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Friday, December 12, 2008

Mini wind turbine proposal blows into West Allis

From an article by Mark Schaff in West Allis Now:

West Allis residents will get the chance next week to tell the city if proposed restrictions blow too gently or too hard when it comes to an alternative energy source for local homes.

A public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 16, on an ordinance that would allow West Allis residents to install mini wind turbines on their properties. The public hearing will come at the beginning of the Common Council meeting at City Hall, 7525 W. Greenfield Ave.

On Dec. 3, the Plan Commission unanimously recommended approval of the ordinance.

Wind proponent
Earlier this year, resident Conrad LeBeau asked the city to change its municipal code so he could install such a system at his residence.
LeBeau, who has long been interested in alternative energy, had purchased a wind turbine with a 46-inch rotor diameter — a device capable of generating about 400 watts of power in a 28-mph wind.

In an interview earlier this fall, LeBeau, 65, said he could power his garage and lawn lights with the turbine, but hopes to continue experimenting to someday reduce his energy bill to zero.

Setting the rules
City officials responded to LeBeau’s request with a proposed set of rules that address safety and noise concerns.

Under terms of the ordinance, home-based wind energy systems could only be placed outside homes in certain places.

A tower for a wind energy system must be set back 1.5 times its total height from any public road right of way and all property lines and utility lines not serving the property.

As proposed, the system could only be located in a backyard, and all electrical wires must be underground. The base of the wind system must be at least eight feet from the ground and the total height could not be more than 60 feet.

The system could generate no more than 60 decibels of sound — the rough equivalent of normal conversation, according to the University of Wisconsin’s College of Engineering— as measured from property lines.

Too restrictive?
City officials stressed safety in drafting the ordinance because of West Allis’ small lot sizes and high-density neighborhoods, said Steve Schaer, planning and zoning manager.

LeBeau said he shared those same concerns, but he also wanted the city to keep costs and restrictions at a minimum to give homeowners flexibility.

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