Local governments would once again be allowed to enact tougher wind farm ordinances than the state, under a measure that had a hearing at the state capitol yesterday.
Wisconsin has pinged back and forth between state and local control of wind farms for the past few years. State standards now on the book let turbines be built 1,250 feet from neighboring homes. A plan by Republican Senator Frank Lasee would hand control back to local governments for wind farms with capacity under 100 megawatts, meaning they could site the turbines farther away.
It has the support of Wisconsin's Realtors Association and of many people who live near wind farms. Jeffrey Bump of Cambria says he has trouble sleeping because he constantly hears the low pitched "whoosh" of the turbines that surround his home: "We asked the public service commission not to do that, we asked We Energies not to do that. But they did it anyway."
Bump says local governments are more likely to listen to concerns of people like him.
17-year-old Alyssa Ashley of the town of Glenmore agrees. She says her family moved after the wind farm near their house made her feel ill: "Towns should not be forced to endanger the health and safety of the community members by placing turbines where they simply shouldn't be."
Fighting this bill are utilities who argue that a patchwork of local ordinances will stifle a wind industry with millions of dollars to invest. Lobbyist Chris Kunkle with the Wisconsin Energy Business Association says those businesses want the certainty of statewide standards: "They need to know that when they start the long arduous development process that they're not going to have the rug pulled out underneath them by a change in local government."
Also allied with utilities in this dispute are environmental groups like Clean Wisconsin. Director Amber Meyer Smith says the general public wants clean energy, and worries this bill would block that: "We also are concerned that this is going against our 'Open for Business' motto here in Wisconsin."
Meyer's group cites a lack of peer reviewed studies on the health effects of wind farms.
Whether this plan advances remains to be seen: a similar proposal died in the legislature last session.