason that large energy projects are required to go through a PSCW application process is that large projects have more impact and complexity and often need more stringent requirements to protect health and safety, not less requirements.
Concern #2: Waiver provision does not adequately protect nearby landowners In Section 9, it is proposed in 196.378 (4g) (am) that a waiver to the 1800-foot setback may be provided by owners of adjoining properties and those separated by a right-of-way. Many towns are peppered with small subdivisions with lots as small as one-acre. If only adjoining property owners are needed to waive setbacks, other property owners could find themselves within a few hundred feet of a turbine, even as little as three hundred feet. Solutions: (1) The intent may have been to require that all “affected owners”, as defined in this bill, must agree to the waiver. (2) Another option would be to at least require that all landowners with property within 1800 feet of the proposed turbine location must agree.
Concern #3: Landowners are usually not knowledgeable to protect public health/safety We have concern that property owners may waive setback which is meant to protect health and safety when most landowners are not experts on wind issues. The bill provides for education of landowners but still such health and safety issues are complicated. In addition, the current PSCW rules, soon to go into effect, allow waivers of sound and shadow flicker limits. Again, landowners are not usually knowledgeable in the science to make the appropriate decision for their family members and future owners of the property. The State does not allow property owners to waive the requirement for copper wire in their house wiring because they would put their family and future owners at risk with aluminum wiring. Solutions: (1) Provide for a minimum setback which cannot be waived such as three times the total height of the turbine which was originally proposed by the PSCW. (2) Or allow the setback waiver but eliminate the waiver for sound levels and shadow flicker which in effect would provide a minimum and are somewhat supported by science even though the rules allow that such studies are done by the wind developer. (3) Or require such waivers to be done by a variance request though the town board. (4) A combination of (2) and (3) seems to be most reasonable to protect public health and safety.
Concern #4: Current rules do not consider local, unique geology and groundwater issues BrownCountyhas had to implement special and extraordinary precautions after severe groundwater contamination occurred. Geological structures known as karsts provide direct paths to groundwater and are considered much more prevalent in the Brown County portion of the Niagara Escarpment. One University of Wisconsin expert estimates that only 10% to 20% of the karsts in Brown County have been mapped. Wind turbines projects with miles of connector trenches would intersect numerous karsts. Many of these would go undetected without special pre-construction analysis and special construction techniques. Local authorities, working with the DNR and Professional Engineers, are best equipped to specify the methods and design requirements to protect the groundwater. The concern is that the PSCW rules defer to the DNR who are not “on the ground” on these issues and who are not sure of their authority in these cases. Solutions: (1) This bill should make it clear that the local county and town officials can require groundwater protections as needed for their situation.
Concern #5: The informational brochure requirements can be improved. The requirement for a wind developer to provide and informational brochure is very important. One additional subject area should be noted. Solution: (1) The brochure should include an explanation of risks which the landowner may incur if the agreement with the developer/owner does not mitigate those risks. Use of a lawyer should be recommended.
Concern #5: Some landowners want out of agreements for projects on-hold Many landowners for projects, both those under 100 MW and those larger, signed agreements before the wind siting rules were proposed and then finalized. Some of these projects were put on hold to await the new rules. Apparently, even the larger project developers/owners expected some impact from the legislative process, probably with the expectation that the requirements would be less stringent. Nevertheless, the process educated some landowners about the health and safety issues to the point they have requested the developers/owners to void the agreement. The developers/owners have refused in all cases that we know about even though they have put their projects on-hold and withdrew them from the local or PSCW application process. They probably will be resubmitting them with a different design and under different rules. Solution (1) Under this situation, it seems reasonable to require the developers/owners to renegotiate such agreements in light of the fact they voluntarily held up their projects to adjust to today’s changes in the regulations and yet are not providing that accommodation to the landowners.
Closing Thank you very much for your consideration.