This article comes from the blog for Construction Law at the firm of Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP and is authored by Mauricio Escobar.
For a state that leads the country in the production of crude oil and natural gas, one would be surprised to learn that Texas also leads the country in wind energy production. In fact, wind accounts for nearly all of the electricity generated from renewable resources in Texas. Texas’ strong position in investing in the wind energy sector has also made it the indisputable leader in wind energy.
In 2005, the Texas legislature enacted a law requiring the public utility commission to create Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ), which designated areas in the wind heavy, rural north of Texas for wind farms to be built. CREZ was a $7 billion project in which transmission lines were built to connect to a future wind farm.
As the wind blows across a landscape, it will turn two or three-propeller like blades around a rotor. The rotor is connected to a main shaft which spins a generator to create electricity. All of this comprises a wind turbine, which is mounted on a tower. The taller the tower, the more it will be able to capture faster and less turbulent wind.
For those with enough resources to construct a wind energy system on their property, there are some things to consider that may impact the project. As in any construction project, local regulation or ordinance will tell you a lot about what you can or cannot do.
How tall can the tower be compared to the size of your property:
One Texas ordinance, for example, states that tower heights of not more than 100 feet must be allowed on parcels of land between 1 and 5 acres. For properties with more than 5 acres, there is no tower height limitation other than that which is imposed by FAA regulations or recommended by the designer/manufacturer. Additionally, most ordinances provide that the minimum distance from the ground to the lowest reach of the blade or turbine must be 20 feet.
Most ordinances appear to require that a wind turbine (or a wind energy system) be no closer to the property line than one hundred twenty-five percent of the height of the tower
Most ordinances indicate that sound produced by the turbine or blades under normal operating conditions, must not exceed sixty decibels (typically measured at the ground along the property line)
Texas ordinances state that towers must comply with the requirements of the FAA with regard to lighting
Building permit applications
Most ordinances require that the application is accompanied by a drawing or a site plan of the system and its component parts. An engineering analysis of the tower showing compliance with the International Building Code and certified by a licensed professional engineer is also typically required
These are but a few of the issues to consider when determining whether to install a wind energy system.
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