Wisconsin village mulls limits on residential wind turbines

Posted on November 10, 2009. Filed under: Wind |

From a story by Carl Agnelly on WKOW-TV:

WEST BARABOO (WKOW) — The top of a shed on Ron Ballweg’s property is speckled with solar panels.

“I just wanted to be energy sufficient for myself, so if something happened, I’ve got electricity,” Ballweg said on Monday.

Then the West Baraboo man wanted to do more. He found another renewable way to power his furnace. “I noticed here in the winter, it’s always windy down here,” he said, describing his backyard, one block from the Baraboo River.

So up went a residential turbine. It’s planted on top of the same roof as his solar-electric equipment. When tilted upright, the panel reaches a height of 40 feet.

At least it did. Last spring, a building inspector noticed the turbine needed a permit, based off other requirements for towers.

“So I thought, well, I’m going to flip it up in the air for a week or two so they see what it looks like,” Ballweg said about village officials and neighbors. “It’s not that big. It’s not that intrusive.”

Ever since, village board members have been spinning over what to do with Ballweg’s turbine, and any future ones that another resident might want to install.

The local planning commission last week recommended any turbines be set back from property lines, power lines, and roads… at least as far away as a turbine is tall.

Having said that, area residential turbine experts doubt turbines like Ballweg’s might be effective. Mike Kieraldo with the Madison office of Seventh Generation Energy Systems said as a general rule, a turbine should be at least 80 to 100 feet. At that height, wind is less obstructed by trees and buildings.

“The taller the turbine, the more wind you’re going to get out of that machine,” he said.

Building a taller turbine, though, could then be difficult if communities adopt standards like what West Baraboo is proposing. In a residential neighborhood, property lines are tighter. For that reason, Kieraldo said private wind turbines make the most sense on farms or rural residential property.


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