For nearly a year, local residents crammed Shiawassee County meetings relating to proposed regulations for wind turbine development, in order to express very important concerns regarding their health, safety and welfare. Their persistent efforts led to a set of proposed regulations in September 2017 that addressed most of their concerns.
The September 2017 proposal was sent to the townships for their review and comments. The nine townships that replied all supported even more restrictive regulations to protect their residents. However, sometime after December 2017, in response to objections by three wind companies, the consultant, Pete Preston, hired as planning director, completely ignored the previous input from citizens and townships and drastically reduced the protections the citizens fought for and need.
For example, eight of the nine responding townships requested setbacks (from a nonparticipating landowners’ property line) be equal to 400 percent of the turbine height, or 2,000 feet for a 500-foot turbine. This is the same setback the citizens and their attorney requested before the September proposal. The September 2017 proposal was for 300 percent. After receiving the December 2017 objections from the wind companies, Preston and his committee proposed a change to 200 percent, or 1,000 feet.
This is grossly inadequate to protect adjacent property owners from ice throw and blade failures. General Electric Corporation has recommended 1,300 feet for a 350-foot turbine, concerning ice throw. This equates to nearly 1,900 feet (or 380 percent) for a 500-foot turbine with a blade tip speed of 232 miles per hour. Also, a very recent research study by the National Wind Technology Center (published in April), recommended 350 percent of setback in the event of blade failure. This would be 1,750 ft. for a 500-foot turbine.
Setback distances of 2,500 feet or more are being increasingly common among jurisdictions that have taken the time to research the topic and reach their own independent conclusions, not those of the wind companies. Such setbacks are entirely reasonable, as evidenced by regulations in European countries with a greater history with wind turbines.
Bavaria, the largest German state, has a setback of 10 times the height, typically over one mile for larger turbines, Holland has a one kilometer, (3,280 feet) setback, and three Australian provinces have a two kilometer setback. In the last few years, many United States jurisdictions have implemented setback of 2,000 feet or more.
It is time Shiawassee County listens to their residents, lawyers and expert witnesses and does the same. In order to do so, the commissioners need to recognize and address the deficiency in their planning consultant and his obvious and suspicious bias for the wind companies versus the protection of our citizens. Citizens need to make their views known to their commissioners and also at the upcoming public meeting on May 8th at the Owosso High School.
Robert Callard, Perry