When a cold wind blows, local industrial sites may be generating renewable energy. The city’s License and Ordinance Committee got to work last week on adapting a sample ordinance for the siting of wind turbines, and Local 150 may be the first property owner to use it.
The ordinance will govern the siting of larger facilities – Wind Energy Conversion Systems (WECS) and substations that generate electricity to be sold to wholesale or retail markets. Owners of small towers that generate 3 MW or less are not subject to the ordinance as written.
The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 has received Federal Aviation Administration approval to erect wind turbines at its training center in south Arsenal Road. The union’s Apprentice and Skill Improvement Program (ASIP) is developing the first registered wind turbine technician program.
Wind turbine technicians perform general maintenance, operations and inspections on wind turbines and related facilities, according to the Local 150 ASIP website.
The turbines will not just be for training purposes, the union will also have an operating turbine that will generate electricity that will be sold into the electric grid.
Although the union has FAA approval for the towers, it will have to follow the zoning guidelines of the city for siting, which currently do not exist. Creating the ordinance will benefit the city two ways: It will address Local 150’s needs and satisfy a requirement of the RidgePort Logistics Center annexation agreement that tasked the city with developing its own renewable energy ordinance; with a two-year timeline; to be applied to the facility. The WECS is one of those renewable energies.
“This is the perfect timing now. Our two years will be up in May … so we need to move forward,” city administrator Tony Graff said.
Committee members discussed zoning, fall ratios, noise and birds, and will be addressing their concerns as the ordinance moves through the approval process.
• Zoning – Local 150 is zoned I-1 light industrial/commercial, and its zoning classification may need to be changed. City officials intend for the towers to go up in areas with higher industrial zoning classifications, and so have to determine in which classifications WECS will be acceptable as a permitted or conditional use. Zoning classifications may also take tower size and generation capability into account.
• Fall ratio – To be considered in siting are the fall ratio; per the ordinance, a tower has to be a distance of at least 1.10 times its height away from power lines, roads, communication towers and property lines.
ance refers to the Illinois Pollution Control Board regulations, which are not incorporated into the city code. City code does not restrict noise by decibel. Any sound determined to be a nuisance is prohibited.
“Depending on where we zone it; if we zone it close to a residential area; then some of the residents might be concerned,” Alderman Darla Neises said.
• Avian habitat study – A qualified professional, such as an ornithologist or wildlife biologist has to conduct an avian habitat study as part of the siting approval process to determine if the installation will have a substantial adverse impact on birds. Graff will see if the USDA Forest Service Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie has qualified staff the city can count on as a resource.
Graff estimates that Local 150 is about 90 days away from requesting a permit to put up a tower. City officials anticipate having the siting ordinance in place before that request is made.
Since the ordinance is technically a change in the zoning code, the city is required to hold a pubic hearing before its approval. The hearing will be held Thursday, Feb. 2, at 6 p.m., before the Planning and Zoning Commission. City officials intend to allow ample opportunity for public input.
The model ordinance will go back to the committee at least once before being introduced to the City Council, for modifications suggested at the public hearing. Local 150 reviewed the document and had no objections.
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