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Clay Banks considers permits for wind turbines

The Clay Banks Windmill Planning Committee heard differing ideas regarding what permits should be allowed in the study of the alternative energy source.

Tom Draeger, 1379 County Highway U, suggested the committee consider setbacks at its regular meeting on Saturday, July 21.

The panel has been using Shawano County’s ordinance as a format to address such issues as site reclamation, road repair and site abandonment.

There are potential problems with 1,000-foot setbacks if someone builds a house at the center of a 40-acre tract and there were wind turbines on either side outside the lot lines, he said.

The property owner would not be able to be located 1,000 feet from either turbine.

“You could get a conditional use permit to do that, but would you want to deal with the health and safety aspects?” Draeger asked.

Conditional use permits could be an option to establishing a wind energy ordinance that is difficult to defend in court, according to Bill Utley, a representative of Community Wind Energy.

The county already has provisions for conditional use permits, which can be used on a case-by-case basis, Utley said.

The towns of Fredonia in Ozaukee County and Rhine in Sheboygan County permit property owners to site turbines using conditional use permits.

Meanwhile John Hippensteele, 1015 County Highway U, said planning for wind energy in the town remains in its infancy.

Wind energy opponents and proponents are equally concerned about health and safety issues, said Hippensteele, who provides technical information to Community Wind & Energy

Earlier this year, CWE proposed placement of three separately located turbines in the town.

CWE obtained FAA approval to site the units with hub heights of between 200 and 260 feet and overall heights of 300 to 400 feet, he said.

“Community Wind Energy is not ready to build turbines in the town of Clay Banks, either, in opposition to a lot of paperwork we read about,” Hippensteele said.

He said many residents assume the worst.

He also said the petition opposing wind turbines in the town was “fiction at its best” because it inferred turbines increase taxes and reduce property values. Neither situation is correct, he said.

“Everyone jumps on the health and safety issues and blows it out of proportion,” Hippensteele said. “Because they don’t want turbines, they are pushing health and safety issues to the limits. CWE’s goal is to keep this realistic.”

Clay Banks Windmill Planning Committee member Doug Weimer wants to make a 1:1 comparison between the Shawano County and Door County ordinances.

Setting them side by side will show planners what is missing in the Door County proposal, he said.

According to the town’s draft proposal, a large wind system or farm shall be considered inoperable if it has not generated power within the preceding 12 months or at less than half the expected production. Abandonment costs continue to range from $2,000 to as much as $20,000, he said.

“We’re looking at a substantial structure that’s going to be difficult to remove,” Chairman Mike Johnson said. “These numbers taking a structure down with a crane are going to be substantial.”

Weimer also said towers could interfere with communications systems. No studies have been completed on the impact wind turbines have on cellular towers, for example.

By Kurt Rentmeester
Advocate correspondent

Green Bay Press-Gazette

28 July 2007