Article

With development up, area counties add wind power regulations

Stahr said counties' interest in regulating wind power picked up after two events last spring. First, the state's first commercially developed wind project, Elkhorn Ridge near Bloomfield in northeast Nebraska, went online in March. Second, the state Legislature passed a bill in May enabling net metering, which allows residents who generate their own power to sell the excess back to public utilities.

As two Central Nebraska counties prepare for proposed commercial wind farms, several others are adding zoning regulations to cover wind turbines.

Most of the counties have not been approached by private wind developers like the ones who are planning wind farms near Petersburg in Boone County and Broken Bow in Custer County, though they have had residents ask about installing small-scale wind turbines.

The new regulations are being driven instead by a desire to be prepared should significant requests for wind development arrive.

"It looks like it's a trend that's going to be moving forward," said Jerry Hoegh, chairman of the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners, which passed regulations earlier this month. "And we just want to be ready for it when our citizens approach us about it."

Hamilton County's new regulations cover only small-scale wind projects of fewer than 100 kilowatts. North of Grand Island, Valley and Wheeler counties have passed regulations this fall encompassing both small-scale and commercial wind development, and Sherman County is working on regulations for both, as well.

Orval Stahr, who runs the York zoning consulting firm Stahr and Associates, said he has... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

As two Central Nebraska counties prepare for proposed commercial wind farms, several others are adding zoning regulations to cover wind turbines.

Most of the counties have not been approached by private wind developers like the ones who are planning wind farms near Petersburg in Boone County and Broken Bow in Custer County, though they have had residents ask about installing small-scale wind turbines.

The new regulations are being driven instead by a desire to be prepared should significant requests for wind development arrive.

"It looks like it's a trend that's going to be moving forward," said Jerry Hoegh, chairman of the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners, which passed regulations earlier this month. "And we just want to be ready for it when our citizens approach us about it."

Hamilton County's new regulations cover only small-scale wind projects of fewer than 100 kilowatts. North of Grand Island, Valley and Wheeler counties have passed regulations this fall encompassing both small-scale and commercial wind development, and Sherman County is working on regulations for both, as well.

Orval Stahr, who runs the York zoning consulting firm Stahr and Associates, said he has worked with about a half-dozen counties on wind regulations within the past year, including Valley, Wheeler and Sherman counties.

Stahr said counties' interest in regulating wind power picked up after two events last spring.

First, the state's first commercially developed wind project, Elkhorn Ridge near Bloomfield in northeast Nebraska, went online in March.

Second, the state Legislature passed a bill in May enabling net metering, which allows residents who generate their own power to sell the excess back to public utilities.

That doesn't necessarily mean we'll be seeing small wind turbines dotting the countryside anytime soon, Stahr said.

"I honestly don't think we're going to see a lot of small units," Stahr said. "At today's cost and efficiency, it just doesn't make a lot of sense."

Still, counties are interested in making sure that if that small-scale wind power develops, they have a handle on it.

"We just kind of want to be prepared instead of waiting until people are already doing something," said Dan Hruza, zoning administrator in Valley and Wheeler counties, as well as Garfield County, which hasn't looked at wind regulations yet.

Stahr said two of the most important issues in regulations are the beating that county roads take when the turbine equipment is driven into the county and the turbines' decommissioning years down the road.

He recommends that counties require that commercial developers have an arrangement with city or county roads officials about where they are allowed to drive as part of a conditional-use permit process.

Regulations on decommissioning are intended to prevent turbines from turning into an eyesore once their useful life is past, though Stahr said he's not sure that county zoning departments have the power to demand a surety in case the turbines aren't cleaned up properly.

Several zoning administrators said another of their primary concerns is setback distances from both residences and others' property.

Those regulations are intended to keep the turbines' noise away from residents and to ensure that if they fall down, they land only on their owners' property.

Sherman County Zoning Administrator Marie Fredrick said her county is looking at basing the setbacks on the length of the blade, rather than the length of the entire tower, to allow turbines to be placed on pivot corners in fields.

Sherman County held a public hearing Monday on its proposed regulations with Stahr present. No members of the public showed up.

That's been typical of the public response (or lack thereof) in many counties, Stahr said, since the regulations are dealing with hypothetical situations at this point.

Hamilton County Zoning Administrator Darla Svoboda said she hopes that once those hypotheticals turn into actual cases, the county will have the ability to tweak the regulations to make sure they work, especially since it's an area of zoning the county has never dealt with.

"This is all new, and we're not sure that we're covering everything," Svoboda said. "It may be that we'll take a look at it and decide that we're including something that didn't work that well for that particular issue. ... It's kind of a trial and error process."


Source: http://www.theindependent.c...

DEC 27 2009
https://www.windaction.org/posts/23842-with-development-up-area-counties-add-wind-power-regulations
back to top