County council attempting to clarify windmill ordinance

Sussex County council amended their windmill ordinance this week to further clarify what is acceptable.

Lawrence Lank, of Planning and Zoning, said that after the council adopted an ordinance in September regarding windmills, wind turbines and wind systems, in hearings and comments about the ordinance, they decided to enhance the ordinance to include some of the “comments and concerns of county citizens.”

The amendment adopted this week added that three wind turbines could be allowed per lot (for lots less than 5 acres), with certain height restrictions. For lots more than 5 acres, one turbine per 5 acres would be permitted, with a maximum of five, with a caveat stating that for persons interested in having more than the maximum, a special use exception would be required from the Board of Adjustment.

Lank explained that this further clarified the process of allowing wind power generating systems as a whole. Earlier, the county was under the perception that because of state law, and because of their minimum 5-acre law (for one turbine), there was no way for an applicant to even go before the board for a variance, should they have less than 5 acres, leaving both the county and the applicant with little choice.

The county went on to amend their 5-acre minimum law and this amendment further clarifies the number of windmills wind/turbines allowed per lot.

In other renewable energy news, county director of technical engineering Steve Hudson reported that the solar system at the Emergency Operations Center has stayed on projected target and “worked flawlessly.”

The council also approved a motion from Hudson for the design of an open-loop geothermal system to work in conjunction with their current closed-loop system after HVAC issues this summer. Hudson said upfront costs could be about $50,000 higher than a conventional method, but cost savings over 10 years in maintenance could be over $200,000.

The council also approved motions by finance director Susan Webb regarding the pension fun and the post-employment benefit fund and the Sussex County Investment Fund.

With the investment fund, Webb said they would be “investing in ourselves,” by paying off a state of Delaware Revolving Fund Loan Program loan, and replacing it with a loan directly to the South Coastal Regional Wastewater Facility Sewer district for $10 million but at a lower interest rate.

Advantages include assisting the sewer district with a reduced interest cost, having a secure investment, and most likely interest increasing over time. Any interest over one percent, up to five percent, would be used to invest in area fire companies.