Wind for Schools Turbine Prompts Updated Wind Ordinance for City of Pocatello: A Wind Powering America Success Story

July 7, 2010

An obstacle to the 2009 Wind for Schools project turbine installation at Pocatello Community Charter School has been removed for some future small wind turbine installations in the community, thanks to an ordinance revision prompted in part by the school's experience.

In September 2009, the Pocatello Community Charter School hosted a ribbon-cutting and dedication for Pocatello's first wind turbine, a Skystream funded in part by the Wind for Schools project in Idaho. As part of the installation process, school officials were required to file a conditional use permit (CUP) for the turbine. School officials paid $529 in CUP fees ($466 plus an additional $1.50 per mailing for each neighbor within 300 yards), and the city planning and zoning board approved the permit on Earth Day 2009. (The exceptions noted were the height, noise, and proximity to waterways, a railroad, and busy thoroughfare.)

Some future small-scale turbine installations will be able to skip the CUP, however, thanks to a code revision suggested by Pocatello's zoning review committee while creating a new zoning ordinance. According to the Idaho State Journal, "It was further prompted by the CUP application submitted by the charter school." Although installations in Pocatello's residential areas must still apply for the CUP, installations in zoning districts where they meet certain requirements will be able to bypass this permit, saving project installers several hundreds of dollars in fees.

Pocatello citizens have supported the turbine installation at the charter school from the beginning. According to project champion Billie Johnson, after it was reported that the city council refused to waive the CUP fee, parents and citizens donated more than $2,000 in 2 days, including an anonymous donation from someone who "was greatly influenced by a science teacher."

A video of the Pocatello Community Charter School installation process can be viewed.