Kansas commercial wind zoning ban and more

Commercial wind zoning ban in Kansas

In what may be a first in the nation, the Kansas Supreme Court approved a county’s outright zoning ban of industrial wind turbines, defined as those over 120 feet or 100kw or “more than one Wind Energy Conversion System of any size proposed and/or constructed by the same person or group of persons on the same or adjoining parcels or as a unified or single generating system”. Owners of land and of wind rights had challenged county zoning decisions banning such facilities.

On the appeal of a lower court case won by the county, the court unanimously upheld as reasonable under state statute Wabaunsee County’s decision to ban such turbines. The county is home to the Flint Hills and some of the last remaining tall grass prairie -and its denizen, the prairie chicken- in the country.

The court agreed that the Board of County Commissioner’s “findings could reasonably have been found to justify its decision: that the commercial wind farms would adversely, if not dramatically, affect the aesthetics of the county and for that reason should be prohibited.” It also opined that relevant factors included commercial wind farm noncompliance with the county’s comprehensive plan and that a ban was in keeping with the wishes of residents.

The court noted that reasonableness of action by the Board was presumed; overcoming the presumption appears to require what in New York state would be the presentation of sufficient factors demonstrating an arbitrary and capricious action. Another factor viewed favorably the court was that the zoning allowed smaller turbines; the county’s was not an outright ban of all wind facilities.

The court  has ordered the parties to submit supplemental briefs on federal issues: “whether the [lower] district court erred in dismissing the claims alleging that the Board’s decision amending the zoning regulations violated the Takings Clause and the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution.” Per the court, briefs on those issues are due December 11 and a second round of oral arguments has been scheduled for January 27, 2010.

The case is Zimmerman et al. v. Wabaunsee County (Appeal No. 98,847, 10/30/2009)

Wind Education

KidWind and Pandion announce “WindWise Education” program for grades 6-12. “Pandion and KidWind launched WindWise Education at the annual conference of the Science Teachers Association of New York State (STANYS) on November 2, 2009. WindWise Education is a comprehensive curriculum for grades 6 to 12 that explores the dynamic field of wind through hands on physics, engineering, biology, math, and earth science activities.” I’ve met the KidWind folks; they are a dedicated group.  (Pandion, 11/2009)

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NYS wind power updates

From news sources:

Town of Clayton wind committee proposes changes to existing wind zoning. Watertown Daily Times 4/26

Hudson Valley Center for Innovation announces Wind Power Initiative focusing on development of small-wind technologies. Poughkeepsie Journal, 4/22

Town of North Harmony considers restrictive wind power zoning law. Post-Journal, 4/27

Town of Orleans wind committee prepares substantial setback requirements. Watertown Daily Times, 4/30/2009

With EcoGen project before it, Town of Prattsburgh delays enacting wind moratorium. Steuben Courier, 4/26

Noble Environmental Power Wyoming County lien problems continue. Batavia News, 5/2

NYS wind power developments

From news and web sources:

Cattaraugus County legislature to take part in panel analyzing wind farm tax incentives. Buffalo News, 2/27

Town of Hartsville enacts one-year wind development moratorium. Canisteo Valley News, 2/26 &  Hornell Evening Tribune 2/27

NYISO announces that for first time ever, wind power contributes 1,000 MW to the grid, at approximately 6:00 p.m. on February 19. NYISO, 2/26. See related opinion piece in Albany Times Union, 3/1.

Town of Orleans discusses low frequency sound and wind turbines. Watertown Daily Times, 2/27

Town of Richmondville examines wind development law. Times Journal, 2/25

Babcock & Brown conducts balloon test demonstrating  height of turbines in Town of Westfield. Such balloon tests will be used by the company to produce visual simulations of the turbines from various vantage points.  Post-Journal, 2/27

New York state wind energy updates

From recent news and web reports:

Community wind opportunities discussed in Town of Batavia. Daily News 2/19

Town of Clayton wind committee discusses sound issues. Watertown Daily Times, 2/20

Cohocton turbines spinning, but per NYISO power not due to hit grid till late 2010.  Hornell Evening Tribune, 2/21

Town of Hunter reportedly extends wind moratorium six more months. The Daily Mail, 2/21

Morristown wind committee comes up with draft wind ordinance. Watertown Daily Times 2/20

Town of Prattsburgh hears about noise complaints from Cohocton residents. Courier, 2/22

After pitch, Pickens Plan piques Paterson’s interest. Star Gazette, 2/22

Wind developers discuss potential changes to Attorney General’s self-styled “code of conduct.” Watertown Daily Times, 2/23

New York wind energy updates

Recent press and web articles include:

Town of Howard 25-turbine wind project advances. Hornell Evening Tribune, 1/28

Town of Hunter (Greene County) may extend wind moratorium. Daily Mail, 1/23

Town of Orleans wind committee develops. Watertown Daily Times, 1/26

New payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement advances Town of Prattsburgh wind project. The Corning Leader, 1/23 and  The Steuben Courier, 1/25

