Ridgebury Township officials did the right thing Wednesday when they adopted a windmill regulation ordinance.
The purpose of the ordinance, called a wind energy facility ordinance, is to provide “for the construction and operation of wind energy facilities in Ridgebury Township, subject to reasonable conditions that will protect the public health, safety and welfare.” It takes into account noise, throwing of annoying shadows, access to the site, distance from other structures and more. It requires a permit be obtained. “There’s a lot of things in there to protect the neighbors and health and safety of the general public,” town supervisor Ken Cooke said.
The question, though, is whether the ordinance goes far enough. Time will tell. In the meantime, the bottom line is commendable. “We don’t want to discourage it in this township; we want to encourage it. That’s why this thing is so user-friendly,” Mr. Cooke said.
As we have said before, we favor the development of alternate sources of energy, including wind power, but care must be taken. Environmental, aesthetic and other issues loom.
Under the state’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard which, according to the Harrisburg Patriot-News, mandates that 18 percent of all retail energy generated in the commonwealth by 2020 come from clean, efficient and alternative resources, it is predicted that between 3,000 and 4,000 megawatts of wind capacity will be built in coming years.
As the newspaper put it, that’s a lot of wind turbines, machines that can be as tall as 450 feet from base to the tip of the blade. The energy they produce is clean, renewable and priced competitively with conventional fuels, but windmills are not without visual, noise and other environmental impacts.
Statewide standards are the best course of action and Gov. Ed Rendell should rededicate himself to focusing his administration on that aspect of the issue.
For, as the Harrisburg newspaper once said, plastering the ridge tops of Pennsylvania with windmills is eventually going to outrage residents who value the beauty of this state and value the birds, bats and other critters that travel along the ridges, for whom windmills pose a threat. It’s simply not in the best interest of the industry, the public and the environment to place massive windmills across the commonwealth without ground rules about where they can be appropriately built with the least amount of negative impact.
Ridgebury officials, to their credit, appear to grasp the essentials of that concept.
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