This is on the fringes of a perpetual motion idea. If the wheel is to move against any friction at all or gain / change Kinetic energy then some work will need to be done. Sliding rods etc. will involve work against friction.
There are an infinite number of arrangements that will not change the PE and some of them will involve setting up an imbalance of torque. Changing the torque situation need have nothing to do with the energy situation - until the wheel is allowed to move. I get the impression that someone is looking to find a Paradox here but, as long as Force and Energy are not confused with each other, there is nothing strange about the set up.