The region's largest power-tool manufacturer plans to make more use of wind energy to power its operations.
Stihl Inc. has requested the city's approval to install up to seven more wind turbines at its campus off Lynnhaven Parkway. Stihl last summer put two turbines atop one of its production facilities near London Bridge Road, said Ben Hoffmann, the company's special projects manager.
The Planning Commission approved Stihl's request, 10-0, last month. It is scheduled to go before the City Council today.
The company is moving forward with wind energy, Hoffmann said, because it will save Stihl money - he wouldn't say how much - and "we want to be environmentally friendly."
The move, however, won't significantly shift Stihl's power use. The turbines would provide less than 1 percent of the company's energy needs, Hoffmann said.
Even so, "we're excited that they're taking this on," said Glen Besa, director of the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club. "It sets a good example for other businesses inclined to make investments in clean energy."
Despite support from environmentalists, wind energy suffered a recent setback in Virginia.
Gamesa Energy USA and Huntington Ingalls Industries' Newport News Shipbuilding last month announced that they had suspended plans to build Virginia's first offshore wind turbine, off Cape Charles. They cited the possible expiration of a federal tax credit and the lack of a well-defined federal energy policy.
Besa agreed that uncertainty about the "production tax credit for renewable energy," which will expire at the end of the year without congressional action, has hindered progress in wind energy. He also pointed to the declining price of natural gas and the lack of government incentives in Virginia.
Another potential advance in wind energy is pending. Eight companies have applied to the federal government to develop a wind farm off the Virginia coast. Two applicants are from Virginia: Dominion, the state's largest electric utility, and Apex Virginia Offshore Wind LLC, of Charlottesville. The companies are expected to compete in an auction late this year or early in 2013. A spokesman from the U.S. Department of the Interior could not be reached Monday.
Stihl, one of the Beach's largest employers, plans to install four more turbines atop its raw-materials warehouse next month, Hoffmann said. The remaining three would be placed on the warehouse later.
The turbines, Hoffmann said, "are fairly small. They're not the huge turbines you're used to seeing in commercial wind farms." Stihl's proposal said the turbines "are to be a maximum of 12 feet and 4 inches in height above the roof top and 6 feet in diameter."
The turbines will generate up to 2.25 kilowatts per hour, Hoffmann said. They will produce power from wind speeds as slow as one-half mile per hour, he said. They will be more efficient than traditional turbines, which require minimum wind speeds of 7.2 mph, Hoffmann said.
Stihl is based in Germany. Hoffmann said the Virginia Beach operation is the company's only site to use wind energy.