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School's test turbine clear for takeoff

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Georgetown County planning staff won’t block plans to erect a wind turbine at Lowcountry Preparatory School next month.

Planning director Boyd Johnson said he instructed the county building department last week not to issue a building permit for the turbine until the school updated its “planned development” to include a turbine. The block was lifted this week, Johnson said, after planning officials found the turbine won’t be as intense as they first believed.

In fact, a building permit might not even be required, he said.

“It sounds like they really just have to go in and stand it up,” Johnson said. “It won’t be connected to the building like we originally thought it would. We’ve decided to call it an ‘incidental accessory’ and we won’t make them update their PD.”

In a conversation with a school official, Johnson said, planning staff was told the school changed its original plan to make the project less intense.

Phone calls to school officials were not returned, but J.C. Sutton, a partner in Natural Energy, the wind energy consulting firm paying for the turbine and installation at the school, said plans have not changed.

It was misinformation received by county staff that led to the planning department’s concerns, he said.

“Fortunately, they talked to a board member and he set them straight on what we want to do,” Sutton said.

Plans are to install a 1-kilowatt Zephyr Airdolphin wind turbine at the school as a science project for students and an educational tool for the community. The 35-foot turbine will not exceed the height of the gym, will have three small blades, be about 8 inches in diameter and painted in school colors, Sutton said.

But there still seems to be some confusion. Johnson’s description of the proposed turbine doesn’t match Sutton’s.

Weather delayed deliveries of parts needed for installation of the turbine, but Sutton said everything should be on hand by the end of the week. The turbine is expected to be installed the first week of January.

Discussions about wind turbines will continue. At the planning commission’s retreat in February, Johnson said he will ask commission members if they want staff to create an ordinance for wind turbines.

“On the one hand, I hear it won’t be an issue here, because of the lack of wind, but on the other hand, I feel like we should get ahead of it,” he said.

In reading sample ordinances from other states, he said the main concerns about wind turbines are excessive noise and the “shadow-flicker” effect caused by the turning of the blades.

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