DALEVILLE – Botetourt County residents will have an opportunity to learn more about wind turbines – and how their local government might regulate them – at a public forum scheduled for April 21.
The informal presentation will last from 4 to 6:30 p.m. at the Greenfield Education and Training Center in Daleville.
It will be the next step in a process that continued Monday night, when the county’s board of supervisors and planning commission met for a work session to discuss a proposed ordinance that would place restrictions on the power-generating turbines, which could stand as tall as 500 feet atop a mountain ridge.
Apex Clean Energy, a Charlottesville-based wind energy company, has said it is interested in building up to 25 wind turbines on North Mountain, about 5 miles northeast of Eagle Rock.
The April 21 public forum is expected to be less about the company’s specific plans and more about the general concerns with wind turbines and how the ordinance will address them.
Still, it will be the first official test of public sentiment about turbines, which have generated opposition in other jurisdictions from residents concerned about the looks of the giant windmills, the noise they generate and the shadows that can flicker from their spinning blades.
The public forum will allow residents to come and go as they please, visiting information booths set up to address different topics. County staff will be available to answer questions and take written or verbal comments.
Although details of the ordinance have yet to be approved, the county is considering a height restriction of 500 feet from the base of the steel turbines to the tip of their blades – that’s 136 feet taller than the Wells Fargo building in downtown Roanoke.
Noise generated from the turbines could be no louder than 60 decibels when heard from the nearest property line. And setback language in the ordinance would require the turbines to stand no closer than 110 percent of their height from the nearest property line, and 150 percent of their height from the nearest occupied building on an adjoining property.
Last week, some county supervisors and planners toured a wind farm in Greenbrier County, West Virginia. Most of the comments about the field trip during Monday’ meeting were favorable.
Supervisor Todd Dodson said the sounds generated by the turbines were so slight that a group of people having a conversation at the base of one of the towers didn’t need to raise their voices to be heard. As for appearances, “It was clean and it was neat,” Supervisor Billy Martin said of the placement of 67 turbines on sites across several mountain ridges.
The wind farm the county officials visited is operated by Invenergy, a Chicago-based company that sparked a public outcry in Roanoke County several years ago when it proposed to build up to 18 turbines on Poor Mountain. That project has since stalled.
The proposed site in Botetourt County has far fewer residents than Poor Mountain. If its plans go forward, Apex has made arrangements to lease property from a private landowner on which to build the turbines.
When tied into nearby utility lines, the turbines would generate 80 megawatts – enough to power 20,000 homes – that would be fed into Virginia’s electrical grid.
Virginia currently has no commercial wind farms, so it’s possible that Botetourt County could host the first ridgeline turbines in the state.
But that is still a long way off. Questions about a variety of issues need to be addressed as the county staff begin to fine-tune the proposed ordinance. Formal public hearings would then be held before the board of supervisors voted on the ordinance.
And once the rules are on the books, Apex or any other developer would have to apply for a special exception permit as part of a zoning process that would look more closely at the details of the specific proposal.
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