Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Town board to consider wind turbine project, public concerns

By Michael King
for The Northwestern

TOWN OF MENASHA - Residents of a 10-story condominium along Northern Road here have a unique view of the northwest shore of Little Lake Buttes des Morts and the surrounding area.

They and some neighbors are concerned that a proposed wind turbine demonstration project involving 36 pipe-mounted, 120-foot tall turbines in a nearby industrial area would become an eyesore and cause other problems in the area just east of U.S. 41.

A petition and a letter from residents of the two Northern Road condominiums, the high-rise Park and the Harborage, raise numerous issues, including aesthetics, noise, odors and possible harm to birds that nest in the nearby Stroebe Island marsh.

The letter urges the Town Board reject a request for a conditional use permit for the project requested by Kelly Rousseau of Hortonville and Tom Newton of Manitowoc as Soul Purpose Ministry, Inc., a nonprofit Christian ministry.

The group gained conditional approval of the permit a month ago from the town's Planning Commission. The Town Board will consider the permit Monday night and a public hearing will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday before the Winnebago County Planning and Zoning committee.

One resident, Jim Beasom, a retired paper industry manager with a background in energy and environmental issues and regulations, said except a proposed photovoltaic solar cell project the other components "appear to be old technology" already demonstrated as many public and private sites throughout the world.

He is "not opposed to wind power" but has reservations about the proposal. "In a few years when the poles begin rusting and propellers break, it will look even worse," said Beasom, who also urged the town to consider requiring a bond to cover any future demolition and remediation costs.

"Experience has shown that birds and bats can be injured or killed by flying directly into guy wires, especially during inclement weather," Beasom said. "Guy wires will have an effect on geese, ducks, cranes, hawks and many other important fowl."

Rousseau and Newton said the first phase at the site involves the wind turbines, a biodiesel generator and a 15-passenger bus with a diesel engine that runs on vegetable oil. They said missionaries would be brought in to see the wind turbines to demonstrated as a simple alternative power option that could be used in Third World countries.

All future phases, including other renewable energy projects such as a proposed bio-mass digester/processor to handle sewage treatment plant sludge, a steam co-generation system, a wood chip steam boiler and the solar cells, would require separate Planning Commission and Town Board approval.

Town Administrator Jim Archambo said he is not making a recommendation "at this time" but will urge the board to consider postponing it or send it back to the Planning Commission if questions remain unanswered.

Community Development Director George Dearborn said that, if the permit is approved, design issues and code requirements will be addressed at the staff level before the wind turbines could be erected.

"It's zoned heavy industrial and we have no codes that regulate appearance in an industrial district," he said. "They'll have to get a building permit and demonstrate to us that they can construct this in a manner that's safe."

A building permit would not be issued "until they can demonstrate they can build this meeting all the requirements of the building codes and another other appropriate regulations," Dearborn said.

The county has final authority on the conditional use permit but, Dearborn said, "If we deny they can't proceed further.

Michael King writes for the Appleton Post-Crescent.

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