PORTAGE — Five years ago, Columbia County Planning and Zoning Director John Bluemke predicted that the county would have to consider regulations related to electricity-generating wind turbines “sooner rather than later.”
That time might be imminent.
Bluemke said he has asked officials of Columbia County’s 21 towns whether the town officials would want to make rules governing “wind farms,” or whether the county should do so. Leaders of the one town that has so far weighed in on the issue, he said, have suggested that the county be the entity that enacts regulations.
Whether that will happen, and what those rules might be, are topics for a future meeting, possibly as soon as January, Bluemke told the County Board’s planning and zoning committee Tuesday.
In August 2008, the committee granted conditional use permits for two 197-foot-tall “test towers” – one in the town of Arlington, the other in the town of Leeds – to determine whether there was sufficient wind in the county’s southern tier to warrant a possible construction of multiple wind turbines. That was when Bluemke suggested the county might need to enact wind farm regulations, though it has not so far done so.
The company that set up the test towers, Bluemke said, has not erected any turbines in Columbia County..
By rules of the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, local entities can make regulations related to wind power facilities that generate less than 100 megawatts. Any facility generating more than 100 megawatts come under the jurisdiction of the PSC.
Even for smaller wind energy facilities, the PSC has set administrative rules as to what local entities can and cannot do in regulating them, Bluemke said.
Columbia County is home to Wisconsin’s largest wind farm – Glacier Hills Wind Park, a 90-turbine, 162-megawatt facility located in the northeast Columbia County towns of Scott and Randolph.