Opposition Stops Development of U.S. Windfarm

An application to build the largest windfarm in Wisconsin has been withdrawn by a Florida-based energy company.

ADDISON, Wisconsin (US) 2002-02-08 [SolarAccess.com] FPL Energy wanted to install 28 turbines in the town of Addison, Wisconsin. With a generating capacity of 25 megawatts, It would have been the largest windfarm in the state. The application has created so much controversy in the region since the final version was filed in October 2000, that the town’s planning commission unanimously agreed last month to grant a conditional use permit on the condition that there be a safety zone of 1,000 feet around each tower. The decision would prohibit turbines within 1,000 feet of any residence, road right of way, or the property boundary of a neighbor who is not providing land for any project facilities. FPL said that restriction would reduce the number of turbines to eight, and the company decided to withdraw its application. Officials say the costs of buying turbines and constructing the facility have increased in the past two years, and most utilities in Wisconsin now have purchased sufficient renewable energy power to comply with a state mandate. In addition, Congress did not extend the federal production tax credit for wind energy at the end of the year, although the wind energy industry in the U.S. expects the credit to be renewed. “This restriction drastically affects the cost and efficiency of the project, to the point of making it uneconomical,” says project manager David Herrick, who adds that the action is “illegal” and violates a 1993 state law that limits a municipality’s authority to restrict such projects. Local restrictions are permitted only to protect public health or safety, do not increase costs or decrease system efficiency. That law was upheld by a state appeals court in March 2001. Opponents of the windfarm hired a mechanical engineer who calculated that fragments of the blades could be thrown 1,600 feet if the turbine were hit by a bolt of lightning. The Plan Commission said a safety zone of 1,000 feet would reduce the risk of flying fragments if a blade were to disintegrate, throwing of ice in winter, or noise. The seven members were also concerned with shadow flicker, the strobe effect caused when spinning blades are aligned between a home and the sun. FPL Energy had requested a 650 foot safety zone around each turbine, and its attorneys had argued that state law allows only narrow regulation of wind farms. Herrick says there is “no credible danger” of ice being thrown beyond the proposed setback. The windfarm was modified following orders from the Federal Aviation Association to relocate some of the turbines. Last summer, the issue became so controversial that town council was unable to meet. When two anti-windfarm politicians were appointed in August, the appointments were challenged in court. A spokesman for FPL Energy says the application was dropped to avoid a costly legal challenge of the town restrictions and the expected appeals. Carol Clawson says it was “a very small project in the scope of projects that we do” and there was “no point in fighting any further.” FPL Energy has constructed the two largest wind farms in the United States, a 278 MW facility at King Mountain in Texas and a 261 MW site on the border of Oregon and Washington. It is the largest generator of wind power in the country, with 1,000 MW of wind capacity in Iowa, Texas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Oregon and California. It also owns wind energy facilities in the Altamont and Tehachapi Pass regions of California, and operates the two largest solar fields in the world in that state.
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