Friday, November 07, 2008

Hot air blowing at city council meeting...

... maybe enough to provide electricity for all of Kingman.

Last Monday night I was interested about an issue that Kingman's City Council had on their agenda. The issue had to deal with finalizing an ordinance for adoption to the city code that would layout the guidelines for use of wind turbine personal energy source on private property.

I had no intention to speak on the issue myself so I decided to just watch the live video of the meeting linked from the city website from the comfort of home.

This article appeared yesterday in the KDM that covered the meeting and the issue. I have no problem with the article, and there was no way that all of the comments made at the meeting could be included (the paper may buy ink by the barrel, but they only have so much space on a sheet of paper to put it).

I thought there were some interesting discussions from that part of the meeting so I've decided to share them with you. Please keep in mind that some of the following comes with my editorial slant. It should be easy to identify, and if you decide you want to see the video for yourself -- here is the link -- and I've also indicated the time on the video where the discussion was taking place (in an effort to save you time if you decide to check on what was said as compared to my editorializing).

One last thing before I begin... this issue, to me, is a private property issue. I'm not a big fan of the Global Warming crowd but I am open minded enough to understand the benefit of using technology and inginuity to capture such things as solar and wind resources that can be turned into electricity on private property. I am amazed by the continued progress being made.

I believe that these current alternative energy products that are available at this stage are similar to the time when color television sets first were introduced to the market. Color TV's were excessively expensive and not too many productions even came through in color at that time, yet consumers were given a choice to buy a product that offered something that must have appealed to them. If it wasn't for those consumers that bought the first generations of color TV's, progress would not have been made and the products would not have evolved. Today it is really difficult to find a black and white only television set.

Okay, on with the show...

30:51 -- Mayor Salem calls on agenda item 7b, Public Hearing – Ordinance No. 1628 – Text Amendment to Section 26.000 GENERAL DEVELOPMENT SERVICES... let the fun and frivolity begin.

31:50 -- Mr. Jeppson begins his presentation on behalf of the city.

36:11 -- Council Member Deering begins his first assault on the proposed ordinance by wondering if CC&R's will be affected by the ordinance. He is quickly reminded that the city does not enforce CC&R's (duh). Property owners agree to abide by the CC&R's of a subdivision up front and may choose to part ways with certain property rights in doing so.

38:21 -- Council Member Gordon reiterates, correctly, that the intention of the ordinance was to not exclude property owners with smaller lots from the ability to control their own needs to utilize an energy source that has the ability to reduce utility costs (that increased by 20% this year) and improve the property they own.

38:52 -- Deering begins his 'theoretical' of a new resident moving to Kingman on a fixed income finds a home with a 'nice view' out the backyard only to have some idiot neighbor put a wind turbine up on his own property and interfering with said 'nice view'. Or in other words... the rights of an actual property owner are subordinate to someone with a 'nice view'.

39:29 -- Council Member Watson begins to play the 'gotcha' game. First asks Mr. Jeppson if he has spoken with, what she believed, was the only resident in Kingman with a wind turbine system. She finds out that there is at least one other resident with a wind turbine system INSIDE the city limits... appears to be taken aback by that fact.

Nevertheless, Watson goes on to say that the one resident she knew of with a wind turbine was sold a lemon. Indicating for her, reason enough not to allow anyone else in Kingman to choose to purchase a wind turbine energy system.

Offers that perhaps it is not windy enough in Kingman for wind turbines. LOL!!

Goes on further to say that a hole had to be dug to install the tower and needed 6' by 6' by 6' worth of concrete to keep the tower in place.

Mrs. Watson says that there are a lot of yards where a back hoe can't access a backyard to dig such a huge hole. Gee... guess that means that property owner can't use this system then eh??

Mrs. Watson informs us that there are moving parts on a wind turbine.

She also states that she visited with a representative from the local electric company (that recently increased rates 20%)... but never follows through with a point. At least we know where some of her opposition might be coming from though.

