A bill to regulate industrial wind energy farms in Tennessee has passed the state House and has advanced to the state Senate for consideration.
“I think this is a very good piece of legislation that is making sure that all property owners have a voice in the process,” said state Rep. Cameron Sexton, who sponsored the bill in the House. “It’s a very reasonable approach that takes into account personal property rights as well as the rights of adjacent property owners.”
The bill passed the House 63-23 on Thursday. It was scheduled to be heard in the Senate Wednesday. Sen. Paul Bailey sponsored the Senate bill.
“It’s been a two-year process,” Sexton said of the legislation. “Sen. Bailey and I appreciate all the input we received from our local constituents and various departments.”
Members of the Cumberland Mountain Preservation Coalition [CMPC] made multiple trips to Nashville to speak with lawmakers on the proposed bill and offer suggestions.
The bill regulates industrial wind energy facilities with turbines greater than 200 feet in height. Developers would be required to obtain a certificate of public convenience and to obtain a permit from the local legislative body.
Permits would require a two-thirds majority of the local legislative body. Municipal governments would only be able to approve permits if the county had adopted permitting requirements.
The bill requires the following minimum standards:
• Minimum setback of five times the height of the turbine from the property line, unless adjoining property owners waive that provision
• Completion of an environmental impact assessment to include economic impacts, impacts on ecosystems, viewshed analysis, hydrogeological assessment, risk assessment and mitigation recommendations for shadow flicker and interference with air traffic
• Completion of a wildlife impact assessment
• Noise limits
• Financial security of 100 percent of the estimated cost to decommission the wind energy facility
• Mandatory decommissioning if a facility ceased to generate electricity for 180 continuous days or if any turbine or group of turbines violates the noise limits
• Requirements to return property to its original condition within 12 months of decommissioning
The bill does not affect any wind energy facilities operating or constructed prior to the bill becoming law, nor does it affect local regulations adopted prior to Jan. 1, 2019.
Last year Sexton sought a 15-month moratorium on industrial wind farm projects in Tennessee to allow time for a special committee to study possible regulations for wind energy construction projects.
“Forty-six states have passed some form of state-local control of wind energy projects,” Sexton said.
The study committee looked at regulations implemented in several other states to develop minimum standards. Local governments may strengthen those rules, but not weaken them, Sexton said.
The move for regulations came after a proposed wind energy project atop Millstone Mountain near Crab Orchard came under fire from local residents, who cited concerns about noise, flicker, negative effects on property values and local tourism, possible health effects and negative environmental impacts.
The proposed $100 million project under development by Apex Clean Energy, of Charlottesville, VA, was suspended last summer.
“Based on current market conditions and the project’s fundamental qualities, we have decided not to make this significant investment at this time,” Harry Snyder, development manager, wrote. “Our work on the Crab Orchard Wind project will be therefore suspended until market conditions change to make the project more competitive.”
The company had proposed 20 to 23 wind turbines for the project, with estimated energy production of 71 megawatts of power.