May 14, 2008

County to regulate turbines

The high price of oil and global warming are pushing an agenda to find alternative sources of energy.

Douglas County is gearing up to be prepared should those efforts – at least where wind is concerned – reach area forests and farmlands.

“If you think you had fun with cell towers, you’re going to have a lot of fun with wind energy,” Zoning Administrator Steve Rannenberg told the county’s zoning committee today, referring to the likely controversy.

With wind energy, he said there are two issues: individual landowners seeking a wind turbine for personal power and large, industrial wind farms.

“This is … considered to be a major land use issue,” Rannenberg said. “As you can imagine, there are two sides to this issue as there are two sides to any issue.”

Some counties have adopted wind farm ordinances, but Douglas County isn’t one of them.

Without regulations, the county could find itself caught between residents who object to the giant turbines and the developers who want to build them.

If a permit is requested before rules are in place, “I’d say to you, ‘yeah, go ahead,’” Rannenberg said. Although current ordinances limit structure height to 35 feet, they allow certain types of structures to exceed that limit.

“Those regulations need to be in place before we’re confronted with an application versus after the fact,” Rannenberg said. “You can’t then go back and regulate … The regulation has to be in place first.”

Just like with cell towers, committee members have little doubt that people will take issue with wind turbines on the county’s landscape.

“It is something we’re going to have to look at …,” said committee member Nick Baker. “You go to southern Wisconsin, southern Minnesota and northern Iowa – there you see them for miles. You travel miles and you see them for miles. We do get a considerable wind. It would be profitable to operate.”

Supervisor Mark Liebaert, an Amnicon farmer, has already been contacted by a power company that wanted to put turbines on his property, Baker said.

Supervisor Rich Thompson said people aren’t concerned just about the sight of turbines, but also by the noise they generate.

In coming months, the zoning committee plans to review other counties’ ordinances and develop regulations of its own before being confronted by issues members are ill-prepared to address now.

“We better be ready when it comes up,” Baker said.

Shelley Nelson

The Daily Telegram

14 May 2008

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