Don’t let ordinance get ‘stale’

Published 9:34 am Thursday, June 24, 2010

It is good that Austin has a wind turbine ordinance in place. Getting that step accomplished provides a framework around which practical policy on local energy alternatives can be built. Wind energy is a subject that is changing too fast, however, for the ordinance to remain static.

With the ordinance in place, Austin now allows wind turbines in non-residential areas, although they are subject to approval and various restrictions. The ordinance does not carve out an exception for small, roof-mounted home turbines. That, however, is likely not a problem in a practical sense since these smallest of power-generating turbines typically do not produce enough electricity to run a modern home; they fall more into the category of “making a statement.”

The physics of wind and electricity mean that there is not likely to be a major revolution in turbine technology soon. But incremental improvements and changes are always possible, and those changes may make residential turbines more attractive in the future. The national need for alternative energy is also likely to increase.

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Technological improvements and growing need therefore create at least two good reasons why Austin needs to be open to amending its wind turbine ordinance. It is rare, indeed, to achieve perfection on the first attempt, and it’s going to be important to allow new energy technology to find root here.