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Harnessing the wind

Should the city of St. John’s allow small-scale wind turbines to be erected within the city?

And if so, where should they be allowed and what guidelines should be considered?

Those were the questions put to the public Wednesday night at a sparsely attended public meeting at city hall.

Gerry Skinner was the only person who spoke to the handful of city staff and news reporters in attendance.

Skinner’s company – Labrador Coastal Equipment Ltd.  – proposed last April to build a turbine for a commercial business on Kenmount Road near Kelsey Drive, which led council to discuss the need for regulations for wind turbines.

Council turned down that project at the time. The main reason was the turbine would have been too close to the Blue Buoy building and the city wanted a drop zone established around the turbine one-and-a-half times its height.

That way, if it ever fell over, it wouldn’t damage nearby properties, buildings or come down upon roadways.

City staff gathered information about what rules govern turbines in other jurisdictions and drew up a draft list of regulations, which were presented at the beginning of the meeting.

The city is suggesting that only small wind turbines be allowed, with a maximum output of 300 kilowatts, that they only be allowed in commercial, industrial or open space zones and not allowed in any residential areas.

Any proposed wind turbine would have to go through a land use assessment report process which would have to look at everything from height and distance from neighbouring properties, buildings and roads to noise and a plan to remediate the property once the wind turbine was beyond its life expectancy.

Although the meeting dealt with overall regulations for wind turbines, Skinner based his presentation on his previous proposal, which he suggested he would bring before council again – with some modifications – once the news rules are adopted

While he promoted the environmental reasons for wind power, he also showed how his client would benefit if the city allows the turbine.

“The client will receive an 80 per cent savings (on their power bill) over the first 25 years,” said Skinner. “A project this size would save the owner $63,000 in the first year of operation.”

He went on to say the total savings over 25 years would be about $6.3 million. And Skinner said that is after all maintenance costs are included.

He said the turbines are sturdy and safe; with features built in to prevent things such as ice buildup on the blades. He also said they are quiet, no louder than the traffic would be on Kenmount Road.

Skinner said the city should allow turbines in high traffic areas such as Kenmount Road to showcase them as a way to encourage others to consider wind power for their commercial or industrial operations.

He also said that both Newfoundland Power and Newfoundland Hydro are willing to buy excess power from privately owned turbines for the province’s power grid.

City council will vote on the proposed regulations for wind turbines at an upcoming council meeting.