BAD AXE – DTE Energy is working to eliminate a phenomenon called shadow flicker caused by wind turbines, which for at least four county residents has created unwanted shadows from churning turbine blades slicing the sunlight.
Residents in four townships – all of whom live outside of wind districts – have filed complaints for turbines at DTE’s Brookfield and Echo wind parks.
For Michael Lorencz, resident and clerk of Brookfield Township, it was a surprise to see shadows coming through his kitchen window a couple weeks ago. It happened on a Saturday at about 5 p.m.
“I was sitting in the kitchen and my daughter was walking through and I kind of saw a strobe of something,” Lorencz said.
He thought it was the wind hitting a bird feeder.
“I looked out there and it did it again and again,” he said.
Lorencz said his daughter grabbed his cell phone and took video of what was happening. The shadows were cast for about 10 minutes and came from a turbine a mile away, he said.
Dennis Buda, DTE’s operations manager, on Wednesday told county planners the turbine has been shut off from 5 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. He said he would call Lorencz back next week to sign a form stating the issue has been resolved.
Lorencz said he hasn’t seen the flicker again. The “stars have to line up just right” – meaning from his property near Notter and Sebewaing roads near Owendale, a southwest or northeast wind at sunset has to align with the angle of the sun for flicker to happen.
“At this point I’m not being affected,” he said. “But my issue is I should not be affected; I should never have gotten flicker.”
Lorencz said a neighbor to the west also gets flicker during sunrise from a different turbine.
Sebewaing Township resident Charles Bumhoffer recently filed a complaint with the county for the same issue. He said there are two wind turbines within a half-mile of his property.
The turbines, near Gettel Road, were removed from service because of shadow flicker from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. daily, according to DTE.
“They were pleased with the result,” Buda said. “They said everything was wonderful.”
After consulting with “internal and external experts,” the turbines will be off for one hour daily until Feb. 6, Buda said. At that point, he said DTE’s study shows the sun angle is away from the residence.
When planners asked Bumhoffer if the issue was taken care, he said “yes and no.”
“Up to this point in time I’m mostly satisfied,” Bumhoffer said.
Bumhoffer said anyone should be able to get a graph or chart showing when flicker can occur. He’d also like to see proof that it can occur from the start of spring to the end of the season for the life of the turbine, which Buda said is currently being studied.
Shadow flicker has presented a problem for other residents. Rita Parsch, who lives on the western edge of Meade Township, says a turbine in neighboring Chandler Township creates shadows on the side of her home that enter her kitchen. Tim Lalley of Lake Township also has filed a complaint for a turbine in Chandler Township.
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