WOODSTOCK – A pair of residents have urged the town to reject a proposed wind turbine at Central High School, citing safety and other concerns.
They spoke during a public hearing on the plan Tuesday night.
The Town Council is considering an ordinance that would allow wind turbines to be placed in the medium-density residential district by special-use permit.
It calls for turbines to be 70 feet tall or less and placed on land parcels of at least 1 acre.
The ordinance would require setback distances from property lines and occupied buildings of at least 110 percent of the turbine’s height. Once it is no longer being used, it must be removed within 150 days, and the site must be stabilized or re-vegetated.
The proposed ordinance is the result of a partnership between Central High School and James Madison University, which plan to build a small turbine on open space between Central and W.W. Robinson Elementary.
The project is part of the Wind Powering America’s Wind for Schools initiative, which seeks to raise awareness in rural areas about the benefits of wind energy by placing turbines at public schools.
“I think it’s ill-advised,” Fairview Circle resident Robert Clark said during the public hearing. “From the students’ standpoint, as far as a science project, there’s going to be, I will say roughly 99 percent of that program, these students will not be able to take part in.”
Students could be more involved in a solar energy project, he said. Clark said the windmill would be 70 feet tall with blades of 30-35 feet.
“This in itself is dangerous,” he said. “If you have ever seen one of these blades fall off, it will give you cold chills, let’s put it that way.”
That’s not the case, according to science teacher Meredith Bauserman. The tower will be 55 feet tall and its blades 6 feet long, she said.
“This is a very small-scale residential size turbine,” Bauserman said.
Clark said the wind turbine is “a loser” when it comes to energy generation.
Shenandoah County Public Schools Finance Director Jeremy Raley asked the council to support the ordinance.
“We can certainly debate whether or not wind power is the future of renewable energy,” he said. “We do feel that this is a very quality educational project for Central High School. We feel that it will be hands-on.”
Jacob Court resident Elvira McKenna said she also thought a turbine would be dangerous.
“[Do] you know all of the things that this is going to do to your environment, including the karst that we live on?” she asked.
While the windmill might just generate enough electricity to power her classroom, Bauserman said, its educational benefit outweighs its cost.
“I think it’s an exciting program,” she said. “My students are excited about it.”
Remy Luerssen, director of education and outreach for JMU’s Virginia Center for Wind Energy and state facilitator for Wind for Schools in Virginia, said the turbine’s blades spin much faster than bigger ones, and will create an opaque circle appearance easier for birds to see.
The area doesn’t have enough consistent wind to make similar turbines effective for many residents, she said.
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