MADISON – Plans for the central part of Madison County to be measured for its suitability for a possible wind farm took a step forward Thursday evening.
Following a pair of public hearings Thursday evening, the Madison County Joint Planning Commission approved two conditional-use permit applications sought by Emerick Wind of Chicago to install temporary wind towers.
They next will be considered by the Madison County board of commissioners, which is expected to hold public hearings on the requests Tuesday, Dec. 10.
One is for a temporary meteorological tower on land near the intersection of 834th Road and 543rd Avenue, which is south and west of Battle Creek. It is proposed to be up to 198 feet tall. The nearest occupied residence will be more than a half-mile away.
The second temporary tower will be on land east of 540th Avenue, along 834th Road. It will be up to 265 feet tall and will include a light at night to alert pilots, as required by the FAA. The nearest occupied residence will be more than one-third of a mile away. Towers more than 200 feet tall are required to be lighted.
The two towers will be located roughly 3 miles apart, south and west of Battle Creek, roughly in the middle part of the county.
Heather McWhorter, the county’s zoning administrator, said both conditional-use permits go with the properties, with the precise location on the properties determined when building permits are sought.
They basically are able to be located in any area of the properties, provided they meet setback requirements. Neither tower will make noise.
Both “met towers,” as they are called, will not require any foundations. Met towers measure wind speed, direction, temperature and have instruments to record them at a couple of levels.
Lucas Buseck of Chicago, a development associate of Lincoln Clean Energy, said the towers would be secured by sets of guy wires and are expected to be up to three years.
Buseck said Lincoln Clean Energy is developing the wind project for Emerick Wind. Each structure will take up about 1.5 acres, and all surrounding areas will be able to be continued to use for what they currently are, such as farming.
“It will be very similar to a cellphone tower,” he said.
Weather permitting and pending approval from the county board, the met towers would be installed after the new year.
Several residents of the area attended the meeting and asked questions, including how long they will be up, where they will be located and if turbines have to be located in corners of properties.
Generally, wind turbines are located in corners to avoid center pivots. They also must be at least 1.1 times the height away from the nearest road to meet county setback requirements.
Turbine locations are determined by the company and the landowners and must meet all county setbacks.
Last year, Invenergy Wind Development of Denver obtained permits for two met towers in roughly the same general area from the Madison County board of commissioners.
Invenergy built and operates both Prairie Breeze projects west of Madison County and the Upstream Wind Farm, north of Neligh.
And more than 10 years ago, the county approved two conditional-use permits for met towers requested by Third Planet Wind Power of Bad Axe, Michigan.
Those met towers were located between Battle Creek and Norfolk and in the Meadow Grove area. The information collected is considered proprietary, so it isn’t known what information those towers yielded. No permits for wind farms were ever sought.
Generally, it takes two to three years’ worth of data and sometimes more for companies to determine whether to proceed with a wind farm. And then, the company must secure a purchaser of the electricity before it becomes feasible to move forward with a wind farm.
The Madison County Joint Planning Commission met Thursday evening at the Madison County Extension Office in Norfolk.
Members present: Richard Grant, Jim Prauner, Stan Schapman, Raymond Flood, Merlin Milander and Merlin Oswald.
Members absent: Zach Westerman, Joy Griffith, Steve Abler and Roger Acklie.
Others present: Zoning office assistant Jennie Martinez; eight members of the public and one media representative.
Meeting lasted: 40 minutes.
— Commissioners conducted a pair of public hearings and approved the applications of Emerick Wind to install temporary meteorological towers on land located near the intersection of 834th Road and 543rd Avenue, and on land located east of 540th Avenue and 834th Road. Both are in the central part of the county, south and west of Battle Creek.
— Heard Heather McWhorter, the zoning director, provide a monthly report. Commissioners decided to skip the December meeting because of conflicts and a light agenda, so far. The next meeting will be in January.
— They also discussed making requests on houses of less than 40 acres a procedural matter instead of requiring a conditional-use permit, provided the requests meet all density requirements and are located on sufficient roads. The reason is the county has never denied one that has met the requirements and they add about six to eight weeks for the homeowner, which can be an inconvenience. Commissioners directed McWhorter to meet with Joe Smith, county attorney, to get his thoughts and possibly consider it at a future meeting for possible action.
— Finally, commissioners discussed possibly tightening restrictions on “shouses,” which are shop houses. Shouses may be allowed where garages aren’t and the county wants to make sure people who seek shouses are building a kitchen, bathroom and bedroom with the shop as required and not just a garage.
— Reviewed the building permit report.
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