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FAA rules new wind farm will pose ‘no hazard’ at Mt. Pleasant airport

The Federal Aviation Administration has informed the City of Mt. Pleasant that it does not think a new wind farm will pose a hazard at the local airport.

Apex Clean Energy is in the midst of planning a large wind farm project in northern Isabella County.

Some of the wind turbines will be near airports and landing strips in the county. Earlier this year, the FAA asked the operators of the airports to weigh in if they had any concerns.

The city, which operates Mt. Pleasant Municipal Airport, sent a letter in March, requesting that the “FAA ensure the proximity and height of the structures be designed in a way to mitigate any potential negative impact.”

On May 13, the FAA issued its opinion that the proposed wind turbine near the Mt. Pleasant airport poses ”no hazard to air navigation.”

City Manager Nancy Ridley said on Monday that this response from the FAA “isn’t a complete surprise” and that it is just one part on the process.

The letter from the FAA states that “This aeronautical study revealed that the structure would have no substantial adverse effect on the safe and efficient utilization of the navigable airspace by aircraft or on the operation of air navigation facilities.”

“Therefore, pursuant to the authority … it is hereby determined that the structure would not be a hazard to air navigation provided the following condition( s) is( are) met: As a condition to this determination, the structure is to be marked/lighted in accordance with FAA Advisory circular 70/7460-1 L Change 2, Obstruction Marking and Lighting, white paint/synchronized red lights,” the letter states.

The letter states that wind turbine H08 will be 605 feet above ground level at an elevation of 896 feet.

The city’s concerns stem from the height of the wind turbines.

“Our concern was if the height was too much, it would mean the planes would have to come in at a different approach slope, which would mean our runway may not be long enough,” Ridley said.

The next step is a review by the Michigan Department of Transportation Aeronautics Division, which would have taken place regardless of what the FAA decided.

Ridley said most wind turbines in Michigan are about 400 feet, whereas Apex’s would be 600 feet or slightly more

“Our expectation is that MDOT’s look will be different because it’s about protecting the air space,” she said. “In addition to that, MDOT has to review it in reference to the state’s Tall Structures Act. That has more requirements/limitations in it, than the FAA would typically look at. We expect the MDOT review would be more geared toward what would happen at our airport.”

The FAA and MDOT Aeronautics also will consider the impact the wind turbines could have at the airport near Lake Isabella.

Apex has lease agreements with property owners in six townships in Isabella County: Denver, Wise, Vernon, Gilmore, Nottawa and Isabella for the wind farm. Initial groundwork is expected to begin this summer with installation of the turbines themselves planned for 2020.