The first step toward banning wind farms and large wind turbines in Baldwin County happened Thursday when the planning board voted in favor of an ordinance that prohibits them.
The 5 to 1 vote by the Baldwin County Planning and Zoning Commission is a recommendation to the Baldwin County Commission. The County Commission will vote on the ordinance at a later date.
The ordinance does allow for microturbines and small turbines. The ordinance defines a microturbine as one that can produce one kilowatt of energy or less and a small turbine as one that can generate 50 kilowatts or less.
Two planning board members – Marvin Hayes and Buddy Moore – were not at the meeting for the vote. Board chairman Sam Davis only votes in cases of a tie.
New planning board member Richard Thompson voted against the ordinance.
“I wasn’t comfortable with it in that state of preparedness,” Thompson said. “I think there should be some more studying.”
He said he thought the ordinance was reactive, unnecessary and far reaching.
The ordinance is a result of a plan by APEX Wind Energy to put a wind farm that would consists of about 40 wind turbines in south Baldwin County.
The Charlottesville, Va., company has talked about using turbines that are 520 to 590 feet tall from the tower’s base to the tip of a blade at the 12 o’clock position.
APEX has gone about securing land from private landowners for the project.
Baldwin County Commission members have expressed concerns about the Foley Wind Project. Among the concerns that have been discussed are noise pollution, the size of the turbines and the danger the turbines present to migratory birds.
The commission unanimously passed a 180-day moratorium in February that prohibits the construction of wind farms and other wind-operated facilities that can produce energy in excess of five kilowatts.
The moratorium expires expire Aug. 17. Vince Jackson, Baldwin County’s planning director, said he plans to present the ordinance to the Baldwin County Commission for a vote before the moratorium expires.
The county was granted the authority by the Alabama Legislature during this year’s legislative session to regulate wind energy conservation systems.
The bill the legislature passed gives the county the power to make the regulations in all unincorporated areas of the county, including those that do not fall under the county’s zoning ordinances.
Wade Barnes, an APEX Wind development manager, said earlier this week that he expected the planning board to vote in favor of the ordinance.
But he said his company is not giving up on the Foley Wind Project and plans to make an appeal to the Baldwin County Commission.
“We have landowners that want to be able to exercise their rights to participate in our project,” Barnes said. “We have leased more land. Landowners are consistently supportive of this.”