Wind turbines have been a regulatory headache for Emmet County ever since it imposed a strict 35 decibel sound limit on the systems back in 2009. The noise threshold is too low, developers say, while many residents have been vocal opponents of large wind turbines being erected in rural areas such as Bliss and Carp Lake townships.
In 2012, as Emmet County began reviewing the ordinance, it was advised the sound limit might be too low after all and need to be modified to prevent lawsuits. Planning commission officials believe an amendment allowing the noise to be determined through the surrounding natural noise, combined with the wind turbine noise could be a better way to regulate – though many residents have voiced opposition to any ordinance change that could increase noise pollution.
Taxpayers are paying for a $12,000 review by private engineering firm AECOM for the county to provide guidance.
In the meantime, a $150 million proposed wind farm with Balance 4 Earth, LLC in Bliss and Carp Lake townships is on hold because the developers see the 35 decibels as an impossible barrier.
“We have a standstill here, because nobody will ever invest in a project under these conditions,” said Martin Nehls, Balance 4 Earth project manager in September. Nehls added that legal action was still “on the table” if the county does not alter its strict sound limit to accommodate some wind turbines in its boundaries.
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