The idea of wind energy, cheap, clean and powered by an endless free source, is fascinating, and seems like it should be the answer to the renewable energy puzzle. Unfortunately, there are monumental practical obstacles to its widespread use in the power grid at this point, and without the inevitable application of government subsidies, there is substantial doubt that it will ever be economical, particularly vs. centralized coal, nuclear, or gas-fired plants.
What seems closer to practical reality is the use of wind turbines to power individual sites, so that farms and country homes could generate their own electricity and exist “off the grid,” energy independent, even using their turbines to recharge the batteries of electric cars and farm implements. Who knows how much of the nation’s power could be supplied in this fashion? A simple drive through a rural Winona County studded with privately owned wind turbines will tell you that a lot of people are working independently to find out the answers, trying to solve the practical problems standing in the way of individual energy independence. Imagine life beholden neither to the government, nor the oil and utility companies, for energy needs – how utopian!
Jim Jarvis (see front page article) is pursuing that dream and wrestling with those problems out in Fremont Township on a small plot he recently purchased there. Using his background in engineering and the renewable energy business, he has erected his own turbine on his property and removed himself from the commercial power grid, ready to apply good old American know-how and entrepreneurial spirit to the realization of the dream of practical, economical energy independence!
Meanwhile, Winona County dithers along with its own government project, issuing fresh numbers, projections, timelines, etc., on a near-daily basis, wrestling furiously with the knotty problem of where to find fresh grants to fuel its efforts. So far, we are still awaiting the erection of the county’s first wind machine. We are told by the proponents of the county turbine that its real purpose is to blaze a trail for individual entrepreneurs, to show them that Winona County is a viable location for the production of wind energy by private enterprise.
So county officials have beat a path out to Jarvis’ Fremont Township site to wish him well, see what they might do to help, or even take a few tips, right? Not quite. They have shown up, in the form of the Winona County Board of Adjustments, to tell him his turbine needs a zoning variance to exist, which, by the way, they won’t grant. Despite the fact that the county’s specific ordinance regarding wind turbines was allowed to lapse before Jarvis put his up, and the existence of numerous unpermitted wind machines out there, the Jarvis turbine must come down. It is a nonfarm structure, you see, whereas the others out there are for some reason ag-related.
This kind of bureaucratic hairsplitting would barely be credited in an antigovernment satire, proving once again that truth is stranger than fiction, at least here in Winona County.
The Board of Adjustments serves at the pleasure of the County Board. They should have a short, sharp conversation.