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South Weber may let businesses, residents harness wind power

SOUTH WEBER – A proposed wind energy ordinance that would allow commercial businesses and residents to harness air power on a conditional-use basis is leisurely blowing its way through the political process.

“We’re going to take it slow,” said Emily Thomas, deputy city recorder.

The city’s planning commission recently caught a first glimpse of a rough draft of the ordinance, which would allow “wind energy systems” to be used by commercial businesses and residential property owners in the city.

It will revisit the issue in April or May after getting public input, Thomas said.

“We know we want to do something over and above the public hearing to get public input,” she said, so the city will hold open houses on the issue.

“We have never had a wind ordinance before,” South Weber City Manager Rodger Worthen said of the proposal that would allow for wind energy systems, including tower turbines.

He said a few residents have already expressed an interest in developing a wind energy system for their home.

In January 2011, South Weber Winds approached the city seeking an “exclusive license” to develop a $30 million, 10-turbine tower wind farm near the mouth of Weber Canyon, similar to the nine-turbine wind farm operating in Spanish Fork.

But private ownership of the land where it wanted to place the towers prevented the project from going forward, officials said.

Some of the electricity South Weber Winds would have generated would have powered the cities of South Weber and Uintah, and the rest would have been sold.

Each turbine would have generated 7 million kilowatts of electricity a year, enough to provide power for 400 homes, said Scott Casas, co-owner of South Weber Winds.

When the city was considering allowing South Weber Winds to develop its wind farm, Mayor Jeff Monroe said one factor that would have to be taken into consideration is the look of the project and whether residents would approve having it within their view.

“The wind, as you know, is here, but not here for a long time,” said Worthen, who also wonders whether the winds out of the canyon remain consistent enough for a commercial wind energy system to be successful.

For 18 months, South Weber Winds placed an anemometer at the mouth of the canyon. The company measured winds from a 90-foot-tall tower on loan from the Utah Geological Survey.

Based on data collected, there is enough canyon wind to develop a wind farm in that area, Casas said.

South Weber Winds’ proposal was not the first attempt in the city to capitalize on the canyon winds to produce clean energy.

Years ago, Weber Basin Job Corps built a smaller turbine on its property near the mouth of the canyon to generate electricity for a dorm house at the center.

That turbine has not been operational for more than a decade because of the cost to repair a part.