Officials explore idea of using wind energy systems within city limits
While most of those talking about wind turbines in Northeast Ohio are discussing the possibility of a wind farm off the shores of Lake Erie, Willoughby residents might feel the winds of change blow a little closer to home.
City officials are hammering out the details of a new ordinance that would address the construction, operation and regulation of wind energy systems within city limits.
The ordinance is being drawn up in response to a request from Willoughby Coal & Supply to build a wind turbine on its property.
“Everybody is going green, and we thought it would be a draw to downtown Willoughby,” said Jay Byram, one of the company’s owners.
Willoughby Coal & Supply is the first to approach the city with such a request, so there hasn’t been any legislation to address it.
“What we need to do is establish some regulations,” said Mayor David Anderson. “I don’t think anybody is against alternative energy, but it can’t affect surrounding properties, and we have to have some reasonable things in place for safety issues.”
Still in its draft phase, the ordinance addresses permit applications, a turbine’s visual appearance, noise and shadow issues, setback distances from buildings and roads, and liability insurance, among many other things.
As of now, construction of such turbines would be limited to land zoned as commercial manufacturing, limited industrial and general industrial, City Council President Jerry Ranally said.
“Over time, it could change from what we’re initially permitting,” Ranally said. “It may be good for residential areas.”
Location could be a sticky issue for Willoughby Coal & Supply. At 3872 Erie St., the company is within Willoughby’s downtown historical district, and that might affect whether it’s permitted to build a turbine.
“It would have a visual impact,” said Anderson, comparing the height of the requested turbine to a 20-story building.
Byram said his company wants to build a 195-foot turbine, a height he said was necessary to capture wind gusts strong enough to make a difference.
“Originally, we wanted to do 60-foot towers, but we found out we couldn’t light a light bulb with it,” he said.
The wind turbine in front of the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland stands at about 150 feet, according to the center’s Web site.
If a turbine is built, Byram said some of the energy produced would be used to reduce his company’s energy costs, while some of it might be sold.
“It could possibly make us some money,” he said. “We can pay our bills and feed some energy back into the grid.”
Before a turbine is built, however, the ordinance will have to be completed, and Willoughby Coal & Supply’s proposal would have to go before the city’s Planning Commission, endure a public hearing and gain City Council’s approval.
By Michael C. Butz
19 February 2008
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