Local solidarity is driving a Holland wind farm moratorium that has no chance of success if the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin approves a project in the town.
“We know the PSC will have final say in this project,” said Holland Supervisor Michael Geiger. “We’re just letting them know how we feel about it. When it comes to town politics, we’re about as grass roots as you get.
“The people that live next door want to know you’re supporting them. That’s what I’m doing.”
Holland is one of four Brown County towns targeted by Chicago-based Invenergy LLC for the estimated 100-turbine Ledge Wind Farm. If the project advances, Geiger said, Invenergy could build 22 turbines in Holland.
But the town has enacted a one-year moratorium on wind farm development and revised its setback standards for turbines from 1,000 feet to a half-mile from buildings.
Invenergy representatives did not return calls for comment.
If the town wants a moratorium, the state has no reason to disagree, said PSC spokeswoman Teresa Weidemann-Smith.
“It’s the community’s right to make those decisions,” she said. “But ultimately, the decision by the PSC will take precedence.”
The PSC has authority over projects expected to generate more than 100 megawatts of electricity. Weidemann-Smith said the Ledge project is expected to generate 150 megawatts.
According to state law, if the PSC approves a project, it can proceed despite any local ordinance prohibiting the project.
The PSC has not yet begun its review of the Ledge Wind Farm proposal, Weidemann-Smith said, because Invenergy has not submitted a complete proposal for the project. She said she does not know when that will happen.
Once the PSC begins its formal review of the project, she said, there will be plenty of time for local comments.
The comments are coming in already. The PSC has an open docket on the project with more than 80 public comments.
Jon Morehouse, a member of the executive committee for Brown County Citizens for Responsible Wind Energy, said waiting until the public comment period to speak out against the project would not send as strong a message.
“The moratorium is something that was voted on and publicized,” he said. “If you say nothing, you get run over.”
The Brown County citizens group encouraged the town to enact the moratorium, Geiger said, and the other towns in line to host Ledge turbines also are being encouraged to enact moratoriums. He said he knows the moratorium means nothing if the PSC approves the project, but an empty gesture is better than no gesture.
“The residents at the last two meetings have said they’re prepared to fight,” he said. “I don’t know how they’ll do that, and I don’t really want to know. All I know is with the moratorium, I’m doing something the majority wants.
“If you don’t do something they want, they’ll get somebody who will.”