The Carroll County commissioners unanimously voted yesterday to allow the installation of small wind turbines.
The amendment to the zoning ordinance, believed to be the first of its kind in Maryland, limits properties to no more than two "small wind energy systems" each consisting of a single tower not to exceed 150 feet in height, County Attorney Kim Millender said.
County officials said they began pursuing the policy when several residents called toward the end of last year and inquired about installing them. At the time, the zoning ordinance did not allow for wind-energy systems, said Michael D. Maring, Carroll's bureau chief of permits and inspection.
The rising cost of energy is likely what has sparked the interest, Maring said.
The ordinance calls for the tower to be "set back a distance equal to its total height plus an additional 20 feet" from the nearest state or county roadway, overhead utility lines and property lines, among other restrictions.
"The people who have been talking to us ... are talking about 60-foot, 30-foot, maximum 80-foot towers," Maring told the commissioners yesterday. Most lots aren't wide enough to meet setback requirements for taller towers, he added.
The energy systems can cost $10,000 to $12,000, Maring said.
Owners wanting to connect their system to the main power grid, to sell back energy that exceeds their needs, must apply to the Public Service Commission for approval, Millender said.
The commissioners' unanimous vote came after all agreed to modify the amendment to say that systems out of service for a continuous six-month period, instead of the drafted version's 12 months, would be considered abandoned.
County residents can find out whether their property has enough air flowing across to support such a system by contacting the Maryland Energy Administration at 800-723-6374, or by visiting www.energy.state.md.us, according to a county news release.