These are not your grandma’s windmills

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Doug Zweizig
Thursday, February 3, 2011

Why does Gov. Scott Walkerís wind siting bill include a 1,800-foot setback between wind turbines and property lines? Because the newest industrial wind turbines in our state are 50 stories tall. Itís hard enough to imagine living next to a structure that big. Now add blades that weigh 18 tons with a span wider than a 747, a top speed of about 170 mph, spinning 24/7 just 1,250 feet from your door.

Imagine living with turbine noise that is twice as loud as the World Health Organizationís limit for healthful sleep. Imagine 700 feet of your land used by a wind company without your permission and without compensation. Imagine a loss of property value as high as 40 percent.

Unfortunately on March 1, unless Walkerís bill passes, this will become a reality. Thatís when the new state Public Service Commissionís wind siting rules take effect.

I served as vice chairman of the PSCís Wind Siting Council. The majority of the council had a direct financial interest in the outcome of the rules, resulting in guidelines that protect those interests instead of protecting Wisconsin residents. I helped author a minority report to the PSC, detailing how the majorityís guidelines fail to address the realities of the effects of large wind turbines on nearby populations.

Wisconsin residents have been living with turbines of the 400-foot to 500-foot variety for only a few years, but the problems with PSC setbacks once thought to be adequate have become very clear. Neighbors of wind projects traveled to Madison to give sworn testimony to the PSC and to our legislators, telling of turbine noise much louder than expected, of sleep deprivation and resulting deterioration of health, of headaches from shadow-flicker, loss of TV and radio reception, complaints to wind companies that are ignored, communities torn apart and homes that simply will not sell.

The PSC rules will allow wind companies to put a turbine 440 feet from your property line and claim about 700 feet of your land for use as their safety zone. Itís still your property, but you canít build a structure or plant trees there without the wind companyís permission.

All of these problems can be avoided with greater setbacks.

Gov. Walkerís bill puts a setback of 1,800 feet between a turbine and your property line. If a company wants to put a turbine closer, it absolutely can. The difference is it will need your permission and might have to compensate you. The bill ensures that a wind company canít take your property for its use unless you want it to.

Although the bill does not directly address the very real health concerns associated with living too close to wind turbines, it gives us increased protection from turbine noise and shadow flicker and protects our property. Most important, it gives us some choice.

I hope youíll call your legislators and ask them to support Walkerís bill. If we put turbines where they do no harm, everyone will be happy.

Doug Zweizig of Evansville served as vice chairman of the state Public Service Commissionís Wind Siting Council. Readers can reach him at (608) 882-4225.

Last updated: 4:36 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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