Grand County planners consider height limits for wind turbines
November 6, 2008
Colorado ranks fourth nationwide when it comes to solar and geothermal resources and 11th in terms of wind power generation potential, according to online Renewable Energy World.
It also has untapped hydroelectric and biomass resources.
Grand County citizens are taking note of this.
In building her greater Granby home, Vicky Burton aimed to use as much alternative energy technology as she could. At a Home and Garden show in Denver, she said she accidentally learned about ways to heat household water by harnessing the sun.
She has since incorporated the technology into her new home.
“Energy needs are at our doorstep,” Burton said.
But from her own home-building experience she said she learned there is a wealth of energy-saving information out there, more than the average citizen may realize.
Creating energy efficiency with alternative energy sources can feel like a “big jigsaw puzzle,” she said.
Last April, she created a Web site on facebook.com open to anyone who has an interest in bringing greater solar and wind technologies to the grassroots level, as outlined in the Colorado Governor’s Energy Office.
So far, the group has grown to 73 online members and more than 20 offline members, she said.
The consortium’s goal is to spread the word to citizens, homeowners and commercial building contractors about Colorado and federal energy initiatives, recent legislation on green incentives and provide networking capabilities for energy efficient products and service providers.
The emerging group, called Energy Opportunities in Grand County, is similar to another in Summit County called Our Future Summit that holds forums and gives citizens a collective voice for community direction.
In the first of a series of free seminars, on Friday, Nov. 14, Energy Opportunities will host a presentation about solar electric technology at the Granby Library. Scheduled at 6:30 p.m., Matzen Electric of Lakewood will be sharing information about photovoltaics.
“It is a chance to ask all the questions you had wondered about,” state’s the group Web site.
Besides keeping an eye on state and federal energy legislation, locals interested in alternative energy are also anticipating how a change in Grand County’s zoning regulations will benefit those wanting to install wind turbines.
The Grand County planning commission is reviewing the allowable height of wind turbine towers.
Currently, the county height restriction allows for a tower of 35 feet.
Guy Larson of the Granby-based alternative energy solutions company Simply Efficient said “the taller the better,” when it comes to harnessing wind power.
“For every 10 percent increase in wind speed, you get 30 to 40 percent more production out of the turbine,” Larson said.
Wind speeds increase the higher one goes.
Because it’s been receiving calls from those interested in wind power, the county is proposing allowing turbines of up to 65 feet or 20 feet above treeline for property owners with five to 35 acres. For more than 35 acres, the tower could be 80 feet.
But the proposed heights on five to 35 acres may limit many from installing wind turbines, Larson said.
He’s installed towers more than 100 feet tall for those in a valley or surrounded by trees.
The Rule of thumb is “twice the distance of the tower from a home or other structure,” he said, and the higher it is, the less likely it will be damaged from wind turbulence.
For wind turbines, priced from $10,000 to $20,000, having them shorter can jeopardize the investment, Larson said.
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