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Change might be in the air in Baltimore County

Light breezes and low elevations make Baltimore County uninviting territory for big wind farms, but the terrain could be more promising for residents hoping to trim electric bills and their "carbon footprint" with a home turbine. The outlook could hinge on deliberations going on now, as the county revises the zoning code to cover such projects. Meanwhile, one homeowner's plan for the county's first electricity-generating wind turbine remains on hold as neighbors who say they support alternative energy have lined up against it.

Planning board subcommittee weighing rules about residential wind turbines

Light breezes and low elevations make Baltimore County uninviting territory for big wind farms, but the terrain could be more promising for residents hoping to trim electric bills and their "carbon footprint" with a home turbine.

The outlook could hinge on deliberations going on now, as the county revises the zoning code to cover such projects. Meanwhile, one homeowner's plan for the county's first electricity-generating wind turbine remains on hold as neighbors who say they support alternative energy have lined up against it.

"We know this is coming," said Barry Antonelli, who has permission to put up a 120-foot turbine on his 97-acre farm in the Phoenix area, but is awaiting resolution of his neighbors' appeal, which in turn depends on how the new regulations take shape.

"If we get shot down somebody else is going to come behind us," Antonelli said. "Its time has come."

Those who would block Antonelli's plan say they have nothing against renewable energy, but they argue that wind turbines spoil scenic views, make too much noise for residential areas and degrade property values.

Leslie Reistrup of... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Planning board subcommittee weighing rules about residential wind turbines

Light breezes and low elevations make Baltimore County uninviting territory for big wind farms, but the terrain could be more promising for residents hoping to trim electric bills and their "carbon footprint" with a home turbine.

The outlook could hinge on deliberations going on now, as the county revises the zoning code to cover such projects. Meanwhile, one homeowner's plan for the county's first electricity-generating wind turbine remains on hold as neighbors who say they support alternative energy have lined up against it.

"We know this is coming," said Barry Antonelli, who has permission to put up a 120-foot turbine on his 97-acre farm in the Phoenix area, but is awaiting resolution of his neighbors' appeal, which in turn depends on how the new regulations take shape.

"If we get shot down somebody else is going to come behind us," Antonelli said. "Its time has come."

Those who would block Antonelli's plan say they have nothing against renewable energy, but they argue that wind turbines spoil scenic views, make too much noise for residential areas and degrade property values.

Leslie Reistrup of Phoenix, who lives near Antonelli, told a Planning Board subcommittee a couple weeks ago that she and her husband, John, moved to the area recently, but would "not have bought our house if we knew we'd be faced with a wind turbine."

Describing himself as "pro-green," and a "tree hugger," John Reistrup argued in a hearing before the committee that the proposed rules "lack serious noise protection."

Carolyn B. Cook of Glen Arm said everyone speaking up seemed in favor of alternative energy, but "we all want it where we can't see it. I think that's kind of hypocritical."

The subcommittee is weighing the views of opponents, proponents and industry experts as it drafts a recommendation that is expected to be presented to the full board early next month. The subcommittee is considering a 16-page draft report from the planning staff, including a five-page proposed revision of the zoning code.

The proposed revision - covering such details as turbine size, appearance and sound - would allow one wind turbine for residential use on property of at least one acre with a top output of 100 kilowatts to generate power for home use and not for sale to the electricity grid. The turbines would be allowed in any zone except Chesapeake Bay Critical Area buffers.

The proposal sets a turbine height limit of 150 feet and, in an effort to reduce the impact on neighbors, ties allowed height to the size of the property. For example, a 150-foot tower would have to stand at least 165 feet from property lines, meaning the minimum lot size for a turbine of that height would be 3 acres. A 100-foot turbine would need at least 1.4 acres, an 80-foot turbine would be allowed on the minimum one-acre lot.

The revised zoning would set a noise limit of 55 decibels, or roughly the level of a "humming refrigerator," for all but the most extreme conditions such as power failures or windstorms.

If Baltimore County revises its zoning to include wind turbines, it would be the latest of a number of Maryland counties that have done so in the past couple of years. Andrew Gohn of the Maryland Energy Administration estimated that eight of 24 counties and Baltimore City - including Carroll, Allegany, Frederick and Montgomery - have established ordinances governing wind turbines. A number of counties now have turbine rules in the works.

While the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory rates the county's wind resource as "generally poor," as the planning report puts it, windmills have been on the local scene for centuries. Small windmills have been used to run pumps on farms and to grind grain, according to the planning department's draft.

While these windmills were used to generate mechanical energy, Antonelli's would apparently be the county's first to generate electrical energy. In the house they expect to complete by the end of next year, the family plans to include the turbine in a renewable energy array including solar and geothermal systems.


Source: http://www.baltimoresun.com...

OCT 3 2009
http://www.windaction.org/posts/22476-change-might-be-in-the-air-in-baltimore-county
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