City officials properly are moving forward to fashion an amendment to the zoning ordinance that would allow the siting of wind turbines in the city.
The use of wind turbines and windmills is not addressed in the city’s zoning amendment. Under the proposal being considered, they would be allowed through a special permit process before the Planning Board.
Last week the City Council Land Use Committee sent what it called a “viable ordinance” to the Planning Board. The board will set up a public hearing process. When the Planning Board hearings are completed, the City Council will hold hearings. While the two-step process may appear cumbersome, it will give residents time to air their views and will ensure that potential negative effects on neighborhoods are addressed upfront.
Worcester’s 250-page “Climate Action Plan” released recently clearly shows the city’s interest in harnessing wind power as a clean and renewable energy source. Among its recommendations is that the city develop plans to install a 250-kilowatt wind turbine at the new North High School.
Wind power is intermittent, so it always will be a supplemental source of electric power. Whether refinements in technology will make it economically viable for large-scale applications without subsidies remains to be seen.
By regulating the height of the towers, property-line setbacks, noise levels and the visual impact of wind turbines, the proposal heading for the Planning Board properly balances quality of life issues with the city’s need to take advantage of advances in renewable energy technology.
To date, only Holy Name Central Catholic High School has made public a proposal to build a wind turbine within the city’s limits. It is appropriate for the City Council and Planning Board to get regulations for such structures in place, so that they won’t have to scramble every time a new proposal comes up.
5 March 2007
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