Admits her job is not a consumer protector but... lots sizes do make a difference. (I though size didn't matter... oh... that something else, my bad)

Also proposes that only a select few should be considered for using such a system. Calls for a 'highly restricted area' of use. I took that to mean test cases if you will, and until those rascally wind turbines actually produce enough electricity to placate her, she'd only then consider letting the rest of us pee-ons have access to an alternative energy source like wind.

Next she worries if homeowners move out, how would the city get 'them' to take the wind turbines down... in case the house sits empty for two years. As of right now, there are no vacated homes with wind turbines in the city of Kingman.

Continues on about the one resident she is aware of and how he only managed to save a little over $50 dollars since the system was installed back in June.

Councilwoman Gordon correctly asks what any of Mrs. Watson's concerns have to do with the ordinance. You rock, Mrs. Gordon!!

Mrs. Watson says that the council isn't suppose to be the protectors of the community. I'm not making that up. (Using it a bit out of context?? Me?? A little.)

43:56 -- Council Member Young wants to insure, before passing the ordinance, that the city will have licensed engineers and installers in the mix. Of which is already part of the ordinance they were considering and if passed would be part of the process before the city gave out the required permit to a property owner that wanted to install a wind turbine on their property.

Mrs. Watson agrees with the 'buyer beware' aspect... but still.

45:31 -- Council Member Lyons, the pragmatist of the council, reminds the council that they sent this item back to P&Z to fix the ordinance and thinks they fixed it and seemed ready to move forward. (would have saved another hour or so if...)

46:26 -- Council Member Watson states that if two wind turbines were right next to each other on a property line that the wind turbines would run into each other.

47:40 -- Council Member Deering says kids will be kids and if he was a kid he'd be climbing up these poles in his neighbors backyard. Says that we put fences around pools... indicating that maybe fences are needed around these poles.

Lyons had the solution for the ever youthful Deering... grease the pole. Lyons doesn't say much in the meetings, but when he does contribute often times it is gold.

49:00 -- Council Member Young says she talked to a lady that lives near a wind turbine and the noise decibel levels are higher than what is allowed by the proposed ordinance. Mr. Jeppson said if that is true the property owner would be in violation of the ordinance.

Mrs. Watson goes for another 'gotcha' moment and asks if there were three turbines would the cumulative noise be greater than the allowable decibel level. Mr. Jeppson answers that the noise level is gaged from the property line and if it was too noisy, the property owner would be in violation of the ordinance.

Mr. Deering goes for a 'gotcha' now as well. What if there were three turbines across the street and he heard them all night. Who is in violation?? Seriously.

52:00 -- Council Member Deering is upset at how the proposed ordinance has evolved. It used to be a one acre minimum so that the noise would dissipate and when the tower fell over that it would only fall on the owners property. He would hate to see a wind turbine in every backyard in Kingman.

So in review (again) his big concern is that he doesn't want to see a wind turbine in every backyard in Kingman. His other concern is that kids will be kids and climb the poles on someone else's private property.

Councilwoman Gordon says that these systems at this time are cost prohibitive and it is doubtful that every property owner in Kingman will have one of these systems in their backyard. Says its a situation that is not likely to happen. Also says that homeowners would likely have insurance in the rare case that a tower falls over and damages a neighbors property. Again, Mrs. Gordon, you rock!!

Then Council Member Walker reminds council that these towers are engineered and built to withstand winds of 140MPH and require a stamp of approval by engineers before the issuance of a permit. Goes on to say that the people should have the option, even though he wouldn't be interested in buying one for himself at this time. Well done sir.

Councilwoman Young offers that the biggest concern will be that people who own small lots will come back and say that they can't have a wind turbine because they may not have the optimal wind advantage, that when these are so close together some people just won't be able to have them. If that is her biggest concern, she needs not to worry. The next generation of alternative and renewable personal energy sources will be smaller and cheaper, but yes not everyone will be able to utilize these products.

58:28 -- Mayor Salem opens up the floor to the public. First up... local columnist Gwen Gillman.

Mrs. Gillman is extremely concerned about the possibility of placing wind turbines (long I sound) or is it turbines (short i sound), whatever, in residential neighborhoods. Stated that the reason the P&Z commission passed along the ordinance to council was because 2 dozen people in attendance at the meeting were advocates of windmills and there was no opposition so she feels that P&Z easily relented to just "let's approve this"... yet she was extremely disappointed that commission approved. This from a member of a special interest group intent on ensuring that the common folk in the community is allowed to have their voice heard. Can you just smell the irony??

