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"Astoria considers rules for wind and sun energy projects"

City planning commission tours three local projects; workshop set tonight

"Astoria considers rules for wind and sun energy projects"

ALEX PAJUNAS — The Daily AstorianChristopher Paddon, left, answers questions from the Astoria Planning Commission about the 33-foot wind turbine outside of his Youngs River home. The commission took a tour of three area wind turbines to gather information

By CASSANDRA PROFITA
The Daily Astorian
>>click here to view originial article

Small-scale solar and wind energy devices could offer Astoria residents their own supply of renewable power.

But built in the wrong places, they could also block scenic views for neighbors, make too much noise, encroach on power lines or interrupt flight patterns of resident birds.

It's an issue that is coming up in more and more communities around the nation as federal and state incentive programs offer renewable energy loans, grants and tax credits to homeowners and businesses.

The city of Astoria is developing guidelines on what kind of small-scale solar and wind energy facilities can be built within city limits and where they should and should not go. The resulting ordinance will serve as a model for communities on the Oregon Coast.

The Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce has done the background research and prepared a draft ordinance on renewable energy devices that could eventually be incorporated into the city's development code.

Tonight, the Astoria Planning Commission will hold a workshop on the document, following up on the commission's tour of three existing small-scale wind turbines in Clatsop County last week.

The public is invited to the 7 p.m. workshop at Astoria City Hall, 1095 Duane St.

Stimulus supports wind energy

The 2009 federal economic stimulus bill expanded a 30 percent tax credit for homeowners and small businesses buying turbines up to 100 kilowatts. The state of Oregon also offers tax credits and low-interest loans for residential and commercial renewable energy development.

Small-scale wind turbines for residential properties are just a fraction of the size and cost of commercial turbines going into wind farms in the Columbia River Gorge. Commercial wind farms deal in megawatts, one thousand times the power of kilowatts.

For example, Surf Pines residents Burr and Sally Allegaert have a 2.6 kilowatt turbine in their yard.

The 26-foot structure can generate between 300 and 900 kilowatts per month - enough to eliminate roughly 12 percent of their power bill.

Brett Estes, community development director for the city of Astoria, said the city has received a lot of inquiries from local residents interested in installing similar wind turbines over the past year. The answers to their questions weren't entirely clear under the city's existing code.

The wind turbines that already exist in Clatsop County are all on larger lots than the average Astoria lot, Estes said, allowing room for a safety setback and cutting down on potential noise conflicts.

"The planning commission did an interpretation to figure out: How does our current code deal with the installation of turbines?" he said. "But we decided to see if it can be dealt with more specifically."

The city applied for a $7,000 grant from Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development to study the issue in-depth. The grant includes money for research on solar panel installations, as well as wind turbines.

"DLCD also said they would like any code language drafted to serve as a model ordinance up and down the coast," Estes said.

The 2009 federal economic stimulus bill expanded a 30 percent tax credit for homeowners and small businesses buying turbines up to 100 kilowatts. The state of Oregon also offers tax credits and low-interest loans for residential and commercial renewable energy development.

Small-scale wind turbines for residential properties are just a fraction of the size and cost of commercial turbines going into wind farms in the Columbia River Gorge. Commercial wind farms deal in megawatts, one thousand times the power of kilowatts.

For example, Surf Pines residents Burr and Sally Allegaert have a 2.6 kilowatt turbine in their yard.

The 26-foot structure can generate between 300 and 900 kilowatts per month - enough to eliminate roughly 12 percent of their power bill.

Brett Estes, community development director for the city of Astoria, said the city has received a lot of inquiries from local residents interested in installing similar wind turbines over the past year. The answers to their questions weren't entirely clear under the city's existing code.

The wind turbines that already exist in Clatsop County are all on larger lots than the average Astoria lot, Estes said, allowing room for a safety setback and cutting down on potential noise conflicts.

"The planning commission did an interpretation to figure out: How does our current code deal with the installation of turbines?" he said. "But we decided to see if it can be dealt with more specifically."

The city applied for a $7,000 grant from Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development to study the issue in-depth. The grant includes money for research on solar panel installations, as well as wind turbines.

"DLCD also said they would like any code language drafted to serve as a model ordinance up and down the coast," Estes said.

What is appropriate?

CREST planner Alejandro Bancke, who was contracted to write the draft Wind and Solar Energy Ordinance for the city of Astoria, said people on the Oregon Coast, in particular, are taking a closer look at wind energy potential because, well, it's windy here.

"They think it's a good area to do it, and usually it is," he said. "You generally need 10- to 14-mile-an-hour winds."

While rural governments around the country have developed rules for installing wind turbines and solar panels, there are far fewer urban municipalities that have tackled the issue, Bancke said.

"This draft is meant to spur the discussion and see if we can't create some policy," said Bancke. "If wind turbines are to be allowed in an urban area, what should the regulations be?"

To answer questions posed by Astoria planners, Bancke has consulted with the American Wind Energy Association, Oregon Department of Energy and some cities with existing ordinances in New England.

His draft ordinance includes rules for building turbines and solar panels near wetlands and along shorelines. It lists specific setbacks from power poles and property lines. It limits the amount of noise they can generate, and it requires visual impact analyses from at least three different perspectives.

Among the proposed regulations is a rule that the energy systems "shall not create a substantial adverse impact on the view from any public park, natural scenic vista, historic property, major scenic and view corridor, or residential area."

"Especially in the city of Astoria, with all the historic properties here, what about the skyline?" Bancke said. "What's it going to look like along the river? Most cities will have these discussions."

The goal is to have the city approve an ordinance on wind and solar energy by the end of June.

"We're going to be looking to the planning commission to provide some input as to what is appropriate for our community," said Estes. "What should be the standard for wind turbines? Is this something we feel is appropriate within our neighborhoods and commercial areas?"

Estes said before the rules are finalized by the city council, a public hearing will be held to gather community input.

CREST planner Alejandro Bancke, who was contracted to write the draft Wind and Solar Energy Ordinance for the city of Astoria, said people on the Oregon Coast, in particular, are taking a closer look at wind energy potential because, well, it's windy here.

"They think it's a good area to do it, and usually it is," he said. "You generally need 10- to 14-mile-an-hour winds."

While rural governments around the country have developed rules for installing wind turbines and solar panels, there are far fewer urban municipalities that have tackled the issue, Bancke said.

"This draft is meant to spur the discussion and see if we can't create some policy," said Bancke. "If wind turbines are to be allowed in an urban area, what should the regulations be?"

To answer questions posed by Astoria planners, Bancke has consulted with the American Wind Energy Association, Oregon Department of Energy and some cities with existing ordinances in New England.

His draft ordinance includes rules for building turbines and solar panels near wetlands and along shorelines. It lists specific setbacks from power poles and property lines. It limits the amount of noise they can generate, and it requires visual impact analyses from at least three different perspectives.

Among the proposed regulations is a rule that the energy systems "shall not create a substantial adverse impact on the view from any public park, natural scenic vista, historic property, major scenic and view corridor, or residential area."

"Especially in the city of Astoria, with all the historic properties here, what about the skyline?" Bancke said. "What's it going to look like along the river? Most cities will have these discussions."

The goal is to have the city approve an ordinance on wind and solar energy by the end of June.

"We're going to be looking to the planning commission to provide some input as to what is appropriate for our community," said Estes. "What should be the standard for wind turbines? Is this something we feel is appropriate within our neighborhoods and commercial areas?"

Estes said before the rules are finalized by the city council, a public hearing will be held to gather community input.

 

 
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