CENTRE, Alabama –The Cherokee County Commission yesterday adopted a resolution supporting regulations on wind energy farms in Alabama.
County Commission Chairman Kirk Day was not at the meeting, but is expected to sign it later this week. The other members of the commission voted to approve the resolution.
The measure supports a bill pre-filed by State Sen. Phil Williams (R-Rainbow City). Williams’ draft bill would require wind farm developers to get a permit from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. It would also establish height requirements, setbacks, and mandate that noise from turbines not exceed 50 decibels. It would also require any turbine which stays inactive for more than one year to be removed by the system’s operator.
The commission’s resolution mentions “a major project that would impact our entire region with no approval from local governing authorities.” It is similar to a resolution passed in October by the Gadsden City Council.
Williams’ bill was inspired, in large measure, by a proposed wind farm project by Pioneer Green Energy that would stretch from Etowah to Cherokee County. Pioneer Green officials say new technology will allow windmill farms to flourish in the Southeast, a part of the nation that has seen very little wind energy development.
The company announced last year that it has acquired all the land rights it needs for the project to proceed. A group of landowners is currently suing to stop the project. An opposition group has also been working against the windmill farms, saying they will spoil the natural beauty and property values of the area.
Patrick Buckley, development manager for the Texas-based wind turbine developer, said late last year the company is still moving forward with the projects, but that both have been pushed back due to time needed to secure permits and agreements with utilities which would purchase the power generated.
Buckley said following a meeting of the Etowah County Commission that the $40 million Cherokee County project, which calls for seven to eight turbines, probably would not begin construction until 2015. The larger Etowah County project, which has a projected 30 to 45 turbines costing $160 million, probably would begin no earlier than the end of 2015.
Buckley said Williams’ proposed bill would make wind energy developments “near impossible” through overly stringent regulations. In an official statement from the company, Pioneer Green said, “We feel this bill is actually intended to be a moratorium on wind energy development.”
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