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Invenergy tries to woo Brown County for wind farm project

Invenergy LLC officials say they have a track record of profitable projects and satisfied customers to support their efforts to bring a wind farm to Brown County.

“If one looks overall at this, they’ll see there’s a high level of comfort,” said Kevin Parzyck, project manager for the proposed 100-turbine Ledge Wind Energy Project in four towns in southern Brown County. “Our feeling is that it’s a benefit to the community.”

Invenergy, one of the six largest wind energycompanies in the country, according to the American Wind Energy Association, wants the local project to become its 23rd wind farm in the United States.

It awaits siting guidelines from the Wisconsin Public Service Commission as it fends off opposition from a citizens group that is protesting the location in Morrison, Wrightstown, Glenmore and Holland.

The PSC is expected to announce the guidelines by July, and Invenergy plans to resubmit its proposal based on those rules.

Many property owners in Brown County have signed contracts with Invenergy to permit wind turbines on their land in exchange for annual payments of approximately $8,000. Other property owners insist that the wind turbines will have negative health and safety impacts and will reduce property values.

But Invenergy officials say they have public opinion on their side.

The Wisconsin Legislature has been debating a bill that would require one-fourth of the state’s energy to come from renewable sources by 2025. And a poll commissioned by the American Wind Energy Association claims that 89 percent of American voters believe that increasing reliance on wind energy is a good idea.

Parzyck said the proposed wind farm in Brown County is not a reckless plan and has the potential of being a $300 million project when completed.

“There has to be a rock solid plan in place if you’re going to have a huge upfront investment,” he said.

The opposition group, Brown County Citizens for Responsible Wind Energy, is misinforming the public, he said.

“The one thing I would say is this group is extremely well-funded and well connected statewide,” he said. “They have said they do not believe renewable energy makes sense in Wisconsin, but that flies in the face of what the Legislature and electorate has asked for. And they haven’t offered any alternatives.”

The citizens group has said it doesn’t oppose wind turbines but objects to their locations. The decisions on where to locate the turbines were based on the towns’ zoning ordinances at the time, Parzyck said.

Bill Hafs, the county’s land and water conservation director, said he has been in contact with Invenergy officials to discuss the possible impact of wind turbine construction on groundwater. But he said the county has no say on the wind farm issue.

Invenergy’s financial worth isn’t disclosed because it is a privately owned company. It has wind farms in 14 states and one in Canada.