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Johnson County officials push private wind turbine use

BY AUDREY ROEN | DECEMBER 09, 2011 7:20 AM

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Johnson County supervisors said they believe county residents would seize an opportunity to invest in private wind turbines if obtaining them was made easier.

Officials said the technology is capable of producing 27 percent of an average-sized house's energy.

The Johnson County Board of Supervisors began discussing a potential ordinance allowing county residents to erect small wind turbines and create a more energy-efficient county at a Thursday meeting.

"We want to start looking not only at the large wind turbines but now also for individual families," said Supervisor Sally Stutsman, "Everybody is thinking pretty positive."

Josh Busard, an assistant planner in the Johnson County Planning and Zoning Department, said the changes would make obtaining a private wind turbine easier by labeling it an accessory to the property owner.

Busard hopes homeowners will respond to the ordinance's time- and money-saving appeal.

"I think as people invest in renewable energy, as the field grows and the energy prices continue to move upward, I think the private kind [wind turbine] will only increase," he said. "We want to encourage the renewable energy."

The county has previously discussed wind-energy projects, and the supervisors approved an ordinance in September regarding the construction of a commercial wind-energy facility on county land.

If the changes are passed, homeowners interested in private wind turbines could bypass Johnson County Board of Adjustment or pay the $260 application fee.

The homeowner would only apply for a building permit, a cost that varies depending on the size of the property and the turbine. The change will also speed up approval time to one to two weeks, as opposed to the current one to two months.

Iowa ranks second in the United States in wind energy production, has more than 2,500 turbines, and is capable of producing roughly 3,675 megawatts of power, said Bob Brenneman, the president of Iowa Turbines LLC, in Des Moines.

Brenneman said because of available space and varying wind conditions, turbine ordinances vary across the state.

He said the changes in the ordinances reflect a trend among Iowans who wish to invest in smaller private turbines.

The average cost of a private wind turbine is roughly $50,000, he said.

"For the people who are on the fence about purchasing a turbine, this is a reduction in barriers to the adoption and expansion of small wind turbines," Brenneman said.

The supervisors discussed the space and size regulations of the turbines and requested turbine measurements be modified by the Planning and Zoning Department.

The supervisors look forward future discussions.

"Wind turbines are great; it's all a matter of getting all the details in," said Supervisor Janelle Rettig. "If people want to put up a turbine to save some energy, I'm all for it."


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