AMBER TWP. – The Mason County Planning Commission approved four special land use requests from Consumers Energy Tuesday to use permanent instead of temporary crane platforms for the purposes of wind turbine maintenance.
The four affected parcels of land were grouped into one special hearing at the request of Commissioner Tom Hooper.
The crane pads currently used by Consumers for wind turbine repair are temporary, and are laid down and removed whenever a turbine requires maintenance or repairs.
Mason County Building and Zoning Director Mary Reilly said the company’s goal was to move toward using permanent pads to decrease time and cost.
“All these turbines have these kind of limestone gravel access roads leading to them,” Reilly said. “They’re just trying to create a flat surface for the cranes to operate.”
Reilly said leaving the crane pads in place would cause minimal disturbance, and noted no drainage, parking or lighting issues or concerns that she had about the project.
She added that farmers who signed agreements with Consumers to allow permanent crane pads would be able to use the pads for storage.
“Farmers are welcome to use these areas as long as they don’t block access to the turbine,” she said. “But if they want to use them for some temporary storage, they can do that.”
Landowners who do not wish to participate will not be pressured to do so, according to Consumers Energy Natural Resources Director Rich Castle, who was at Tuesday’s meeting.
“This is something we’ll work with landowners on,” Castle said. “We’ll inquire, they’ll tell us what they want to do. There’s no pressure. If they say yes, they’ll sign a concurrence form. If they say no… it will remain a temporary facility.”
Castle said the company’s main goal in implementing permanent crane pads is two-fold – minimizing costs and increasing efficiency informing the decision.
“Our motivation here is to leave the crane pads in for two reasons,” he said. “It’s a cost to Consumers Energy and it’s a cost to our customers.
“The other part of that is insuring that our return time of service is minimized as well. If the pad is already in place, that’s one to two days of time that that wind turbine is already in operation.”
The planning commission voted to add two conditions to the use request before bringing the issue to a vote. The first came from Commissioner Janet Anderson, who said it was important to make use of the crane pads in areas like wind turbine No. 54, which runs along a gas line.
The second came from Commissioner Mike Shaw, who suggested that a condition be added to ensure that Consumers was informing the gas company – DTE – of any work done above or around the lines.
Castle said he had no objection to the addition of the conditional language.
Read the full story in Wednesday’s Ludington Daily News print and e-Editions.
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