Regardless of how one feels about industrial wind turbines in Somerset County, there is one detail in the proposed zoning ordinance that will likely require all county residents to pay millions of dollars for the removal of abandoned turbines when they are no longer useful.
This is because the current wording of the proposed zoning regulations for turbines allows the salvage cost of the turbines to be subtracted from the bond the developer is required to post for turbine removal.
Who can predict what the salvage costs of the materials in the turbines will be in 20 years? Some may even be hazardous waste. As it stands now, the county planners will subtract salvage costs from the removal costs to determine the amount of the bond, based on studies by the developer.
And guess what? The developer posts on its website a study that shows salvage costs exceed the cost of dismantling turbines.
This means the bonding could be worthless if predictions of salvage costs are too high. Somerset County could be stuck with paying millions of dollars required to dismantle the turbines – or leave them as a scar on our countryside.
There is a simple fix: Zoning should remove mention of the salvage cost and require the developer to post a bond for 100 percent removal of the turbines. Let the bonding company and developer work out between themselves any subtraction for salvage costs.
No other county that allows industrial turbines subtracts salvage costs from bonding requirements.
Why should Somerset County?
Kathryn Washburn is a retired city planner and U.S. government manager who is familiar with bonding requirements.