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Planners grind away on wind rules

The wind turbine section of the county's draft tall structures ordinance is going back to the planning department for changes in setbacks for utility scale turbines, waivers and more after a thorough reading Thursday night by the County Planning Commission. The issue garnered mixed feelings from the public during the planning commission's special meeting in the boardroom of the administration building, as some supported the draft ordinance and the proposed setbacks in it while others felt their earlier comments regarding human health near wind turbines "fell on deaf ears."

The wind turbine section of the county's draft tall structures ordinance is going back to the planning department for changes in setbacks for utility scale turbines, waivers and more after a thorough reading Thursday night by the County Planning Commission.

The issue garnered mixed feelings from the public during the planning commission's special meeting in the boardroom of the administration building, as some supported the draft ordinance and the proposed setbacks in it while others felt their earlier comments regarding human health near wind turbines "fell on deaf ears."

Following the commission's nearly three-hour long deliberation of the wind turbine section, Chairman Harry Archer said that with few standards available for regulating turbines, Carteret was paving its own way in creating wind turbine rules.

"We will be recognized not only by our citizens but by other counties in North Carolina, by Raleigh - I hope, by our legislature, the governor," and possibly other states, he said.

One of the biggest changes the planning commission requested was the way setbacks for utility-scale turbines are calculated. The draft originally put set backs at 1,600... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

The wind turbine section of the county's draft tall structures ordinance is going back to the planning department for changes in setbacks for utility scale turbines, waivers and more after a thorough reading Thursday night by the County Planning Commission.

The issue garnered mixed feelings from the public during the planning commission's special meeting in the boardroom of the administration building, as some supported the draft ordinance and the proposed setbacks in it while others felt their earlier comments regarding human health near wind turbines "fell on deaf ears."

Following the commission's nearly three-hour long deliberation of the wind turbine section, Chairman Harry Archer said that with few standards available for regulating turbines, Carteret was paving its own way in creating wind turbine rules.

"We will be recognized not only by our citizens but by other counties in North Carolina, by Raleigh - I hope, by our legislature, the governor," and possibly other states, he said.

One of the biggest changes the planning commission requested was the way setbacks for utility-scale turbines are calculated. The draft originally put set backs at 1,600 feet or 2.5 feet times the height of the turbine, whichever is greatest, for turbines between 200 and 550 feet tall.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Tim Conboy with the New York-based wind energy developing company Axiom said such fixed-distance setbacks could hinder future wind farm projects and noted that he'd previously suggested a setback of 1.5 times the turbine height.

Additionally, he voiced concern that the draft's rule stating individual turbines should be at least 1,300 feet apart may be unrealistic. The county seemed to be doing the engineering and design work of an architect or developer by forcing distance between turbines although perimeter setbacks were also set, he said.

But Stephanie Miscovich of Bettie, who has provided comments and information throughout the draft process, said she thought the setbacks were appropriate.

She said that with no industry standard or recommended setbacks for hurricane-prone areas, like Carteret County, the County Planning Department chose setbacks that would be consistent with emergency safety procedures of a typical turbine operations manual.

A typical manual, like that of the turbine manufacturing company Vestas the department used, recommends establishing a "safety perimeter" by evacuating a specified area surrounding a turbine or wind farm, she said. Hurricanes or similar storms would trigger a mandatory evacuation of the area.

"The safety setbacks for large and utility-scale turbines in Carteret County's draft ordinance was based on this minimum evacuation distance," she said.

"The setbacks in this ordinance will protect non-participating neighbors from having to evacuate their homes in such a circumstance."

But during the board's discussion, commission member Robin Comer said after reading lots of information that supported both less and more distance for setbacks, he would propose changing the setback from 1,600 feet or 2.5 times the turbine height to six times the turbine height.

Mr. Comer said he thought the suggestion was a happy medium between extremes and touched on an earlier public comment that the regulations could always be loosened later if they are found to be too prohibitive, but they couldn't be made more restrictive after the fact.

Having seen a map, of all the properties in the county that could house a utility-scale turbine with a 1-mile setback, about 20 properties, he said with his suggested setback the county "wouldn't be shooting (itself) in the foot." That map and another showing the 30 properties that could house a utility-scale turbine with a 1,300-foot setback can be seen at the County Planning Department on Broad Street.

"I would like to see wind turbines here," Mr. Comer said. "I would like to not have to cross any body of water (overseas) to get our energy. It (six) seems like a realistic number and we know we have some properties we could do it on."

Also during the setbacks discussion, the commission agreed it may not be appropriate for small wind turbine systems of waterfront homes to be placed on the end of a dock or in the water. The commission asked the planning board to revisit that issue.

During the public comment session, Otway resident Charles Renda Jr., vice president of the Responsible Citizens for Responsible Energy group, said he was disappointed that his information regarding the health effects of wind turbines, such as vibro-acoustic disease, failed to be addressed in the draft ordinance.

"I'm really disappointed with the medical information that was provided (but not addressed)," he said. "I really feel like it just fell on deaf ears, but it is what it is."

But Assistant Planning Director Jim Jennings said addressing health issues would be difficult for the planning staff.

"We tried to address health issues and couldn't find a way, a standard method, to address vibro-acoustics that this small staff could administer," he said, so they tried to include health issues in the required environmental issues study.

However, commission member Walter House asked that the issue be revisited. He requested that medical aspects of wind turbines be included in the language addressing exactly what is covered by the environmental issues study.

Other changes requested by the planning commission include:

• Finding an industry standard for the distance between individual turbines.

• Finding wind speed design standards.

• Having a setback waiver last as long as the turbine in question is in operation, rather than having the waiver last 30 years.

• Increasing required inspections from yearly to quarterly and possibly after major storms.

• Requiring inspections that can't be done by the planning department be done by a third party at the applicant's expense.

• Increasing the $100,000 surety to a number that more realistically represents the cost of removing a large system or utility-scale turbine.

The planning commission will likely consider the ordinance again at its regular meeting set for 6 p.m. Sept. 8 in the boardroom of the administration building.

The tall structures ordinance, including the section on wind turbines and communication towers, is available online at www.carteretcountygov.org/departments/planningandinspection.


Source: http://www.carteretnewstime...

AUG 22 2008
https://www.windaction.org/posts/16679-planners-grind-away-on-wind-rules
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