Wind Turbine Regulations May Change
Currently neighbors must approve of installation
ANCHORAGE - Wind turbines are not aesthetically pleasing to everyone, but local businesses that sell the technology say more and more people are interested in harnessing the power of wind.
Kirk Garoutte, owner of Susitna Energy Systems, said the city's permitting process doesn't make it easy to do business.
"We field phone calls from Anchorage residents pretty much consistently all week. Our standard reply is the first thing you need to do is go and check with the city planning department,” said Garoutte.
“This administrative plan review has killed almost every project that we've sent over there,” he said.
But a proposed change to city code will remove a problematic part of the administrative plan review -- taking out one barrier for people applying for a wind turbine permit.
Currently someone who wants to install a turbine, known as a small wind energy conversion system (WECS), must have written consent from the majority of their immediate neighbors.
This applies for turbine applications on residential of commercial property.
But does anyone have the right to tell another person what they can or can’t do with their land?
Municipal Attorney Dennis Wheeler has gone as far to say that the requirement to get neighbor consent is unconstitutional and not a valid exercise of the municipality's power.
Therefore, the city Planning Department is asking the Anchorage Assembly to amend the part of Title 21 requiring consent.
The Planning Department said, on top of attorney Dennis Wheeler’s advice, the provision requiring neighbors to consent to a turbine is problematic because a neighbor could say no for various reasons that have nothing to do with land use -- like a tense relationship or a barking dog.
Jesse Moe, an electrical engineer with Lime Solar, said neighbors’ consent is important, unless you have a lot of land.
“If you've got a couple acres, then I don’t think you necessarily need every neighbor's consensus,” said Moe.
But people in the wind energy business say even if the code is amended, it'll still be a tough approval process.
The Planning and Zoning Commission will be holding a public hearing regarding the proposed amendment on December 10. If there is a favorable recommendation, it will be forwarded to the assembly, which will ultimately need to approve the code amendment.