August 13, 2008
What is the likelihood of a 200-foot wind tower coming near city of Madison residents, as discussed in Mike Ivey's story in the July 30-Aug. 5 Cap Times? Consider the following facts.
1. There are no residential-scale wind turbines operating in Madison.
2. There are no residential-scale wind turbines in Wisconsin that are more than 165 feet tall. Any turbine taller than 170 feet would exceed the maximum height that would qualify for Wisconsin Focus on Energy incentives for renewable energy systems. Moreover, most jurisdictions would treat a 200-foot turbine as a commercial wind generator, requiring a conditional use permit.
3. At any elevation reachable with today's turbines, Madison's wind resource is too feeble to be economically viable for generating electricity.
4. Utilities like Madison Gas & Electric offer much higher rates for solar power than wind energy.
Even if there were 200-foot wind turbines available for residential use, anyone proposing to install one in Madison would be committing economic suicide. Of course, no one has and no one will, but that doesn't stop elected officials who ought to know better from voicing these phantom threats as if they were real.
While it may be fun to conjure up headline-grabbing visions of ordinary Madisonians being terrorized by alien wind generators looming over their houses, it has no basis in reality. Such tactics can't help but retard the city of Madison's laudable effort to adopt an ordinance for permitting solar and wind energy systems in a manner consistent with state law.