Changes in wind turbine law being considered

EAU CLAIRE COUNTY, WISCONSIN - An attempt to loosen up Eau Claire County's wind turbine regulations have not made it cheap enough to buy a wind system for a household or small farm, according to a local farmer and energy experts.

Kristina Beuning considered installing a wind turbine on her farm, but she said the county's requirement for an expensive monopole structure versus a lattice support for the wind turbine engine would make it too expensive.

"I am really concerned about how overly restrictive this ordinance is as it is currently written," she said.

Beuning, who grows vegetables and fruits at Sunbow Farm in the town of Brunswick, had a site assessment done and is still undecided on buying a wind system to help power the farm.

After hearing from Beuning, a couple other county residents and letters from energy experts opposing some of the regulations, the Planning and Development Committee agreed to table law changes proposed by county staff to allow 10 days for comment from the public and town governments.

Todd Andrews, the county's senior planner, said changes to the county's wind ordinance were proposed after a local wind turbine dealer said it imposed restrictions beyond those allowed by state law. To encourage wind power, the state allows local government to regulate wind turbines for health and safety concerns, but not impose restrictions that would make them too expensive for landowners, Andrews said.

Requiring monopoles instead of less expensive towers made from metal lattices or held up with guy wires, does make it cost prohibitive to farmers, Beuning said. Andrews did note that a monopole construction would add about $20,000 to the cost of a residential wind turbine system designed for home or farm use.

Another change to the law would require wind turbines to be set back from the property line to a distance equal to 1.2 times their height. Beuning and Andrews said the county doesn't have consistent wind above 12 mph to entice commercial wind power.

"The reality is Eau Claire County is not a very viable wind source," Beuning said. There are only a couple of personal wind turbines in the county, Andrews said: one in the city of Eau Claire and another in Fall Creek.


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