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The county board of commissioners, on Tuesday, is expected to vote on a motion to retain Mike Homier of the law firm Foster Swift to “prepare wind moratorium documents at a cost not to exceed $1,000.” “It had to be done,” Nugent said.
After County Commissioner John Nugent stated his intention last week to pursue a countywide moratorium on wind energy development, several residents, commissioners and the county’s corporate counsel have responded. “I have no intention to deviate from what I said. I’m in the process of researching it, speaking with people, talking with attorneys. And when it’s appropriate, after the first of the year, I’ll bring forward a resolution … hopefully for a full moratorium.”
This moratorium, which was approved in November, officially prevents permits, licenses, and approvals for wind energy development from being issued in the county, Commissioner Craig Reiter said. "Basically, it shuts (development) down," Reiter said.
Maine State Police Trooper Tucker Bonnevie said Tuesday that the tower had fallen, but “there’s no evidence at this time that any crime was committed.” “We don’t know for sure that it’s vandalism,” Bonnevie said. “We don’t know if [the bolts] just gave way or somebody actually loosened them.”
Power companies want to avoid as many legal entanglements as possible when siting and installing their wind farms. And environmental groups, which often find themselves siding with individual homeowners in cases involving power companies, are caught in between.
In response to the township board approving areas that DTE Energy has deemed suitable for wind turbines, Rita Parsch set out last month to get the 45 signatures needed to file a referendum. The petition requests the decision to be put to a vote by residents on the May ballot.
A majority of the conversation focused on the principle and legality of putting turbines close to the water, which has become a contentious point. In October, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service joined the conversation, sending a letter to Huron County recommending a three-mile buffer inland from the shoreline that precludes wind development.
Smith said the level of scrutiny has changed in terms of how long it takes to review wind projects. “It’s not an overnight deal,” he said. “It’s not a rubber stamp process.” Residents also have given much attention to wind energy, voicing numerous concerns.
Dubbed the “Thumb Loop,” ITC Transmission calls its 345,000-volt line the “backbone” of a system designed to meet the identified maximum wind energy potential of the Thumb. It’s capable of supporting a maximum capacity of about 5,000 megawatts generated from 2,800 wind turbines, according to ITC.
The bulk of them — about 40 — are planned for Winsor Township, with the nearest turbine sited about three-quarters of a mile outside Pigeon village limits. In one section, there are as many as eight turbines per square mile, but density varies throughout the area, Shiflett told county planners.
A committee tasked with revising the county’s wind energy ordinance will remain in place, despite a motion made Tuesday by County Commissioner Clark Elftman to disband it. Referred to as the Wind Energy Zoning Committee, it aims to rework “deficient” and “outdated” regulation set for noise from wind turbines. To help in that process, the county hired Grand Rapids-based acoustics firm Acoustics by Design, for a cost of $10,500.
The Huron County Board of Commissioners refused a motion to disband the wind energy subcommittee, an ad hoc panel formed in January to review sections of the county’s zoning ordinance that pertain to wind parks.
Members of the Reading Township Zoning Board of Appeals voted unanimously Wednesday night to deny a zoning variance for the construction of a meteorological tower. The tower would be used for wind resource assessments.
Cary Shineldecker, the homeowner who warned his community that the margin of safety was inadequate at Lake Winds wind plant near Ludington, is now a member of the Mason County Planning Commission. This same commission initially failed to heed his warning but it has learned a lot since then.
Smith said residents have questioned him as to why turbines at Brookfield Wind Park aren’t turning. Restoration and tile repairs are being made, he said, and as soon as circuits are energized, “they will come back online.” Thirteen out of the 44 turbines are running now.
After choosing to pay $10,500 to a Grand Rapids-based acoustics firm to help revise Huron County’s wind ordinance — specifically areas related to sound and noise levels of wind turbines — Peruski said the ad-hoc committee will likely have a recap meeting and submit final results to planners and commissioners. “We’ll let (Acoustics by Design) do their work.”
He said the turbines’ energy performance improved from 2010 through 2012 as early problems were resolved. But production fell in 2013 because of breakdown and replacement of a 15-kilovolt breaker in each turbine, among other problems. The turbines ran well from November 2013 through April 2014 when the nosecone on the south turbine fell off.
Shutdowns will continue Monday through Friday until the end of July, the letter states. “These are machines and machines sometimes need repairs,” said Steve Stengel, spokesman for NextEra.
Garden residents have been divided over wind turbines, and their placement on resident’s property. In hopes of avoiding this, Schoolcraft County board members passed an ordinance requiring wind turbines to be built over 3,000 feet from a residence’s property line.
"It does not surprise me that wind power proponents point to this as a 'success story. The reason being is wind subsidies across the board have been wasteful boondoggles that produce little wind power, fewer jobs, but tremendous economic hardship."