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City nearer to allowing residential wind turbines
Council will consider ordinance in September
By By Alica P. Thiele
Challenger reporter

August 17. 2011 6:00AM
The city’s Planning & Zoning Commission since May has been working out the details of letting residences install wind turbines to help power their homes. The commission will take a last look Aug. 18 at a proposed law to set the standards. If approved, the city council will hold a first reading in early September.

“We’re hoping it goes through,” said Charlie Cross of Brandon. He instigated talk about home wind-powered generators when he approached the council this spring to request one at his property. City statues don’t allow such things, but commissioners were receptive to the idea.

Commissioner Bob Serk said in May that the commission is very proactive and wants to have appropriate laws in place to allow people to use the technology while still protecting the public.

The Southeast Council of Governments, of which Brandon is a member, has been working with the commission to form an ordinance. The proposed law would allow residential wind turbines as a conditional use. They would have to be set back from the nearest property line at least 1.1 times the height of the unit. The unit could be up to 55 feet tall – measured from the ground to the motor hub - in residential areas or 150 feet tall in business and industrial areas. It must make less than 60 decibels of noise, measured from the nearest property line, and must not interfere with any radio or TV signals.

The unit must meet all safety, building and fire codes, the proposed ordinance says. It must meet all applicable industry standards, plus local, state and federal regulations.
Cross said he is “extremely pleased” with the proposed law. “It’s been a great cooperative effort between the public, the vendors, the residents and the planning commission … to get to where we are today. I’m as happy as a clam,” he said.

City Administrator Bryan Read said there are many reasons why people might want a home wind turbine. “It could be money, could be independence,” he said. “Could be they are concerned about environmental issues.”

Cross pleads guilty to all three. He already has a 4,200-watt photovoltaic solar system on his roof and a geothermal pump in the basement, and he’s begun using natural gas to power his energy-sucking appliances.

He wants to install a 200-watt, 48-volt wind turbine that weighs 13 pounds and has a 46-inch rotor diameter. It would sit on a pole 15 feet to 20 feet tall and he would paint it to match his home’s exterior décor. He said it could cost $1,500 to $1,600 for such a unit. His ultimate goal is to be “off the grid” – to generate 100 percent of the electricity his home needs.

“I think it’s certainly a good thing,” Read said. “It gives property owners, homeowners, business owners, a different option to control their costs. If you look at a combination of wind turbine, solar, geothermal, a person could, conceivably, generate all their power needs.”

If the ordinance passes the commission and council approvals process without a hitch, the new law could go into effect in mid October.
WHAT: Brandon Planning & Zoning Commission scheduled to rule on a residential wind turbine ordinance
WHEN: Thursday, Aug. 18, 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: City Council Chambers, 308 Main Avenue

Brandon's Planning & Zoning Commission is scheduled to take a last look at the proposed law to set standards for wind turbines in residential areas at 6:30 p.m. tonight. Challenger file photo

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