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Blue Sky Green Field Wind Energy Center

Blue Sky Green Field

Facility

Turbine type: Vestas V82
No. of turbines: 88
Total project size: 145.2 MW
Location: Townships of Marshfield and Calumet, in northeast Fond du Lac County  
Owner: We Energies
Original developer: Navitas Energy
Home pages: http://www.weenergies.com/home/BSGF.pdf
http://www.we-energies.com/environmental/winddev.htm

Contact

Tanya Holler Muench
We Energies
414.221.3552
tanya.hollermuench@weenergies.com

Area Description

The Townships of Marshfield and Calumet occupy the northeast corner of Fond du Lac  County. Both townships border Sheboygan County to the east. Calumet County lies north of the Town of Calumet, and Lake Winnebago defines its western boundary. Marshfield is the next township south of Calumet; its southern boundary runs near State Highway 23. The largest community in the project area is Mount Calvary, with a population of 934. About 4,100 people reside within the two towns.  The predominant land use in this area is agriculture. In the past 10 years, several new residential developments have been constructed to the south and west of the project zone, in the Town of Taycheedah.  Most of the new houses are situated on the western flank of the Niagara Escarpment, with views of Lake Winnebago.

The project area, located to the east of the Niagara Escarpment’s western edge, generally ranging from 800 feet to 1,100 above sea level.  To the north, the landscape is generally flat; to the south conical hills provide substantial topographical relief.  Woodlands scattered throughout the area tend to be small, averaging 7.8 acres. Outside the project area, the Lake Winnebago shoreline runs less than a mile away of the project’s northwest corner. Less than a mile to the southeast of the project lies the Upper Sheboygan River and its associated wetlands.

Project Development History

In December 2002 solicitation, We Energies issued a Request for Proposals to purchase 200 MW of windpower. In response to the solicitation, Minneapolis-based Navitas Energy submitted a bid to install 160 MW in northeast Fond du Lac County.  The proposal consisted of two adjoining 80 MW (44 turbine) parcels in towns of Calumet and Marshfield in northeast Fond du Lac County. Calumet’s prospect went by the name of Blue Sky while the section in Marshfield was dubbed Green Field. Even though both development parcels were planned to share one point of interconnection, Navitas Energy insisted that these were separate projects, and formed two separate limited liability corporations for each section. By splitting the development in two parcels, Navitas avoided triggering the state’s power plant siting process, which covers all generation projects greater than 100 MW.

In July 2003 We Energies announced that it signed Power Purchase Agreements to purchase a combined 214 MW of windpower from Navitas Energy and a second prospect in Dodge County.. Having locked in two 20-year PPAs with We Energies, Navitas filed applications with both townships to construct two 44-turbine projects, using Gamesa G87 turbines. For each township Navitas proposed a master agreement, called a Joint Development Agreement (JDA), that sets forth the conditions under which host landowners can seek a building permit for each turbine erected on their property. Both JDAs were approved by the local town boards in late 2003.

In January 2004 a group of area residents calling themselves the Concerned Citizens of Marshfield, filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the JDA approved by Marshfield’s Town Board. While alleging procedural violations on the part of the town board, the complaint also argued that the anticipated physical impacts from the wind turbines constitute a public nuisance. The complaint cited a list of negative consequences that would affect neighboring residences, including lower property values, exposure to stray electrical currents, and illnesses caused by shadow flicker. Representing this group was the Madison law firm of Garvey and Stoddard, which earlier had teamed up with the Town of Addison Preservation Group in Washington County to stop another wind development, the ill-fated Addison project proposed by FPL Energy.  

The public nuisance argument raised by opposition attorneys was significant, because state law (66.0401 Wis. Stats.) prohibits local governments from restricting wind development unless they can show that the particular development will have a negative effect on public health and safety. Other issues like aesthetics or property values are outside the purview of local permit review, even though they very well may be the driving forces behind local objections. Indeed, one can see in this legal action an increasing willingness to challenge wind energy proposals on the limited scope allowed by 66.0401. In the end, the lawsuit was dismissed by Judge Peter Grimm, who ruled that the health and safety arguments failed because the project had not been built yet.

With the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) expiring at the end of 2003, project development languished. By the time the PTC was extended in October 2004, fundamental market conditions had changed so much that Navitas Energy could not finance the project under its PPA with We Energies. In 2005, the PPA was voided and We Energies bought from Navitas the development rights for the Blue Sky and Green Field projects with the expectation of owning and operating the project. 

In its 2004 reauthorization of the federal PTC, Congress extended the sunset date only through 2005. The 15-month window did not allow enough time for We Energies to complete a project of this magnitude. As fate would have it, Congress incorporated a three-year extension of the PTC in the comprehensive energy bill it passed in August 2005. The passage of the Energy Policy Act in 2005 provided We Energies with a three-and-a-half year window to obtain the necessary permits to complete the project.  

Notwithstanding the local permits that Navitas obtained two years earlier, We Energies could not begin construction of this project without Public Service Commission (PSC) approval. We Energies could have applied for separate certificates for the two parcels, but instead decided to combine the Blue Sky and Green Field parcels into a single project and seek a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) to authorize its construction. The CPCN application was filed on March 22, 2006. In August 2006, the PSC issued a declaration of completeness, which initiated the statutory 180-day period for PSC review.  Even though the CPCN statute gives the PSC pre-emptive authority over local land use regulations, both the townships and the utility began renegotiating the existing JDA’s in hopes of reaching a mutually agreeable set of terms and conditions that would establish setback distances, maximum sound levels, decommissioning protocols and other important matters.

