When I wrote last week about what neighbors of utility-scale wind farms are hearing, I noted that distance from a wind turbine counts. The farther your house is from where a turbine suddenly gets built, the less likely the jet-plane-like sound will mess up your life.
That’s the main reason people living amid wind turbines say they support Gov. Scott Walker’s move to increase the distance wind developers must put their turbines from neighbors unless the neighbors grant permission. The setback in state regulators’ rules due to go into effect soon is that windmills must be at least 1,250 feet from a neighboring home; Walker’s rules say that unless neighbors give their consent, a wind turbine must be at least 1,800 feet from a neighbor’s property line.
Which brings up another distinction, say wind-farm critics. The Public Service Commission rules that specify 1,250 feet from a house also say the wind turbine must be 1.1 times its height from any property lines – meaning, for a typical wind turbine, 440 feet from the border. This means that the safety zone, a circle around a turbine of 1,250 feet radius, in which no dwelling can be built, sweeps over onto a neighbor’s property. So while the neighbor’s house is outside that 1,250 radius, a swath of his backyard is not. It becomes, whether he consents or not, a no-build zone. Turbine critics point out to me this means no garages within that zone. No other structures, either, if you want your insurer to cover them.
Walker’s proposal, by contrast, specifies a distance from the property line. That means that wind turbine builders cannot commandeer a part of the neighbors’ land as a safety zone around their machine.