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Consumers Energy: Mason County wind farm meets permit requirements; flicker being fixed

LUDINGTON, MI – Consumers Energy Co. officials say the company is working to address some of the concerns of neighbors of the Lake Winds Energy Park wind farm – in particular, “shadow flicker” – although the company says the wind farm already meets all permit requirements.

Seventeen neighbors of the wind farm in Mason County south of Ludington sued the Jackson-based utility April 1. The lawsuit in Mason County Circuit Court alleges flickering lights, noise and vibrations from the wind farm’s 56 towering turbines are causing sleeplessness, headaches, dizziness and other physical symptoms as well as economic loss.

In response, Consumers Energy said Tuesday, April 9 that it has been working to address “permit and ordinance concerns” of nearby residents “to the fullest practicable extent” and will continue to do so.

Company spokesman Dan Bishop said the project meets permit requirements, but the company has already taken steps to address some concerns.

In particular, Consumers Energy is reprogramming some of its turbines to account for the possibility that “shadow flicker” – a strobe effect when sunlight passes through moving blades – may carry further than earlier models predicted. The reprogramming should be complete by Monday, April 15, the company said. Wind turbines have shadow-flicker detection systems intended to stop blades from rotating when the sun hits them at an angle that affects neighboring residents.

This was Consumers Energy’s statement in response to the Mason County lawsuit:

• We recently received a copy of the lawsuit. While in general we do not specifically comment on pending litigation, we make the following observations:

• We have worked closely with the Mason County Planning Commission and Zoning Director to try to reasonably address permit and ordinance concerns of residents living within the Lake Winds project area to the fullest practicable extent. We will continue to do so.

• While we are meeting our permit requirements, we have already taken steps to address some of these concerns. This includes expansion of the shadow flicker model to account for potential shadow flicker occurrences at a greater distance between the wind turbine and resident. As a result, we are in process of reprogramming our shadow flicker detection system to account for this new model. We expect to have all affected turbines reprogrammed by April 15, 2013.

• We have said from the beginning of this process that we will meet or exceed all zoning provisions and other requirements under local, state and federal laws. We believe we are doing so today, and are planning to implement additional measures which we will announce in the near future to further help with working with all residents living within the Lake Winds project area.

The $250 million Lake Winds Energy Park development in Mason County’s Riverton and Summit townships, between Ludington and Pentwater, generates 100.8 megawatts of electricity. Its Vestas turbines are 312 feet high at the hub, with rotor blades having a 328-foot diameter. The wind farm went into full operation in November 2012.