Unrest among Brown County neighbors of what would be Wisconsin’s largest wind farm is reason enough for the state to consider alternative projects, said a lawmaker from the area.
State Rep. Ted Zigmunt, D-Francis Creek, said the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin should consider energy projects such as geothermal and solar hot water for individual properties and commercial buildings as alternatives to the Ledge Wind Farm, a $300 million, 100-turbine project proposed by Chicago-based Invenergy LLC that would touch three towns.
“I’m not trying to kill the project,” Zigmunt said. “I’m neutral on Ledge. But a lot of constituents have been contacting me with concerns about the project, and I’m putting these things out there as an alternative.”
Kevin Parzyck, Invenergy’s development manager, called Zigmunt’s proposal for alternatives an apples-to-oranges comparison with building a power plant.
“It’s not a this-or-that scenario,” he said. “The PSC is looking at power needs across the state and the means by which to best achieve those needs.”
Invenergy last year submitted its proposal to the PSC for Ledge, which would include 100 turbines spread across the towns of Wrightstown, Holland and Morrison in Brown County. The proposed project would generate 150 megawatts of electricity.
However, Parzyck said, Invenergy is waiting to provide a more detailed analysis of the project until the PSC issues a new set of turbine placement rules for Wisconsin. The setback distances from properties established in those rules could alter Invenergy’s proposal, Parzyck said.
“We think we’ll be able to provide greater clarity on the project and a timeline in the next few months,” he said.
Invenergy’s proposed project has drawn opposition from such local groups as Brown County Citizens for Responsible Wind Energy. Zigmunt said Brown County has put a moratorium on wind development until more research on health effects is available. Zigmunt said final approval of such significant projects should not be in the state’s hands.
“It’s always been my feeling that it should be up to local communities and governments to decide if they want these things there,” he said. “Counties and towns know the lay of the land a lot better than the state.”
If any of the proposed turbines interfere with property or cause problems for residents who oppose the project, Zigmunt said, Wisconsin should have a backup plan.
But putting energy projects in the hands of homeowners and businesses is different from providing new power sources that can last decades, Parzyck said.
“Obviously, we look for broad-based support on any project we do, and we know there are those who oppose this project,” he said. “But we also have in excess of 120 landowners signed up to take part in this project.
“We’re very confident that once this is fully evaluated, the PSC will determine Ledge is safe and a good economic engine for the community.”