Afton continues discussions on possible wind turbine ordinanceThe Afton City Council continued its wind turbine talk during a work session last month.
By: Amber Kispert-Smith, Woodbury Bulletin
The Afton City Council continued its wind turbine talk during a work session last month.
During a Sept. 8 work session two experts in the field, Brian Ross from CR Planning and Sean Wagner from the architecture firm Meyer, Schere & Rockcastle, spoke to the council about wind turbines and turbine ordinances.
“We need to hear how the community feels about this issue,” Afton City Council member Bill Palmquist said.
Ross shed some light on the specifics of turbines, such as the different types — utility, small and micro — and the height requirements for wind turbines. Ross indicated that the height of turbines are typically around 90 to 100 feet, or at least 50 feet above the trees to guarantee the most efficiency.
“They have to be where the wind is,” Ross said. “You’re walking a tight rope between being visually appealing and efficient.”
Depending on the size of the turbine, Ross said wind turbines could assist greatly in reducing energy use.
No interest in large turbines
The majority of the discussion during the work session centered on the height and the visual impacts wind turbines could potentially have on the community.
The council generally agreed that Afton has no interest in the large utility sized turbines because of the adverse visual effects they can pose.
“The balance between optimal efficiency and aesthetics is the biggest hurdle a community has to deal with,” Palmquist said. “What that means in a nutshell is the higher up it goes the better it works, but the more people will see it.”
Ross said the height and visual impacts are typically the concerns communities raise over wind turbines. He believes that it’s not necessarily the adverse visual effects people are upset over, but the change it causes.
“It’s the change rather than the turbine itself that causes frustrations,” Ross said.
“It will still be important to minimize the negative aspects of the structure while maintaining its ability to produce energy,” Palmquist said.
Council member Randy Nelson indicated that wind turbines that are more traditional looking farm-style windmills would be more appealing to the eye.
Nelson also pointed out that one of the best protections against excessive visual impacts would be the large lot sizes in Afton since neighboring properties that are farther apart will have more difficulty seeing the structures.
“Lot size is the only thing to do to reduce visual impact,” Nelson said.
In the early stages
Setback requirements will also be a factor in turbine placement since the setback has to be at least twice the height of the turbine in case a turbine should fall.
Since the wind turbine discussion is still in the early stages, the council has no timeline to make a decision and whether or not to draft a wind turbine ordinance.
A wind turbine ordinance would address what Afton will and will not support in terms of wind turbines, and then set out clear guidelines for those wind turbines.
Even though the council is far from concluding their discussion on wind turbines and reaching a consensus, Palmquist said he believes the city should be looking into the issue of wind turbines and other renewable energy sources because he believes leaving a smaller environmental footprint is essential to a sustainable community.
“Overall I have always found a strong commitment to protecting the environment in Afton,” Palmquist said. “And more and more residents are exploring renewable energy options.”