EPIC studies wind turbines
Company already has erected 197-foot tower
Verona Press editor
February 27th, 2010
In case you were wondering, that tall, skinny tower on the west side of the city is not a flagpole or an antenna.
Tucked away amid the farmland, it's a 197-foot (60 meter) meteorological tower on the Epic campus designed to study the feasibility of using wind power.
Epic officials, who have been busy planning a third campus - even while the second one was just getting started last year - informed city staff last month they were considering alternative sources of energy for their massive, growing facility on Verona's west side. Among the possibilities were wind, solar, biomass and solarthermal (using sunlight to produce steam). Both Campus 1 and Campus 2 already use a geothermal system for heat, and the Learning Center campus has the infrastructure in place to switch to it.
"We are in the feasibility stage of looking at alternate energy that's right for the environment," Epic director of facilities and engineering Bruce Richards said Tuesday. "We are not looking at alternate energy that uses natural resources. ... And what we're doing we're going to consume on site."
The Morse Company has applied to the Federal Aviation Administration to place four wind turbines at Epic, each up to 466 feet tall, atop the rolling hills north and west of the current buildings. The filings on the FAA site list specific locations and heights for the turbines, but the contractor in charge of the project said Monday those are not necessarily where they will go.
"The FAA determination (of hazard) is just to see because there's an airport nearby; we want to determine what the limitations are of height," said Ed Englert of Morse's Beloit office. "It doesn't mean that's what's going to be put up or the quantity. There's a lot of logistics that are going to have to be overcome."
Richards said he was almost certain the towers wouldn't be anywhere near 400 feet - that was just a worst-case scenario to see what the limitations are.
"We're going to be very sensitive to the neighbors for sure," he said, noting that Epic is studying everything from migratory birds and bats to noise and shadow flicker. "We're going to do the full cross-spectrum analysis."
Wind power has become a hot-button issue in Wisconsin over the past year, with several communities attempting to limit the promulgation of wind farms because of concerns about noise, electromagnetic interference, stray voltage and shadow flicker. However, in September the state Legislature overruled most local control over placement of large wind turbines by passing Senate Bill 185, which Gov. Jim Doyle signed as Act 40.
The law, which enables the Public Service Commission to create uniform wind power siting rules, fit in with the governor's broader goal of increasing clean energy use in the state.
Several city officials were aware of Epic's plans to study wind power and other alternative energy sources, such as biomass, if not all the details about the filings, and the city passed that word on to the Verona Area School District in the January IDAC meeting. Each of the officials said they were informed that the tower would be temporary, and no site plan was required, only a $50 building permit.
"When I talked to the people at Epic about this, they were looking at how they would go about getting permission," city Public Works director Ron Rieder said. "That is the way it was explained to me, that this 197-foot tower was just a temporary structure."
Morse erected that temporary structure in February, and it is expected to be up for about a year, collecting wind speed and direction information, as well as solar information for the possibility of using more photovoltaic cells.
Wind Project Photo of the Day: