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Wind turbine gets green light in city

Brookfield city officials approved installation of an energy-generating wind turbine atop the R.A. Smith National building on Bluemound Road on Tuesday.

The civil engineering firm’s request for a conditional-use permit to allow for the turbine sparked a review of the city’s approval process for alternative energy installations.

The item was removed from the Common Council’s consent agenda by Alderman Jerry Mellone, who said about 20 neighbors he surveyed south of the building at 16745 W. Bluemound Road were opposed to the project and expressed concern that it would negatively impact property values.

State statutes only allow cities to regulate alternative energy systems to preserve or protect public health or safety.

Community Development Director Dan Ertl said city zoning code considers windmills a conditional use that can be subject to a public hearing.

A structural analysis of the turbine was completed, and it was found to be under the city’s height limit.

“The staff interpreted that a public hearing process for a windmill that does not exceed the maximum height permitted in the code would be contrary to protection of such systems from obstacles under the Wisconsin statutes,” Ertl stated in a memo.

If elected officials wish to codify the review process, city staff concluded, standards similar to those listed in the Public Service Commission’s guidelines would be allowable under state laws.

Steven Roncke, RA Smith National senior engineering technician and director of properties, said the turbine – which would stand 16 feet tall with a 7-foot wing blade – is intended to be a research tool.

Emitting 35 decibels of sound within a 10-foot radius, the turbine would generate 1,200 kilowatt hours of energy at an average wind speed of 11.2 mph.