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Glacier Hills Wind Energy Center

glacier hills turbine blades

Facility

Turbine type: Vestas V90
No. of turbines: 90
Total project size:162 MW
Location: Townships of Randolph and Scott, in northeast Columbia County
Owner:We Energies – Wisconsin Electric Power Company
Origonal Developer:FPL Energy (now NextEra Energy Resources)
Home page: Glacier Hills

Project Development History

The Glacier Hills project was initially developed by Randolph Wind, LLC, which was owned by FPL Energy (now NextEra Energy Resources). In late 2007, We Energies obtained an option to acquire this wind prospect as part of the sale of the Point Beach Nuclear Plant to FPL Energy. The prospect was attractive to We Energies for a number of reasons: (1) land control was already established; (2) close proximity to transmission, (3) several years of data confirming the existence of a commercially viable wind resource; and (4) solid support from the host communities.

The acquisition of Glacier Hills preceded the issuance of a Request for Proposals for project sites within the Midwest Independent Systems Operator’s control areas that could accommodate renewable generation units up to 200 MW. This was We Energies’ first solicitation following the enactment in 2006 of the Energy Efficiency and Renewables Act (2005 Act 141), which increased renewable energy supply requirements on utilities. As part of that solicitation, We Energies compared the dozen or so proposals that it received with its own prospects, and concluded that Glacier Hills had the best risk profile of all the potential development opportunities before it, including those from out of state. The internal determination to proceed with building Glacier Hills occurred in the spring of 2008.

Outreach to host landowners and the surrounding community began in earnest in the summer of 2008. We Energies representatives met with landowners who had signed lease options with FPL Energy and discussed the company’s plans for building the project, and the anticipated timeline of development. Two open house events were held at the Randolph Town Hall in August and September of 2008. Also at that time, We Energies invited project participants and nonparticipants to tour We Energies’ Blue Sky Green Field project in Fond du Lac County, which had begun commercial operations in May of that year.

In late October 2008 We Energies filed an application with the Public Service Commission to build a 90-turbine project at Glacier Hills. Because the application did not specify as single turbine type, the proposed project capacity ranged from 135 megawatts (MW) using 1.5 MW turbines to 207 MW using 2.3 MW turbines. Under any scenario, however, the project would be greater than 100 MW, requiring a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN).  In line with the PSC’s order approving Blue Sky Green Field, the application specified 1,000-foot setbacks from nonparticipating residences and a maximum permissible sound threshold of 50 dBa. In January 2009, the PSC determined the application to be complete, thereby triggering the 180-day review period permitted in state law.

However, it became apparent early in the review period that the PSC would not be able to complete its review and issue a decision in time to comply within statutory limits. This proceeding attracted significantly more intervenors than the Blue Sky Green Field docket. Among the intervenors were Chicago-based Invenergy, LLC, which was pursuing a project in southern Brown County called Ledge Wind, and the Coalition for Wisconsin’s Environmental Stewardship (CWESt), an organization representing several neighboring residences opposed to Glacier Hills. CWESt also had supporters in other Wisconsin jurisdictions where wind generation projects had been proposed. CWESt’s supporters made liberal use of the PSC’s electronic forum to submit comments calling for lengthy setbacks and stringent sound and shadow flicker requirements. Other parties became intervenors, including RENEW Wisconsin, the Citizens Utility Board, Clean Wisconsin, E-Wind, the town of Randolph, and IBEW Local 2150

PSC Staff’s initial review of the project did not identify any significant environmental impacts from the project as proposed. The assessment concluded that an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) would not be necessary. Several parties filed comments that were critical of PSC Staff’s preliminary assessment, prompting the PSC to order the preparation of a full-blown EIS. Following that decision, the PSC filed a motion to extend Glacier Hills’s permit review period for another six months. That motion was granted.

The CPCN review process for Glacier Hills coincided with a legislative campaign to establish uniform permitting standards for wind turbines in Wisconsin. A bill was introduced in May 2009 to direct the PSC promulgate a rules package that would apply to local government review of wind turbines. The appearance of this legislation heightened the level of public scrutiny placed on the PSC’s management of the Glacier Hills proceeding. At the same time, Glacier Hills presented the PSC with an opportunity to investigate some of the issues raised by wind opponents and incorporate any new findings into the decision on Glacier Hills as well as a potential rulemaking on siting wind turbines. As things turned out, the EIS prepared during the Glacier Hills docket EIS provided staff with an opportunity to expand its understanding of wind energy’s impacts on project neighbors and wildlife.

