September 5, 2012

Wind turbine sound limit could be increased in Emmet County

Brandon Hubbard, Staff Writer | Petoskey News-Review | 5 September 2012

Emmet County could amend its ordinance regulating wind turbines to allow them to be louder, under wording headed to its planning commission meeting Thursday.

The Emmet County Wind Energy Systems Ordinance currently prohibits all wind turbines and other energy systems from generating more than 35 decibels at the property line of a site, but the amended wording would increase that standard to 40 decibels to include both turbine generated noise and any other surrounding ambient noise.

State of Michigan experts suggested noise limit for wind turbines at 55 decibels in 2010, but recent studies have suggested the limit be amended to 40 decibels.

Tammy Doernenburg, Emmet County planning and zoning director, said the ordinance amendment is being considered by the planning commission as part of a review called for when the county agreed to permit a personal-use turbine near Cross Village in early 2012.

The review will also look at how the ordinance would stand up against potential legal action from developers.

“Science changes, so we need to make sure whatever we are doing by way of regulation that the circumstances out there have not changed to require us to do something different,” Emmet County attorney Kathleen Abbott said.

Abbott said the planning commission must maintain a “defensible” position on regulations and ordinances.

The wind ordinance has been a point of contention for wind developers, who say the standard prevents all utility scale turbines and greatly restricts personal-use wind turbines.

Wind energy developer Balance 4 Earth, a Troy company, has halted its plans to invest $150 million into a large utility wind farm in Bliss and Carp Lake townships after citing the ordinance as too strict for larger turbines.

The Bliss Plateau Wind Farm project has already leased between 3,000 and 4,000 acres in Emmet County for the project, which was anticipated to build between 15 and 25 turbines.

The Emmet County Planning Commission meets at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 6, in the board of commissioners room in the Emmet County Building located at 200 Division St. in Petoskey.

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