City planners prepare for future wind generation issues
McCOOK, Nebraska -- A zoning ordinance amendment approved by the McCook City Council Monday evening, only allows for domestic use wind turbines to be built in the agricultural district, but may be a stepping stone for the energy producers to one day be allowed within city limits. Other Nebraska cities such as Grand Island have already put similar ordinances in place and have done so with the intent of promoting safe, efficient and effective use of wind energy.
Today, a wind turbine that was to be installed in McCook's agricultural district would be restricted to a height of 55 feet. Councilman Mike Gonzales spoke with the Grand Island Regional Planning Director, Chad Nabity and learned they too had a similar height requirement when they first introduced their ordinance. "I started looking into wind turbines and found none of them were 55 feet. Which led me to put a call into Grand Island's city planner, who said the very first wind turbine they had installed requested a 60 foot height," said Gonzales. Nabity went on to tell Gonzales that they had since had one turbine built that was under the 55 foot height. That one turbine, built at 30 feet, was unable to capture wind and thus produce energy, according to Nabity.
Grand Island has put a lot of work into their wind energy regulations, which set requirements for residential wind turbines within any zoning district, and Nabity offered their use as a guideline to Gonzales and the McCook City Council. Their regulations limit the size of a wind energy tower, based on the size of the property it is installed on, and further limit them not to exceed a fall zone of their height and any underlying setbacks. 125 percent; of height and setbacks for roof mounted systems.
Noise and other concerns have also been taken into consideration, with a maximum of 60 decibels allowed, measured from the closest neighbor.
The Grand Island regulations could provide a great starting point for cities like McCook, who could draw from their experience without having to reinvent the wheel.
City Manager Kurt Fritsch said during Monday's meeting that the city hasn't received a request to build a wind turbine, the ordinance revision to allow them in the agricultural district was developed in response to a trend in other cities and increased interest in the technology. Fritsch said they were attempting to address the issue before it occurred. "This is a first step for us, new ground we're treading on," said Fritsch.