The Monroe County courthouse annex meeting room was transformed into a think tank Tuesday morning as the Monroe County Planning & Zoning Committee attempted to foresee possible issues with a windfarm. Those issues included the placement of individual wind turbines, geological effects, and most cumbersome – governmental procedure because it is the first wind harnessing project in the county.
The largest problem is the enormous land expanse of the two conditional use permits Invenergy LLC applied for in the towns of Ridgeville and Wells. The land that could be affected spans a large area along State Highway 71, a larger area along County Highway U and a small portion near Kendall Avenue. Invenergy plans to place additional windturbines in the towns of Sheldon and Jefferson, however those communities are not zoned (not requiring permits). The turbines would cross residential property, highways, agricultural land and some could be seen from as far away as Sparta.
The committee required that Invenergy LLC apply for only one conditional use permit per town (2) instead of a permit for each site (anywhere from 30 – 50), which has become a controversial issue because the turbines could affect many people in different ways. For example, one turbine may affect a nearby property owner, but not another town resident who lives farther away.
Other possible problems were related to geological effects from the turbines such as bird and insect populations, which are needed to pollinate crops. Shadow flickering, areas completely covered in shadow, and noise pollution were also addressed. Most shadow flickering occurs at dawn and dusk in a butterfly pattern that is caused by a combination of turbine blades, wind direction and sunlight, according to a Wild Horse, Wash. shadow flicker study. Because Wisconsin is in the northern hemisphere, residences north of a turbine would be more likely affected by shadow flickering. Noise pollution was also discussed, but is not foreseen as a large threat because the turbines are expected to produce sound at a maximum of 55 decibels. Most homes produce approximately 50 decibels.
By Keith Zukas
29 March 2007
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