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County approves wind energy systems  

It took more than six months to work out the details, but a change in Saline County code that will allow individuals to install their own wind-generated energy systems received final approval Tuesday.

The Saline County Commission unanimously approved the amendment, which will accommodate about a half-dozen people who have approached Planning and Zoning Director Vicki Koepsel in the past year about installing their own wind systems.

County resident Richard Nelson told commissioners that he primarily uses propane and wood-burning appliances to heat his home, but said he would like to convert to wind.

“I’m getting older, and someday I might not be able to cut firewood,” Nelson told commissioners Craig Stephenson, Sherri Barragree and Randy Duncan. “Even though I won’t pay for this in my lifetime, (wind energy) is still something I can utilize to reduce my utility bills, and then pass it on to somebody else.”

Koepsel said she developed the new regulations in response to the requests she has received from people and because of the national shift away from oil, which is selling at record highs, and coal, which is believed to be harmful to the environment.

“As costs associated with the use of conventional energy resources like oil, coal and natural gas continue to increase, renewable energy alternatives become more and more attractive to consumers,” Koepsel wrote in her report to the commission, which she presented at Tuesday’s meeting. “Until recently, however, renewable energy was more expensive than conventional fuels. However, with advances in technology, renewable energy is now saving consumers money.”

The amendment to county code means that those who wish to install wind energy systems no longer have to obtain conditional-use permits, which cost about $150 and take about two months to obtain. Conditional-use permits must be reviewed by and receive approval from the county planning commission.

The amendment also sets out various regulations for such operations, including:

n One single turbine shall be permitted for all legal lots of record in unincorporated Saline County up to 80 acres in size.

n The total height of any single turbine shall not exceed 200 feet.

n The lowest point of the rotor blades shall be 25 feet above ground level at the base of the facility.

n Turbine markings and lighting must meet Federal Aviation Administration requirements.

n Wind facilities shall maintain a galvanized finish or be painted a color in conformance with the surrounding environment, such as white, gray, pale blue or pale green.

It took a long time

Sidney Shultz, who has been critical of Stephenson and Barragree and will run against Stephenson in this fall’s elections, chided the commission for taking so long to approve the measure. The county commission considered the amendment in December but sent it back to the county planning commission for fine-tuning.

“I don’t know why we would drag our feet at all for this kind of energy,” Shultz said. “We’ve got wind, and we’ve always had wind in Kansas. We’ve got to use it.”

“I think we’ve all been proponents of wind energy,” Stephenson responded. “We wanted to make sure we did it right so there wasn’t a problem with your neighbors.

“We need to promote it as much as we can. Talking to the three county commissioners is not the real place where the discussion needs to take place. True net metering is where it needs to take place. The state legislators need to get off their duffs and get something done on true net metering.”

Net metering is a method of metering the energy consumed and produced by home wind generators that allows owners to get full reimbursement for excess electricity produced. Federal law allows utilities to purchase individual producers’ excess energy at the wholesale price, rather than retail price. Net metering gives producers credit for excess energy at the higher retail rate.

Darrin Stineman

Salina Journal

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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