Lower blade clearance lessens turbine number
L’ANSE — Including a change to allow Large Wind Energy Conversion (LWEC) systems in Forest Resource-zoned districts, the L’Anse Township Planning Commission recommended zoning amendments Wednesday requested by the developer of a proposed wind farm.
The panel also approved a change to the minimum ground-level clearance — the distance to the ground when the turbine blade is at its lowest point — from 75 to 58 feet.
Both of these recommendations were requested by Weyerhaeuser and Renewable Energy Systems (RES), proponents of the Summit Lake Wind Project.
An RES representative declined comment at the meeting.
A letter to the commission from Weyerhaeuser official Charlie Becker stated the change in ground clearance “will allow for Weyerhaeuser and RES to review more energetic turbines for utilization in the project design,” which could require fewer turbines.
The vote for both proposals, each done separately, passed with no opposition and Roy Kemppainen and Joan Bugni abstaining. The commission learned Wednesday from the Michigan Township Association that there was only supposed to be one resident from L’Anse village on the board. Both Bugni and Kemppainen are both village residents.
Kempainen said they would both abstain on all votes “rather than muddy the waters” until the Township Board corrects the situation.
During public comment after the votes, Burt Mason, president of the Friends of the Huron Mountains (FHM) organization, pointed out a problem with the vote on blade clearances.
“If I’m not mistaken, that requires a public hearing,” he said. “The public hearing that was last week, that wasn’t part of it.”
Because it is a proposed change to the township zoning ordinance, the public is supposed to have a chance to speak on the proposed change. Last week’s meeting was a review of the first proposal that adds Forest Resource Districts to the zoned areas where LWEC building permits can be applied for and issued.
“This was process not being followed, decisions being rushed,” FHM spokesperson Wayne Abba said after the meeting.
Mason reminded the board zoning changes are not just for RES and the Summit Lake Wind Project.
“The ordinance change that you just requested is for all of the CFA (Commercial Forestry Area) land,” he said.
Baraga resident Ryan Fischer urged the board to consider neighbors of L’Anse Township who would have to deal with its decisions.
He also urged caution, because the township wouldn’t be able to afford a legal battle with RES or Weyerhaeuser if litigation resulted from the changes.