Emmet County will likely make a long-term ruling on the decibel levels in its wind energy ordinance in December, after an independent analyst backed the current 30-decibel sound level in the county wind ordinance.
In October, the Emmet County Board of Commissioners approved up to $2,000 to hire Okemos-based E-Coustic Solutions to review wind turbine noise in association with the county’s 2009 wind ordinance.
During an hour and a half presentation E-Coustic Solutions spokesman Richard R. James outlined the 30 decibel limit held by the county as a safe standard.
County officials began reviewing their relatively new wind ordinance after Lake Effect Energy Corporation proposed a 120-foot, 20 kilowatt wind turbine in Cross Village that failed to meet the county’s required 30 decibel limit – though average sound output for the wind turbine would be just shy of the allowable limit at 26.04 decibels.
With a $40,500 federal tax credit and a $33,750 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant at risk in the project, Lake Effect Energy hoped to encourage the county to consider altering the previously untested ordinance.
Representing Lake Effect Energy, Christopher Stahl asked the Emmet County Planning Commission in October to consider revising the ordinance to meet the 55 decibel sound limit allowable under Michigan law.
In a position presentation titled “Wind Turbine Noise, Annoyance, Health, and Proper Siting Guidelines” authored by E-Coustic Solutions’ Richard R. James highlights several academic studies including the World Health Organizations’ interpretation that over 30 decibels “a number of effects on sleep are observed from this range: body movements, awakening, self-reported sleep disturbance, arousals.”
Giving his presentation to a packed board of commissioners room, there was a mixed reception to the analysis.
“Some of the people felt he was biased, others supported what he had to say. I think the audience was fairly split,” said Brentt Michalek, Emmet County Planning and Zoning director.
Michalek said the Emmet County Planning Commission elected not to take action until its Dec. 2 meeting (set to start at 7:30 p.m. in the Emmet County Board of Commissioners room).
While Emmet County is wrangling with its ordinance, it isn’t limiting the wind turbines from sprouting up in Northern Michigan.
West Traverse Township in Emmet County, recently approved a 10-kilowatt, 90-foot wind turbine with a 55 decibel maximum sound level to be built by Lake Effect Energy.
West Traverse has a maximum allowable sound level of 55 decibels for wind turbines, which is exempt from the Emmet County ordinance.
Another turbine was also recently approved administratively by Emmet County, because it met the minimum requirements and was less than 60 feet tall.
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