by Graham Sturgeon, co-editor

The Shiawassee County Planning Commission will soon begin discussing a potential moratorium on wind energy conversion systems (WECS), and there is a possibility that some zoning ordinances could be changed to better protect county residents in the event that Apex Clean Energy does indeed apply for a Special Use permit to begin its proposed Maple Rapids Wind project. The project calls for up to 60 turbines that would stand up to 600 feet tall to be constructed across Owosso, Middlebury, Fairfield, and Rush townships.

The Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners has approved several adjustments to the county’s Special Use Regulations since 2008, which is when the county was first approached about the potential wind project. The county’s zoning ordinances can be found on the www.shiawassee.net webpage, but here are a few of the ordinances that may interest persons involved or who stand to be affected by the proposed wind energy collection project.

Required setbacks for wind turbines vary depending on whether a property owner is a participating member of a project, otherwise known as a leaseholder. The required setback from a structure is a distance equal to or greater than 200 percent of the height of the WECS turbine from the base of the structure to the exterior wall of a principal structure on a non-participating parcel that is currently used for residential, commercial, or assembly purposes. As such, a 600-foot wind turbine would need to be built no closer than 1,200 feet from an existing structure. That setback distance drops to 100 percent for participating parcels.

The required setback for turbines from a non-participating property line is a distance equal to or greater than 150 percent of the height of the WECS from the base of the structure to the nearest non-participating property line, which equates to a distance of 900 feet. Commercial WECS turbines must also be placed at least 100 percent of the height from public road right-of-ways.

The amount of noise that reaches structures and property lines is also regulated in Shiawassee County, with the noise generated by a WECS turbine measured at a non-participating property line not allowed to exceed 55 A-weighted decibels. The acceptable level for a principal structure on a non-participating property is not to exceed 45 A-weighted decibels.

There is also an ordinance addressing climb prevention. All commercial WECS must be unclimbable by design, or protected by anti-climbing devices such as fences with locking portals at least six feet high. Additionally, anchor points for guy wires supporting towers shall be enclosed by a six-foot high fence or shall be located within the confines of a yard that is completely fenced.

It is also the responsibility of the applicant to submit acceptable documentation as part of the Special Use permit application to determine if the structures would in any way cause interference with microwave transmissions, residential television reception, or radio reception.

Commercial WECS projects must contain a Decommissioning Plan to ensure it is properly decommissioned upon the end of the project life, or in the case of individual WECS turbine inoperability or facility abandonment.

As previously stated, these are but a few of the county’s ordinances regulating wind energy conversion systems, and interested persons can view the full six-page document at the county’s website, www.shiawassee.net.

Shiawassee County Wind Energy Conversion System Ordinances was last modified: December 19th, 2016 by Karen Elford