Lake Wales couple hopes to build wind turbine on property

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A Polk County couple has their sights set high on building a wind turbine on their property. It would be the first ever in the county.

And, they're one step closer to doing it. Tuesday, Commissioners approved their request.

Maurice Ramirez and Allison Sakara of Lake Wales know a thing or two about cutting energy costs.

"The structure is coated with a ceramic acrylic that reflects sunlight," Ramirez said about his home. "We have 81 solar panels producing just under 21 kilowatts in bright sunlight."

For a while, those solar panels meant they only owed Duke Energy their monthly service fee. But, once costs went up, they looked for another source on their 5-acre property.

"This will be where our wind turbine will eventually stand," Ramirez said proudly, Tuesday afternoon.

The plan is to have it stand a 91-feet tall. Before they could do anything, they had to get County approval, and soon learned their turbine would be the first ever in Polk County.

"They looked at us and said you and us, as a county, are going to write an ordinance," Ramirez said.

County Planner Erik Peterson said their current ordinance didn't allow for wind energy conversion systems. So, they had to amend it. At first, there were concerns about noise, height, maintenance, and dangers to birds.

"Has there been any consideration on the strobe effect on adjacent property owners?" asked Commissioner George Lindsey at the first hearing on February 22.

Conditions were laid out with setback and height limits. Wind turbines cannot be near endangered bird habitat, must deter nesting, have low noise, no lights, rust, or signage, and must have manual braking. By Tuesday's second reading, it had unanimous support, meaning Ramirez and Sakara, and anyone else in Polk County can harness the power of the wind.

"It's nice to be able to do something you feel will bring more renewable energy to the forefront," Sakara said.

The three-blade turbine comes at a cost of about $100,000. But, there is 30 percent federal tax credit. If the wind blows in their favor, they hope to have it paid off in about 13 years.

"As a small business owner," Sakara said, "If I can run my tiny little business from here in Lake Wales in the forest and make all the energy I need to do that, I think that's empowerment."

Up next is a Board of Adjustments hearing on March 22 where they hope to get a height variance approved. If everything moves forward, they'll have their wind turbine up and running but July.