Thursday, June 24, 2010

Township adds wind energy turbines to zoning code

By Jeff Gorman
Akron Ohio News

The Richfield Township Board of Trustees voted June 17 to add a section to the zoning code for wind energy systems.

This will set up the framework for township residents to create their energy through wind turbines, but don’t expect windmills to start popping up all over the township.

“For the average homeowner, it’s not conducive to build one,” said Andrew Laudato, president of Wind Tech Solutions, a company that works with individuals and companies to install wind energy systems.

Laudato attended a public hearing before the trustees voted on the zoning addition.

Still, Richfield Township Zoning Inspector Laurie Pinney said it was a good idea to enact the wind energy regulations.

“We’re trying to be proactive,” she said. “We’ve had a number of inquiries. The reason we started talking about this is because the state government took away our control over wind turbines that generate over 5 megawatts (5 million watts).

A 5-megawatt turbine is quite large, considering the one at the Great Lakes Science Center only creates 225 kilowatts, according to the center’s website. Other Northern Ohio wind turbines include one at Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea (60 feet tall) and one at the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center in Peninsula (40 feet tall).

Laudato said an ideal wind turbine regularly sees winds of at least 13 mph and is 80 feet tall.

“The higher, the better,” he said. “Under those circumstances, you can get a return on your investment in less than four years.”

Laudato said federal and state grants are available through 2016 for the construction of wind energy turbines. He said those grants can sometimes cover up to 95 of the tower’s costs.

“I think the pros outweigh the negatives,” said Trustee David Wyatt. “There is the possibility of interference with TV and radar signals.”

Laudato said the federal government has a goal of using wind energy as part of its plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 25 percent by 2025.

Pinney said in the future, a wind turbine could be used to power a subdivision of six to eight homes.

“Sometimes people see in the paper that the state legislature passed a tax exemption for wind energy systems, but those are for over 5 megawatts, so it’s easy to misinterpret,” she said.

After the trustees approved the zoning amendments, Trustee Chairwoman Laurie Peters Gilmore thanked Pinney and the Zoning Commission for their work.

Also during the meeting:
• The trustees approved a modified version of the one-year contract for police services with Richfield Village. The cost is $499,653.

Richfield Village Council approved the contract two days earlier. The trustees and attorney John Slagter made some changes, including new language to specify what would happen if there were no new deal after this contract expires. Village Council would have to ratify the changes before the new contract could go into effect.

The trustees also voted 2-1 to pay the village for police services for the first half of 2010. Gilmore, who voted “no,” said she did not want to make the payment in the absence of a finalized contract.

• The trustees also voted to spend $200 to send Pinney to Columbus for training on new accounting and payroll software.

• Wyatt said the organizers of the Sweet Corn Ride, which will take place July 25, will be able to use Rising Valley Park.

“We will have water and the gate will be open,” he said. “The park is in outstanding condition and it’s waiting for more users.”

• Township Administrator Linda Bowmer said the resurfacing of Whitethorn Circle is finished, with landscaping next on the schedule for completion.

• After an executive session with Slagter, the trustees voted to authorize him to take legal action against a resident who is allegedly violating the zoning code by running a business out of his home.

The next Richfield trustees’ meeting is scheduled for July 1 at 1:30 p.m. at the township offices, located behind the fire station on West Streetsboro Road.

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