Zoning subcommittee moves wind ordinance plan forwardA subcommittee of the Stutsman County Planning and Zoning Commission continued work on a zoning ordinance to regulate commercial wind farms in the county Thursday.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
A subcommittee of the Stutsman County Planning and Zoning Commission continued work on a zoning ordinance to regulate commercial wind farms in the county Thursday.
In what was intended to be the final meeting of the subcommittee, it made changes regarding safety issues concerning meteorological towers, placed a decibel limit on the noise generated by the turbine, added a cap on the site application fee, removed expiration dates for site authority and defined road testing.
But while the subject was discussed, no changes were made to the setback provision, which would require that wind turbines be placed at least five rotor diameters away from occupied buildings and the property of others unless the owner has signed a waiver allowing the construction.
The rotor diameter, or RD, is the distance across the circle made by the tips of the rotor blades as they rotate. For the three-megawatt wind turbines now commonly installed in this area, the RD is approximately 350 feet making the five-RD setback about 1,800 feet.
“I want them to be in the living room explaining why they want to put something that big next to my yard,” said Fritz Fremgen, Stutsman County state’s attorney.
Another issue is the prop wake or wash caused by turbines. Turbines cause disruptions that make additional turbines unprofitable downwind.
Representatives of one wind energy company eyeing Stutsman County were in attendance at the zoning subcommittee meeting.
“I don’t see a lot of problems with their proposal but it will take more time to review,” said Athena Dunn, administrative assistant for project real estate for Just Wind in Napoleon. “We felt very good about the meeting, it is a good working relationship and we look forward to a successful project in Stutsman.”
Just Wind plans to break ground on a 160-turbine project in Logan County this spring. They also have signed five-year options in the Medina, N.D., area with the intention of constructing a wind farm there in five years or less.
Representatives of Just Wind saw little concern with the setbacks within their project but might have a concern at the edge of the wind farm.
“Some of their setbacks on the outside perimeter of the project footprint are a little on the large size,” said Steve Fettig, assistant director of land management for Just Wind.
Within the project footprint Just Wind signs up all property owners, not just those with sites suitable for wind turbines. They compensate the property owners through three different payments.
“Everyone in the project footprint shares in the revenue of the project,” Dunn said. “The owner of the land each turbine is on gets $4,000 and that increases 2 percent each year. Everyone owning property gets an equal share of the pool payment, which in Logan County we estimate to be $8,000 to $10,000 per year and any landowner in the footprint who doesn’t get a turbine would get $2 per acre per year for easements.”
Dunn said the pool payment is calculated based on a formula of the number of landowners, the number of turbines and the price of the electricity they produce.
Some other wind energy developers contract only with the landowners where turbines will be placed.
“I question if it is proper to compel a landowner to get waivers from neighbors,” said Ted Wiesman, field man for NextEra Energy, formerly Florida Power and Light, addressing the subcommittee at an earlier meeting.
NextEra did not return calls seeking comments on the proposed zoning ordinance but is scheduled to speak to the Stutsman County Commission during its regular meeting on Feb. 17.
The wind zoning subcommittee will meet again at 3 p.m. Feb. 26 in the Whitney Room at the courthouse. When the final draft of the ordinance is completed, a public hearing will be held.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at (701) 952-8452 or by e-mail at email@example.com