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Highland wind farm gets state regulators' OK, for the second time

Highland wind farm gets state regulators' OK, for the second time

Wind turbines

Developers of the Highland Wind Farm, proposed for St. Croix County in northwest Wisconsin, got the go-ahead from state regulators Thursday -- for the second time -- to erect 44 wind turbines similar to those shown above.

The Highland Wind Farm, a $250 million project that’s been in the works for five years in northwest Wisconsin’s St. Croix County, has won the final piece of regulatory approval Thursday — again.

The state Public Service Commission voted 2-0 to allow the project to be built without stricter noise limits near certain neighboring homes or additional public hearings. Commissioner Mike Huebsch abstained from voting.

Project manager Bill Rakocy called it “a tremendous development for the advancement of renewable energy in Wisconsin.”

The wind farm will consist of 44 turbines, each 500 feet tall and able to produce 2.3 megawatts of power. They will be built across 6,200 acres with a total maximum capacity of 102.5 megawatts of electricity when wind conditions are optimal, enough for more than 35,000 homes.

The project by independent energy developer Emerging Energies, of Hubertus, was first rejected, then later approved by the PSC in 2013.

Opponents in the town of Forest have fought for smaller turbines and noise protections for nearby residents, and a St. Croix County judge in 2015 sent the case back the PSC for further review. But regulators again gave the project a green light on Thursday.

Rakocy said smaller turbines have “never been a viable option.” He said he would still like to reach an agreement with the town of Forest, though.

“We’re hopeful the continued support that today’s decision provided will help the town to come to the table for a discussion,” he said.

Town of Forest officials could not immediately be reached Thursday.

Rakocy said he could not yet comment on a potential client for the renewable power. Options include contracting with a utility company or selling the power into the regional electric transmission grid.

WPPI Energy, Sun Prairie said in June it plans to add 100 megawatts of electricity from wind power or another renewable resource.

Meanwhile, Dairyland Power Cooperative, based in La Crosse, said it has contracted to buy electricity from the planned Quilt Block Wind Farm, a 98-megawatt wind farm with 49 turbines that will be installed in Lafayette County, 20 miles southeast of Platteville. EDP Renewables North America will develop that project.

Quilt Block and Highland will be the first large-scale wind energy projects built in Wisconsin since 2011.


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