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Utility scale wind energy zoning amend hearing tonight

For more than seven months, the Mason County Planning Commission has been reviewing the text of “Section 17.0 Utility Grid Wind Systems” in the Mason County zoning ordinance.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015 at 7 p.m. in the Amber Township Hall the commission will meet in special session to conduct a second public hearing on proposed changes stemming from what so far has been learned in the wake of Lake Winds Energy Park being built and going into operation in Riverton and Summit townships.

Once the planning commission is satisfied with its changes, it will forward its recommendation to the Mason County Board of Commissioners which has the authority to approve or deny the proposed text amendments.

Among the changes being proposed are:

• better defining what paint color (RAL 9001 or similar muted soft white or gray) and gloss factor (30 gloss maximum) are allowable.

• changing wording on avian studies required to add a section stating any wind development must adhere to and comply with all guidelines and recommendations of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding siting, design and operation of a wind energy system.

• Increasing setback to a minimum four times the height of the tower from the property line of an unpooled parcel as well as four times the height of a turbine from the boundary of the area in the special land use. It also proposes increasing setbacks to three times the height of a turbine to the nearest point of any building on a pooled parcel. In addition, a setback of twice the height of a tower from any existing gas transmission, distribution or gathering lines is being established.

• Wording is changed to require a wind energy system be kept in operational condition or it must be removed.

•More clearly defining sound level limits so that any exceedence of a 10 minute LAeq above 45 decibel at the nearest wall of an occupied building or dwelling on an unpooled parcel is deemed a violation. Testing is also more clearly defined.

• Setting limits on tonal sounds from wind turbine gearboxes.

• Requiring that wind turbine generator models proposed for a system “shall not be tonal.”

• Requiring for a minimum four-day testing period including one Sunday in the preconstruction noise background survey.

• Requiring for modeling in the sound study to be based on 40dba at property line of unpooled parcels and 50 dba of pooled parcels due to the statistical uncertainty of sound propagation models.

• Requiring developers to identify each component that will produce a sound audible at the property line of an unpooled parcel and adds a list of information that must be provided.

• Adding a section on tonality.

•Requiring the development to use the minimum lighting required by the Federal Aviation Administration.

• Tightening modeling and mitigation requirements for signal interference.

• Doubling the distance for modeling for flicker to 20 rotor diameters and stating flicker will not be allowed on unpooled occupied buildings or dwellings except for incidental flicker that occurs as a turbine is paused to prevent flicker.

• Requiring use of a shadow flicker detection/abatement system on each turbine.