An individual property owner could get off the grid and harness the wind power under existing Douglas County zoning regulations.
In like fashion, a commercial firm could build a wind farm. The company would have carte blanche in determining where and how to build it. The public would have very little leverage.
Douglas County does not have an ordinance regulating possible sites, designs, permit requirements and public hearing requirements. But tonight, the Douglas County Board considers a stopgap measure until such an ordinance is developed.
The board is considering a 120-day moratorium on the development of wind farms to give the county’s zoning committee time to develop an ordinance.
“What it does is give us breathing room,” said Supervisor Carol Johnson, chairwoman of the zoning committee. In May, the committee began discussion to prepare the county for the likelihood that efforts to find alternative forms of energy could find Douglas County.
The committee has been gathering sample ordinances from counties statewide and a model ordinance developed by Renew Wisconsin to consider in its deliberations on how to regulate wind generation facilities, said Zoning Administrator Steve Rannenberg.
“The purpose of the moratorium is to allow an opportunity for the committee to continue its review and possibly develop a new ordinance in Douglas County that will regulate large commercial wind-generating facilities,” he said, adding that the moratorium and potential ordinance would not impact individuals with a desire to generate electricity for personal use; however, it would prevent a commercial operation from coming in while the zoning committee continues its deliberation, he said.
The goal is to fill the gap between regulations that affect individual property owners who would install a wind generator for personal use and those large enough to fall under state regulatory requirements governed by the Public Service Commission – determined by the size of the facility and the number of kilowatt hours that would be generated, Rannenberg said.
“The intent of the ordinance would be to fill the gap between those two,” he said.
The state regulates large-scale wind farms that generate 100 or more megawatts.
The county could not outright ban such facilities or prohibit their development indefinitely because such alternative energy resources are allowed by state statute.
Wind generation facilities, like cell phone towers, have proven to be contentious projects, such as We Energies’ Blue Sky Green Field project in Fond du Lac County. The 88 wind turbines in a 10,600 acre project area in the towns of Calumet and Marshfield in Fond du Lac County generated much debate among proponents and opponents of the 200 megawatt facility, which doubled the state’s wind generation capacity when it was approved and built last year.
Among the concerns cited by project opponents was the visual impact, noise and shadow flicker. Opponents also cite the impact on migrating birds and safety, Rannenberg said.
Rather than allow something that could make life miserable for county residents, Johnson said the county wants to be prepared in the event it is approached with a commercial proposal.
“We don’t want to have anything slip through our hands,” she said. “We are certainly not against alternative energy … We want to be prepared.”
17 July 2008
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