Change is in the air for the wind power generation industry in Lawrence County.
The Lawrence County Planning and Zoning Commission Tuesday directed county planning director Amber Vogt to pencil out new law governing the placement of wind generators in the county. Vogt said the rough draft could be ready for a first look at the planning commission’s Aug. 14 meeting.
As the planning commission laid out its timeline for drafting an ordinance, which could take up to six months, they said they would likely deny any new requests for wind towers until the new ordinance is in place.
The commission met in special session Tuesday in Deadwood to set the parameters for the county’s role in telling landowners and wind farm developers where they can erect towers inside Lawrence County.
A series of requests and conditional use permits have been issued in the past year for individuals to put up towers with a wind-catching propeller on top. When the wind blows the propeller spins, activating an electricity generator which pumps a charge into the owner’s home or business.
Power industry experts say the smaller units could produce enough power for a water heater or clothes dryer.
Larger units could make enough electricity to sell it back into the power grid.
Planning commissioners directed Vogt to examine a variety of aspects of the towers and potential issues the towers could create for neighboring landowners.
Among those areas the new ordinance would address are noise, tower and blade height, light reflection of the blades, size of the generator, density of towers per acre of land, intended use, color of the units, bonding, insurance and decommissioning of the unit if it goes defunct.
Vogt and Lawrence County counsel Bruce Outka will compare Lawrence County’s situation with other similar ordinances throughout the country.
Some of the planning commissioners are seeking stringent rules to protect the natural views of the county. “It’s coming. We’re going to have them. They’re going to create ad first impression,” said Planning Commission Chairman Rick Tysdal.
Commission member Tom Brady said the concept of spreading small wind generators around the countryside for power generation is “nonsense,” opining that large units at a central location would be more efficient and effective.
Commission member Marty O’Dea disagreed, saying the wind should be considered another naturally occuring product that can be harvested in Lawrence County. He showed a map that indicated the Black Hills area is a prime location for wind power generation.
Charles Brown, who is in the process of building a wind tower at his home between Whitewood, Deadwood and Spearfish, said that the visual pollution issue is no different than a series of utility poles along a highway. People will get used to seeing them.
Poles can range in height from 50 feet to more than 160 feet depending on the location of the wind and size of the generator.
By Tim Velder
12 July 2008
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