It is difficult to stand against the growth of wind turbines without being blown over by environmentalists and the industry.
But an advisory committee formed in western Wisconsin’s Trempealeau County appears to have succeeded in pushing wind turbines away, at least for the time being.
Last December, the county enacted a committee-drafted ordinance that imposes strict restrictions on the location of the wind turbines there.
The ordinance appears to place virtually all of the county off limits to large-scale wind farms because it requires wind turbines higher than 150 feet to be at least a mile from the nearest home and a half-mile from neighboring property lines. Most turbines constructed for commercial power generation are around twice that size.
There are also setbacks in the 16-page ordinance that keep turbines away from roads, railroads, wildlife refuges and other environmentally sensitive areas.
The citizens committee claimed turbines can cause sleep disruption, bodily harm, ice projection from blades, seizures and disruption to emergency communication lines. Members said their information came from acoustic engineers, wildlife agencies, national and state wind associations, wind turbine manufacturers and scientific agencies.
The group that sought to locate wind turbines there – AgWind Energy Partners LLC – issued a statement Jan. 30 indicating it believes the ordinance was simply trying to ban wind turbines.
Jim Naleid, AgWind’s managing director, told the County Board there was virtually no land that could be developed for wind turbines because of the restrictions in the ordinance.
But the citizens group maintained the ordinance was not aimed at preventing wind turbines. And Kevin Lien, the county’s plan department director, said larger commercial turbines can still be sited through a conditional-use permit if the owner of the property and those property owners within a half-mile of the site agree to the development.
Lien did acknowledge no such individual agreements have been pursued.
“In their minds, maybe they feel the rules are too restrictive,” he said of turbine companies, “because we did not issue a blank check.”
Cristeen Custer, a citizens committee member from West Salem, said the group “was charged with examining the potential impact of wind turbines on the health and safety of the citizens. We drafted an ordinance that takes into account the unique geologic and demographic attributes of our county.
“We determined the most appropriate setbacks for wind turbines with a focus on safeguarding the health of people who live in Trempealeau County, not the goals of potential developers.”
Deloras Vind, whose husband served on the committee, said, “The people who want to locate wind turbines on their property have the right to mitigation to settle their zoning issues.”
Vind said she also spent about 1,000 hours in the past year researching wind turbines and their impact and admitted she opposes them. But she denied the ordinance was designed to ban them from the county.
“We’re very happy with the ordinance that the County Board passed in December to protect our health and safety,” she said. “It doesn’t stop the wind turbines but it sets down rules they need to follow.”
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