Re: Geothermal, Solar & Small Wind Energy Systems in Poolesville
As a member of the Poolesville Planning Commission, I participated over the last 10 months in researching and discussing geothermal, solar, and small wind energy systems and in drafting an Alternative Energy Ordinance for our town. So, I signed up to testify and offered two recommendations for improving the ordinance that apply equally to any geothermal, solar, or wind energy systems if permitted in Poolesville
My first recommendation is to revise the proposed ordinance so that applicants for a permit for an alternative energy system (geothermal, solar or wind) in any zone in town (residential, townhouse, commercial, central business district (CBD), and multi-acre rural density transfer) be required to meet the following four basic standards:
a). No permit shall be issued for the construction or erection of a solar, geothermal and wind energy system in any zone except in accordance with an approved site plan.
b). The site plan for a solar, geothermal, and wind energy system is to be filed with the Planning Commission for review and approval.
c). The site plan for a solar, geothermal, and wind energy systems shall ensure the harmonious relationship established in the Master Plan for architectural building elements and the overall Streetscape Plan; and
d). Solar, geothermal, and wind energy systems must be compatible with the aesthetics of the building design and of neighboring structures.
I did not make these four standards up. These four standards are in the proposed ordinance but they only apply to solar energy systems in the Central Business or Commercial zones. I recommended these important standards be applied to all alternative energy systems in all zones of Poolesville.
My second recommendation was to revise the ordinance so that all applicants for a permit for a geothermal, solar, or wind energy system be required to submit a professional estimate of the annual electricity their system will produce and a professional estimate of when their system will pay for itself within the manufacturer’s estimated life of that geothermal, solar, or small wind system. The purpose of asking applicants to submit this information with their applications is for each applicant and the Town government to be fully aware of the cost effectiveness of each proposed alternative energy system in town.
That was the full extent of my prepared testimony. One Town Commissioner did ask me why I thought it was important to ask applicants to provide productivity and payback estimates for their systems when they submitted their site plan and permit application. I replied that Poolesville does not have equal amounts of geothermal, solar and wind energy. Geothermal systems in Poolesville will have the heat or cold of the earth 365 days a year. Solar systems in Poolesville will have sunshine 208 days a year. Small wind systems in Poolesville cannot rely on having sufficient and sustained winds any days of the year. That is because Poolesville is situated in the part of Maryland that, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) of the Department of Energy, has no or very low winds. They measured winds nationwide at 150 feet and have produced wind maps for all states. Much of Maryland including Poolesville has Class 1- Poor Winds. If Poolesville has Poor Winds at150 feet, what winds will we have at the lower 50 or 60 foot level permitted in the proposed ordinance. So, it seems to me particularly important that each applicant for an alternative energy system in Poolesville know if the system they are considering is energy and economically viable.