As renewable energy incentives drive interest in wind turbines as a means of economic development, Trempealeau County is considering regulation that some say could drive away wind investment.
The county Board of Supervisors will vote June 18 on an ordinance more restrictive than the state’s model and which developers say is anti-wind power and could cost the county revenues.
The county’s zoning committee on Tuesday approved a proposed ordinance that regulates the placement, noise level and safety for personal and commercial wind development in Trempealeau County.
The committee said the ordinance is a fair compromise between concerned residents and wind developers, because it will not specifically benefit Trempealeau County. Wind developers want the ordinance to match the state’s and say if Trempealeau passes the ordinance as is they are foregoing $400,000 in annual profits.
Michael Vickerman, executive director of the nonprofit renewable energy organization RENEW Wisconsin, called the ordinance arbitrary and excessively restrictive in more than a half a dozen instances.
For example, the county’s ordinance would require a wind turbine to be 1,320 feet away from a place of employment, residence, school, hospital, church or public library. The state’s model ordinance requires only that turbines be 1,000 feet from homes and doesn’t mention place of employment.
“Only a developer hell-bent on achieving economic suicide (would develop in Trempealeau County),” Vickerman said. “They couldn’t have done a better job than posting a billboard telling developers to keep out of Trempealeau County.”
A group of local investors called the AgWind Energy Partners had approached the county last September with a request to build four to six turbines near Ettrick and a meteorological tower to measure wind frequency, speed and direction.
The county wanted more time to research and write an ordinance, so the board imposed a six-month moratorium on the permit; the moratorium ends June 24.
A first draft of the ordinance debuted at a public hearing on Apr. 24, where the zoning committee took feedback for the final draft that was approved Tuesday.
Kevin Lein, the county’s zoning director, said resident’s main concerns were wind turbine noise, flickering shadows from the rotating blades and aesthetic changes to the land.
Lein and zoning committee chair George Brandt said the final draft reflected a compromise between concerned citizens and the wind developers.
“If a developer wanted to place wind turbines in Trempealeau County they still can, but there are some extra hurdles,” Lein said.
AgWind director Jim Naleid hopes the Trempealeau County Board of Supervisors will not pass the ordinance because he said it also prohibits personal wind generation as well as commercial.
“There appears to be a good wind regimen in Trempealeau County. If it chooses not to (allow development), so be it. But where do we go?” he said. “If you really don’t want wind turbines in your county, be honest about it from the get go and don’t give lip service to renewable energy but allow restrictions.”
By Amber Dulek
Winona Daily News
27 May 2007
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