Backyard windmill creates buzz in small town

Backyard windmill creates buzz in small town

Postby LauraG on Wed Jul 30, 2008 12:21 am

Backyard windmill creates buzz in small town

09:33 AM CDT on Monday, July 28, 2008

When Mary Starrett erected a windmill in her backyard in Prosper last November, she never thought it would create such a stir or cause the town to pass a new ordinance.Ms. Starrett has lived in her one-story home since 2002.
"I was trying to do everything I could think of to cut the electric bill," she says.

She replaced all of her old light bulbs with energy-efficient bulbs. She increased her home's attic insulation to an R-48 level and added a radiant barrier.

Then Ms. Starrett asked Charles Crumpley with WeKnow Technologies to install a 33-foot windmill in her backyard. It generates between 400- and 700-kilowatt hours per month, which is electricity she does not have to buy.

Homeowners had never asked the town of Prosper for permission to install a windmill. Until recently, Ms. Starrett believes her windmill was the only one in Collin County.

Prosper approved her windmill as an "accessory structure."

"I'm happy with it," Ms. Starrett says.

In May and June of this year, Ms. Starrett's electric bill for her 2,200-square-foot home was only $93, compared to her neighbor with a similar-sized house who had a $350 bill in May.

That piqued the interest of several homeowners, who applied to the town for a permit to erect a windmill.

"As energy costs rise, we expect requests for windmills to go up," says Chris Copple, a senior planner for the Prosper Planning & Zoning Commission .

He started drafting new regulations in April on how windmills could be erected.

Those regulations have been approved by the Planning & Zoning Commission and are before the Town Council. On Aug. 12, the Town Council will hold a public hearing on windmill regulations.

In the town of Prosper, which has a population of 6,367, the new regulations will limit windmills to a maximum height of 60 feet, including the blade. They have to be at least 75 feet from the property line and from any right of way. And they must be 250 feet from another windmill. They cannot be placed in the front yard, and the lot has to be at least 1 acre in size.

"We don't want it casting shadows over someone's pool," Mr. Copple says.

Noise is not an issue because windmills of this size are quiet – running at about 45 to 60 decibels.

Not everyone can or should build a windmill, Mr. Crumpley says. But demand is rising. His company is erecting a new windmill at a rate of one a day, and he expects to add more installers so it can install three new windmills per day. There are special conditions to justify a windmill, he says.

Prosper, whose logo is an old-style windmill, is developing a windmill ordinance that could serve as a model for governing the installation of personal windmills.

Grand Prairie has an ordinance regulating commercial windmills. Waxahachie recently approved a windmill ordinance, and Garland is considering one as well.

Ms. Starrett paid $13,500 for her windmill. She expects the windmill to pay for itself eventually.

It has become part of the family. She and her daughters talked about the windmill so often, they named it Bud.

"We watch it all the time. It is better than watching TV," Ms. Starrett says. Last year she photographed it for her Christmas cards.

Bud has also become a local attraction. "I have had 15 or 20 people ask me about it," Ms. Starrett says.

She is now applying to the town for a 50-foot windmill, which will generate 25 percent more electricity. She plans to call the taller windmill Bubba.

Stewart Lytle

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