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Hearing set on wind turbines  

Credit:  By Cody Lowe, The Roanoke Times, www.roanoke.com 27 February 2011 ~~

After a year and a half of study and near-constant community buzz, Roanoke County will open the floor Tuesday to public comment on proposed regulations for large wind-energy farms.

The Planning Commission will conduct a public hearing at 7 p.m. at the county administration center, 5204 Bernard Drive. Afterward, it will make a recommendation to the board of supervisors for final approval later.

For months, letters to the editor, blogs and e-mail lists have been lit up by comments for and against giant wind turbines that might be well more than 400 feet tall and visible for miles from the county’s ridge tops.

While many commentators specifically have addressed a proposal for a 15- to 18-tower turbine farm on Poor Mountain, the county has yet to have an official application for that project.

A potential developer, Chicago-based Invenergy, has leased a 2,000-acre site not far from the cluster of broadcast towers on Poor Mountain and announced its intentions for a wind turbine farm, but as of Friday had yet to receive the first approval it needs – from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The company plans to use 443-foot-tall turbines, which would be two to three times as tall as the broadcast towers elsewhere on the mountaintop.

The Federal Aviation Administration has yet to determine whether the turbines pose a hazard to air traffic.

A listing on the FAA website for the 18 turbines states that the proposal has yet to be studied, and that public comments are not being taken.

Although all of the turbines will be the same 443-foot height, their elevation above sea level will vary, depending on their placement on different parts of the ridgeline. The elevations range from 3,749 to 4,368 feet above sea level, according to the FAA website.

The zoning regulations being considered Tuesday were drawn up after months of work by county planning staffers and the planning commission. The hearing was postponed from earlier this month when Supervisor Ed Elswick, who represents the area where the tower farm is planned, asked for more study.

His fellow supervisors, however, directed the planning commission to move ahead with its work. And just last week, the supervisors – with Elswick dissenting –approved rules for what are known as small and micro wind generation facilities, designed to supply power to a residence or small business.

The latest regulations, as proposed, would require that every “large” and “utility” project receive specific approval from the supervisors through a special-use permit.

A “large” system would consist of one or more towers producing less than 1 megawatt of electricity each. A “utility” system would have more than one tower, each capable of 1 megawatt or more.

Towers would have to be monopoles, could only be placed in two agricultural and two industrial districts, and, although no specific height restrictions are defined, would have to meet height requirements set by the supervisors.

The generators would have to produce no more than 60 decibels of noise at the developers’ property line, the effects of flicker and shadow from sunlight through the turbine blades would have to be “mitigated,” and the turbines could cause “no disruption of radio, telephone, television or similar signals.”

For Tuesday’s hearing, overflow seating will be provided on the fourth floor of the administration building if the 105-seat, first-floor board room fills up.

Staff writer Laurence Hammack contributed to this report.

Source:  By Cody Lowe, The Roanoke Times, www.roanoke.com 27 February 2011

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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