Lanoka Harbor resident Peter Zarycki thought it was a joke when he received a certified letter notifying his neighborhood that windmills might be installed on top of lighting fixtures in the Walmart parking lot.
“You can think of other ways to save money on electricity,” he said. “Safety is going to be the number one factor. It’s going to be an eyesore, too.”
Inherently beneficial use?
The applicant, OmniWind Energy Systems, LLC, will be seeking approval from the township zoning Board of Adjustment as it seeks to replace 14 lighting poles in the front of the Walmart parking lot and install windmills.
According to the application, the company would replace 14 existing light poles with stronger poles, reinstall the light fixtures at the current height, and install small turbines and related equipment.
The applicant is seeking to get variance approval from the zoning board to extend the lighting poles to 51 feet, although code currently allows poles to rise to only 35 feet.
Each pole would have multi-bladed fans encased with a metal frame resting on a rotatable device that allows them to turn to face the wind. The blades would be 6.5 to 8 feet long.
The windmills are expected to supply electric energy to the Walmart and transfer energy to the building.
The application argues that according to the Sica balancing tests, which analyzes the potential public benefits and possible detrimental effects, a wind generating facility is inherently a beneficial use. If the zoning board disagrees, OmniWind would have to make a case for the positive benefits of such turbines.
According to the applicant, the existing wiring will be used so trenching is not necessary. The only potential detriment the applicant noted was the visual impact of installing windmills.
But neighboring residents feel differently.
‘It’s going to look like a circus’
“That’s ridiculous. I don’t feel like looking out my window and seeing that,” said William Rauth of Jacqueline Court, Lanoka Harbor.
Rauth and Zarycki live in a residential community just behind the Walmart Supercenter on Route 9 in Lanoka Harbor.
When the Walmart originally opened in the fall of 2009, the neighborhood would hear beeping from trucks backing up and forklifts, Rauth said. As residents complained over time, it became less of a problem.
“Other than that you really don’t know that they’re there,” he said.
As you look across the way from Rauth’s home, you can see the tops of trees and some electrical wiring but if Walmart extends their lighting poles and installs the windmills, Rauth will have a very different view.
“It’s going to look like a circus,” he said.
But residents are not only worried about what they will see when looking out their windows.
“I think it would be a safety concern,” Kim Zarycki said as she reflected on when wind turbines malfunctioned on two Forked River farms this past year.
Three fiberglass blades flew off the tower of a turbine at James Knoeller’s Christmas Tree Farm on Carriage Road in March. The blades weighed approximately 265 to 290 pounds each and fell just 215 feet away from Knoeller’s 17-year-old granddaughter.
Around the same time, cracks were found in the blades of a tower operated at Argos Farms on Lacey Road. As a precaution, the turbine was temporarily shut down.
With a high congestion of cars and families in the Walmart parking lot, the monetary savings are not worth the risk, Peter Zarycki said.
Residents in the neighborhood also questioned, “What about solar?”
Zarycki wondered if Walmart looked into installing solar lights and solar panels, which would be safe and save money, he said.
A Walmart representative explained that most of the chain’s roofs could not feasibly fit solar panels. The roofs generally incorporate light-harvesting skylights, which work with their florescent lighting systems, and also contain their refrigeration and cooling systems.
These systems limit the space available on the roof for solar panels, which in turn would give Walmart little rate of return.
The manager of Walmart in Lanoka Harbor declined to comment.
Pilot energy-saving program
Walmart’s corporate office was unable to comment on the potential cost savings, how much electricity will be generated, and what sort of noise the wind turbines will potentially generate.
Installing wind turbines at the Lanoka Harbor Walmart is the beginning of a pilot program that OmniWind Energy Systems LLC offered to corporate to save the chain money, the stores’ representative said. Walmart will be partnering with OmniWind at four stores across the country, including Lanoka Harbor and Pleasantville, NJ.
If the pilot program is successful, Walmart may enter into a larger contract to install wind turbines at additional locations across the country.
According to OmniWind Energy System’s website, its wind turbine system is designed to supplement the power requirements of homes and small businesses. The system can reduce the average monthly electricity bill up to 50 percent and can annually generate up to 5090 kWh with speeds up to 21.1 mph.
A representative from OmniWind Energy Systems did not immediately return calls to comment.
The application will be heard at 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 1, at the zoning Board of Adjustment meeting.
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