The application that proposes to install wind turbines in the parking lot of the Lanoka Harbor Walmart was deemed complete by the zoning Board of Adjustment but a decision was postponed until next month’s meeting.
After a thorough presentation by the President of OmniWind Energy Systems as well as a professional engineer and a planner, concerned residents needed another opportunity for public comment and the zoning board still had questions.
OmniWind is proposing installing 13 small wind turbines with new poles and foundations at the existing site of lighting poles at Walmart. The existing light fixtures would be reinstalled at the same height.
The applicant is seeking to get a use variance since wind systems aren’t a permitted use in Lacey and a bulk variance approval from the zoning board to extend the lighting poles to 54 feet, as code currently allows poles to rise to only 35 feet.
“We are very concerned and we are going to take our time on this and be thoughtful,” zoning board member Tim McDonald said. “We realize the magnitude of what is happening in front of us. We will proceed slowly.”
Each pole would have multi-bladed fans resting on a rotatable device that allows them to turn to face the wind. The turbine would be 8 feet in diameter with 4-foot blades. The setback from the nearest property boundary would be approximately 81 feet.
“If we understand how these things work, we have less fear about what the potential catastrophes could be and more embracing the value that they bring to the situation,” Carl Douglas, President and Co-Founder of OmniWind said. “My goal is to explain this to everyone so you can embrace this technology and confront it.”
Each turbine will put out over 4,000 kWh per year, which will make up approximately 1 to 2 percent of Walmart’s energy, Douglas said. Power will not be put back into the grid, he said.
“Walmart consumes so much energy in a given store…We’re not even close to being able to put more into the grid that they would use…We are supplementing what they draw from the grid. In fact, we’re helping your local utility,” Douglas said.
Each turbine will reduce the grid’s congestion by the energy they supply to Walmart, he said.
Douglas pointed out that the turbines provide a greater power output per size, are aerodynamic over spin protection, silent, avian friendly, low to the grown and have a low tower height.
“For those concerned, will it fall apart? No it won’t fall apart…It’s actually a self-governing design,” he said.
The beauty of this design is that the rotational speed of the machine has been limited, Douglas said. The turbines can run at 115 mph winds and they won’t be affected because they cannot go any faster. The wind turbines also function in lower winds.
The OmniWind turbine technology has an airfoil that makes up the propeller. The wind hits a planar face, lifts and trails off, Douglas said. When the wind interacts with the airfoil, it responds, turning the propeller and thereby the generator.
“This geometry is exclusive to OmniWind. We’re the only ones in the industry that have it,” Douglas said.
The function of OmniWind turbines differs dramatically from that of a large windmill, Douglas said. This technology is specific to OmniWind. Other companies in the industry use a completely different geometry and physics principal, he said.
“We think of large scale wind turbines, industrial and utility scale machines and that’s what we all stereotypically visualize when we think of wind turbines. We’re far down the scale,” Douglas said.
Also, because of the technology, the blades are virtually silent, Douglas said. With a cap at the end of each blade, the air mass can escape, making the turbine silent.
“When you stand at the base of our machine as it’s spinning, you cannot hear the blades. You will hear the wind pass around this pole before you hear the blades,” Douglas said.
The technology also has a hinge system at the bottom, he said. The turbines, which have a life of 25 years, will be dropped to a horizontal position and inspected annually.
The turbines also will have a wireless monitoring system that is transmitted to a server. The system monitors the power the turbines generate over a range of operating speeds, Douglass said. If the machine deviates in any way, workers will know that there is a problem. The company has the ability to shut one or all turbines off.
The applicant 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.
A law passed by the State Senate and General Assembly in November 2009 changed the definition of “inherently beneficial use” to include wind structures. Under a second law, municipalities are kept from “unreasonably” limiting small wind energy system installations.
“The application before you in terms of the proofs has already satisfied the positive criteria in that it is inherently beneficial,” said John Maczuga, Manager of the Planning Division for T&M Associates, a consulting engineering firm for Lacey Township.
The positive criteria include that it is a commercial property, there is a reduction of reliance on energy produced by fossil fuels, reduces grid congestion, provides renewable energy for Walmart and there is predictability in energy costs, Planner Michael Bolan said. The individual user is not benefiting from the project but the consumer will as more renewable energy becomes available.
According to the applicant, the only potential detriment the applicant noted was the visual impact of installing windmills. The applicant, who originally proposed 14 wind turbines, removed one closest to Haines Avenue after the Zoning Board complained about the visual intrusion.
“As a traveling public, I don’t spend a lot of time looking up at light standards. I look at traffic, I look at roadways, I look for a parking space, and I look not to get hit by somebody. I think the visual impact is mitigated by what you’re actually looking at,” Bolan said.
But Charles DeFiglio, a resident of Jacqueline Court located directly behind Walmart, feels differently.
“I dispute what you’re saying that there is no impact on the public…The impact of Walmart itself has reduced property value of the houses on Jacqueline Court,” he said.
Since the day Walmart began construction, not one house has been sold on Jacqueline Court, he said. Seven residents have tried to sell their homes.
“Now you’re talking about them not being visible. I can see the back of Walmart from my house,” DeFiglio said. “They’re going to be visible to everyone on Jacqueline Court…It’s another impact to the value of my property. It is not to my public good to have those in the parking lot.”
Walmart is launching a pilot cost-saving program with OmniWind at four stores across the country. The company would install windmills in the store’s parking lots to supply power to the buildings.
Currently, there are no other locations where 14 OmniWind turbines are operating at once, Douglas said. But the company has had a site in Rogers, Arkansas where no failures or issues have been reported, he said.
If the pilot program is successful, Walmart may enter into a larger contract to install wind turbines at additional locations across the country.
The installation of wind turbines is just one project Walmart is pursuing to become more energy efficient, said Kory Lundberg, Senior Manger of Sustainability Communications for Walmart. The chain has installed skylights, solar panels and more to stores across the country.
Walmart has not sought to install solar panels on the rooftops of stores in New Jersey because of weather conditions, Lundberg said. If there is a snowstorm, the accumulation creates a weight issue. Stores with solar panels are typically located in places like California, Arizona and Hawaii.
Currently, a Walmart in Worcester, Mass. has 12 wind turbines up, which were installed more than one year ago.
“We haven’t had any issues. Customers really like them because it’s visible. It’s something we’ve had very good success with,” said Lundberg.
Lundberg said the program helps create renewable energy and the sound of the turbines is quieter than an air conditioner.
“Safety is a paramount concern for us so that’s something we’ll address and focus on when we’re putting wind turbines up on the parking lots,” Lundberg said.
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.
OmniWind will return to the zoning board on Oct. 3 at 7 p.m.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding