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Pursue wind energy wisely

For years, the interest in harnessing wind power has grown in Iowa to the point where our state is looked upon as a national leader in that alternative energy source.

Recently, Iowa surpassed California to claim second-in-the-nation status in wind energy capacity, trailing only Texas. Large wind farms in rural areas have become a familiar site to motorists crossing Iowa.

As technology has progressed, wind towers for neighborhood developments, even individual properties, are being considered. We’ve reached the point where many questions need to be answered, and ordinances discussed.

The city of Cedar Falls is taking a proactive approach in keeping up with the advancements of wind power.

The Planning and Zoning Commission first started crafting an ordinance on residential and commercial wind turbines six months ago. The Waverly and Waterloo zoning boards also are looking at ordinances regarding wind power.

They are mulling over many issues. There are the obvious ones. Towers need to be high enough to be feasible, yet short enough to not impinge on neighboring buildings should the tower come down for any reason.

Many other issues are not as obvious.

Those include such considerations as noise, the throwing of ice from the rotor blades, interference with various types of communications, and shadow “flicker,” to name just a few.

Shadows from the blades constantly moving across your living room could indeed affect a home’s value.

Currently, rules vary among Iowa cities on whether residents can place wind turbines on their properties. Turbines are banned in some cities, while others allow turbines on only larger parcels.

Steve Bernard, from Cedar Falls Utilities, said CFU has had a half dozen small wind turbines go up in the last 18 months, mostly in rural areas.

“In general we’re supportive of it. We’re supportive of alternative energy,” Bernard said.

So are we; and we’re proud of the relatively aggressive way Iowa has pursued the harnessing of wind power. As we continue to pursue this energy source, we need to be proactive in trying to determine what problems to expect as towers inevitably encroach closer to our more urban areas.

Keeping all neighborhood property values at the top of the list of considerations is a good first step in the process.