Officials mull alternative-energy regulations

ELTON, PENNSYLVANIA - Looking at the hill he owns behind the Homestead Inn at Elton, Percy Helsel sees the potential to power his restaurant.

He's not alone. With interest in alternative energy sources growing, many communities are looking for ways to help residents save money while protecting those living nearby.

Adams and Richland townships are among area communities considering energy regulations. After Helsel asked Adams leaders about putting in a small wind turbine, supervisors told Solicitor Bill Barbin to look into new regulations.

In Richland, supervisors are developing rules for outdoor furnaces. "You have to have some kind of guidelines," said William "B.J." Smith, Adams chairman. "But we wouldn't want to deny anybody the right to run their own home."

Barbin's residential wind-turbine ordinance is based on those enacted by other municipalities.

It would require setbacks from the owner's property line to be at least equal to tower's height plus 15 feet. Most residential wind turbines are less than 100 feet tall, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

In Pennsylvania, the push for alternative energy sources is due in part to worries about deregulation.

Under a law passed more than 10 years ago to encourage competition in the electric utility business, the state's electric companies will be able to charge market prices on Jan. 1, 2010. "If they deregulate the electric industry in 2010, people will be in a real bind," Helsel said.

In Richland Township, noise and smoke nuisances were discussed at a recent meeting. Executive Secretary Kim Stayrook is collecting sample ordinances from other townships to deal with both issues.

"We have no control over (outdoor furnaces) at all right now," supervisors' Chairman Melvyn Wingard said. When Wingard asked Solicitor Gary Costlow about a possible noise ordinance, Costlow said uniform enforcement often is a problem.

"I think we owe it to those people who are concerned," Wingard said, calling for a vote authorizing Stayrook to investigate.


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