Towns enact wind turbine ordinances
Residents in town of Day host informational night
Rozellville dairy farmer Trine Spindler thought companies wanting to build wind turbines was an issue in other townships, certainly not in her town of Day, until she discovered on April 6 that her neighbor was approached by Alliant Energy to sign a lease for construction of wind turbines on their land.
“Neither of us knew anything about wind turbines so we started researching,” she said. “We also contacted a lawyer to review the contract to find out what it was really all about. If you are sitting out there and think they are not in your community, you are fooling yourself because they are all over the place in every township in central Wisconsin.”
Clark and Marathon counties have become a hotbed for companies wanting to build wind turbines, especially since February when U.S. president Joe Biden’s administration restarted a popular tax credit for manufacturers of solar panels, wind turbines, fuel cells and other clean energy equipment after getting a $10 billion infusion from the Inflation Reduction Act. The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 includes $369 billion in funding to tackle climate change and brings America closer to Biden’s goal of cutting climate pollution in half from 2005 levels by 2030.
Alliant Energy is a public utility holding company headquartered in Madison that provides power in Iowa and Wisconsin. Spindler has been in communication with Matt Johnson from Alliant Energy. Johnson told her the company wasn’t given enough notice to attend the special town of Day wind turbine meeting held Monday night at Zion Lutheran Church in Stratford. He did tell her that Alliant Energy now has an office at 213010 Legion Street in Stratford, where staff should be there on Monday afternoons to answer people’s questions about the wind turbine project.
The town of Day was scheduled to approve an ordinance today (Wednesday) to protect the public health, safety and welfare of its residents and property owners who may be affected by the development and operation of wind energy farms. The ordinance was written by attorney Adam Jarchow of northwest Wisconsin, fashioned off the town of Lincoln in Eau Claire County’s ordinance which supposedly caused a wind turbine company to back off its plan to build a wind farm in the township.
Farmland First, a grassroots organization attempting to prevent companies from building wind turbines in central Wisconsin, has reported the western Marathon County towns of Cassel, Frankfort, Hull, Holton, Johnson and Wien have also recently approved public health, safety and welfare ordinances for its residents.
Marty Machtan, a Marshfield attorney and member of Farmland First, said during Monday’s town of Day special meeting the idea behind towns voting to approve public health, safety and welfare ordinances is to send a message to wind turbine companies they aren’t wanted here.
“We can’t prohibit an energy company from developing in our area, from my knowledge, but one of the things we’ve seen is they may go on to easier targets or places where there is less resistance,” he said. “The other value of doing this is just to send a statement to Madison and Washington, D.C. that they gotta give us local control over this because it is just not acceptable to affect our land use this way.”
He said the issue is that Public Service Commission of Wisconsin hasn’t reviewed and made changes to its State Wind Energy Regulations since 2012, which were meant for 300-foot wind turbines like the ones in Fond du Lac County. Machtan said the present day wind turbines can be 600 feet tall.
Early this year, the Clark County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution to recommend the PSC revise its wind energy regulations. RWE Renewables of Germany is attempting to build wind turbines in Clark County townships and it has an office in Abbotsford.
EDP Renewables of Houston, Texas, was originally attempting to construct wind turbines in Clark County many years ago before shifting its focus in 2019 to the western Marathon County towns of Brighton and Eau Pleine. EDP Renewables supposedly signed up enough landowners to begin constructing wind turbines in 2021 but nothing has happened yet.
The Record-Review called EDP Renewables’ phone number on Monday to find out if this project will still occur in the future and nobody answered the phone; a message said the voice mailbox was full. Invenergy of Chicago, Ill., has approached landowners in townships near Athens, Edgar and Marathon in recent months to get them to sign leases for building wind turbines. Now Alliant Energy is in the Rozellville area attempting to get landowners to sign leases for the construction of wind turbines.
Spindler moderated the town of Day meeting on Monday. Besides her, the head table also included town of Day residents Tim Krohn and Tim Carey, who is the Stratford Area Fire Department (SAFD) chief and town of Green Valley resident Wendy Rogowski, along with Marty and Barb Machtan, members of Farmland First.
Carey said SAFD covers several municipalities in which wind turbines are being proposed including the villages of Fenwood and Stratford and the towns of Cleveland, Day, Eau Pleine and Frankfort; a little bit of the town of Wien and a small corner of the town of Emmitt. He spoke at Monday’s meeting about his research on how the two local helicopters, Life Link at Marshfield Medical Center and Aspirus MedEvac, would respond to an emergency near a wind turbine’s currents.
“The answer I got from both of them that it’s up to the pilot where they would land,” he said. “They don’t really have a set distance they need to land the helicopter away from the wind turbine because it’s up to the pilot. The wind turbines would definitely limit where the helicopters could land but they could still come to our area if needed.”
Spindler was pleased that over 100 people attended the town of Day’s annual meeting this spring, which is substantially more people than in a normal year, to persuade the town board to go ahead with voting to approve a public health, safety and welfare ordinance. She’s hoping all western Marathon County townships will follow suit.
“Standing together with other townships in our area that have passed the same ordinance makes us stronger; we aren’t standing by ourselves,” she said.