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Wind council adds variables to turbine debate

By Paul Snyder

A Wisconsin lawmaker has some advice for the council charged with developing rules for small wind farms: Keep things simple.

Members of the state’s Wind Siting Council on Wednesday said noise and shadow flicker limits need to be considered to help determine how far wind turbines should be placed from residences. But State Rep. Jim Soletski, D-Green Bay, chairman of the Assembly Committee on Energy and Utilities, said trying to determine turbine setback distances by incorporating decibel standards for noise and hour limits for shadow flicker presents too many variables for statewide rules.

“The more variables you throw in,” he said, “the less likely you’ll have wind power in Wisconsin.”

Still, Dan Ebert, the Wind Siting Council’s chairman, said after presentations on noise and setback distances that the council could focus on factors besides distance measurements from residences or property lines.

“I do believe there is a compromise and consensus that can be reached,” he said.


Other members said the council will have to establish a setback distance before it gives its final recommendation to the state Public Service Commission. That recommendation is expected this summer.

“We’re going to have to have a number,” said Larry Wunsch, a Brownsville landowner. “I don’t want to leave that open.”

But Wunsch said the council needs to have more discussion about issues relating to noise, shadow flicker and real estate effects of turbine development before determining an appropriate distance.

Nevertheless, Wunsch suggested a setback distance of 2,500 feet from property lines.

Tom Meyer, a Realtor with Madison-based Restaino & Associates Inc., also suggested a setback distance of up to 2,600 feet from property lines.

But anything more than 1,000 feet would be excessive, Soletski said, and leave too little room for developers to build wind farms.

The council’s discussion Wednesday was the first of what could be many debates in determining an appropriate setback distance, Ebert said.

The council was formed by state law passed last session that mandated the state provide turbine placement standards for wind farms that generate less than 100 megawatts of electricity.

Wind farms that generate more than 100 megawatts are subject to PSC approval, but until the new law passed, local governments had control over turbine placement standards for any projects generating up to 99 megawatts of electricity.

Trying to determine placement standards on sound and shadow flicker setback leaves too much room for ambiguity, Soletski said.

“I think we just need a distance,” he said. “Otherwise what’s the purpose of having the council?”


  1. I have a message for State Rep. Jim Soletski. I think you need to need to get your morals straight. You are worried about the green in your pocket and the states pocket than the health and saftey of the people. The people of wisconsin are not lab rats for your testing. I will do what I can to stop you from being realected if this is the path you are taking. We need to take the time to find out what is a safe distance to have people from these industial wind turbines and then place them where they need to be. Not stick them up and find out the the concequences later. I don’t feel safe with there turbines until the research has been done and I know I am safe and am going to be able to sleep with these turbines being in my back yard some day. Mr Jim Soletski you need to look at this again as if it was going to be in your back yard. Don’t push this off for the dollars, because you were voted in by the people and people is who you need to protrect.

    A Very concerned Wisconsin Citizen


  2. The Wind Energy Industry’s own trade association the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) cautions developers in their Guidelines for Developing a Wind Farm; “Is the site’s geology suitable and appropriate for industrial development?” and “…it is the obligation of the developer to work to ensure that a project proceeds in a fashion that is acceptable to… the local community.”

    Invenergy even stated during the development of the Beech Ridge Energy Project that; “At a [setback] distance of one mile, these impacts [of Shadow Flicker, Ice Throw, and Property Devaluation] are no longer a legitimate concern.”

    They all recognize larger setbacks from non-participating neighboring land owners as a successful mitigation strategy to the problems that are inherent in Industrial Wind Project Development.

    Why will the State of Wisconsin not recognize all these facts and protect its residents?
    Why is Rep. Jim Soletski so concerned about the ability of companies outside of the state be able to develop here and sell energy at increased rates to the citizens of Wisc?
    Why is he not representing the interests of the residents? Why is he not listening to the concerns of local residents in Brown, Calumet, Kewaunee, and other couties in eastern Wisconsin when we overwhelm town hall meetings and annual meetings with our voice of opposition to irresponsible siting?

  3. To have industrial size wind development in Wisconsin, the rules have to allow a wind turbine on a 40 acre plot. That is what the PSCW will allow when the final rule is made. Our Governor has mandated a percentage of electrical power come from renewable sources which for now means wind. No matter what the consequences, turbine will be put where they need to be and not where they should be.

  4. This comment is in reply to State Representative Jim Soletski’s flippant remarks about how he thinks the Wind Siting Council in Madison needs to keep things “simple” when designing standards which include setbacks for Industrial Wind Turbines from peoples homes, farms and businesses in rural Wisconsin. In his words, “The more variables (noise testing and shadow flicker studies) you throw in, the less likely you’ll have wind power in Wisconsin.”

    Keeping things “simple” is how our country and our planet got into this environmental mess. The growing body of testamonials from wind farm residents in Kewaunee and Fond Du Lac counties, as well as around the world (France, Germany and Great Britain) and scientific data from medical doctors and acoustic engineers point to a complicated issue here. In one of Wisconsin’s oldest wind farms, ten years ago, one farmer in the Lincoln Township wind farm lost approximately 600 cows over a period of less than two years once the turbines went into operation. The cows were not in collusion to make the wind project look bad.

    My husband, Carl, and I are retired school teachers. As residents of southern Brown County, we have a personal interest in learning all we can about Industrial wind turbines. After four months of researching the internet, related publications and attending local government meetings, we decided to organize and print out a folder of relevant publications for our Governor, as well as representatives in Madison. On April 1st, 2010, we went to Rep. Soletski’s office and spoke with his assistant. We explained who we were and why we were there with the documentation. We were assured that Rep. Soletski would get the cover letter and information. I believe he did. I just don’t think he read it.

    Who is Rep. (D) Soletski really representing here? His constituents or antsy wind developers, some of whom live out of state, eager to take quick advantage of tax payer funded government subsidies available to improve their bottom lines at the possible expense of rural Wisconite’s future health and safety? With the population density and settlement patterns in this state, perhaps wind energy is not appropriate for Wisconsin. We encourage readers to go on the internet, including Learn all you can about this issue. The future and well -being of Wisconsin depends on it.

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