A bill that is pending in the Alabama Legislature could give the Baldwin County Commission the authority to set rules that regulate wind-operated facilities, such as wind farms.
APEX Wind Energy has proposed putting about 40 wind turbines across 10,000 to 12,000 acres of land in south Baldwin County.
The county’s position is that wind turbines currently are prohibited in certain parts of the county even though they are not mentioned in the county’s zoning regulations.
County Attorney David Conner said the bill allows the commission to “establish procedures as to how and what extent they are allowed or.. prohibit them outright.”
Conner said he believes the commission already has the authority to set rules regulating wind operated facilities. He said the county is going through the process of trying to get the bill passed in order to remove any doubt about it.
The commission passed a moratorium in February after hearing about APEX Wind’s Foley Wind Project. The moratorium prohibits the construction of wind farms and other wind-operated facilities that can produce energy in excess of five kilowatts.
The moratorium ends Aug. 19.
Wade Barnes, an APEX Wind development manager, said he understands what the county is trying to do. He said the bill is part of a process to make sure residents’ rights are respected.
“The county commissioners are only trying to do right by their constituents by regulating the development of their area for an industry that’s new to Alabama,” he said. “We support that.”
House Bill 676 was introduced in the legislature Wednesday. The commission and Conner went over a draft of the bill Tuesday during a commission work session.
“This doesn’t establish a single standard,” Conner told the commission. “This just grants you the authority to do it, and then we’ve got to get back to the business once this passes to come forward with some standards whatever that may be.”
If the bill passes, it will grant the commission the authority to regulate the permitting, construction, placement and operation of wind operated facilities in all unincorporated areas of the county.
The bill extends the commission’s power to regulate the facilities in unincorporated areas of the county that do not fall under the county’s zoning ordinances.
It also gives the county the right to set and collect application fees, including fees for experts or consultants the county may need in reviewing an application.
The bill includes a fine of at least $1,000 for violating regulations the county sets.
“It’s needs to be outrageous,” said Tucker Dorsey, chairman of the commission.
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