Mandating by statute an extreme setback distance for commercial wind turbines, Gov. Scott Walker's wind siting proposal would strip local governments of their ability to negotiate lesser setback distances with wind developers, according to RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide renewable energy advocacy group.
Walker's proposal would require a setback distance between a turbine and neighboring property line of 1,800 feet, which can be shortened only by an agreement between the project owner and owners of adjoining properties, entirely bypassing towns and counties.
Walker's proposal would eliminate the ability of local governments to attract wind developments that would generate revenues in lieu of taxes to help buffer the expected cuts to local governments in the upcoming state budget.
A story in The Fond du Lac Reporter on Jan. 12 quoted town and county officials as saying the wind project revenue helped save on property taxes by filling the gap between rising municipal expenses and declining state-paid shared revenue dollars.
"We've seen five towns in Fond du Lac and Dodge counties enter into joint development agreements specifying reasonable setback distances because town officials wanted to capture the economic benefits of hosting wind projects larger than 50 megawatts," said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin.
The statewide siting rule, approved by the Public Service Commission and set to take effect March 1, preserved local government authority to specify less restrictive conditions.
"This unreasonable proposal is a steamroller driven by anti-wind special interests, like realtors, bent on denying local governments the ability to decide what's in their best interests," said Vickerman.