TOWN OF MENASHA – A conditional use permit for a proposed wind demonstration project was denied Wednesday but the wind turbines may be installed regardless.
The town Planning Commission denied the permit request from Soul Purpose Ministry to construct 36 small turbines at an industrial site at 2225 Northern Road due to a lack of structural information.
But, Tom Newton of Manitowoc, a partner on the project, said they will forge ahead without the permit, which was only required if they intended to sell the electricity.
“Their denial doesn’t mean we can’t put it up,” Newton said. “All we have to do is keep the energy in use on the property and get the state plans approved and then just get a building permit.”
Community Development Director George Dearborn said they could request a site plan right away and only need to undergo a review by town staff. Since the commission on Wednesday night also approved a wind energy system ordinance that regulates the height of such projects it becomes a “legal issue” whether they could be built 120 feet high as proposed.
The new ordinance, which restricts the height of any wind turbines to their setback distance from the closest property line, will go to the Town Board Monday for first reading and possibly be approved by its Feb. 12 meeting.
Matt Everett, the owner of Paul Davis Restoration, immediately to the south, called the wind turbine demonstration project an “abomination” or “monstrosity” and was satisfied with the panel’s action.
“We’re only about 70 feet set back building to building from that property to ours,” he said. He believes that the commission’s action means the turbines, if installed, would have to be lower.
Still, Everett said, the “safety issues remain” regardless of the height. “I have 27 employees and, frankly, you lose a turbine or a blade and God knows what happens,” he said. “It’s just horrible looking. And, as the next door neighbor, I’m the one who’s got to look at that.”
Commissioners felt that adequate time had been given to provide the structural details that had been requested since September. Preliminary plans provided recently by a new engineering firm showed a steel girder framework but did not have any details about the materials to satisfy structural integrity concerns raised by residents and town officials.
Afterward, Tom Schermerhorn of Excel Engineering, Inc., Fond du Lac, said the turbines would be mounted on 4-inch diameter steel pipe supported by cross bracing and steel girders and banded together by 5/16 inch steel cables. But, that information was not submitted to the town officials.
Last week, Newton described the support structure as similar to the steel girder frame of a high-rise building. “It’s very similar to what we do in the Third World countries but we use trees instead of pipe,” he said.
Newton said the information was delayed by his medical problems and issues that required a change in engineers. But, he asked for approval contingent upon the state’s approval of building plans.
“They’re just micro turbines, 8 feet across tip to tip,” Newton said. “It’s not 50-foot blades. There’s no possible way for these little turbines to break out.”
Dearborn said the ultimate height “would be a legal issue. They could have built this early on without connecting to the grid and not had to go through this process at all.”
By Michael King
Post-Crescent staff writer
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