Plan Commission considers renewable-energy ordinance

By on April 30, 2010

Township turbine may not fit ordinance guidelines
by Susan O’Neill
SUGAR GROVE—Sugar Grove Township wants to put up a wind turbine at its road and bridge building on Main Street, but a proposed Sugar Grove village ordinance may not allow it.

The village last July placed a moratorium on windmills, wind turbines and other electricity-generating wind devices, to give staff time to research the issue. The moratorium, which was to last six months, was extended in December, to allow further study on how to properly regulate such devices.

The Sugar Grove Plan Commission is currently reviewing a draft zoning ordinance created by Sugar Grove Community Development Director Rich Young and other village staff that would regulate wind energy devices.

Although it has not submitted an official request, the township would like to install a 100-foot wind turbine unit on its south Main Street property, and has been exploring sources for a potential grant that would pay half of the $100,000 to install it.

The township not only uses electricity for its own buildings’ uses, but also powers the intersection lights throughout the township. According to Township Supervisor Dan Nagel, the township would receive credits on its electric bill for each kilowatt of electricity that the wind turbine would generate.

Nagel said the 100-foot tower would allow the township to gain the most efficiency from the wind turbine, generating a payback for its cost within seven to 12 years.

The draft ordinance would effectively prohibit such a tall tower, both within village limits, as well as anywhere within the village’s future planning area outlined in the comprehensive plan.

Village Board members, citing safety and aesthetics, said that they would not be in favor of the 100-foot towers, especially in the more residential areas. Safety concerns would dictate set-backs large enough so that if the wind turbine were to fall over, it would be completely contained on the lot on which it stands.

However, the 100-foot tower is the size that would most efficiently generate electricity.

“The lower the towers, the longer it takes to get the payback,” Nagel said.

Young said the intent of the ordinance is to encourage small-scale applications of renewable energy, allowing both businesses and residents the ability to generate their own electricity. He said he would eventually like to expand the ordinance to include guidelines for solar, geo-thermal and other sources of energy generation.

He likened resistance to the technology to the concerns that people raised when satellite dishes were initially introduced. The first dishes were large and unwieldy, but as technology improved, the size decreased and people’s comfort level with the technology went up.

“I’d like to see us come up with a reasonable solution for small applications,” he said.

According to Young, the extension on the moratorium will end on June 1, and he would like to have an ordinance in place by then. He said the Plan Commission will likely consider the specifics of the proposed ordinance at a special meeting set for May 6.