LEWES – Officials expect a recently imposed wind turbine moratorium to be lifted soon, as a zoning ordinance for small wind energy systems has been drafted and is under consideration by the City Council.
Mayor Jim Ford said the council hopes to take action on the ordinance in September or October.
“After that time, we’ll have regulations on the books that will address restrictions and prohibitions surrounding the use of wind turbines within city limits,” he said.
The draft, said Councilman Ted Becker, addresses residential wind turbines, pinpointing setback and height restrictions.
“The presence of the (University of Delaware) turbine has helped people realize that (these systems) have great value and are essential to lowering utility bills,” Becker said. “People are looking at various ways to ‘green’ their homes, and we had to draft the ordinance to figure out how we want the city to look if residents became interested in wind turbines.”
The ordinance allows a small wind system no greater than 60 kilowatts of rated capacity and does not exceed ambient noise levels by more than six decibels at the nearest property line.
Additionally, tower height is set at 65 feet for property lots one-half to one acre and 80 feet for those more than an acre.
Roof-mounted turbines are discouraged as extensive “engineering and structural analyses need to be performed to determine whether a house is capable of holding a roof mount,” Ford said. “They’re not forbidden, just discouraged. Roof mounts are something we still need to discuss.”
Becker said he does not know of any residents currently planning to install a turbine.
“A lot of people in this community are in the thinking and discovery process but they have to consider their budgets,” he said. “They are not inexpensive items.”
Finn McCab, a regulatory affairs specialist with Harbeson-based Flexera – a renewable energy system provider – said a typical residential wind turbine costs roughly $25,000.
“We don’t have a high interest in turbines right now because state grant level is relatively low,” he said. “Up until May 2009, the purchase of a turbine yielded a $6,000 grant. Now, (a resident) would only see a $3,000 grant.”
McCab added that he’s contacted the Delaware Energy Office regarding an increase in grant money for residents that install turbines.
“But right now, a solar panel system who produces the same amount of power is more profitable because it comes with a $6,000 grant,” he said. “Essentially, there’s a bit of a lull in wind energy right now.”
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