A new proposal for a wind energy law in Eau Claire County is being presented to rural leaders after a previous draft had been criticized for making windmills too expensive to build.
The county’s Planning and Development Committee reviewed the draft Tuesday night and agreed to have it brought to town leaders before coming back for a public hearing on the evening of May 27.
“The revision you gave us was a vast improvement,” said Will Fantle, a member of the Planning and Development Committee. “This is considerably different.”
The first public hearing on March 11 brought criticisms of the initial proposal for being cost prohibitive by requiring thick, expensive monopoles for even small systems that would be used to augment power needs on farms or rural homes.
The new draft of the proposal would allow a less costly lattice or guy-wire structure to hold a wind turbine at less than 170 feet above the ground.
Other changes would allow property owners to have multiple small windmills with a combined capacity of up to 100 kilowatts.
“The intent there was to allow multiple units,” said Planning and Development Department Director James “Mel” Erickson.
Dairy farms looking to incorporate “green” energy sources could employ numerous windmills to power their milking parlors and other power needs, Erickson noted.
To classify as one of these small wind energy systems, each individual windmill must be 30 kilowatts or smaller. Larger windmills would have to abide by stricter standards including monopole construction.
The towns of Union, Lincoln and Seymour opposed the original ordinance, the county’s senior planner, Todd Andrews, said. He planned to meet with leaders from those towns within the next two weeks to discuss the changes made to it.
The first draft of the county’s windmill policy was nine pages long, and the revised copy presented Tuesday night was about half that length.
Current county policy on wind energy systems is only about two pages long but had been criticized for being too restrictive. County planners have been consulting with local windmill dealers and researching small systems on the Internet to make revisions to that original law.
By Andrew Dowd
30 April 2008
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