As the rush for renewable energy moves forward, Trempealeau County wind farms will wait – again.
On Monday, the Trempealeau County Board voted 12-2 to extend a moratorium on wind turbines until it decides on a controversial ordinance to regulate placement, safety and noise of commercial and personal wind turbines.
An earlier motion to pass a wind ordinance failed 7-7, and board member George Brandt recommended the county allow for more public input and consideration of revisions.
“It’s public awareness,” said zoning director Kevin Lein. “It isn’t a matter of educating us. Facts aren’t going to change. We still know there is noise and shadow flicker.”
The proposed wind ordinance was more restrictive than the state’s model, and wind developers had argued that it would drive development to other counties.
The new moratorium expires Dec. 28. The board originally imposed a moratorium in September after a group of local investors
approached the county with a request to build four to six turbines near Ettrick. In February, the board extended that moratorium through June 25.
While some board members on Monday voiced concerns about what would change over another six months, others felt more research was needed to understand the economic benefit to the county, health and safety issues of wind turbines, where the power was sold and the effects wind turbines could have to property values.
Wind development could be worth up to $400,000 a year in tax revenue for the county, according to estimates from Jim Naleid, director of AgWind Energy Partners, a La Crosse-based wind development company.
“We consider green as good, but it isn’t perfect. I’m not sure about the size of these units, and I’d rather err on the behalf of safety,” said board member Dick Miller. “Green energy will be very expensive energy and the power will be sold out of county.”
Board member Paul Halderson didn’t want to extend the moratorium but said it was probably the best thing to do. He said progress will be expected monthly, because he doesn’t see any benefits of dragging it out any further.
“Most people may have the exact same concerns as they do now in December,” he said.
Galesville resident Ken Kristzman presented 250 signatures to the board Monday and asked the county to wait another year before deciding on the wind ordinance. The petition also requested a citizen advisory committee be formed to research alternative options for developing wind on a decentralized basis.
“We’re not against wind power. We’re against living in the shadow of industrial-sized wind turbines,” Kristzman said to the board. “Wind energy is a good idea now, and it will be a year from now.”
Kristzman said low frequency noise and flickering shadows from the turbines’ rotating blades could have a detrimental effect on nearby residents, and the county should increase setback restrictions from one quarter to 1½ miles.
The proposed wind ordinance required turbines be set back a quarter of a mile from a residence, school, hospital, church, place of employment or public library.
Lein said even a half mile setback would severely limit wind development.
He said noise has been documented as far as 1½ miles from other wind farms, but the county can vary from a state model ordinance only for health and safety reasons – not for nuisances.
Kristzman said the extended moratorium was a “step in the right direction.”
Naleid said it would give the community and the board members time to “acquire a balanced view of the realities as opposed to the distorted view that surfaced through this process.”
Until the county decides if wind is a go, Naleid said he will continue to develop at other sites.
“There’s no shortage of opportunities,” he said. “And if Trempealeau County is not interested and there’s a bad ordinance, then so be it.”
By Amber Dulek
20 June 2007
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