COLLEGE TOWNSHIP – Council members Thursday voted 3-1 to adopt an ordinance to restrict the use of windmill turbines, big and small, to get “some degree of regulation on the books” before requests come in.
The ordinance establishes restrictive regulations both for commercial wind energy facilities – with towers 300 feet or higher and huge turbine blades – and for small turbines that generate 60 kilowatts or less primarily drawn by the property on which it is located.
“I would not want Mount Nittany to have wind turbines on top of it,” councilman Daniel Klees said. “I look at this as being a starting point. I’m confident about being a little more restrictive now because we haven’t had a request.”
Council Chairman David Wasson expressed a similar concern.
“The overriding factor in my mind is we have to be protective of Mount Nittany,” he said.
Councilman David Fryer said “we have to be restrictive” in College Township.
“We have to be cautious, and we have to be as restrictive as we can,” he said.
Only Councilman David Koll disagreed, saying the measure is more like a ban than a set of restrictions and suggesting that council zone wind mills out of certain areas rather than virtually ban them with such limits as a 45-decibel noise ceiling that he called “unattainable” and quieter than a squawking crow.
“I don’t like it – I think it’s an outright ban on windmills,” Koll said. “This country has to make sacrifices if we want to achieve energy independence.”
College Township Manager Adam Brumbaugh said before Thursday night’s meeting he does not expect any commercial wind energy company to attempt to operate on Mount Nittany or anywhere else in the township. The township knows of no expressions of interest, he said.
“I don’t see that as being an option with or without this ordinance,” Brumbaugh said. Nor has any local property owner approached the township with a request to build a smaller wind turbine tower, he said.
Mark Holdren, a Centre Regional planner, said the new College Township ordinance is the first of its kind in the county.
An audience member from Somerset County, where big commercial turbines have been built, questioned why the ordinance required a long setback from wetlands. He said Somerset County has turbines “right in the middle of wetlands” without any problems. Holdren replied that wind turbines can kill wildlife, and wildlife frequent wetlands.
For smaller turbines, the ordinance requires at least a full acre of land, with no more than one turbine on it unless it is a nonresidential property of 35 acres or more. A small turbine can be 35 to 40 feet tall and can provide about half of the power needed for one home.
Wind turbines also are prohibited in the township’s forest zoning district above an elevation of 1,400 feet.
Wasson said the ordinance strikes the right balance, but he added that he expects it to be amended as wind turbine technologies improve.
By Mike Joseph
19 October 2007
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