The Baldwin County Commission will consider two ordinances – both of which ban large wind turbines and wind farms – at its Aug. 6 meeting.
A public hearing will be held during the meeting, giving residents a chance to express their opinions about the ordinances.
One of the items, an amendment to the county’s zoning ordinances, and will apply to areas that fall under the county’s zoning regulations.
The other will apply to unincorporated areas of the county that do not fall under the county’s zoning regulations. The county received the OK from the Alabama Legislature to regulate wind turbines and wind farms in those areas.
The ban on wind farms and large turbines is the result of a plan by APEX Wind Energy in Charlottesville, Va., to put a wind farm with about 40 turbines in south Baldwin County. The company’s plan called for turbines that could be 520 to 590 feet tall from the tower’s base to the tip of a blade at the 12 o’clock position.
“Baldwin County has a very unique wind resource,” said Wade Barnes, an APEX wind development manager. “It’s a natural gift that the county enjoys. It’s an opportunity for residents to benefit from in terms of compensation that probably the commission is going to choose forgo.”
In February, the commission unanimously passed a 180-day moratorium that prohibits the construction of wind farms and other wind-operated facilities that can produce energy in excess of five kilowatts. The moratorium expires Aug. 17.
Commission members have expressed concerns about APEX’s Foley Wind Project. The concerns that have been discussed are noise pollution, the size of the turbines and the danger the turbines present to migratory birds.
Drafts of the ordinances were presented to the commission at today’s commission work session in Robertsdale.
“I know there is a lot to take in with this, but there is a lot in here to provide safeguards and also to prevent the large towers from coming in,” said Vince Jackson, Baldwin County’s planning director. “We wanted to make sure that every possibility that we could think of was covered in what we presented to you all.”
Micro and small turbines, the kind that are often found at homes and business, are allowed under the ordinances but certain restrictions will be in place, like setbacks.
The ordinances also restrict how loud the turbines can be.
Turbines are prohibited from posing a burden to nearby properties and from generating noise that is audible from a neighbor’s property line, according to the ordinances.
Commissioner Skip Gruber asked whether their should be some type of decibel limit.
Jackson said other places with similar ordinance have set a decibel limit. He told the commission he would look into whether Baldwin County should do the same.
“Most of the ordinances that I looked at had noise ordinances that they were able to refer to,” Jackson said. “We don’t have that, so we put in kind of a generic, broad statement.”
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