Brookings city councilors reviewed a draft ordinance this week that, if approved, could allow private wind turbines in some parts of the city.
The ordinance, previously reviewed by the City Planning Commission in April, is headed back to the board for its recommendation. Then it will come to the city council for further consideration.
City Planning and Zoning Administrator Dan Hanson wrote the draft ordinance earlier this year. If passed, it would allow wind energy conversion systems (more commonly referred to as wind turbines) only in Light Industrial and Heavy Industrial districts as conditional uses. As the draft ordinance is written, they would not be allowed in residential areas.
Currently wind turbines are not allowed anywhere in the city.
Hanson said there is some but not a lot of interest in allowing wind turbines here.
“I’ve heard from less than five homeowners who were interested in an individual wind turbine on their house.”
The major issue with wind turbines is their impact on adjacent properties, the administrator added.
“In looking at that, we drew up a draft that would say if a local business or a local industry wants to put one up on a large tract of land and can keep it away from everybody else so the aesthetic issues are minimized, then that would probably be a viable solution, at least an alternative for that industry.”
Hanson said possible health issues associated with wind turbines are also starting to emerge. Individuals who live close to large wind turbines have reported symptoms from the high-pitched whine of the turbines, the sound of the blades, and ground vibrations. Another potential issue is something called shadow flicker, or the pulsating light effect created when sunlight is interrupted at regular intervals by the turbine’s rotating blades.
Hanson also questioned whether property owners would be able to get a return on their investment if they installed a wind turbine. Residents may not be able to sell power generated by their turbines.
Electricity still cheap
“For us, electricity is still very cheap. So if you look at a residential home that even wants to put up a modest wind tower, they would probably invest $30,000 to $40,000. Now at 7 cents a kilowatt hour, do you think they’re going to get their investment from that $30,000 if they were actually to supplement and maybe not use any of the city’s electrical power?”
The planning commission has looked at the issue several times over the past three years, but officials were willing to hold off on a wind turbine ordinance as they gathered more information, Hanson ex-plained.
Lantern considering turbine
Troy Hicks, owner of the Lantern Lounge, said he’s interested in installing a vertical-axis wind turbine on the roof of his business.
“The University of Sweden has developed what you would call, well, it looks like a 50-gallon barrel. It’s a wind turbine. All it does is sits on the corner of your building and spins and generates electricity.
City could use wind
“This is something I have been doing some research on and would really like to do, possibly at the Lantern on my roof. The city could do it with all their buildings, the university could do it. … I would somehow like to have it written in (the ordinance) that we could allow these types of wind turbines also.”
Hanson said the planning commission could look at the request.
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