A simpler windmill policy passed the Eau Claire County Planning and Development Committee Tuesday night but still requires approval from town governments and the County Board.
Brunswick Town Chairman Frederick Turk thanked the committee for making the windmill law less restrictive than a draft presented in March.
“It was pretty unreasonable before,” he said.
At that March 11 public hearing, members of the public and wind energy industry protested part of that draft of the windmill law, saying it would make it too expensive to install a windmill.
“It essentially required that every type of wind energy system … would have to be constructed on a monopole type of tower,” county senior planner Todd Andrews said.
Even after the clause requiring small, farm or household windmills be placed on expensive monopoles was taken out of the proposed law, a committee member said some of the restrictions were too particular.
Committee member Will Fantle said a clause requiring systems to emit less than five decibels above ambient noise levels would be difficult to gauge.
“I just think this is going to be very hard to enforce,” he said. “We don’t regulate noise on other types of rural applications.”
However, Planning and Development Director James “Mel” Erickson noted that the county previously put decibel restrictions on automobile and woodworking shops at rural homes.
“We placed numerous noise conditions on conditional use permits in the past,” he said.
Other restrictions in the proposed windmill law include:
n They cannot be built in wetlands or in a flood plain.
n Windmills must be set back 1.2 times their height from property lines.
n Small systems to power farms or rural homes cannot be taller than 170 feet.
n Large windmills found in commercial wind farms cannot exceed 500 feet.
The wind power ordinance would apply mostly to small systems that could power a farm or home because Eau Claire County doesn’t have winds desirable to large commercial wind power systems.
The only areas in the county with wind speeds consistent enough to justify a commercial operation are between the towns of Drammen and Pleasant Valley, Andrews said.
“I doubt we’ll ever have to deal with a large tower system,” Erickson added.
By Andrew Dowd
10 June 2008
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