190112_local_wind_farm_rh

Wind farms generate electricity from wind that pushes (typically three) turbines. When they turn a rotor which is connected to them also spins. The rotor is connected to a generator which produces the electricity.

A Florida-based wind company is signaling its interest in a potential wind farm in Buchanan County, but before any turbines are constructed the community will have a chance to be heard.

Officials from NextEra Energy attended a recent Buchanan County Planning and Zoning meeting to discuss the project. They said they think 2.8-megawatt turbines could work in certain areas but will be working on a wind-flow chart to confirm that.

“It’s an interesting proposition, and we don’t know for sure yet if northeast Buchanan County is appropriate for wind energy,” Buchanan County Presiding Commissioner Lee Sawyer said. “But if it is, what we’re really trying to do at this point is assist the planning and zoning board.”

That will not be a fast process. First the zoning code has to be rewritten to encompass wind farms.

In neighboring DeKalb County, which has wind farms that have stirred up controversy among community members on opposing sides, this step doesn’t occur in six townships because they are unzoned. That means million-dollar wind companies negotiate directly with the homeowner.

Buchanan County allows neighbors to weigh in on how they want the area zoned during a planning and zoning commission meeting, according to Buchanan County Attorney Chad Gaddie.

“The planning and zoning commission will have a public hearing on that, and then vote to either approve those amendments or deny them,” Gaddie said. “If they’re approved, then they’ll go to the county commission for approval or denial.”

Zoning code dictates the locations of various business industries, and if it eventually includes wind farms, the process is also not done overnight.

“If any specific entities want to engage in a wind energy project they’ll have to apply for a permit,” Gaddie said.

Then the next step looks a lot like the zoning code change process. The theoretical wind-farm permit would then be reviewed by the planning and zoning commission during a public hearing, and if it is approved, county commissioners would then vote on the matter.

Ryan Hennessy can be reached

at ryan.hennessy@newspressnow.com. Follow him at @NPNowHennessy.