Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Key Aspects of a Community’s Wind Ordinance

Wind power is fast becoming to energy generation what the American farmer is to our bread and butter. Without the expansion of these two possessions, we may be just another feeble third world state void of our plush life style that provides us with our daily needs.

As many U.S. communities are dealing with the invasion of wind energy farms that now have the total capacity to generate over 30 gigawatts of electrical power, it is important that local government have written rules that progressively provide for the harmonic future of those living near large commercial wind energy farms or other smaller sources. It is imperative that local government develop a model plan that best protect the interest of the property owner and the welfare of its population in which it serves.

As a result, there are countless opportunities that face our provincial communities as it relates to developing a comprehensive wind ordinance. It could turn ugly if local government officials forget to address the gravity of all the issues related to the establishment of local wind power rules. A missed step could spark an outcry from the community or landowner since wind energy is relatively a new industry source to rural America as many wind farms are less than five years old.

First, there are strategic elements to an effective wind energy ordinance that should be paramount to the protection and welfare of its population. It should be written to necessitate a fair and balanced approach that produces an equal opportunity for area property owners as well as other interested parties. It should be written specifically to protect the best interest of the landowner, local community or other outside economic groups from undue hardship since its future growth and associated problems are expected to likely encroach upon more densely populated areas.

Therefore, local officials must carefully navigate through all the wind energy related problems that have troubled other neighborhoods where wind energy farms exist. In some areas of the county, it has caused outright civil war - pinning brother against brother. To steer clear from these types of short-term issues, it is best that local government develop a comprehensive wind energy ordinance before the entertainment of any wind development project proposal exists. This framework will protect the greatest interest of the community from any unfavorable risks and establish minimal guidelines for wind developers to follow.

Secondly, legislative foresight is also critical because there are also major long-term issues that can impact large-scale wind farms and the local community. Wind power producers may start to run into problems within the second 10 years of operation after the production tax credits and/or turbine warranty service protection usually expire. By this time, the normal wear and tear on the mechanical equipment may lead to lower revenue and costly capital endeavors for repowering or retooling turbines for continuous power generation. This may lead to insolvency problems for the developer which may trickle down to the landowner and thus the community.

Lastly, community officials must be knowledgeable of the hot buttons affecting wind power projects. Here is a short list of some issues that are often not adequately addressed:

  • Establish proper noise and setback requirements that will abate any potential nuisance lawsuits or public safety or health issues
  • Promote the procurement of surety bonds for end-of-life-project decommissioning related to the removal of all wind powering equipment
  • Written ordinances should also include residential and community wind projects within the establishment of proper zoning requirements

  • Create a building and driveway megawatt production fee fund to provide for county inspections and other related services
  • Provide firefighting equipment and training fund for high angle rescues
  • Promote additional tower lighting requirements that could impact areas residents
  • Guard against personal health issues related to living near wind farms
  • Protect against soil management and drainage issues
  • Restore all roads to county and town specifications
  • Institute appropriate insurance and liability coverage for wind farms
  • Seek out expert third-party representation to guard against any wind energy oversight issues

In closing, it is up to the county officials to develop a comprehensive wind ordinance for the benefit of its population and community. Local governments must remember that the build out of the commercial wind energy market is still a maturating industry that encompasses lengthy contract agreements lasting 20 to 30 years, in which area residents must interact with on a regular basis.

It is very important that elected county officials focus on key elements that protect the landowner and community from undue hardship. Local officials should also try to keep as much money circulating in the area since most wind developers are from large corporations located overseas. And lastly, local and community officials are not wind energy experts and third-party representation may be needed to weigh out any foreseeable impacts offered by the developer.

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