The Lake County Board adopted an amendment to an ordinance Tuesday that enables wind turbine towers to be erected in unincorporated Lake County to generate electricity. It applies to both residential and non-residential areas, meaning homeowners may, in effect, produce electricity in their back yard for their own use.
On Feb. 8, the board voted 17-5 against a proposed ordinance that would have allowed the creation of large wind farms. The negative vote was out of concern of the growing population density in the county and to protect the public from the noise and shadow flicker large wind farms may create.
Significantly, under the amended ordinance the county has raised the allowable height of a wind turbine tower to 200 feet from ground up – a 25-foot increase from the originally proposed 175 feet.
The ordinance also requires that turbines mounted on buildings not exceed 15 feet above the highest point of a building. In no case it can exceed 45 feet above a building’s average ground elevation in a residential area, according to regulations.
The ordinance also dictates that the blade tip of a tower-mounted turbine maintain a ground clearance of at least 25 feet at its lowest point.
Jonathan Nieuwsma, business development director of Heston Wind, who spoke at the meeting before the amendment’s passage, said for turbine towers to be efficient in generating electricity he would like to see no height restrictions.
Carole Dorge, principal of North County Development Group in Grayslake, called a setback requirement in the ordinance “too restrictive.”
The ordinance calls for tower-mounted turbines to be set back by a minimum distance equal to 1.5 times the turbine height from the base of the tower to property lines.
Her criticism was shared by Paul LaBarbera, owner of Magitek Energy Solutions in Volo, who labeled the requirement “a big issue” facing his potential clients.
“It prohibits, instead of encouraging people to use wind energy,” said Dorge, pointing out the need to generate power with wind efficiently and economically.
Perhaps as an incentive for people to join in the green revolution, the ordinance permits wind turbine owners to sell excess electricity to an electric utility company. That requires a license from the Lake County Planning, Building & Development Department, according to Eric Waggoner, acting director.
“So far, no one has applied for a permit to build a turbine tower yet. We’ve had inquiries from the industry, but we expect to issue some permits before the end of the year,” he said.
Pat Carey, a board member from District 11 and a former Grayslake mayor, assured the audience that the ordinance as passed is “a living document,” subject to future changes.
“We don’t have a history to guide us, but we’re willing to make changes from suggestions from the public,” she said.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding