September 10, 2005

Local zoning for wind turbines

The Ludington (Mich.) Daily News reported yesterday on a new ordinance in Hamlin Township governing the construction of wind turbine towers. It seems like good clear zoning.
The ordinance ... allows individual wind energy conversion systems (WECS) in all parts of the township, such that the power is only generated for non-commercial purposes with a rated capacity of 300 kilowatts or less.

Setbacks for the individual systems must be, at a minimum, twice the height of the total structure (tower and blade combined) on all sides of the site boundary. The generated noise of the WECS cannot be more than 5 decibels above the ambient noise at the site of any neigboring dwelling.

The ordinance limits commercial, industrial-sized wind energy generating stations to agriculturally-zoned and industrial areas. They must adhere to the same restrictions as the non-commerical turbines.

Also, the commercial wind turbines, among many things must be surfaced in a uniform, neutral, non-reflective color; have signage to warn of high voltage and other dangers; be equipped with both a manual and an automatic braking device capable of stopping the turbine operation in high winds; and adhere to guidelines set forth by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service "Guideline to Avoid and Minimize Wildlife Impacts from Wind Turbines."
As the leader of the research team that drafted the ordinance pointed out, variances are possible to loosen the restrictions but not to tighten them, so they need to be tight to start with.

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