Residents of unincorporated Johnson County will no longer have to cut through so much red tape on their quest to go green.
The Johnson County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Thursday to adopt new zoning regulations that will make it easier for residents to erect small wind turbines and generators in unincorporated areas of the county.
Previously, residents had to request a conditional-use permit, file an application, attend a public hearing and await a full staff review for 70 to 90 days.
Now, the whole process can be completed in about a week by submitting a building application, said Dean Palos, director of the Johnson County Department of Planning, Development and Codes.
“With Kansas being a state with such great opportunities for wind energy, we thought it made sense to take the idea to our planning commission about making it more of a matter of right than to have to go through a conditional-use permit,” Palos said.
Turbines installed on the ground will not be allowed to exceed 80 feet, and roof-mounted turbines cannot be more than 20 feet above the highest point of the roof.
The regulations also restrict the number of turbines on a property to one or two and the rated capacity – the amount of power a turbine can produce at a given wind speed – can’t exceed 20 kilowatts.
A turbine with a rated capacity of 20 kilowatts typically produces about 32,000 kilowatt hours of usable energy every year and can cost upwards of $18,000. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average home uses about 11,000 kilowatt hours each year.
So far, only one resident of unincorporated Johnson County has installed a residential wind turbine, but Palos wanted to see whether this new system would draw in others.
Palos said he could easily foresee a time when small wind turbines make their way into the rest of Johnson County.
“What I’m guessing is the technology will get better and better on them,” he said. “So I think as they get smaller and less obtrusive that we’ll start to see more of them.”
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