Pickerington City Council last week gave final approvals to new regulations for the local use of turbines and other wind-energy systems.
Council June 5 unanimously passed the third reading of an ordinance to establish rules for where and how wind turbines and other systems which generate energy from wind can be used in Pickerington.
The measure will become effective July 5. According to city officials, they’re designed to safely address residents’ and businesses’ possible future plans to subsidize their energy use and generation through wind-powered structures and systems.
“We’ve seen these coming up,” said Joe Henderson, Pickerington development services director. “Wind energy is becoming popular across the country and we thought we’d put something in the code to help regulate it so that if people did (install them), they will do it in a safe manner.”
Under the legislation, which is the first such developed by the city, 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.
The city would allow systems on less than 5 megawatts, and tower-mounted systems could not exceed 150 feet in height under the proposal.
Those wishing to install such structures must show their systems do not exceed manufacturer-recommended heights.
“We reviewed a few different communities’ wind-energy policies to make sure we’re in line with those and that our policy is responsible,” Henderson said.
Pickerington’s ordinance states 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. City officials said the wind-energy ordinance is a proactive measure meant to address future projects in the city. To date, they said, there haven’t been wide-scale requests to build systems in the city.
“I understand that the city of Pickerington is open to investigating new opportunities not only for our city but our city’s residents, as well,” said Pickerington city manager Bill Vance. “Currently Pickerington’s development is pretty dense so locating such alternative energy infrastructure in established residential and/or commercial development areas is not likely.
“However our community does have many available open spaces and Pickerington’s near future growth potential remains a high probability so having these regulations in place, for potential guidance, is obviously much better than not having these regulations in place.”
Vance added that the city itself currently has no plans to build wind-energy systems on city property.
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