The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) has finished its work on administrative rules governing the siting of wind turbines in the state. The rules were drafted in response to the 2009 Wisconsin Act 40 – recently enacted legislation directing the PSC to promulgate rules that specify restrictions that local governments may impose on the installation or use of wind energy systems.
The PSC's rules will function as a uniform ceiling of standards to guide the local regulation of wind siting, operation and decommissioning for projects less than 100 MW in generating capacity. The rules specify how a political subdivision can establish setback requirements, noise and shadow-flicker standards, and mechanisms that give nonparticipating landowners a stake in wind energy projects sited in their area. The rules include the following provisions:
– Notice requirements. At least 90 days before filing an application, the wind energy system owner must give notice to landowners within one mile of proposed wind turbine locations.
– Noise performance standards. A political subdivision can require wind energy systems to be sited and operated in a manner that does not exceed 45 decibels during nighttime hours and 50 decibels during daytime hours. Noise limits will be measured from the outside wall of nonparticipating residences and occupied community buildings.
– Shadow-flicker performance standards. A political subdivision can require wind energy systems to be sited and operated in a manner that does not cause more than 30 hours per year of shadow flicker for nonparticipating residences or occupied community buildings. If a wind energy system causes more than 20 hours per year of shadow flicker, a political subdivision can require the wind energy system owner to install mitigation measures for affected landowners, at the expense of the wind turbine owner.
– 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. Setbacks of up to 3.1 times the maximum blade tip height of a wind turbine may be established for nonparticipating residences and occupied community buildings.
– Good neighbor payments. The rules allow local governments to require wind energy system owners to provide monetary compensation to nonparticipating landowners located within one-half mile of a wind turbine site. A political subdivision may not require these payments for nonparticipating landowners to exceed 25% of the payments being made to a landowner hosting a wind turbine in the project.
– Complaint resolution. 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 may be appealed to the PSC.
The PSC's rules now head to the state legislature, where the presiding officer of each house will have 10 days to refer the rules to a standing committee for review.