With the wind generator and inverter refurbished, I had to work on getting approval for installing the system. First, an expert from Wisconsin Focus on Energy, which works with residents and businesses to install cost-effective energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, performed a site assessment. Focus on Energy requires that the entire wind turbine rotor should sit at least 30 feet above any obstruction within a 500-foot radius of the tower. Remembering that trees grow and towers don’t, I estimated tree heights for the next 20 to 30 years to determine the tower’s height. My 1.3 acres has a 70-foot-tall tree to the west, and to the east is a 40-acre white pine forest with trees that will probably reach 75 feet. The site assessor recommended a minimum tower height of 112 feet, and I rounded up to 120 feet.
Unfortunately, my proposed tower location didn’t meet property-line setback requirements, so I had to request a variance through the Merton Zoning Board. In September 2005, I had to attend a public hearing before the Merton Zoning Board of Adjustment (BOA). After I described the project and answered questions from the board members, the meeting was opened to the public. The concerns were declining property values, audible noise, and visual impact to the neighborhood. Our suburban neighborhood homes are about 30 years old and sit on 1- to 3-acre partially wooded lots.
My request for a variance was denied—but after all the elbow grease and sweat I’d put into bringing the Jake back to life, I was determined to see it fly. With the help of an attorney who is recognized as an expert in small wind-turbine legal issues, I appealed the decision.
After numerous discussions between my attorney and the town attorney, and four more public hearings, the BOA granted my variance—but with fifteen conditions attached (including a 70-decibel noise limit at the closest property line, and a requirement that a structural engineer verify that the tower was installed according to the manufacturer’s specifications). After almost six months of effort, I finally received a building permit to erect the wind turbine.