Cape Vincent wind committee discusses sebacks. Watertown Daily Times, 1/23

Town of Clayton wind committee to hold open future meetings. Watertown Daily Times, 1/23

Article on “Green Jobs“, including those relating to wind energy and in Clinton County,  in the The Nation, 1/28

New York wind power updates

From recent press and web reports:

More locals siting their own renewable energy systems to generate power. WSYR.com, 1/19

Ellisburg residents oppose transmission line for Galloo Island wind project. Watertown Daily Times, 1/22

Town of Enfield passes wind zoning law with setback requirements lesser than those recommended by Tompkins County. Ithaca Journal, 1/15 and 1/16

Town of Farmersville re-adopts wind zoning law after more complete environmental review. Buffalo News, 1/15

Town of Hartsville considers wind development moratorium. Hornell Evening Tribune, 1/15

Town of Irondequoit discusses wind zoning law.  Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, 1/21

Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) announces “Backyard Wind Power” program to provide rebates to homeowners, businesses, municipalities, and nonprofits seeking to harness power from the wind through the use of land-based wind turbines. LIPA, 1/21 Per LIPA, the program will

help transform the market for wind systems on Long Island by achieving the following:

  • Increasing consumer awareness and market demand for wind systems;
  • Accelerating the development of a robust, self sustaining local infrastructure for the delivery and the maintenance of quality wind systems;
  • Developing a mechanism to overcome financial market barriers; and
  • Accelerating the cost reduction of wind systems while increasing reliability and performance.

    Town of Orleans wind committee focuses on safety issues. Watertown Daily Times, 1/17

    Town of Wilson (Niagara County) passes wind development moratorium. Lockport Union-Sun & Journal, 1/22

    New York State bills affecting wind power

    The New York State Legislature has reconvened, this time with Democratic control of both the Assembly and the Senate (the latter if barely) for the first time in a very long time. With a Democrat governor, it is possible that bills  may have an easier time becoming law. Time will tell.

    A number of bills affecting wind power are currently under consideration. At least two directly affect the siting of wind facilities, one substantially. The bills include:

    A00626, referred January 7 to the Local Governments committee, relates to requiring local building and planning regulations to accommodate the use of renewable energy resources such as solar thermal, photovoltaic, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal electric, geothermal ground source heat, tidal energy, wave energy, ocean thermal, and fuel cells using renewable fuels. It is sponsored by Amy Paulin of Westchester County.

    The bill would modify village and town law to require local building and planning regulations to accommodate the use of renewable and alternative energy sources.  The justification is:

    When a town or village creates zoning and planning regu- lations, they are created in accordance with a comprehensive plan and with consideration to several factors. Currently, among such factors are “safety from fire, flood, panic and other dangers.” In order to encourage the use of alternative sources of energy, the proposed legislation adds the accommodation of “renewable energy resources which, for the purposes of this section shall include solar thermal, photovoltaics, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal electric, geothermal ground source heat, tidal energy, wave energy, ocean thermal, and fuel cells using renewable fuels” to the list of factors that a town or village shall consider when creating its zoning and planning regulations. It is important to consider alternative sources of energy when making zoning and planning decisions and requiring towns and villages to do so will, hopefully, promote the use of “green” energy sources which are cleaner, renewable and better in the long-term.

    S00785, introduced by Senator Jim Alesi of western New York, would establish the New York state task force on wind generating facilities siting and permitting policies to study the need to implement a uniform statewide policy regarding the siting and permitting of wind energy production facilities; further establishes an 18 month moratorium upon the siting and permitting of wind energy production facilities; and repeal such provisions effective December 31, 2010.  The bill was referred to Energy and Telecommunications on January 15.

    The task force would:

    (a) analyz[e] the variety of current local processes for siting wind facilities;

    (b) consider[] establishing a standardized formula for the siting of wind energy generating facilities to use the following factors:

    (i) proximity to residential areas;
    (ii) availability of natural resources;
    (iii) economic impact on the local community;
    (iv) visual, audible and atmospheric impacts; and
    (v) impact on adjacent communities;

    (c) investigat[e] the possibility of a uniform permitting procedure for the siting of wind energy generating facilities;

    (d) study[] the feasibility of establishing a statewide list of properties which are appropriate for wind energy generating facilities and the siting of such a facility would have no impact on residential or neighboring communities; and

    (e) prepar[]e and submit[] a report [by December 31, 2010] to the governor and the legislature that provides specific recommendations including, but not limited to, the existing local laws on the siting of wind energy generating facilities; the necessity of a statewide policy on wind energy generating facilities and the possible structure of a statewide policy on wind energy generating facilities.

    Readers of this blog will recall that according to a very unscientific poll, WPL Blog readers favor state siting oversight.

    A01087, sponsored by Aileen Gunther, representing Sullivan and Orange counties, would allow farmers to provide for on-site wind electric generation facilities and receive a tax credit of up to $7,500. The bill was referred to Ways and Means on January 7. The proposed legislation has been around since 2001.