Johnson County homes in the unincorporated area now have the option for an alternative “green” power source. It’s the wind.
On Thursday, May 19, the Johnson County Board of Commissioners unanimously adopted text changes to the county’s Zoning and Subdivision Regulations that enable small wind energy conversion systems, such as wind turbines and generators, to be erected in unincorporated Johnson County to generate electricity. It applies to both residential and non-residential areas, meaning homeowners, farmers, small rural businesses, and property owners may, in effect, produce electricity in their back yard for their own use.
“Wind energy is an abundant, renewable, and nonpolluting energy resource. Its conversion to electricity will reduce our dependence on nonrenewable energy resources and decrease air and water pollution that results from the use of conventional energy sources,” Dean Palos, director of the Johnson County Department of Planning, Development, and Codes, said.
“Small wind energy conversion systems can also enhance the reliability and power quality of the power grid, reduce peak power demands, and help diversify the energy supply portfolio.”
The systems allow Johnson County home and property owners an alternative cost-effective energy source that may qualify for rebates and net metering opportunities through laws and programs enacted by Kansas and federal government to encourage the use of small-scale renewable energy systems.
The text changes define a wind energy conversion system as a wind turbine with blades or paddles, a tower, and assorted control or conversion electronics that reduce on-site consumption of electrical power from a utility company.
The standards were generated in part by the approval in July 2010 of a permit to install a residential wind turbine on a 45-foot tall tower on 41.8 acres located at 18605 County Line Road. The permit was requested by Duane Wood, applicant for Connie Wright, owner of the property near Edgerton.
Thursday’s approval does not pave the way for creation of large wind farms in Johnson County. The changes restrict the number of wind energy conversion systems on a property to one or two. The systems are intended to only serve the property owner and not to provide power to multiple off-site users.
The rated capacity of acceptable turbines also will not exceed more than 20 kilowatts – enough energy for powering an average home, farm, or business, but far from generating the power for lighting up a rural subdivision or small city.
The amendments authorize:
* Wind energy systems installed on the ground to have a maximum height of 80 feet with a minimum blade tip-to-ground clearance of 30 feet;
* Roof-mounted turbines to be no more than 20 feet above the highest point of the roof with a minimum blade tip-to-roof clearance of 2 feet; and,
* The blade length of a turbine will be limited to 25 feet from the tip of the blade to the center point of its hub.
Small wind energy conversion systems would be allowed in all zoning districts on any lot, tract, or parcel where a building is permitted. The systems can be mounted on a monopole or towers supported by guy wires.
The standards also place restrictions on noise and vibration in the operation of a wind energy conversion system along with minimizing visual impacts on surrounding neighbors and the community.
Wind turbines cannot be located nor have a height that affect airspace and air traffic from the Johnson County Executive Airport at Olathe or the New Century AirCenter at Gardner. The projects also must be in compliance with Federal Aviation Administration regulations.
Installation of a wind turbine will continue to go through the normal process for obtaining a building permit, including requirements to meet standard planning and electrical codes, construction drawings, equipment specifications, and site location.
Any proposed project exceeding the authorized heights or other standards for a small wind energy conversion system would require a conditional use permit from the county.
The approval of the “green” wind power changes in the county’s zoning regulations comes on the eve of the Third Annual Go Green Johnson County event from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 25, at the County Courthouse Square in downtown Olathe. The lunch-hour activity will feature booths by community environmental organizations providing information about how to go green and save green.
Go Green also will include a display of alternatively fueled vehicles, performances by Eco Elvis and the Stone Lion Puppet Theater, a live wild animal exhibit from the Ernie Miller Nature Center, and free door prizes. An organic lunch will be offered with proceeds benefitting the county’s 2011 Feed the Need campaign to support 10 Johnson County food pantries.
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