A new local law was passed by the Manlius Town Board June 11, placing an array of restrictions and regulations on the use of windmills in residential and commercial areas.
Although there are not presently any such windmills in the town, the ordinance was met with some resistance and concern. Some people feel it creates excessive restrictions on the ability of residents to own and utilize small-scale wind-energy technology that is growing in popularity as a clean energy alternative.
Manlius is one of many towns in Onondaga County that have begun creating regulations for windmills. Waivers were recently obtained for two businesses in Cicero, a coffee store and a catering service, so that the businesses could install windmills to save energy.
Manlius resident Mike McGrew, who was an early proponent of the ordinance and did extensive research to get the ordinance passed, said there are a number of restrictions in the resolution with which he didn’t agree.
Typical windmills have the capacity to generate enough electricity to power entire homes. The ordinance states that windmills at single-family residences can have a rated capacity no greater than 15 kilowatts at 25 miles an hour.
According to one company brochure, an average home uses about 830-kilowatt hours of electricity a month. This would be attainable only with a windmill nearly 20 times as powerful as the ones permitted by the town.
The energy output of a windmill is in direct proportion to the length of its turbine blades. Manlius Town Supervisor Mark Tetley said in an interview that one of the main points of the ordinance was to ensure that large windmills be kept out of subdivisions and neighborhoods.
The law requires a special use permit, and states that all windmills must be installed either in an industrial zone or in a restricted agriculture zone, which Tetley said will not restrict private homeowners from having windmills on their properties.
Tetley said that although the town has not received any requests from residents to install windmills, either in commercial or residential setting, the town wants to stay ahead of the curve in order to prevent any “eyesores.”
“Windmills can provide some carbon relief and green energy, but I don’t think they’re appropriate for a subdivision,” Tetley said.
Another part of the law requires that owners install their windmills so that the energy gets transferred to the local energy supplier, National Grid. McGrew said this means that the energy generated by private homeowners would be controlled by the company, which sells it back at a retail price.
Other restrictions included a section that limits the noisiness of the windmills, requiring owners to ensure that the windmill will not cause additional noise in excess of 50 decibels beyond the present ambient sound levels before construction.
Another restriction limits the height of the windmill to 80 feet. McGrew predicted that this particular restriction would be frequently appealed, since the height of the turbine is crucial to its energy output.
McGrew said overall, he was in support of the law, so long as there be room for appeals and variances when necessary.
Peter Viglietta is a contributing writer to Eagle Newspapers.
18 June 2008
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