Much has been made the past two days about a story that came out in the Sun regarding a local woman in Federal Hill, Marsha Vitow, attempting to install a wind turbine atop her rowhouse. There has been both strong support and opposition to her plan and today the Baltimore City Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals will rule on the case. On the surface I think this is a tremendous idea; taking a strong step toward energy improvement in the city and hopefully signaling to others that energy conservation in a city environment is possible. I also understand where the opposition side is coming from in its arguments that it takes away from the aesthetics of the neighborhood.
I’ve been a resident of Federal Hill for over 9 months now and, arguably, the best thing about our house is the rooftop deck. Over the winter we set up a fire-pit (I’m not sure this is legal so please don’t snitch) and we’ve set up a tv for O’s games so that we can enjoy as much time outside on the deck as possible. Many people that live in city rowhouses don’t have such an opportunity to enjoy the weather and just relax outside in the sun during the summer so my roommates and I feel privileged and lucky to have such a luxury. With views of the entire skyline, Camden Yards, M&T Bank Stadium, the Domino Sugar sign and all of the surrounding areas there isn’t, in my opinion, a more pleasant spot to relax on a nice night. Having come to appreciate our rooftop deck like I have, I can certainly understand the view of Ms. Vitow’s neighbors that a large turbine might be a bit unsightly next to their own rooftop decks. This is, however, hardly the size of the turbines we’re all used to seeing in wind fields, with huge blades whipping around. With 6 foot blades, this will be a smaller version, but still too large not to be noticed by those on adjacent decks.
I would be interested to know how much research was done by her contracting company into installing solar panels on her deck instead of the turbine. In the Sun story the contractor was cited as saying solar would be more expensive, but I’d be interested to know the discrepancy in costs. Solar technology is, at this time, more prevalent at the residential level and there would be more options to try to find a cost-effective option. The State has also introduced subsidized incentive programs for users of renewable energy; offering up to $10,000 in grant money to residents for new solar systems. There are also subsidies for wind-energy systems, but those funds are all for turbines planted in the ground and 30 feet high, not 6-10 foot turbines on roofs.
Regardless of the decision today I think it’s important we acknowledge that Ms. Vitow is taking a step in the right direction for Baltimore and hopefully her efforts will be noticed by many who, like her, want to see Baltimore progress as an energy efficient city.