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Status of some wind turbine sites changes

ADRIAN, Mich. – Officials with one of the companies hoping to build wind turbines in southeast Lenawee County are evaluating the impact of a recent FAA finding that 63 proposed sites could disrupt operations at Toledo Express Airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration recently issued notices of presumed hazard for 63 of the locations proposed by Juwi Wind, an energy company based in Germany with a U.S. headquarters in Boulder, Colo. Another 14 sites were given a green light.

Michael Blaich, the FAA specialist who issued the notices of presumed hazard, said the finding results from the sites’ proximity to the Toledo airport. Sites within a 13-mile radius of the airport are affected, Blaich said, and someone at the FAA missed the airport issue, which previously led him to mistakenly clear those 63 locations.

“The good news for us is we caught it in time,” Blaich said. “The bad news for them is unfortunately they got hit with something they didn’t know about before.”

For each site, the FAA notice indicates the height that would be acceptable to the FAA. If the turbines at the proposed sites were reduced from 492 feet above ground level to a height that varies from 324 feet to 354 feet, Blaich indicated turbines would be acceptable and he could issue a document called a determination of no hazard.

“If they reduce it to the no-effect height, I could write that tomorrow,” he said.

Aaron Peterson, Juwi’s manager of community relations and regulatory affairs, said the company is assessing the information it has.

Blaich said the notice of presumed hazard is not a final determination, and wind developers who receive a notice of presumed hazard have several options.

Those options include reducing the height of the proposed turbine and moving the turbine to an acceptable location. In addition, Blaich said, he can issue a formal determination of hazard and the company can file an appeal with FAA headquarters in Washington.

“We’re evaluating the FAA determination,” he said.

Peterson said Juwi’s main concern right now is Tuesday’s wind referendum in Riga Township. A “yes” vote will enact an ordinance previously approved by the township board that turbine supporters have described as prohibitively strict. Wind power proponents are pushing for a “no” vote.

“We’re really focused on the Riga referendum right now, and we hope the community will support development going forward,” Peterson said.

The FAA’s previous mistake could also affect some of the sites being considered by Great Lakes Wind, another company looking to develop in the area.

In 2009, Great Lakes Wind submitted four sites for FAA study that roughly defined the area the company was considering. In January 2010, the FAA issued determinations of no hazard for all four locations.

But one of the sites is definitely within 13 nautical miles of Toledo Express Airport, Blaich said, and the determination for that site will not be renewed when it expires in two months. Two more sites are definitely far enough from Toledo Express for proximity to not be an issue, and the fourth is probably far enough away.

Applications must still be filed for each turbine site individually.

Some of the sites for which Juwi received a notice of presumed hazard are within the area defined by Great Lakes’ four applications.

The 2009 Great Lakes Wind proposals listed a height of 494 feet above ground level.

Great Lakes Wind also recently presented a proposal for a project located entirely in Ogden Township. Great Lakes president Larry Gould said that proposal was designed to minimize complaints about possible flicker effects from turbines.

A number of the sites described in the Ogden Township proposal are within 13 miles of Toledo Express Airport, said Josh Nolan, director of the Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition, which has been fighting wind developers’ plans in the area.

Gould agreed that some of the Ogden Township sites are within that area, but said there are enough possible locations outside a 13-mile radius that a project should still be possible.