Do not penalize the little guy. This was the central theme at the second wind ordinance public meeting held Monday evening on a proposed draft to regulate wind turbines in Sawyer County.
The ordinance, as many in attendance agreed, too forcibly limited small operations, or personal wind systems, which according to Edgewater Township Chairman Waldo Asp, should be the preferred method to harness energy from the wind, as Sawyer County does not have the sustained winds to make a larger system feasible.
“My concern particularly is that we do not have sufficient wind to support commercial development,” Asp said. “We should not discourage someone from research and development” of systems that can generate energy from minimal wind speeds.
Asp’s comments were well received by members of the audience and those county officials convened at the meeting, including Zoning Administrator Bill Christman and county board members Bruce Miller, Kathy McCoy and Arlene Mitzerka.
In Asp’s opinion, very few parts of the county are suitable for a larger system. One possible area is located off Highway 48, past Edgewater, he said. On this, Asp introduced Jim McFarland, who admits to being a wind energy researcher and currently has three wind turbines in place to experiment with harnessed energy from low wind speeds.
McFarland felt that the proposed ordinance, as worded, severely limited him as a researcher and consumer of wind energy. Central to this topic was McFarland’s point that the ordinance be drafted in such a way as to foster personal wind systems, while continuing to limit any major system that might be introduced. He also agreed that the county should be more concerned about limiting large operations and should allow those who are interested in a personal system the leeway they need without enforced regulation.
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“If we do this ordinance, it should be to support research and development, rather than to assume that we’ll be doing commercial-sized wind turbines,” Asp added.
Bass Lake Township Chair Phil Nies, representing Friends of the Lake, read through their proposed draft of a wind ordinance – one of three that have thus far been considered. The first was initially proposed by the county, then revised to a second proposal after the first January 22 public meeting, and finally the Friends of the Lake submitted their revised draft to the county on March 28.
Nies agreed that personal wind energy systems should not be required to submit a conditional use permit, as would be the case for a larger system. He suggested the county focus on three areas: protection of shoreline, protecting the rights of neighbors and that townships should have legal power to deny a wind system within their municipality.
Miller, although agreeing with Nies on the first two points, disagreed with the third, saying in essence that the county will have the final say as is standard procedure.
Board Member McCoy stated that the technology has come a long way in recent years – smaller turbines can often produce enough energy to supplement energy consumption. One of her concerns is that penalties for ordinance violation are too severe.
County officials took no action on the ordinance because the meeting was centered on public input and not necessarily to form a recommendation.
As Christman said, “we’re still a long way off.”
The county will be addressing this issue in more detail during upcoming zoning committee meetings; formal action and public hearings could be held as early as this fall.
But Arlene Mitzerka seemed to sum up her wind energy experience best by saying, “I’ve been a fan of wind systems since the 70s.”
Will LaBreche / Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 18th, 2007
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