A proposal to regulate wind turbines on city of Brookfield buildings met with a headwind of opposition Monday.
As a result, the Plan Commission tabled its discussion of the proposed ordinance, which aims to put restrictions on where homeowners and businesses can place these energy-producing turbines.
Neighborhood Planner Jason Williams crafted the ordinance at the behest of Alderman Jerry Mellone, but the Plan Commission was dissatisfied with some of the specifics in the proposal.
Most important to the group was the issue of height. As presented, the ordinance would limit the height of the turbine itself to a maximum of 20 feet.
However, in order for these turbines to be most effective, they must be in an area with as little wind resistance and turbulence as possible – and that often means the taller they are, the better. According to a city report, the optimum height is between 120 and 150 feet, causing some commissioners to worry residents may affix massive structures to the tops of their homes.
While there are restrictions to the height of buildings based on zoning and other factors, no specific provision limits how high a turbine could be – except for the proposed restriction that the structure itself has to be 20 or fewer feet tall.
It is not clear how tightly the city wants to regulate turbines, however.
Turbines are considered similar to antennas, and although many homeowner associations regulate these, the city doesn’t.
Also, the city’s comprehensive plan explicitly states that the city will encourage sustainable energy practices, perhaps further complicating the extent to which the city will want to regulate wind turbines.
Though the Plan Commission got the first crack at this law, the Common Council will still need to approve it.
The proposed ordinance did include restrictions about how many turbines one property can have, regardless of where the turbine is placed. Only one turbine would be allowed per property.
Just one working turbine exists in the city, on the top of the R.A. Smith building on Bluemound Road. Williams, having spoken with R.A. Smith staff, said that turbine produces between 90 and 1,500 watts per day. To put that in perspective, on a calm day the turbine produces enough energy to power a light bulb, while blustery days produce significantly more electricity.
Based on We Energy costs, that’s only about $200 in savings per year.
Williams was asked to work on language for the ordinance that would address overall height concerns and bring it back to the commission for future consideration.
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