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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sunshine Sign Will Fall on Your Car Before Amerts' Wind Turbines

This afternoon's Madison Daily Leader covers the Madison City Commission's first reading of its proposed wind turbine ordinances. The online version of the story omits what was surely the sharpest comment of last night's commission meeting.

Don Amert attended last night's meeting. He and his brother would like to put up a couple wind turbines out by their Ready-Mix cement plant on the southeast edge of Madison (where those turbines would look fantabulous to all the wayfaring travelers on Highway 34... if only they wouldn't distract from our beautiful Madison sign and artificial waterfall). Don questioned the setback ordinances, which require turbines be placed at least 1.1 times their hieght back from property lines, utility lines, electrical substations, roads and homes.

My friend Don suggested such setbacks seem a bit "onerous," especially when you consider that Madison retailers are allowed to situate their tall signs well within toppling distance of roads, property lines, public roads, your parked car, and my bike.

An interesting point! Anyone care to mark off the fall zone of, say, the big Sunshine sign in the middle of town? Or the big flag pole? Or all the lightpoles in the parking lot?

The paper reports city engineer Chad Comes responded by saying such setbacks are standard for wind turbine regulations. In other words, everyone else does it, so don't ask the city complicated questions.

Wind turbines do occasionally tip over... just like signs, cranes, trees, and people. If the city is really worried about tall things falling into the road, we're going to be clearing a long, ugly swath through the center of Madison.

But I'll say this: if Amerts build a wind turbine, it will not, not, NOT fall over. Ever.


  1. The real effect this will have is to dramatically decrease the rate of return on any wind power around Madison. This will mean increased transmission line length installation which in turn increases the cost of the electricity generated by the wind turbine.

    In one fell swoop the city has turned a possible investment into a money loser.

  2. Let's make it happen folks, the Amerts have shown this is possible, and how great would it look to see some great and eco-friendly turbines on the way to our fair city, Madison.
    Boo ugly signs, hooray turbines, a turbine on every house, on every corner, with solar panels too, and geothermal in the backyard, and how about net-metering too?
    Madison-Discover the Wind! Discover the Eco-economy!

  3. Michael-

    The noise you're point out is only a problem with very large wind turbines, 5+ megawatts. Unfortunately the economic efficiency of wind comes with larger blades which can create the noises your articles point out.

    The proposed installation in Madison is less than 150 KW and has a negligible noise foot print.

  4. Yes, noise indeed is an issue for these larger type installations, but the Amert's is so tiny compared to these, the noise levels will probably only bother the Amert's, if they even notice it. Might sound like money to them, kind of like a lot of things can sound too!

    The proposed set-backs are indeed unrealistic and probably skew against making the most of our wind resources, however, it does mention in the language of the proposal of all parties agreeing to lesser setbacks, so maybe that's the opening for dialogue, or at least approval.

    Looking at the current language, I would be unable to install a modest wind turbine on my property, the electric lines, the roadway, and the neighbors, this is a real disappointment for me!

    I've had plans, or rather dreams, of installing a small unit, around 1,000-1,500 for the kit, and combined with the complete lack of ability to put my energy back on the grid, and earn equal return for my energy creation, this seems like a loss.

    Another problem with net metering, on average Americans pay maybe 10 cents a K/W hr, or something close, but utilities where metering is allowed on avergage pay these local producers only 1 cent a K/W hr for the energy they put back on the grid. (these numbers are off I'm sure, but the percentages are about right)

    The viewpoint is that these local producers don't have the upkeep costs of lines and transmission costs, therefore these producers recieve a rate based on what the electric utilities would pay a massive electric source, like a coal fired plant, or hydrodam, or wind farm. This is a major issue that needs to be addressed on all levels for these home-based systems to take off.

    Sure you could store your energy in batteries, but that's more cost, and hard to maintain. Again, a lot of issues all around to work out.

    If the Amert's can make it work, and I'm sure they can, let's help them out, so they can show us, teach us, enlighten us, on how to do this ourselves.

    Let's make it happen, we need to show everyone that these technologies are possible and sustainable on a local level.

    How about a wind turbine at the center of DSU, at the Depot, the fire station, Sunshine, the libraries, the Courthouse, the Schools, The BrickHouse, Heartland, and on from there, how great that would be!

  5. Another problem with net metering, on average Americans pay maybe 10 cents a K/W hr, or something close, but utilities where metering is allowed on avergage pay these local producers only 1 cent a K/W hr for the energy they put back on the grid. (these numbers are off I'm sure, but the percentages are about right)

    When I was in Wyoming last October, I almost bought a cabin on 26 acres east of Powell. (Too many contingencies -- the sellers did not like that.) Anyhow, I checked with their local utility. They pay back people who produce power on a scale that compares quite favorably with what they charge. I calculated that, should I have installed a 10-kW wind turbine on the property (at a significant up-front cost, but with a 35-percent tax break from our socialist President's administration), I could in the long term actually get paid by the utility, with the resulting irony that the more rates went up, the more profit I could realize ...

    ... and I would never have to suffer from cold hands and feet again!

    In states with forward-thinking governments (like Wyoming?!?!), alternative energy has a fighting chance. I've heard that things are not so "liberal" here in South Dakota, but maybe I heard wrong.

    There's another fine house out there -- two, actually -- that have caught my eye ...'

    ... does anyone actually know the numbers in South Dakota for utility buy-back of electricity?

    Oh, Cory, by the way, don't ever, ever, ever say that this or that or the other object cannot tip over. Gaia might hear you, and she does not like mandates, either implied or direct, from us humans. Does the word derecho mean anything to you?

  6. Point taken, Stan! let me rephrase: if we get a straight-line wind strong enough to knock down an Amert project, we'll be picking up a lot more than windmills. (Imagine jerry Prostrollo's white buffalo rolling down Highway 34.)

    Mike; good links! I'd think we could take care of these concerns pretty quickly by lining up some turbines, taking decibel readings at different wind speeds, slapping those noise ratings on the label, and enforcing citing based on noise nuisance regulations. We govern other noisy industrial installations; we can govern these. And we can conduct the serious cost-benefit analysis between these harms and the harms of continued dependence on fossil fuels (respiratory disease, cancer, terrorism, military overstretch...

    ...of course, I hear Stewart Brand says nuclear is the new green. Tony, any chance your dad could build a micro-nuclear reactor to run the Ready-Mix plant... and the rest of Lake County? :-)


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