A degree in electrical engineering is not a requirement to serve on a plan commission, but someone with such expertise would have come in handy at last week’s Town of Fredonia meeting.
The Plan Commission continued to grapple with regulations for power-generating windmills, following a request last month by Bill Bertram to erect such a structure near Camp Awana and Jay roads.
Bertram applied for a permit for a 100-foot Endurance monopole wind turbine, which he said would generate about 5 kilowatts of electrical power.
Town officials had to defer action on the request, after learning the town has no provisions for a windmill permit and no regulations for the devices.
As the discussion unfolded last week, it was clear questions remain on how the town should handle the issue.
“I don’t know what zoning district would be appropriate for wind-power generators, or whether they should be allowed in all zoning districts through a conditional-use permit,” Supr. Chris Janik, a member of the commission, said.
Officials hoped to gain some insight by studying the Village of Random Lake’s ordinance.
Town Chairman Richard Mueller said a 150-foot height limit for wind turbines made sense, but he questioned whether the town should only allow one windmill on a parcel.
“Maybe we should consider an acre limit, instead,” Mueller said. “A rural parcel could have 100 acres or more, and maybe we would want to allow two towers there.”
He also questioned whether the windmill permit should be issued to the property owner, or the windmill owner – in cases where they are leasing land.
“In a case where a windmill is abandoned and the town wants it removed, what is the best way to make sure the taxpayers of the town don’t get stuck with the bill?” Mueller asked.
Supr. Lance Leider, who was sitting in the audience but has experience with wind turbines on his farm, said the town should consider different restrictions based on whether the windmill is intended for home use or a commercial operation.
Such commercial wind turbines can range up to 500 feet tall, Leider noted.
Mueller said one way to ensure commercial wind turbines do not start popping up all over the countryside would be to limit the amount of power they can generate in the township.
He asked whether limiting wind generators to 10 kilowatts would protect the town from unwanted power businesses taking root.
“Wouldn’t limiting the height restrict the kilowatts?” asked commission member Brian Huiras.
“You wouldn’t be able to run a 100 kilowatt generator on a 150-foot turbine.”
That engineering problem turned out to be more than the commission was ready to resolve.
“I think we have to do a little more research. We have to find the appropriate numbers to put in there,” Mueller said, noting that Bertram’s request was valuable in revealing the void in the town code.
“We are creating this ordinance in case somebody comes along and wants to put up a bigger system.”
Commission members agreed to take up the issue again at their next meeting.
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