Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Ways the wind blows

Wind is all the rage in the renewable-energy crowd, though the harnessing turbines pit environmentalists against each other, what with the disruption to the natural environment that wind farms can have (messing with migratory birds, for example). Nantucket Sound has been the latest scene of this battle, with a proposal by Cape Wind for a "wind park" at Horseshoe Shoal ( But a whole new set of issues for planners is on the horizon with the growing popularity of personal windmills or “residential wind turbines” for single-family homes – blades about two feet long, on a two-inch diameter galvanized pole about 10 feet tall. Depending on the location of the home, the devices can cut electricity bills in half; they provide the energy as the wind blows and reduce the draw from the local utility accordingly. They can also produce electricity during power outages. Town planners are thumbing through the zoning laws in Massachusetts and can’t find any references to this latest breakthrough in green technology. Solar panels, yes, and ham radio antennae, but nothing on wind energy for individual property owners. The wind turbines appear to be by right under many zoning bylaws, which allow projections of up to 75 feet on a single-family house, although that seems a tad high. This will be just one feature of green building and sustainable living that gradually transfers from big commercial buildings to individual homeowners. Pretty clever. Links are and for more information.


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