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Essexville wind company says lack of local ordinances is hurting business

"I've got a ton of inventory," said Fonzi, owner of Affordable Green Energy, a distributor of small, electricity-generating windmills in Essexville. "But I can't put them in the air. They're sitting in boxes." That's because, Fonzi says, most local governments in the county haven't passed ordinances governing the installation of "small wind," or turbines that generate up to 100 kilowatts of power and are intended for homes and small businesses.

If you wonder where all the wind turbines are in Bay County, Glenn Fonzi has the answer.

"I've got a ton of inventory," said Fonzi, owner of Affordable Green Energy, a distributor of small, electricity-generating windmills in Essexville.

"But I can't put them in the air. They're sitting in boxes."

That's because, Fonzi says, most local governments in the county haven't passed ordinances governing the installation of "small wind," or turbines that generate up to 100 kilowatts of power and are intended for homes and small businesses.

Unlike towering commercial turbines in Michigan's Thumb, which have garnered some complaints about noise, Fonzi says Affordable Green Energy's turbines are shorter and quieter and should be welcomed in the county and throughout the state.

And they are being welcomed by potential customers - Fonzi says he has 45 anemometers up in Bay County, measuring wind speeds at people's homes - but his new business is having trouble getting local governments to adopt ordinances.

Even Bay City, one of the few local governments in the county with a wind ordinance, there are problems.

Affordable Green Energy began one of its first projects in... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

If you wonder where all the wind turbines are in Bay County, Glenn Fonzi has the answer.

"I've got a ton of inventory," said Fonzi, owner of Affordable Green Energy, a distributor of small, electricity-generating windmills in Essexville.

"But I can't put them in the air. They're sitting in boxes."

That's because, Fonzi says, most local governments in the county haven't passed ordinances governing the installation of "small wind," or turbines that generate up to 100 kilowatts of power and are intended for homes and small businesses.

Unlike towering commercial turbines in Michigan's Thumb, which have garnered some complaints about noise, Fonzi says Affordable Green Energy's turbines are shorter and quieter and should be welcomed in the county and throughout the state.

And they are being welcomed by potential customers - Fonzi says he has 45 anemometers up in Bay County, measuring wind speeds at people's homes - but his new business is having trouble getting local governments to adopt ordinances.

Even Bay City, one of the few local governments in the county with a wind ordinance, there are problems.

Affordable Green Energy began one of its first projects in June at Bay Carbon Inc., 800 Marquette, erecting two, 40-foot tall, 5-kilowatt windmills on the Saginaw River.

But the turbines are sitting idle because the city has put a stop to the project, Fonzi said, not allowing the devices to be connected to the electrical grid.

"This is one of our first dealings with putting these up, and this is what we're going through," Fonzi said.

Jim Bedell, Bay City Planning Department manager, said the delays are only because the Bay Carbon project is "the first one out of the gate" locally.

"It's a learning process for all of us involved," Bedell said, "in making sure we have all the right engineering drawings and specifications that need to be in place ... "It certainly isn't that the city is opposed to these."

The Bay City Commission adopted amendments to its zoning ordinance in May to accommodate wind turbines.

So far, Bay City and Kawkawlin and Williams townships are the only local governments to adopt wind ordinances, according to various officials.

Hampton Township has been working on one for two months, said Terry Spegel, supervisor and president of the Bay County Township Officers Association.

"We need to put something in place because we know this is going to happen and this is the future," Spegel said. "But we need to be able to govern it."

Rob Eggers, senior planner with the Spicer Group in Saginaw, is helping Hampton craft its ordinance.

The company has helped with other ordinances for Oliver Township in the Thumb and Sherman Township near Cadillac.

Eggers said many people still confuse "big wind," like 300-foot-tall commercial turbines installed in the Thumb, with "small wind," or the type of smaller towers and roof-mounted turbines that Fonzi is pushing.

"With small wind, you have to really ask yourself what is it you want to try and regulate and why," Eggers said.

He said a representative from Affordable Green Energy in Essexville was invited to speak at a Hampton Township Planning Commission meeting last week.

Issues being discussed in Hampton Township include height restrictions, how many units should be allowed per home and how far away should they be from neighboring properties.

Typically, small tower units require setbacks of 110 to 125 percent of the overall height of the structure, or up to 50 feet for a 40-foot-tall turbine. Those setbacks are for noise and to guard against injury should a tower topple, Eggers said.

"We're going to learn about what type of noise levels come from small wind," he added. "Right now, there's not a concern."

Spegel said all the townships in Bay County will be working on wind ordinances this year "because it's starting to come to the forefront now that we have to be prepared to allow this."

Bay Carbon is hoping the issues in Bay City are cleared up soon, said Tom Clare, who co-owns the business with brothers Jim and Mike.

Bay Carbon makes graphite components for industries including solar and wind.

"They look beautiful and we really look forward to having them connected to the grid," Tom Clare said of his two turbines.

He said he paid $25,000 each for the windmills and wants to start generating power.

"We're doing this with all of our own money," Clare said. "We're not asking for any abatements ... We're doing this because this is what we believe in."

Clare said he hopes to put up another four turbines by next spring, which would offset about 5 percent of the electricity costs at his business.

"Our operation is energy intensive," he explained. "These are supporting the industries that are our customers."

For now, Fonzi said he and others with Affordable Green Energy, a spin-off of Bay Composites Inc. in Essexville, have been making presentations to local government boards to educate people about small wind.

He's also been talking to local legislators about the need for a statewide ordinance. In Elba Township in Lapeer County, a company project was put on hold in June after the township board passed a six-month moratorium on turbines over various concerns.

Fonzi's company is still only a distributor of wind turbines made elsewhere, including Canada and Sweden.

But he hopes to construct a 10,000-square-foot building on property next to his business and begin manufacturing small turbines by the end of the year, including vertical models that spin like a top.

He started digging for the new building a few weeks ago, but says the trouble with getting local ordinances passed makes it hard to be upbeat.

"It's moving along slower than we wanted it to," Fonzi said.


Source: http://www.mlive.com/news/b...

JUL 12 2009
https://www.windaction.org/posts/21135-essexville-wind-company-says-lack-of-local-ordinances-is-hurting-business
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