The draft EIS was circulated in July 2009, followed by a 45-day public comment period eliciting many comments both pro and con. The PSC released the final EIS in December.

The PSC regarded the information Invenergy provided in this proceeding as very useful for comparing the cost of a utility-built wind project with that of purchasing wind-generated electricity through a Power Purchase Agreement. Invenergy contended that purchasing windpower from its Ledge Wind project would be less expensive to We Energies ratepayers than building a wind generation project at the Glacier Hills site. However, Invenergy’s testimony preceded the filing of its CPCN application by several months. Without a complete application on which to base a comparison, the PSC determined that the Ledge Wind option was not a viable alternative to Glacier Hills.

The PSC awarded intervenor compensation to CWESt to present expert testimony in the technical hearings on the issues of setbacks, health and safety concerns, and property value impacts. CWESt witnesses advocated for much longer setback distances and lower sound thresholds; indeed, the organization’s lead witness, an acoustical specialist, argued for setback distances in excess of one mile. To counter that recommendation, We Energies enlisted several authorities outside the company to rebut the presumptions that wind turbines pose a health and safety hazard and cause property value reductions. The exchange between CWESt and We Energies witnesses was both lively and comprehensive, creating a remarkably robust record for not only the Glacier Hills project but also for future dockets involving wind generation.

RENEW presented testimony from Kewaunee County resident Mick Sagrillo, who at one time served as Chair of the Town of Lincoln Wind Turbine Moratorium Study Committee. Sagrillo’s testimony addressed the evolution of community acceptance of the two utility-owned wind projects in Kewaunee County that have been operating continuously since 1999. By all appearances, Sagrillo said, the residents of those towns are comfortable living in proximity to wind turbines. His testimony was not challenged.

As with the host townships of Blue Sky Green Field, We Energies entered into negotiations with the towns of Randolph and Scott to arrive at a mutually agreeable set of terms and conditions regarding the wind turbines in their jurisdictions. These agreements would set forth We Energies’ obligations to, among other things, keep roads in good repair, address local complaints, and post a bond to cover decommissioning costs. In a departure from the Joint Development Agreements (JDAs) associated with its Blue Sky Green Field project, We Energies agreed to offer Good Neighbor payments to residences  within one-third mile of a wind turbine. These payments are to be structured as easement agreements that limit development or tree-planting within 1,200 feet from a wind turbine. The JDAs also require We Energies to set up a tighter framework for recording complaints from project neighbors and responding to them in a timely manner. Both towns approved their respective JDAs with We Energies in October 2009.

The PSC approved the project at its open meeting on January 11, 2011. In its approval, dated January 22, the PSC imposed several conditions of note.

In its order, the PSC rejected a recommendation from a CWESt witness to require We Energies to develop a property value protection plan for nonparticipating residences.

With the increase in the minimum setback distance, more than a dozen wind turbines became out of compliance. The choice before We Energies was to either sign waiver agreements with neighboring landowners or move turbines farther away from neighbors. We Energies did move a few turbines to comply with the order, but in most cases, the impetus for the relocation was the 45 dBa sound limit.

After We Energies filed in May 2010 the mitigation plan required by the PSC, site preparation work began. The first shipment of turbine components arrived at Glacier Hills the following May. We Energies held an open house June 1st at the Glacier Hills field construction office, which gave visitors an opportunity to view an innovative construction crane built specifically for assembling wind turbines. Unlike most large cranes working at wind projects, the principal crane at Glacier Hills has telescoping features that reduce the size of the vehicle when traveling, which enables it to pass underneath overhead power lines. The crane’s design enabled We Energies to scale back the road-building necessary to accommodate crane travel.

Post-Construction History

Project placed in service in December of 2011

Siting/Permitting

Joint Development Agreements with local government units: Issued October 2009.
PSC Permit: Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (6630-CE-302) - issued January 2010.
Project footprint: 27.1 sq. miles (approx. 17,350 acres).
Maximum permissible sound threshold to neighboring residences: 45 dBa from 10:00 pm to 6:00 am (April through September); 50 dBa at all other times.
Minimum setback distance from neighboring residences: 1,250 feet.
Wind Facilities Easement Agreement: $500 per year if one turbine is within 1/3rd mile of a neighboring property owner’s residence, $750 per year if two or more turbines are within 1/3rd mile of a neighboring property owner’s residence.

