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Not in my neighbor's back yard; Use of wind-power generators vex Temecula officials

The City Council is trying to craft rules for electricity-generating wind energy systems that won't divide the city's residents into warring camps of "wind energy advocates" and NIMNBYs: "Not in my neighbor's back yard." So far, it's been tough to find a happy medium.

TEMECULA ---- The City Council is trying to craft rules for electricity-generating wind energy systems that won't divide the city's residents into warring camps of "wind energy advocates" and NIMNBYs: "Not in my neighbor's back yard."

So far, it's been tough to find a happy medium.

When the issue of permitting the systems was discussed by the Planning Commission, various commissioners weighed in with some starkly different ideas on where the systems should be allowed and how high they should be built.

One commissioner said a system reaching a height of 80 feet tall ---- about 8 stories high ---- should be allowed for residents living on parcels of 5 acres or larger. Some of the other commissioners favored capping the systems, which normally feature spinning blades attached to the tops of poles, at a height of 60 feet tall.

An industry expert who testified at a commission hearing said a 60-foot cap wouldn't work in many areas due to wind buffers such as houses and trees. To get at the clean, fast-moving air at higher altitudes, a height of 80 feet was required, the commissioners were told.

City employees recorded all of these comments, revised... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

TEMECULA ---- The City Council is trying to craft rules for electricity-generating wind energy systems that won't divide the city's residents into warring camps of "wind energy advocates" and NIMNBYs: "Not in my neighbor's back yard."

So far, it's been tough to find a happy medium.

When the issue of permitting the systems was discussed by the Planning Commission, various commissioners weighed in with some starkly different ideas on where the systems should be allowed and how high they should be built.

One commissioner said a system reaching a height of 80 feet tall ---- about 8 stories high ---- should be allowed for residents living on parcels of 5 acres or larger. Some of the other commissioners favored capping the systems, which normally feature spinning blades attached to the tops of poles, at a height of 60 feet tall.

An industry expert who testified at a commission hearing said a 60-foot cap wouldn't work in many areas due to wind buffers such as houses and trees. To get at the clean, fast-moving air at higher altitudes, a height of 80 feet was required, the commissioners were told.

City employees recorded all of these comments, revised the language of the ordinance and presented to the City Council last month a modified version of the new rules ---- which detailed where Temecula was considering allowing the systems and how applications would be processed.

That's when Councilman Mike Naggar stepped into the debate.

Naggar had numerous concerns with the scope of the ordinance. Some of the concerns were pressing enough, he said, that he wondered if the city should allow the wind energy devices at all. Upon his recommendation, the council formed a subcommittee with Naggar and Mayor Maryann Edwards, the person who first brought the idea forward.

It's been a few weeks since that council meeting and the subcommittee has yet to meet.

Concern about aesthetics, noise

"It needs a lot of work," said Naggar, talking about the ordinance. "There's no way I'm going to support 30-foot tall, 60-foot tall poles in residential neighborhoods. There's no way I can support that."

Edwards expected similar reactions and she has tried to tell people, in multiple settings, that the systems are nothing like the huge towers in the hills and valleys near Palm Springs.

They can be small systems that are integrated into the design of a home and there are systems that can be mounted on the roof. Some of those roof-mounted systems look like the unobtrusive vents on top of a home, she said.

During a recent phone interview, Naggar said he'd consider a "roof-mounted mechanism," but he's much less enthusiastic about the idea of turbines mounted on towers.

Naggar said the "great euphoria" for green energy has sometimes had some unintended consequences and he wants to make sure that if Temecula does something to regulate wind energy that it learns from the recent past.

For instance, Naggar said, when residential solar power was first introduced, many people were sold roof-mounted arrays with the idea that they would significantly cut into their electricity costs. After a couple of years of unimpressive results, some homeowners abandoned the systems and stopped maintaining them due to a diminishing lack of return on their investment.

"The benefit didn't equal the cost," Naggar said.

In recent years, new solar power systems have been introduced that address many of those former issues, but Naggar said that the new systems serve to prove his point about the wisdom of proceeding slowly and carefully with regard to wind energy systems.

Joe Terrazas, a former City Council candidate, shares many of Naggar's concerns and then some.

"Not one should be permitted in the city," he said. "They look like hell. And the sound, it's annoying: 'whump, whump, whump.'"

Before the recent council meeting, Terrazas sent Naggar an e-mail that spelled out his opposition.

Terrazas said people complain every time a cell phone company tries to put up a new cell phone tower.

"And now you want to put up these fans, these prop jobs," he said. "I don't want it around here. ... They're an eyesore."

Roof-top systems

While the small roof-top systems mentioned by Edwards during a recent council meeting might seem like a possible compromise, those types of systems account for less than .002 percent of all small wind turbine installations, according to Ron Stimmel of the Washington D.C.-based American Wind Energy Association.

"This type of application tends to drastically underperform their tall, tower-mounted counterparts simply because the clearance between the turbine and the roof ---- an obstacle to the wind ---- prevents the turbine from intercepting quality winds," he said. "If the town wants more green energy, it will allow for taller tower heights."

Regarding the efficiency issues raised by Naggar, Stimmel said a zoning commission should have "zero concern" over that.

"The issue is whether a turbine ---- or any other structure ---- affects the safety, health and well-being of the public," he said. "Small wind turbines have shown to increase neighboring property values, reduce stress on power grids and (produce) a number of other public and private benefits."

On efficiency

C.P. van Dam, a U.C. Davis professor who is an expert on wind energy systems, said the aesthetics of the systems will always be an "eye of the beholder" issue. But the engineering issues broached by Naggar are another matter.

"Look at the top suppliers of these machines. They're very well-engineered, very efficient devices for generating electric power. There is nothing wrong with these turbines per se," van Dam said.

Van Dam is a mechanical engineer who works with the California Wind Energy Collaborative, a partnership of the University of California and the California Energy Commission.

The commission was established in 2002 to provide a centralized, state-level forum for wind power issues that is not bound by the constraints of government and industry bodies.

Answering questions prompted by Naggar's concerns about the reliability and the efficiency of modern wind energy systems, van Dam said that a homeowner should always be careful before buying a system.

A home's annual exposure to the sun is a relatively easy thing to measure for someone making the decision to install solar panels, but wind is a little trickier.

Van Dam said a good wind survey would measure the amount of wind that passes by a proposed location for one to four years. After calculating that number, a homeowner would need to decide on a system that would best capture that wind energy. If the amount of electricity generated by the system would make sense based on the cost a person is paying for electricity, van Dam said it would make sense to move forward.

As for what sort of system a homeowner would buy, van Dam recommended residents consult state Web sites that list recommended providers.

"Any product you buy, you have to be careful with," he warned. "There's a move to have a certification process for these turbines. That's falling in place as we speak."

That certification process, van Dam said, would give consumers another tool to help them make their decision with more confidence.


Source: http://www.nctimes.com/arti...

JUL 12 2009
https://www.windaction.org/posts/21140-not-in-my-neighbor-s-back-yard-use-of-wind-power-generators-vex-temecula-officials
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