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By LeAnn R. Ralph
EAU CLAIRE — Residents in the St. Croix County Town of Forest and the Eau Claire County Town of Clear Creek have voiced their opposition to proposed wind farms on the Wisconsin Public Radio show “The West Side.”
Dean Kallenbach, host of the show on 88.3 WHWC-FM/Menomonie-Eau Claire and 88.7 WRFW-FM River Falls, spoke June 12 with Jaime Junker, chair of the Town of Forest, Brenda Salseg of the Forest Voice, Carl Anton, a member of the Eau Claire County Board, Mary Judd, an Eau Claire County resident, and Eric Crawford, wind development manager with RWE Renewables Americas.
The proposed Highland Wind Farm in the Town of Forest would have 40 wind turbines covering a 25,000 acre area and would produce 100 megawatts of electricity, Kallenbach noted.
The proposal for Highland Wind Farm began to be developed in 2008 by Emerging Energies, which has since sold the proposal to Leeward Renewable Energy out of Texas, he said.
Kallenbach said he had asked Leeward Renewable for a representative to speak on the radio show but that the company did not respond.
Junker became town chair about 10 years ago after the previous town board, which had approved the project, was recalled and replaced.
Many Town of Forest residents are concerned about their health, safety and welfare should the 500-foot tall industrial wind turbines be installed in the township, Salseg said.
Residents who are opposed to Highland Wind Farm also are concerned about their property values and the environment, she said.
Leeward is a Dallas-based company, but it is foreign owned out of Canada, she said.
“We have to be watching this,” Salseg said, referring to the Canadian ownership.
The Wisconsin Department of Health will not address the health hazards of wind turbines, and the wind industry says there are no health hazards, she said.
Brown County, where the Shirley wind farm is located, has declared wind turbines a health hazard, Junker noted.
Renew Wisconsin has stated wind energy will bring benefits, such as green energy that is environmentally responsible, as well as financial benefits, and would be in the public interest, Kallenbach said.
Only a handful would benefit financially, and the Town of Forest would only receive $140,000 per year from the wind farm. Rebuilding a mile of road costs about $150,000, Salseg said.
The crews to build the wind turbines would come from other states, and only a few local jobs would be created, she said.
Wind energy would reduce the dependence on fossil fuels and would contribute toward reducing the effects of climate change, Kallenbach said.
Junker said he was not against renewable energy as long as it was done responsibly.
People have been forced out of their homes at the eight-turbine Shirley Wind Farm in Brown County, he said.
The Leeward project is not moving forward because the company would need a decommissioning agreement with the Town of Forest and would have to put money in an escrow account to remove the turbines at some point in the future, Junker said.
The Town of Forest also has developed its own zoning code, and placement of the turbines would have to follow the town’s zoning, he said.
Leeward also would be required to develop a computer program to curtail the wind turbines when they are out of compliance with state law for noise limits, Junker said.
The RWE Renewables Americas wind turbine project would be located near state Highways 53 and 93 south of Cleghorn and would have 40 turbines over 20,000 acres, Kallenbach said.
RWE Renewables Americas has 23 wind farms in the United States, Crawford said.
Wind energy uses very little water and has economic benefits for the area, he said.
The RWE project would produce 200 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power 60,000 homes. The wind farm, out of the 20,000 acres, would actually cover 15 to 35 acres, Crawford said.
Judd, a resident of Clear Creek, said she had learned of the proposed wind farm last October and was concerned about her property value.
Judd said she and her husband did not choose to live in an industrial complex with 500 to 750-foot tall wind turbines with blades 166 feet long.
The area only has two or three dairy farms left, and residents do not want the dairy farms to go away, Judd said.
Kallenbach asked if the RWE wind farm would cause the farms to go away.
Wind energy is a good fit with farms, Crawford said.
Farmers receive payments for hosting wind turbines on their property, and the money helps mitigate the risks farmers face from weather, problems with trade relations and decreases in milk prices, he said.
Anton, the Eau Claire County Board member representing the Clear Creek area, said he was concerned about property values as well.
If property values decrease, then municipalities receive less in property taxes, he said.
Anton also said he was concerned about health problems created by the low frequencies from wind turbines.
Kallenbach asked what RWE could do to make the project more appealing to area residents in Eau Claire County.
The contracts should be filed with Eau Claire County so people have access to that information, Anton said.
RWE Renewables Americas takes steps to educate and communicate with the community and will file a memorandum with the county so the easements are known to all parties, Crawford said.