Goes on to say that wind turbines cost between $10,000 to $16,000 but have yet to be proven to work properly or that the city hasn't done a wind study to determine if there is enough sustainable wind in Kingman to ensure if wind turbines actually work. Really. But then comes back and says that "all of us in Kingman think we have too much wind," yeah seriously, "most of the wind comes in gusts, which is not the same as sustainable wind." At least now I'm in the know on the difference.

She then goes on to say that a Northern Arizona University professor has been doing a study on wind in the Flagstaff area and finds that there are only small pockets of areas that produce sustainable winds in Flagstaff. She uses that talking point as a reason why wind turbines should not be placed in residential neighborhoods 200 miles away in Kingman.

Goes further and demands that until wind energy special interests can prove their worth, which they haven't according to Mrs. Gillman, they need to be placed on large 40 acre parcels which people can buy into.

Says wind turbines would definitely add noise pollution and otherwise be a distraction due to constant motion (but I thought she just said there wasn't enough sustainable winds in Kingman). Oh and these wind turbines would decrease property values (LOL).

Right now we can enjoy the panoramic views of the mountains, sunsets, and clear skies... but if these evil free enterprise capitalists get their way us folks in Kingman would be stuck with hundreds or thousands of 60' towers with airplane propellers affixed to them all over the city of Kingman. Scare tactic anyone??

She also believes that P&Z was just humoring the wind turbine special interests and simply passed them on to city council for the final decision. Then begs the council to do the right thing and not allow private property owners the opportunity to "uglify" Kingman.

No questions from council for Mrs. Gillman (darn it).

1:02:04 -- next up, Harley Petit. He reveals that he is neither pro or con about the wind turbine issue.

But he lists his concerns; noise -- because if there are six of these things the sound would come through in stereo, visual pollution -- kinda like utility poles but with the added distraction of the rotating mass, utility rates -- if the rates go up and people use dastardly things like wind turbines the utility company won't make as much revenue effectively charging us more for using less (I had a tough time following that one).

Believes the wind turbines are the future, but for now they don't belong in the city.

Shares a web address for what happens when catastrophic failure occurs to a wind turbine. If the tower and blades disintegrate it would spread debris over a 500% radius. A mass explosion (just like our growth rate at one point in recent history). He then shared that he thought there would be guarantees that nothing like that would happen, but... it's just something that can't be guaranteed (you still following the logic??).

Wants to know more information... particularly height, prop wash (turbulence), and what will the city do when the turbines are abandoned -- especially if there is a 6' by 6' by 6' concrete footing in the ground. What if the city wanted to put a water or sewer line through that footing... who would excavate that??

I was left with wondering what he might say if he was actually for or against this ordinance.

1:05:23 -- Donna Crouse now takes the podium. Reminds council that the reason the ordinance was proposed was so that there would be some guidelines. She addresses one of Mr. Deering's concerns about the evolution of the ordinance (this has been going on for a year now), reminds everyone that technology continues to change. She says that the technology has improved enough in order for these turbines to have a smaller footprint so that they can be used on smaller lots (the latest turbine models I've seen for sale do not require guide wires to help keep the structure in place). She offered compliments to the city staff for all their hard work on the ordinance.

1:08:21 -- Richard Salmonsen is next and points out that air conditioner units produce between 70 and 80 decibels of noise. The ordinance allows a maximum of 60 decibels for the wind turbines.

He then goes on to take Councilwoman Watson's shared views on wind turbines to task. States that the footings for wind turbines do not need a 6'X6'X6' worth of concrete. Could be as little as a 24" diameter hole 8' feet deep. Reminds that no matter what the need is for the particular backyard might be... the system has to meet the engineers standard before getting approval.

Says that if council is worried about the wind turbine poles collapsing then the city needs to worry about every street light falling down because street lights do not have as stringent of engineering demand as the wind turbines do.