It was clear from We Energies’ application that the windpower’s costs had gone up since the project was first proposed by Navitas Energy in 2003. In the interim period, capital costs increased about 50 percent, reflecting strengthening demand for wind turbines worldwide, as well as higher steel and concrete prices. To exercise what little leverage it had in dealing with turbine manufacturers, We Energies sought a permit that would cover several turbine options in the application, a departure from the usual practice of selecting one turbine model in advance of the review process. Depending on the model selected, the project’s potential capacity ranged from 132 MW on the low side (using turbines rated at 1.5 MW) to 203 MW (using turbines rated at 2.3 MW).

In the absence of any party registering opposition to the proposal, the technical hearing was concluded in an expeditious manner. Fewer than a dozen individuals spoke at the public hearings held in the Town of Calumet. At about the same time, the Commission issued its final Environmental Assessment, which included a finding of no significant environmental impact. In January 2007, the Marshfield and Calumet town boards approved the revised JDA’s for Blue Sky Green Field.  

On Feb. 1, 2007, the PSC issued a CPCN authorizing the construction of Blue Sky Green Field. In approving the project, the PSC required We Energies to perform additional pre-construction studies addressing potential impacts to birds and bats. We Energies was also directed by the PSC to develop a protocol for conducting post-construction research on avian impacts and bat mortality.  

Construction started June 2007 and continued through the winter. On May 19, 2008, Blue Sky Green Field was placed into commercial operation.

Post-Construction History

As required under the PSC’s order, We Energies submitted a plan in July 2008 for monitoring post-construction fatalities involving birds and bats at the Blue Sky Green Field installation.

On September 13, 2008, We Energies hosted its first open house at Blue Sky Green Field. Notwithstanding a persistent light rain and poor visibility, the event drew about 700 people.  Another open house was held on May 20, 2009.

Siting/Permitting

Issuance date of local permits: January 2007
Docket: 6630-CE-294
Project footprint: 10,600 acres
No. of landowners: 51?
Maximum permissible sound threshold to neighboring residences: 50 dBA
Minimum setback distance from neighboring residences: 1,000 ft.

Dimensional Data

Tip height: 397 ft.
Hub height: 262 ft.
Blade length: 134 ft.
Turbine weight: 64 tons
Tower weight: 140 tons
Base diameter: 13.8 ft.
Miles of access roads:  xxx
Miles of collector cabling: 50

Performance Data

Rated power output: 1.65 MW
Rated wind speed: 30 mph
Rotor speed: 14.4 rpm
Cut-in wind speed: 8 mph
Cut-out wind speed: 54 mph
Extreme gust wind speed: 133 mph

Economics

Anticipated annual production: 330 million kilowatt-hours
Annual payments to host county: $338,000
Annual payments to host towns: Calumet: $121,000, Marshfield: $121,000
No. of permanent employees: 13 to 15
Peak construction employees: 150
Total installed cost: $305 million

Key Suppliers and Subcontractors

General contractor: RMT WindConnect
Electrical interconnection: Hooper Corp., Michels Wind Energy
Foundation/Tower erection: Boldt Construction
Cabling: Hooper Corp..
Environmental consulting/Permitting: STS AECOM
Permitting: STS/AECOM
Transformer: Waukesha Electric Systems
Transportation & logistics: Hennes Services, Lone Star Trucking
Wind assessment: Global Energy Concepts

Chronology of Events

July
2003

We Energies signs two 20-year Power Purchase Agreements with Navitas Energy for electricity from its Blue Sky and Green Field developments.

November
2003

Navitas Energy and Town of Marshfield sign Joint Development Agreement governing Green Field installation.

December
2003

Navitas Energy and Town of Calumet sign Joint Development Agreement governing Blue Sky installation.

January
2004

A group calling itself the Concerned Citizens of Marshfield files suit challenging the Town Board’s approval of Green Field. The lawsuit is dismissed later in 2004 by Judge Peter Grimm.

June
2005

We Energies acquires 100% interest in the Blue Sky and Green Field developments from Navitas Energy, and takes over development responsibilities.

August
2005

After consultation with the Public Service Commission staff, We Energies elects to obtain a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity for the entire development.

February
2006

First pre-construction Open House held for the Blue Sky Green Field Wind Project at the Marshfield/Mount Calvary Town Hall.

March
2006

We Energies files an application with the PSC to build the 88-turbine BlueSky Green Field project. The application four different turbine models for the project. Total capacity ranges from 132 MW to 203 MW. 

August
2006

PSC issues determination of completeness, triggering the 180-day review period.

November
2006

Technical hearing is held.

December
2006

We Energies and Town of Calumet sign Joint Development Agreement governing Blue Sky parcel.

January
2007

We Energies and Town of Marshfield sign Joint Development Agreement governing Green Field parcel. 

March
2007

We Energies enters into contract with Vestas, which will supply 88 V82 turbines, each rated at 1.65 MW. The project’s rated capacity will total 145 MW.

June
2007

Construction begins.

May
2008

We Energies places Blue Sky Green Field in commercial service.

July
2008 

In accordance with two order points, We Energies submits a plan to monitor post-construction bat and bird fatalities (see final report)

September
2008 

We Energies hosts first post-construction Open House at the project site.

October
2008

We Energies submits results of post-construction sound measurements taken at the facility.

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