EBENSBURG – Cambria Township supervisors are delaying action on a proposed ordinance governing small, residential wind turbines until some sticky issues are resolved.
The ordinance, similar to one passed by Portage and Jackson townships, calls for a $500 permit fee and as much as $1,500 annually if power generated by a household-use windmill is sold to a power company.
Those fees have sparked objections and some misunderstandings, said Solicitor Dennis Govachini, and a workshop and public forum are needed before supervisors act.
No date has been set, although the proposed ordinance was advertised last week.
Part of the confusion seems to be that the $1,500 fee is per megawatt of power produced, which means per million watts.
That’s more like the capacity of an industrial wind turbine than a smaller windmill used to power a farm or household, Govachini said.
Small windmills generally produce less than 100 kilowatts, or 100,000 watts.
But other issues must be aired as well, he said.
“This is new ground. Many questions have come up since the ordinance was first discussed, so we need to get the planning commission and others together in a workshop,” Govachini said.
The ordinance was requested by the Cambria Township Planning Commission in anticipation of residents turning to personal turbines as energy prices continue to rise.
Small windmills can power homes, farms and even small businesses and are called “premises use” turbines.
But if used to supply electricity to others, they become, in a sense, small utilities. That’s where an annual fee could come in, but it is unlikely that a premises-use windmill would generate a megawatt, supervisors said.
For example, a 100-kilowatt turbine could power a large school, according to the American Wind Energy Association, a nonprofit advocacy group in Washington, D.C.
The cost of residential turbines depends on the kilowatts needed. The range is $12,000 to $55,000, the association says.
By Susan Evans
19 May 2008
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