Fan of renewable energy?

The Spearfish City Council Monday initiated an update to city code regarding small wind energy systems, like the one pictured at Black Hills State University. Tabled in 2010, the previously proposed ordinance would go back to the planning commission for consideration to determine whether small wind energy systems would be allowed within city limits. Pioneer photo by Kaija Swisher 

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SPEARFISH — The winds may be a changing — or at least the opportunity to have small wind energy systems within city limits, following the Spearfish City Council’s Monday vote to initiate an update to city code.

City code currently allows photovoltaic/solar energy systems, and after tabling an ordinance nearly nine years ago that provided rules about wind energy systems, city staff are again hearing interest from citizens wondering about the status of the ordinance.

City Planner Jayna Watson explained that the previous ordinance, tabled on Nov. 1, 2010, is already drafted, and should the council wish to proceed with an update, that existing text would be brought back to the planning commission for consideration and recommendation before it would be re-presented to the city council.

“We have some options,” she said, describing that originally, the proposed ordinance allowed for small wind energy systems by use permit through review approval process for agricultural/residential districts larger than one acre, with a height restriction of 55 feet, as well as mitigation limits specified.

In commercial, industrial, and airport districts, the original proposal called for a height restriction of 75 feet for small wind energy systems.  

The original ordinance was the result of months of city and committee planning and also followed the recommendation of the South Dakota Wind Energy Association at the time.

In 2010, councilmembers voiced mixed feelings about the proposed ordinance. Councilmembers said they wanted more time and research to investigate wind energy and avoid rushing into an ordinance, so the item was tabled, with no definitive timeframe provided for when the council would revisit the topic. Concerns at the time included the visual and noise impact and the effectiveness of wind energy systems in 2010.

While Watson addressed city council committees in December 2014 to see if they would like to revisit the ordinance in early 2015, the ordinance had not yet been discussed at committee or council level until the latest round of meetings.

The council unanimously approved initiating an update to the ordinance.

Councilman Marty Clark, who made the motion, said that he would like clarification about the noise levels of current small wind energy systems.

“The noise would be a concern for me …” he said.

Watson said that the planning commission would consider that aspect of the systems during their evaluation of the drafted ordinance and added that most small wind energy systems include a spec sheet that includes the decibel levels created by the system, among other technical information.

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