Kim Johnson counts herself as an environmentalist who’s always seeking ways to make her Hailey home more self-sufficient and earth-friendly.
So when she started researching residential-scale wind turbines as a possible way to pull less power off the electrical grid, she was surprised to find information that turned her opinion against them.
Johnson was one of several Blaine County residents to testify before county commissioners on Tuesday afternoon, during a hearing in which commissioners unanimously approved an ordinance regulating where and how county homeowners can install wind turbines.
“This ordinance doesn’t force anybody to put up a wind tower,” said Commissioner Larry Schoen, who has investigated wind power at his own Bellevue Triangle-area ranch. He said anyone asking to put up a wind tower would be well advised to do as he did: conduct study of wind speeds over their home and do a cost/benefit analysis.
Schoen also addressed audience concerns that the ordinance — which allows some wind turbines on large properties to be approved administratively, while others on smaller parcels must go through a public conditional-use permit process — doesn’t give the public enough input.
“We have struck a fair balance,” he said, acknowledging that the county wants to encourage alternative energy use when appropriate, and to make the process easy and accountable.
Some in the audience were proponents of the ordinance, saying the existing power transmission system has serious environmental and operational weaknesses, citing last month’s Christmas outage. They argued residents should be allowed to experiment with alternatives.
Other speakers said exploring alternative energy creation was great, but that wind turbines have specific weaknesses that make them inappropriate for the county. These include the impact they would have on views, the lack of good wind in the valley, and that construction of the turbines is not an environmentally friendly process so their overall impact on the planet is negative, not positive.
“There’s so much spin around this stuff, no pun intended,” Johnson said of her research. “Sometimes what they’re touting as green sounds good, but it doesn’t make sense.”
Johnson isn’t likely to be among those who take advantage of the wind turbine ordinance, and commissioners have said interest in installing turbines has been expressed by only a few homeowners. After the ordinance has been in place for a while, they have said, they will gauge how the public has received it and consider changes to the law.
Ariel Hansen, Magic Valley News Times – http://www.magicvalley.com/news/local/article_f33310d4-bc26-57fb-b2cb-11c50a616d6b.html