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"Back to drawing board for wind, solar ordinance"

Astoria looks at regulating alternative energy projects It's back to the drawing board for an ordinance being developed for regulating wind turbines and solar panels in the city of Astoria. The issue was discussed at length during a work session following Tuesday's meeting of the Astoria Planning Commission.

By SANDRA SWAIN
The Daily Astorian

>>click here for original article

It's back to the drawing board for an ordinance being developed for regulating wind turbines and solar panels in the city of Astoria. The issue was discussed at length during a work session following Tuesday's meeting of the Astoria Planning Commission.

A year ago, the city of Astoria received a request from someone who wanted to install a wind turbine. That request prompted the Astoria Planning Commission to look at whether to allow wind turbines and solar panels in Astoria, and if so, how to regulate them. The city received a grant to develop general,"boiler plate," language for a draft ordinance and hired Alejandro Bancke of the Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce, CREST, to work on it.

At Tuesday's meeting, Bancke went over a draft ordinance based on one from New York state, and presented three hypothetical potential sites for wind turbines for discussion: the Aquatic Center, the Astoria High School track and the city's sewer lagoon in Alderbrook.

But before Bancke's presentation, Astoria Community Development Director Brett Estes told the Commission he had recently found out about a successful wind turbine that's been operating for more than 10 years, unbeknownst to the planning department. It's on the roof of a two-story Victorian house in Uppertown owned by Jane Tucker, Astoria's library director, and her husband, Jon Lingel, an Astoria firefighter. The turbine has been spinning quietly for more than 10 years, Tucker told the Commission during the work session, and so unobtrusively that nearby neighbors, including a member of the planning commission, had never noticed it.

Lingel said the 30-foot tall turbine, with 40-inch diameter blades, generates about 400 watts of electricity and he uses it to power the computers in his home office. He said it's a hobby, and he'll never save enough on electricity to recoup his investment. Still, during the December 2007 windstorm, the turbine never stopped working and the couple had light and a working refrigerator during the five-day power outage.

That's the kind of small wind turbine most practical for the Astoria area, according to Christopher Paddon, a local resident who spoke at the work session. Paddon, who lives on Youngs River Road, is an expert on wind turbines and solar panels who has worked with Oregon State University and the Energy Trust of Oregon. His was the first wind turbine in the Astoria area and was one the turbines viewed by the Commission during a recent field trip.

Paddon said the draft ordinance produced by Bancke pertains to very large scale projects that don't apply to Astoria. "This draft is misleading and somewhat moot," Paddon said. He said the draft language was taken from Oregon Department of Energy documents that apply to commercial projects.

He said wind turbine projects come in three sizes: mega projects like a power plant; small community projects that could power a school or a facility like the Aquatic Center; and small residential projects.

"Scale is extremely critical," Paddon said, and there's no use spending a lot of time on a mega project that's not going to happen here. He urged the Commission to craft an ordinance that's more appropriate, one that deals with "small lot, small scale, small wind" turbines of 20 kilowatts and under. Most will be 5 watts, he said. Paddon also said solar panels should be completely separate and dealt with in a separate ordinance.

What's going on now is "like applying coal-fired power plant rules to a backyard barbecue," he said. He urged the city to come up with an ordinance that provides incentives, not roadblocks.

Astoria resident Debra Curl agreed with Paddon that the ordinance should deal with small energy systems and that solar panels and wind turbines should be dealt with separately. Curl, who lives in Alderbrook, reviewed the draft ordinance line by line and presented her suggestions to the Commission.

Members of the Commission took the suggestions to heart. Chairman Bruce Conner said he now realizes more attention should be paid to the size and purpose of projects. The process of developing wind and solar energy ordinances will continue.

 

 
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