Wisconsin PSC reverses itself, okays Highland Wind Farm project

After reopening its March 15 rejection for the Highland Wind Farm LLC project, the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin on Oct. 25 switched gears and voted to approve the 102.5-MW project.

In December 2011, Highland Wind Farm filed with the commission an application for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) to construct a new wind facility to be located in the towns of Forest and Cylon, St. Croix County, Wisc. The project includes construction of up to 44 wind  turbines, depending on the turbine model selected, and associated facilities to interconnect with the existing Northern States Power-Wisconsin electric transmission system in the area.

On March 15, the commission initially denied Highland’s CPCN application. The commission concluded that the design of the project was not in the public interest, and would create undue adverse impacts on public health and welfare and individual hardships, because the available modeling in the record indicated that there were multiple non-participating residences where Highland had failed to demonstrate compliance with the nighttime audible noise limit of 45 dBA. The commission determined that Highland had not provided modeling using the most conservative modeling assumptions that demonstrated that under planned operating conditions the project could comply with a nighttime audible noise limit of 45 dBA.

On April 4, Highland filed a petition to reopen, or in the alternative, for rehearing. The commission this time, in its Oct. 25 decision, said the project meets all applicable standards. The company is proposing to use either Nordex or Siemens turbines.

Commissioner Ellen Nowak, in a dissenting opinion, wrote: “In the reopened proceeding, Highland submitted a plan that requires curtailment in order to meet the sound limits in Wis. Admin. Code § PSC 128.14. While the Commission did not explicitly decide the issue, I am not convinced that Wis. Admin. Code ch. PSC 128 contemplated the type of curtailment plan proposed by Highland as a method for permanent compliance with sound limits. I think the use of curtailment in the manner proposed by Highland undermines the sound limits that were discussed at length and vetted by the Wind Siting Council.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.