Monday, July 27, 2009

Turbine moratorium gives Victor time to craft needed codes

Since it went up this past June, the wind turbine on Mark Thorn’s Brace Road, East Bloomfield, property has been quite the conversation piece in his neighborhood — and beyond. He is using it to power his home and electric car, and expects it to save him energy costs in the long haul.

With rising heating oil costs and electric bills, and the push for more environmentally friendly energy, it’s to be expected that there will be more folks like Thorn hoping to harness the power of wind. One has already surfaced: Jerry Collier told the Victor Town Board a few weeks back that he has been thinking about putting up a turbine on his Rawson Road property.

But Collier will have to wait, as the Victor Town Board has just enacted a six-month moratorium on wind turbines while it looks at getting local codes on the books to regulate them. It’s a wise move on the board’s part.

While Victor isn’t the sort of place that is being eyed by developers for multi-million-dollar wind farms, as is the case in more hilly places like Naples and Prattsburgh, it’s to be expected that more homeowners in towns across the state will seek to erect individual turbines because of state subsidies. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, for instance, is offering up to $150,000 in rebates for those who harness wind power.

And considering everything from safety to noise to aesthetics, regulations are a must.

Victor officials formed a committee, hired consultants from LaBella Associates, and started looking into wind turbine codes two years ago. An early draft of the codes would allow the machinery for private use but bar any large-scale operations. The height of turbines would be limited to 200 feet, owners would need to submit a decommission plan for projects costing more than $250,000 and limit the decibel level.

That’s a good start. East Bloomfield’s Town Board wound up retooling its turbine codes last year after realizing, among other things, they’d set a height limit too low to allow windmills to capture the most dependable wind currents. Higher towers generate more power, meaning a quicker payback for owners on their investments.

And certain incentives, like the rebates offered by the state research and development authority, diminish when the height is below a certain level.

Given the economic climate and the need to protect natural resources, folks like Thorn and Collier are not likely to long be alone in looking at alternative energy sources. Other communities would be smart to follow Victor’s lead and get some regulations on the books.

No comments: