May 9, 2011

Sussex removes big hurdle for wind turbines

Written by DAN SHORTRIDGE, The News Journal, 9 May 2011

Sussex County landowners who want to put up windmills have been largely stymied since last year, when state legislators stepped in and took the county government out of the process.

Since then, Sussex has been stuck with an outdated zoning code and been unable to approve electricity-generating wind turbines. Now, the county appears poised to remedy that, and wind advocates are praising the plan.

“My business has come to a standstill since last July,” said Greg Menoche of Dagsboro, who installs wind turbines.

The state stripped out most local rules on windmills and took the county’s board of adjustment out of the approval process. A new ordinance pending before County Council would simply require that windmills be set back from property lines for safety.

Menoche said the height rule – requiring a windmill to be set back the height of the tower plus the height of one blade – would actually be beneficial.

“It certainly allows comfort from the neighbors, that if anything were to happen, it’s not going to fall on their land, it’s going to fall on the owners’ [land],” he said.

The county’s planning and zoning commission last month unanimously supported the new ordinance. Planning and Zoning Director Lawrence Lank said the proposal would simply bring the county code into compliance with Delaware law and would allow residents to start putting up turbines again.

In 2009, about 9,800 small wind turbines were sold in the United States, up from 9,092 in 2007, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

Under Sussex’s ordinance, one wind turbine would be allowed per residential lot, and property owners would have to submit an engineering certificate for the foundation and structure, subject to county inspection. If a wind turbine shuts down and is no longer generating power, it must be dismantled within 12 months, and free-standing turbines must either be unscalable for 12 feet or surrounded by a 6-foot-high fence.

Written public comments are being accepted through June 2. Lank is researching whether the ordinance would allow multiple wind turbines on agricultural land, such as poultry farms. Menoche said he has gotten queries from farmers interested in offsetting their electricity costs with turbines.

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