Waukesha – GE Healthcare is seeking city permission to install 10 wind turbines up to 155 feet tall on its 662-acre Waukesha campus on county Highway T north of I-94.
The project, if approved, would be built next year or later, said Annette Busateri, public relations manager. It is part of the company’s 2015 goal of reducing electrical usage by 15% and improving building energy efficiency by at least 10%, she said.
The Waukesha Plan Commission is scheduled to consider a conditional use permit for the project at its 6 p.m. meeting Wednesday. The city has no wind turbines, planner Michael Hoeft said.
City planner Jennifer Andrews said the company has lined up letters indicating state and federal agencies likely have no objections.
“They seem to have all their ducks in a row,” she said.
Although the proposed turbines are about a mile from the runways of Waukesha County’s airport, Crites Field, their height would be below the limit set by the county’s zoning ordinance that protects airspace around the airport from encroaching structures.
The plan calls for turbines on towers ranging from 135 to 155 feet tall. Three would be behind the former headquarters building, now an assembly building for medical imaging equipment that’s the farthest north of three buildings. The other seven would be between the two other buildings farther south.
Waukesha County Parks and Land Use Director Dale Shaver said there are no commercial wind turbines in the county. Not only would this project be the first, but they would be near a high-traffic, very visible interchange.
The county worked with GE to locate the towers so they complied – just barely, in some cases – with height restriction, Shaver said.
The Wisconsin Bureau of Aeronautics provided a letter saying all 10 of the proposed turbines would be in compliance with airspace height restrictions.
Nothing indicates the Department of Natural Resources commented on this project. However, included in the Plan Commission’s information is a letter dating from 2006 regarding a Shawano County wind turbine application. It says that a single wind turbine of 170 feet or less, with 100-kilowatt capacity or less, does not require a formal wildlife study.
DNR environmental analyst Steven M. Ugoretz said in the letter “there is no evidence linking single wind turbines of that size with potentially significant wildlife collision fatalities or other adverse wildlife impacts.”
The individual, small wind turbines are not to be confused with 400-foot tall commercial turbines that generate power at a utility scale, he wrote.
Busateri said the turbines will be used to generate energy to reduce electrical usage on the Waukesha campus.
“GE Healthcare has been on the Fortune 500 Environmental Protection Agency green power partnership program for the past six years to support renewable energy technology,” Busateri said. The company is committed to supporting alternative energy sources, she said.
GE has the second largest solar energy system in Wisconsin at its Waukesha facility, she said, and it generates enough power for 60 homes in a year. It also generates hot water through a solar thermal system for two cafeterias and GE Healthcare’s fitness center, Busateri said.
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