- National Wind Watch: Wind Energy News - https://www.wind-watch.org/news -

Walmart windmills application on Monday’s zoning board agenda

OmniWind Energy Systems, LLC will be approaching the zoning Board of Adjustment once again at 7 p.m. Monday with its plan to install wind turbines in the parking lot of the Lanoka Harbor Walmart.

The board deemed OmniWind’s application complete in September but postponed making a decision until all questions are answered. In August the company’s application was incomplete after they failed to provide a survey of adjacent properties.

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.

OmniWind is seeking to replace 13 existing light poles with stronger poles, reinstall the light fixtures at the current height, and install small turbines and related equipment.

The applicant needs to get variance approval from the zoning board to extend the lighting poles to 51 feet, as code currently allows poles to rise to only 35 feet.

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 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.

But wind systems are not a permitted use in Lacey, which is why the applicant is appearing in front of the board to seek a use variance, Zoning Officer Loretta Rule previously said.

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.

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 the visual impact is not the only concern of residents. They are primarily worried about safety.

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 concentration of cars and families in the Walmart parking lot, the monetary savings are not worth the risk, Peter Zarycki previously said.

“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,” said Kory Lundberg, senior manager of Sustainability Communications for Walmart.

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.

For copies of the laws see the PDFs attached to this article.