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Township OKs wind energy ordinance, standards



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December 09, 2009 - Brandon Twp.- Passage of a township wind energy ordinance was a breeze Monday night.

Several months after it was first discussed by the planning commission, the township board approved by a 6-0 vote a final draft of wind energy conversions systems regulations. The standards will be added to the zoning ordinance to regulate both small residential grade systems as well as large commercial grade systems.

A wind energy conversion system as defined by the ordinance is any device such as a turbine, windmill, or charger that converts wind energy to a usable form of energy.

While Michigan ranks 14th among all 50 states for wind energy potential by the Wind Energy Association, the majority of potential is found on the west side of the state and in the thumb area, due to the Great Lakes, said Josh Long of Carlisle/Wortman Associates, Inc., who gave a presentation on wind energy to the township planning commission in April. Southeast Michigan is not the best area for large wind turbines, but may be right for small, residential turbines, which can be set up at 30-60 feet, for one to five kilowatts of power, and have the potential to reduce energy bills to zero.

The visual impact of turbines on 2-3 acres of land is minimal, Long notes, with a 30-60 foot turbine about twice as tall as a house. Small wind turbines make about as much noise a refrigerator, air conditioner, or normal conversation— roughly 60 decibels, but as the wind gets higher, the noise rises, also. The new ordinance will allow on-site wind energy conversion systems (WECS) less than 70 feet in height as a lawful permitted accessory use in residential areas. On-site WECS 70-feet or more in height will be considered a conditional use subject to certain provisions.

Other highlights of the ordinance include the following requirements: All on-site WECS and commercial WECS must meet property setbacks of at least 1.5 times the height of the WECS and no part of the WECS structure may extend closer than 10 feet to the owner's property line; on-site WECS must be less than 150 feet in height and commercials WECS must be less than 275 feet in height; and noise levels can not exceed 55 weighted decibels for either a commercial or residential WECS, except during a short-term event such as a utility outage and/or severe windstorm. For more ordinance details, call the planning department at 248-627-4916.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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