After years of uncertainty, the Wisconsin legislature allowed statewide wind energy siting rules to go into effect today. The new rules (known as “PSC 128”) require wind turbines to be located at least 1,250 feet from the nearest residence and at a distance 1.1 times the height of the wind turbine from the nearest property line. Cities, villages, towns, and counties are prohibited from enacting an ordinance imposing more restrictive requirements than the statewide rules.
In 2009, the legislature directed the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (“PSC”) to develop rules that limit the restrictions local governments may impose on wind energy projects. The purpose of these rules was to ensure consistent local procedures and regulation of wind energy. On December 27, 2010, the PSC adopted the final wind energy siting rules (Wisc. Admin. Code Ch. PSC 128). But on March 1, 2011, the day the rules were to take effect, the legislature’s Joint Committee for the Review of Administrative Rules voted to suspend PSC 128. This year, the legislature considered a proposal to indefinitely suspend the rules, but adjourned yesterday without taking action. As a result, PSC 128 automatically became effective today.
While PSC 128 was in limbo, the legislature considered a proposal that would have imposed much more stringent setback requirements (1,800 feet from the nearest property line). The American Wind Energy Association said that these setbacks essentially would have killed the commercial wind industry in Wisconsin. News reports suggest that the uncertainty over siting rules caused several wind projects in the state to be suspended or cancelled over the last year. But with PSC 128 now in effect, Wisconsin appears to be open for wind energy business again.
Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle has signed a bill into law that will require the state Public Service Commission (PSC) to promulgate rules establishing common standards for political subdivisions to regulate the construction and operation of wind energy systems. The legislation seeks to address the patchwork regulatory framework created by local jurisdictions' development of their own siting regulations, and to address the concerns of developers who have been hesitant to develop wind energy systems in the state.
Previously, a municipality was prohibited from placing any restriction on the installation of a wind energy system unless the restriction satisfies certain conditions, including protection of public health or safety. The new law allows limited and generally uniform regulation of wind energy systems, and specifies that a municipality (i) may not regulate wind energy systems unless it adopts an ordinance that is no more restrictive that the PSC rules, and (ii) may not impose any restriction on a wind energy system that is more restrictive than the PSC rules.
The final report commissioned by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission on the feasibility of Great Lakes offshore wind development was published on January 15, 2009. The final report reflects comments made from the draft report that was circulated for public comment in the fall of 2008. As reported in a previous blog entry, the report analyzed the feasibility from four perspectives: Engineering and Economic Issues, Human Environment Issues, Legal Issues, and Community Involvement Issues.
The report was discussed in detail this morning in a webinar put on by the Great Lakes Regional Wind Energy Institute. Presenters included representatives from the National Renewable Energy Lab and the Wisconsin PSC. Check back for presentations, they'll be posted soon!