Otoe County Commissioner Tim Nelsen said Tuesday he hopes his proposed alternatives for a wind turbine policy will generate a conversation on the county board and avoid passage of a policy that discourages the wind power industry.
The county began drafting wind turbine zoning in 2008 when a tower to test wind energy was proposed for a location near roads 18 and P as part of a project called Burr Ridge Wind.
An 11-page policy came before the county board on two occasions. It was last presented in February, but did not come to a vote.
Nelsen's alternatives would impact small windmills and large arrays of windmills linked into an energy system.
For commercial wind farms, Nelsen would amend engineering criteria and eliminate a third-party opinion on the impact on wildlife.
He would not regulate windmill signage or limit shadow flicker to a set number of hours per year.
He would also eliminate the zoning administrator’s duty to receive complaints from neighbors and pass those on to the wind farm operator.
Nelsen proposes striking the following requirements small windmills.
- Setback of 50 feet from property line
- Duty to notify the public utility company if wind system will generate more than 25 kilowatts
- Noise limit of 50 dba at closest neighboring dwelling
- Duty of written evidence that utilities notified of connecting to grid
- Additional fees for zoning administrator
Nelsen proposes striking the following requirements for commercial wind energy operations.
- Duty for site analysis by engineer qualified with wind energy systems. Duty to have a third party opinion about the impact to wildlife and migratory bird flyways.
- Duty to have signs at windmills and restricted access to towers.
- Setback of 1,300 feet from inhabited dwelling without permission from the occupant of the dwelling.
- Duty to position towers so shadow flicker does not exceed 30 hours per year.
- Duty of zoning administrator to receive complaints from neighbors and to pass complaints on to the system operator.
Nelsen proposes that all road improvements required by the project would be paid for by the developer. The planning commission version says the county board will decide who will pay for road improvements.
Nelsen said he hopes his alternative policy will encourage county commissioners to question the need for the more restrictive elements of the planning commission's version.
In February, Nelsen said he does not know of any wind farms built in any of Nebraska's 10 counties that have adopted policies as restrictive as what the planning commission has proposed.
He said he is concerned that the regulations are so severe they would make it difficult for large wind farms to operate and would cause them to stay away.
Page 2 of 2 - Nelsen said wind energy and the wind industry need to be encouraged in Otoe County. “It's another tool for economic development,” he said.
He said his plan preserve the land owners' freedom to develop their own land, is friendlier to wind energy companies and is much simpler.
He said he hopes commissioners will consider why the more restrictive regulations of the planning commission version should be adopted.