PSC says Highland emergency request came too soon

By LeAnn R. Ralph

MADISON — The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin appears to have denied a request from Highland Wind Farm to reconsider denying the Town of Forest wind farm application because the request came too soon.

The PSC denied Highland’s application for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity to build more than 40 wind turbines in the Town of Forest on February 14.

Highland Wind Farm then filed a request to have the PSC reconsider the preliminary determination last week on February 25.

According to news reports, PSC commissioners said on Friday the emergency request was filed too early because the original decision from February 14 had not yet been written and finalized.

The PSC’s procedure is to consider appeals after a final written decision has been issued, the news reports said.

According to the 18-page emergency request to reconsider the preliminary determination, Highland Wind Farm spent six years and $2 million developing the 102.5 megawatt project.

The wind turbines would be built in the Town of Forest, and the substation would be located in the Town of Cylon.

The Town of Cylon approved plans for the $5 million substation in June of 2012, and the St. Croix County Zoning Board of Adjustment approved the plans in July.

Tax credits

One reason stated in the emergency request for asking the PSC to reconsider the preliminary determination was the opportunity to use production tax credits.

“If an order conditionally approving the Application is not issued before March 25, 2013, Applicants will miss the opportunity to participate in the recently announced Xcel Energy Wind RFP and the chance to use production tax credits to help finance the project,” the emergency request says.

The Xcel Energy (Northern States Power) request for wind proposals was announced on February 15, 2013, and is asking that proposals be submitted by April 1.

Xcel Energy is hoping to take advantage of a recent one-year extension on federal production tax credits.

Noise limits

The PSC originally rejected the Highland Wind Farm application on February 14 on a vote of 2-to-1, saying that the project would exceed noise limits set by PSC standards.

Highland’s request to have the PSC reconsider its preliminary determination said the company expected to operate within conditions set by the PSC and could re-program each wind turbine to reduce power when wind speeds would cause noise exceeding the limits set by the PSC’s rules.

According to the emergency request, the Highland Wind Farm project “can be operated to handle the worst case scenario in full compliance with noise limits established in PSC128.”

One PSC commissioner who voted to deny the CPCN on February 14 said that the Highland project “shows an inability to comply with PSC128 standards without curtailing production.”

The emergency request, however, notes that the PSC128 standards “specifically allow curtailment for compliance with sound standards.”

Each wind turbine is individually programmable to automatically slow down when certain wind speeds and wind directions exist, the emergency request states.

“Without operator intervention, (the wind turbines) will automatically reduce output to comply with the sound limit,” the request states.

“Denying Highland’s CPCN application out-of-hand simply because the modeling demonstrates that operational controls may be required to meet (the limit) … is akin to DNR denying an air permit application simply because air modeling demonstrates without proper operation of a baghouse control, air quality limits will be exceeded, or denying a wastewater discharge permit application simply because mechanical processes are required to meet certain water quality effluent limits,” according to the emergency request.

The emergency request states that Highland Wind Farm would agree to a number of conditions, including to conduct testing in response to individual noise complaints and sound compliance tests annually for three years after the turbines are built.

A call seeking comments from Jay Mundinger of Highland Wind Farm was not returned by press time, and no documents related to the second denial related to the emergency request had yet been posted on the PSC’s website.