May 9, 2012

Council seeking wind energy regulations

By NATE ELLIS, ThisWeek Community News, 9 May 2012

Pickerington City Council last week took a step toward regulating local use of turbines and other wind-energy systems.

Council May 1 unanimously approved the first reading of legislation to provide rules for where and how wind turbines and other systems which generate energy from wind can be used in Pickerington.

According to city officials, the measure is an attempt to ensure public safety and reduce conflicts between people who might seek to employ energy-generating wind systems at their homes or businesses, and those individual’s neighbors.

“We’re just trying to get ahead of the potential building of or interest in wind-turbine (systems),” said Pickerington City Council Vice President Jeff Fix.

The ordinance requires two additional council approvals before it’s enacted.

As proposed, residents or commercial land owners seeking to install a wind-energy system on their properties must first show design plans and receive a conditional-use permit from the Pickerington Planning and Zoning Commission.

They must also obtain a zoning permit and a building permit from the city.

Design requirements would maintain a tower-mounted system must have a “fall zone” – the potential fall area for the structure – of at least 110 percent of its total height from any public road right-of-way, planned road right-of-way, overhead utility lines or other “principal” structures.

The fall zone also must be 110 percent of the system’s total height from all other property lines, unless the affected land owner provides permission through a recorded easement.

If approved, the city would allow systems on less than 5 megawatts.

Tower-mounted systems could not exceed 150 feet in height under the proposal, and those wishing to install such structures must show their systems do not exceed manufacturer-recommended heights.

“We’re just regulating the size, type and where it can be located,” said Joe Henderson, Pickerington development services director.

“If you live in a residential neighborhood, you don’t want somebody to put up some 60-foot tall tower that could fall over and take out three houses.”

Also under the proposed legislation, wind-energy systems in the city could not produce sounds in excess of 55 decibels, except during “short-term events such as severe wind storms and utility outages.”

The systems must comply with all Federal Aviation Administration regulations and Ohio building codes, as well, and applicants must demonstrate their systems have a minimum visual impact to surrounding properties.

According to a recent report by the American Wind Energy Association, less than 1 percent of Ohio’s energy came from wind in 2011, but the state added more wind energy on a percentage basis last year than any other state.

The report indicated Ohio started from a small base, but its wind-energy capacity grew by 929 percent last year.

It said a typical 2-megawatt wind turbine can power 600 homes.

“We wanted to get ahead of the curve,” Henderson said.

“It’s like solar panels,” he said. “People are looking for ways to save money and energy, and if there’s a way to do it, they will.”

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