HURON COUNTY – They’ve seen the light, and the shadows.
It happens when the sun hovers low, casting rays toward wind turbine blades.
Then, a phenomenon called shadow flicker: churning blades slice the sunlight, creating shadows that fall on landscape and houses.
It’s an unwelcoming scene for at least two Huron County residents who say they don’t have turbines on their property, but do have the strobe-like interruptions from shadow flicker.
“What I want is a document that states when this can occur and that the turbines will be turned off during that period of time,” Charles Bumhoffer, a Sebewaing Township resident, told county planners last week.
Bumhoffer, who at a county meeting in May said he lives within a half-mile of two wind turbines, said he pulled his property from the wind overlay district before the project was finished. He has since filed a formal complaint with the county.
In Bumhoffer’s complaint, he documents an incident of shadow flicker “over and in” his residence. It occurred at 8:30 a.m., Nov. 28, created by the easternmost wind turbine in section 11 of Sebewaing Township, Bumhoffer wrote.
Bumhoffer said when wind turbines were built near where he lives, he “saw no maps, was not contacted about any meetings about anything regarding wind turbines (or) where they were going to be placed.”
“Nothing, until I got them,” he said. “Now I’ve got them and now I’m here at the meeting.”
The county has responded to Bumhoffer’s complaint. Planning Commission Chair Clark Brock said his request is not unreasonable, and that the county’s building and zoning office will work to address the issue.
“And I will personally have that conversation with them as well,” Brock said.
Shadow flicker also has presented a problem for Rita Parsch, who lives on the western edge of Meade Township. Parsch says a wind turbine in neighboring Chandler Township creates shadows on the side of her home that enter her kitchen.
The county’s wind energy ordinance authorizes planning commissioners to help eliminate instances of shadow flicker. Planners may require developers to conduct an analysis of potential shadow flicker at adjacent occupied structures.
The analysis must identify locations and durations of shadow flicker from sunrise to sunset over the course of a year; identify problem areas where shadow flicker may affect residents; and describe measures that must be taken to eliminate or mitigate the problems, according to the ordinance.
Jeff Smith, the county’s director of building and zoning, said an issue had been resolved in the past using a corrective action similar to what Bumhoffer suggested. It happened in Sigel Township, he said.
A resident on Section Line Road contacted the county, which then notified DTE Energy of a complaint of shadow flicker, according to Dennis Buda, DTE’s operations manager.
“We worked with (the resident) on turning off that turbine remotely on areas as the sun rose,” Buda said in August.
The turbine had been shut off from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. for a couple weeks, and then shut-off time was shortened to a half-hour window, Buda said, adding that the arc of the sun is “out of the flicker range,” and the resident can “enjoy his coffee in the morning without being shadowed.”
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