Dimensional Data

Tip height: 410 ft.
Hub height: 262 ft.
Blade length: 148 ft.
Tower weight: 138 tons
Nacelle weight: 71 tons
Rotor weight
: 38 tons

Performance Data

Rated power output: 1.8 MW
Rated wind speed: 29 mph
Rotor speed: 14.5 rpm
Cut-in wind speed: 9 mph
Cut-out wind speed: 56 mph

Economics

Anticipated annual production:  More than 400,000,000 kWh
Annual payments to host county: $378,000
Annual payments to host towns: Randolph: $162,000, Scott: $108,000
Total installed cost: $397 million

Power Purchasers

None, power used by We Energies.

Key Suppliers and Subcontractors

Cabling: Michels Wind Energy (Brownsville)
Electrical interconnection: Michels Wind Energy (Brownsville)
General contractor:
Boldt Construction (Appleton)
Road stabilization and crane pad reinforcement:
Tensar International
Towers:
Tower Tech Systems (Manitowoc)
Tower erection:
Boldt Construction (Appleton)

Chronology of Events

October
2007
As part of its sale of the Point Beach Nuclear Generating Station to FPL Energy (now NextEra Energy Resources), We Energies obtains an option from FPL Energy to acquire the Glacier Hills prospect.  
December
2007

WE issues a Request for Proposals seeking renewable energy generating facilities with a capacity of up to 200 MW. After reviewing the proposals submitted, We Energies elects to build and own a wind energy project at the Glacier Hills location.

June
2008

We Energies hosts two meetings with project landowners, informing them of the ownership change from FPL Energy, the regulatory review process occasioned by the CPCN process, and the anticipated project development timeline.

August
2008

WE hosts an open house at the Randolph Town Hall. Residents of the Towns of Randolph and Scott are invited to attend.

September
2008

We Energies extends an invitation to project participants and neighbors to attend the open house held at We Energies’ recently completed Blue Sky Green Field project near Johnsburg. Separately, WE hosts an open house open to all residents within one mile of Glacier Hills project development boundary. 

October
2008

We Energies files an application with the Public Service Commission for a Certificate of Authority to construct a 90-turbine wind project in the Towns of Randolph and Scott in Columbia County.

January
2009

PSC issues letter determining We Energies’ application to be complete.

April
2009

Chicago-based Invenergy, LLC, submitted testimony in which it offered its proposed 150 MW Ledge Wind project as an alternative to Glacier Hills.

May
2009

We Energies files supplemental testimony disclosing an agreement with Vestas to supply wind turbines for the project. As a result of this agreement, We Energies lowers its estimate of installation costs.

June
2009

After initially circulating an Environmental Assessment stating that an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was not needed, the PSC decides to prepare an EIS on this project.

July
2009

PSC issues draft EIS, triggering a 45-day comment period.

September
2009

PSC issues Final Environmental Impact Statement.

October
2009

The Town Boards of Scott and Randolph townships approve their Joint Development Agreements with We Energies.

November
2009

PSC holds technical hearings on the project, followed by public hearings in Friesland.

January
2010

PSC issues a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity authorizing the construction of Glacier Hills Wind Park. The order contains conditions that We Energies must comply with before construction can begin.

March
2010

We Energies enters into a Turbine Supply Agreement with Vestas, which will build 90 V90 turbines for the project. We Energies selects a trio of Wisconsin companies--The Boldt Company (Appleton), Michels Corp (Brownfield), and Edgerton Contractors (Oak Creek)--to construct the project.

May
2010

PSC approves We Energies’ plan to acquire two residences affected by the project, clearing the final preconstruction hurdle. Project construction begins.

June
2010

We Energies selects Tower Tech Systems, a subsidiary of Broadwind Energy, to fabricate the towers for Glacier Hills. Tower Tech is located in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

May
2011

Towers and turbines begin arriving at project site.

June
2011

We Energies holds open house at Glacier Hills project site.

December 2011 Glacier Hills begins commercial production.

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