Articles filed under Zoning/Planning from Michigan
With energy prices soaring, some in Sherman Township are looking to the skies for an alternative. Developers have already started the process that could lead to wind farms in the northern Osceola community. But before actions go much further, some are saying the township needs to review its growth plans. "Wind farms are something that most likely are going to be here," said Ron Moesta, Sherman Township Planning and Zoning Commission chair. "If it's inevitable, we have to make sure its not interfering with the master plan."
HURON COUNTY - Officials discussed the ramifications a Michigan House bill regarding wind energy would have on the area, and the consensus is, if passed, HB 4254 will not bode well for the county. The bill, which was introduced Feb. 13 by Rep. Howard Walker, R-Traverse City, would prohibit local governments from banning wind generators in their zoning ordinances and establish property line setback, noise and maximum generator size regulations. The problem with the bill is it does not take into account planning basics for zoning, said Russ Lundberg, Huron County Director of Building and Zoning, Tuesday evening during the Huron County Board of Commissioners meeting of the whole.
Newer, more energy-friendly political winds are beginning to blow in the state. Pending Michigan legislation regarding the regulation of windmills by local zoning bodies, local communities may be impacted. Planning and zoning officials in Leighton Township have discussed the implications contained within the pending Michigan House of Representatives Bills 4648 and 4649, and its impact, should the senate approve them. The proposed legislation, introduced in June 2006 by Howard Walker, R-Traverse City, would allow the construction of electricity-generating windmills in all zoning districts of a township, if the windmills meet certain state criteria for noise and setbacks.
Officials from Noble Environmental Power said they are continuing to work out agreements with regulators and companies involved with the Thumb's electrical grid that will allow for the construction of Michigan's first commercial wind park to begin later this year. The company plans to erect 41 wind-powered electric turbines in Huron County's Bingham Township near Ubly during the second half of 2007. It recently won approval from the zoning board to install an additional nine turbines.
Washtenaw County will begin testing turbines this year to see how feasible wind power would be for homeowners or anyone else wanting to invest in wind in the area. Consultants' work so far shows the western part of the county is windier, but there may be a test site in the eastern part of the county as well, said Tony VanDerworp, director of planning and the environment for the county. The test site, or sites, will consist of one to three turbines, likely to be single-pole mounted and up to 100 meters high. They'll remain in place for up to 18 months to test their feasibility. VanDerworp said the county is not interested in getting into the wind power business, but that the information will be made available to home- and farm owners and businesses interested in wind power development. Wind generation facilities could include wind farms with larger utility-scale turbines that will feed energy to the power grid, or small-scale, on-site turbines that help to power individual homes, businesses and farms. The move, in partnership with the city of Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan, follows a resolution adopted last year by the county Board of Commissioners that directed staff members to test wind resources locally. The study phase cost about $20,000; the cost of erecting the poles has not been determined yet. They will go up some time this spring.
HURON COUNTY — The planning commission here approved a revision to Noble Environmental Power’s Bingham Township Wind Energy plan which will add nine turbines to the planned windpark. The company plans to erect 41 turbines instead of the 32 originally slated to be installed. The 32 original turbines will remain in their proposed locations, said Noble Development Manager Jeanette Hagen. The additional nine turbines will be constructed near the original 32 in order to prevent further studies.
Sherman Township residents packed township hall to learn about the future of wind power generation in their community. The Sherman Township Planning and Zoning Commission conducted the public hearing in relation to a special land use permit application from the Traverse City-based Heritage Sustainable Energy. The application requested permission to install a 164-foot meteorological tower for the purpose of measuring wind speeds. Heritage was given the go-ahead to install the tower after more than an hour of public discussion. The company has operated a similar tower in Missaukee County’s Richland Township for the past two years. “Nobody can predict what the wind speeds would be, so we’re trying to measure throughout this high plateau,” said Rick Wilson, Heritage project manager. The area of interest also includes Highland Township and Clam Lake Township in Wexford County.
HURON COUNTY — The Residents for Sound Economics and Planning (RSEP), of Ubly, have asked Huron County Planning Commission members to reconsider the county’s Wind Turbine Overlay Zoning Ordinance. “We’re asking the planning commission revisit the zoning ordinance to avoid future lawsuits … (as) there are many lawsuits going on around the country pertaining to turbine development,” said Angie Weber, the group’s representative, at Wednesday evening’s planning commission meeting. RSEP commissioned a sound study of three sites in the Ubly area to assess Land Use Compatibility and Community Reaction to the Noble Thumb Windpark Project. Weber said the study was conducted by Richard James, an acoustics expert who has more than 35 years of experience in Community Noise and a former member of the American National Standards (ANSI) Noise S12 Working group that oversees ANSI Standards for Community Noise. She said the study found the data collected by developers regarding the sound levels in the Ubly area are inaccurate and inadequate.