Says that a few of his customers in the county area have purchased a second unit (or more). Agrees that the cost of the units are expensive, but if some folks are installing more than one unit then it must mean the units produce an effective amount of energy for the consumer.

Talks about having the units installed properly by licensed contractors, something that apparently wasn't the case on the installation Mrs. Watson talked about earlier as her reason not to allow any more of these products to set foot in Kingman.

States that not every homeowner will be able to take advantage of the benefits of a wind turbine, similar to the fact that not every homeowner would be able to get benefits from solar power, due to interference from trees or simply the alignment of the home structure.

Councilman Deering tells us all that he lives on a hill on the golf course and couldn't imagine himself putting a wind turbine up. Thinks he would be ruining the view for the golfers (I don't play golf for the view). Also says that if you live on a small lot, he wouldn't want his neighbor to put one up, he would hate that. Also admits that if a neighbor planted a tree and obstructed his precious view that he'd be alright with that... but not a wind turbine.

Now Councilwoman Watson tries to play 'gotcha' again, this time with Mr. Salmonsen. She asks if he has heard of the installing company that installed the wind turbine that she feels was a lemon. Rich answered by informing Watson the particular installing company wasn't in business any longer, nor were they authorized installers. So much for the 'gotcha' moment.

1:23:48 -- Barron Yankowicz speaks briefly to council but makes a point about the size of satellite dishes not all that many years ago compared to what is common today. I believe that in time we will also see smaller wind turbine units that generate power as well. If it wasn't for the people that invested in the large satellite dishes, expensive tuners, and whatnot... it would have taken longer before the next generation of smaller and cheaper products to reach the market, kinda like the color TV's I talked about earlier.

1:25:43 -- Tony Kuc says that he has one of these units and also a solar power generator and both produce about half his electricity a month. I know Tony and he has a large home and has a full house of kids. Says he uses between 4,000 and 5,000 kilowatts of electricity a month.

Mrs. Watson asks Tony if the wind is blowing 5 MPH and the blades are turning... is power being created?? The answer is no, the unit Tony sells begins generation at 8 MPH.

Tony did very well, it was almost a free commercial for his company. He answered all the questions that council had.

1:32:36 -- Denise Bensusan at the podium. I'm not normally a big fan of her activism (anti-growth), but I got a kick out of her at this meeting. She believes that if this city would open up to green friendly energy that companies would consider moving to the area. I don't have any data to back that up, but I do tend to agree with her on that.

She also talks about opportunities to create 'green' jobs... green, black, white, purple, pink... in this local economy I don't think it matters what color the jobs are... the jobs though are important. More the better.

Points out that not everyone that is considering purchasing a wind turbine will be doing so for the cost benefit, says that some are just wanting to use cleaner sources of energy in their own effort to improve the environment. I'd consider getting one to improve the value of my property, but that is just me.

Talks about the individual and their right to purchase whatever kind of energy they might want, as available. Denise... I will likely not agree with you on too many things (based on things I've heard her say about other issues), but thank you for your valuable input on this issue.

1:37:02 -- Mayor Salem closes the public hearing and turns the issue into an action item.

Mrs. Watson says there is a difference between personal rights and public responsibility. Seems intent on using one falsely to trample on the other. Says that even if people use wind or solar power that they couldn't get all their needs met and still would have to rely on a utility company for the rest of the needs. So no matter what, even if the utility need is cut in half, that people would still need a utility company. Yeah, I'm not following either. Then wants to move to send all this back to the P&Z or staff (wasn't clear) and perhaps just adopt what Bullhead City or Lake Havasu have done with their alternative energy ordinances (yeah, lets not be leaders ourselves).

From there... plenty of back and forth among council members. A couple of leaders proved themselves as friends to property owners and the rights owners have, and a couple of others completely failed to protect those rights.

I was also very impressed by the shrewdness of the votes made by one particular council member on both of the proposed motions made.

1:47:51 -- Alas... an ordinance was approved, starting at a half acre minimum.

Folks, if you have a decent sense of humor then (at least until the movie theater opens back up) there is no better entertainment option in Kingman -- for the money -- than catching a city council meeting (either in person or via internet or local cable).

No comments: