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Highland Wind Farm presses for approval

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin will again take up the issue of a proposed wind farm in St. Croix County.

The PSC denied Highland Wind Farm LLC's application at a meeting Feb. 14, noting that the developer could reapply after proving that turbine noise from the project would not exceed state standards.

On Feb. 22, Highland officials filed an "emergency request" with the PSC to reconsider its previous decision.

In the request, Highland attorney John Wilson notes that time is of the essence for a PSC final decision. He estimated that the company, which is proposing the installation of up to 44 turbines in the Town of Forest, has spent about $2 million on the project plans so far.

If Highland is forced to start over and reapply, Wilson said that investment will likely be lost.

Also, Wilson explained, delaying the project approval beyond March 25 would mean the company might miss out on Xcel Energy's wind program and tax incentives that make the wind farm possible.

If the project doesn't move forward, Wilson said, it would mean the loss of potential jobs and economic benefit to the region and state.

Wilson suggested that the PSC reconsider the Highland application, and instead of denying it, approve it with the condition that the project meets all state standards related to noise and setbacks.

"Highland asks the commission to proceed as requested, and in so doing to eliminate the chance of a wasted investment, and loss of associated economic development," Wilson wrote in his conclusion.

The PSC will consider Highland's request at its next meeting, Friday, March 1. The PSC previously voted 2-to-1 against the new wind farm.

Jay Mundinger, founding principal with Highland Wind Farm, said the timing of the PSC's reconsideration is critical.

Mundinger said the company will see what the PSC decides on Friday before deciding its next step.

"As a developer, we understand that there will need to be some flexibility in the development of any project in the state and our hope is that we will eventually get to build Highland soon," he said.

Brenda Salseg, with the citizen group Forest Voice which opposes the project, said they are taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the new request.

"We should all know very soon whether the PSC will uphold its decision or reverse it," she said.

The Forest Voice contends the wind farm, as proposed, would endanger the health of families who would live too close to turbines. They contend further study is needed to measure the negative health impacts associated with operation of wind turbines.