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Mason County Planning Commission to begin review of wind farm ordinance

When Mason County first adopted its zoning ordinance concerning wind farms, the idea of one locating here was at best in the proposal stage.

Now, almost two years after Lake Winds Energy Park began producing power from the 100 megawatt, 56-turbine wind energy park/farm in Riverton and Summit townships, the Mason County Planning Commission has real experience dealing with issues surrounding an operating wind farm.

Tuesday night, the Mason County Planning Commission will begin a review of the county’s wind turbine zoning policy. It will meet at 7 p.m. at Amber Township Hall.

Mary Reilly, zoning administrator, has made recommendations to get the discussion started.

Among her recommendations for wind zoning ordinance amendments are:

•Doubling the amount of setback required from the current standard of twice the height of the top of a turbine, to four times the height.

• Requiring non-glossy paint be required on all components – tower, nacelle/hub and blades.

• Establishing a setback from underground gas lines one and a half times the height of the wind turbine as measured from the center of its base to the top height of a blade tip.

•Increasing the area where shadow flicker is studied and potentially mitigated from the current industry standard of 10 times the rotor diameter to 18 times the diameter – almost doubling the distance.

• “Fine-tuning” sound measurement and testing procedures.

• Studying night-time shielding of wind turbine lights, as viewed from the ground.

“This will be an ongoing process,” Reilly said of the study and discussion by the planners. While the Mason County Board of Commissioners has in place a moratorium on development of any more wind parks in Mason County at least through the end of this year, Reilly said the planning commission isn’t under a deadline.

“We’re not going to rush it,” Reilly said.

“It’s just a place to start,” Reilly said. “It’s things based on our experience with Lake Winds Energy Park. These are some issues that are starting point. I don’t think a rewrite of the ordinance is in order. We’ll see where the process goes.”

For more of the story, see Thursday’s Ludington Daily News.