From Barton, Vermont, to the German border with Denmark and from the shores of Lake Huron, to the Romney Marches of southern England, wind power advocates are fighting crosswinds from local residents. In Barton in mid-January, a referendum overwhelmingly rejected the wind power turbines that were planned near this upper Vermont community. ...In Germany, where one-third of the world's current wind power is generated, doubters have provoked a loud debate. The company that owns the grid that includes nearly half the wind-farms in Germany reported its wind farms generated only 11 percent of their capacity. The company said the winds vary so much the wind farm had to be backed 80 percent by the conventional power grid.
DTE Energy says it didn't find out that three 80-foot-tall windmills were being installed at a Thumb elementary school until after they were already up and running. The claim is part of a report filed with the state this week about the process of interconnecting three 65-kilowatt windmills at Laker Elementary School near Pigeon to the electrical grid. The report was required as part of a state investigation spurred by concerns over a DTE-ordered shutdown of the windmills on Sept. 20. In its report, the utility lays blame on the project developer, who the company says didn't file the proper interconnection applications on time.
Commissioners approved a resolution Tuesday adopting a county-wide ordinance regarding on-site wind turbines. The move actually revised the Huron County Zoning Ordinance by adding language that clarified the use of “overlay” zoning techniques on land in the Agricultural District and providing standards for on-site wind energy systems (wind turbine towers) and related wind assessment devises. The amendment allows for on-site turbines — that are not for commercial purposes — and would not require a special use permit, said Russell R. Lundberg, director of building and zoning.
OLIVER TOWNSHIP — The township planning commission Thursday voted to approve a special use permit for a utility grid wind energy system in its agricultural preservation zoning district. Brian Crawford of RMT, Inc. of Grand Rapids spoke on behalf of Michigan Wind LLC during the planning commission’s public hearing regarding the development of a project which may lead to the installation of 27 wind turbines in Oliver Township. Michigan Wind also has developed a project which may lead to the installation of five turbines in neighboring Chandler Township. “The area is a prime (location) for wind energy development,” Crawford said. “This (Huron County) is one of the better areas in the state for hosting wind energy.”
Construction of the county’s second planned Wind Energy System may begin in coming months. RMT, Inc. of Grand Rapids currently is developing a project which may lead to the installation of 32 turbines in Oliver and Chandler townships. Construction of the turbines will not begin until the company receives the go ahead from the Midwest Independent System Operator (MISO) to connect to the national grid system and from township, county and state officials. MISO studies the electrical system’s carrying capacity, so as not to overload the system which causes blackouts. The company has to go through a series of steps at the township, county and state level before proceeding with the project.
DTE Energy unveiled two ‘’solutions'’ Friday for turning windmills back on at Laker Elementary School, but neither option will work, school officials say. Laker leaders say DTE officials don’t seem to understand how windmills work and the coal-burning utility continues to drag its feet on the project. A DTE engineer is supposed to be back at the school on Monday to study the turbines.
Wind power may be the next thing in Lenawee County’s alternative energy industry. An agriculture advisory committee that was involved in starting an ethanol plant near Blissfield and bringing a biodiesel plant to Adrian is taking a serious look at a wind turbine project to generate electricity in Lenawee County. A two-hour presentation on the nuts and bolts of wind power was given to the committee last week.
The wind has been taken right out of a second wind energy project in the Thumb Area. Last month, Michigan’s first wind farm near Ubly was put on hold until next year. Now a smaller wind energy project in the Laker School District near Pigeon has been shut down by DTE Energy. The utility company says safety is the reason, but others disagree.
PIGEON - Three windmills erected at a Thumb elementary school have been shut down, and supporters says it’s because DTE Energy doesn’t want to see wind power succeed here. A DTE spokesman says the utility supports renewable energy, but there were ‘’safety and reliability'’ concerns about allowing the school windmills to continue supplying power to the electrical grid. It’s the second time this year that people in the Thumb have blamed DTE for delays to wind power projects.
CEDAR — Possible plans for a wind farm in Centerville Township are on hold until at least next year while the township drafts a zoning ordinance to regulate commercial windmills. Tim Johnson, township planning commission chairman, said Noble Environmental Power agreed to not submit a formal application until the ordinance — which would apply to wind energy projects proposed by Noble or any other developer — is complete.
The debate state residents and lawmakers should be having about how best to harness our untapped wealth of wind power has been reduced to an emotion-packed battle between local control and state mandates.
TRAVERSE CITY — Some of his neighbors on Old Mission Peninsula may not like the idea, but State Rep. Howard Walker continues his push to bring windmills to Michigan by overriding local zoning.