September 10, 2010Client Alert

Wisconsin Public Service Commission Approves Administrative Rule to Site and Permit Wind Farms

As required under 2009 Wisconsin Act 40 (“Act 40”), on August 30, 2010, the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (“PSC”) voted 3-0 to adopt administrative rules to standardize statewide rules to site and permit wind farms. In the past, wind farm developers were presented with a patchwork of local regulations that, at times, effectively prevented substantial wind farm development in Wisconsin. Act 40 directed the PSC to promulgate rules to specify maximum restrictions that a local government can impose on installation and use of wind energy projects in Wisconsin. The goal is to put in place uniform consistent standards for the local regulation of wind energy systems.

The approved PSC rules include various requirements and standards covering notice, noise performance, shadow flicker, setbacks and complaint resolution. A brief summary of these provisions follows:

Notice Requirements: At least 90 days before an owner files an application to construct a wind energy system, an owner must provide written notice to all affected political subdivisions and landowners within one mile of the planned wind energy system.

Setbacks: A political subdivision can impose minimum safety setbacks of 1.1 times the maximum blade tip height of a wind turbine for participating residences, non-participating property lines, public road rights-of-way, and overhead communication and electric transmission or distribution lines. For nonparticipating residences and occupied community buildings, setbacks of up to 3.1 times the maximum blade tip height of a wind turbine may be established.

Noise Performance Standards: A political subdivision can require wind energy systems to be sited and operated so that the noise does not exceed 50 dBA during daytime hours and 45 dBa during nighttime hours.

Shadow Flicker Requirements: A political subdivision can require wind energy systems to be sited and operated so that it does not cause more than 30 hours per year of shadow flicker for nonparticipating residences or occupied community buildings. In addition, an owner is required to provide shadow flicker mitigation at the owner’s expense for nonparticipating residences or occupied community buildings experiencing 20 hours or more per year of shadow flicker.

Complaint Resolutions Process: The rules establish complaint resolution requirements for wind energy system owners, and a process for requesting political subdivision review of unresolved complaints. A political subdivision’s decision on review of a complaint is appealable to the Commission.

In addition to these key areas, the PSC rules also cover signal interference, stray voltage, decommissioning, construction/operation/maintenance standards, electrical standards, emergency procedures, and the application process.

As part of the ongoing rulemaking process, the PSC issued a proposed wind siting rule draft in May 2010, and accepted public comments through July 7, 2010. The PSC also established a Wind Siting Council that submitted their recommendations to the PSC in August. The approved PSC rules now go to the Legislature for review. The PSC’s final rule and supporting documentation can be viewed here.

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