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Senate Bill 50 would suspend the Public Service Commission’s (PSC) wind siting rules. The bill must pass both houses by the end of the legislative session in order to suspend the proposed rules.
2009 Wisconsin Act 40 established statewide criteria for the installation or use of a wind energy system with a nominal operating capacity of less than 100 megawatts, and set consistent local procedures for such systems. The Act requires the Public Service Commission (PSC) to promulgate a variety of rules that specify the conditions a political subdivision may impose on such a system. If a political subdivision chooses to regulate such systems, its ordinances may not be more restrictive than the PSC’s rules.
The proposed rule establishes uniform standards about the construction and operation of wind energy systems in the state by specifying what political subdivisions can and cannot include ordinances regulating wind energy systems. It also specifies requirements for applications, political subdivision review of an application and decommissioning of a wind energy system.
In Wisconsin, administrative rules can be overturned by the Legislature before the rule’s effective date if the Legislature passes a bill suspending the proposed rule in accordance with Wis. Stat. 227.26. SB 50 would suspend the PSC’s 2010 windmill siting rules and direct the PSC to craft new rules.
2009 Wisconsin Act 40 established basic wind energy law and directed the PSC to promulgate rules to guide political subdivisions who wish to implement wind siting ordinances.
Section 227.11 Wis. Stats. authorizes agencies to promulgate administrative rules.
Section 196.378 (4g) (b) to (d ) Wis. Stats. directs the PSC to promulgate rules about the siting of wind energy systems.
The rule is broken down into five general categories: owner responsibilities, political subdivision procedure, complaints, commission procedure and small wind provisions.
- Before filing an application to construct a wind energy system, an owner must provide notice to landowners within one mile of the system, all political subdivisions within which the system may be located, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT), emergency first responders and air ambulance service providers in the area, the commission and the federal office of the deputy undersecretary of defense.
- Any wind easement, wind access easement, or landowner waiver that is entered into must be filed according to Ch. 706, Wis. Stats. In this way, anyone wanting to buy the property will be aware of the easement or waiver. Certain provisions are required and others prohibited in wind easements and waivers.
- An owner must consider existing land uses and commercial enterprises on nonparticipating land within one-half mile of the proposed system site and must meet certain setback requirements described in the rule.
- A political subdivision may not set height or distance requirements that are more stringent than in this rule or certain requirements already in existence, such as Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) standards for public use airports. A wind energy system may not be built in the path of existing line-of-sight communications technologies.
- The rule sets noise, shadow flicker, and television, radio and cell telephone interference criteria and provides for mitigation efforts. It also provides for stray voltage testing. Construction, electrical, operation and maintenance standards are set. Requirements for decommissioning are established, including requirements for site restoration and demonstrating financial ability to complete decommissioning.
Political Subdivision Procedure
- The proposed rules specify what must be in an application and what records a political subdivision must keep. These procedural and application-related provisions apply even when the political subdivision does not have its own ordinance.
- Complaints must be made first to a wind energy system owner, who has 30 days to provide an initial response to a complainant. A complaint not resolved within 45 days may be reviewed by a political subdivision, and the political subdivision’s decision is appealable to the PSC.
- This section specifies the process for PSC review of political subdivision decisions and enforcement actions. It identifies what must be in a request for review and what the political subdivision must provide to the PSC. Notice of the appeal must be provided, depending on the situation, to the political subdivision or the wind energy system owner. The PSC may hold a hearing on the matter. The rule establishes time-frames for action if the PSC remands a decision about whether an application is complete back to the political subdivision.
Small Wind Provisions
- The rule creates a different threshold of requirements for small wind to reduce administrative-type burdens for small wind energy systems, such as shortening the time frame for filing notice of intent to file an application, reducing reporting requirements, limiting notification and impact assessment requirements to adjacent properties. The rule also establishes lesser setback distances for small wind turbines.
The final rules establish setback requirement from non participating property owners to either 1,250 feet or three times the maximum blade tip height, whichever is less. They also reduce the amount of payments to non participating property owners adjacent to land that includes a turbine.