A Free-Market Energy Blog

“As Anti-Wind Zoning Ordinances Spread Across Michigan” (grass-root environmentalists vs. energy sprawl)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- February 10, 2022

“The [Michigan] ordinances cite the potential negative consequences of wind turbines such as falling ice thrown by the blades of turbines, the flickering of shadows from the blades on nearby structures (shadow flicker), sleep disturbance caused by noise, and long-term health consequences of sound, also known as ‘infrasound’.”

When it comes to government-enabled, anti-consumer energy sprawl, local citizens have a say over unneeded, duplicative, invasive industrial wind projects. This is very bad news for the rickety supply-side strategy led by industrial wind. Real grassroot environmentalists are at war with Washington, D.C. Big Environmentalism, as well as the business rent-seekers making Bad Profit (as versus Good Profit).

The Progressive Left includes the pro-wind “investigative Watchdog Blog” Checks & Balances Project. Their “As Anti-Wind Zoning Ordinances Spread Across Michigan, Ordinances’ Language Varies Little” (November 10, 2021) recently reported on the growing movement against wind-turbine siting in a factual, lawyers-need-to-know basis.

I reproduce the C&BP summary and then offer a concluding statement.

New Ordinance Specifications

A series of virtually identical zoning ordinances that restrict the development of wind farms has spread across parts of rural Michigan…. Two of the three ordinances were drafted with the help of the Grand Rapids-based law firm Foster Swift Collins & Smith, whose partner Michael Homier is part of a trio of anti-wind activists working to stop wind projects throughout the state.

Ordinances approved in Casnovia, Almer and then Pierson townships include very similar language about:

  • Alleged negative health effects caused by wind turbines
  • The need to preserve the townships’ agricultural character
  • Turbine height and setback requirements

The new ordinances started in 2016 in Almer Township in Tuscola County, spread to Casnovia Township in Muskegon County in 2019 and then to Pierson Township in Montcalm County in June 2021.

They also resemble one of Michigan’s first zoning ordinances that restricted the development of wind projects in Riga Township in Lenawee County, home to Kevon Martis, a longtime associate of attorney Homier. It was adopted nearly a decade ago in April 2011.

Foster Swift has been hired by three other townships — Cato, Pine and Sidney — to work on their ordinances, according to reporting by Elisabeth Waldon of The Daily News in Greenville, Mich.

“Secondary” effects

Each of the ordinances makes the identical claim about potentially adverse secondary effects from wind turbines:

The ordinances cite the potential negative consequences of wind turbines such as falling ice thrown by the blades of turbines, the flickering of shadows from the blades on nearby structures (shadow flicker), sleep disturbance caused by noise, and long-term health consequences of sound, also known as “infrasound.”

A 2018 study by the federal Berkeley Laboratory found that “that only 16% of all residents within 5 miles have ever heard sounds from the turbines and, of those, more than half are not at all annoyed by them.”

Fifty-two percent of those living within a half-mile of a turbine surveyed in the Berkeley study reported having “positive” or “very positive” experiences.

Agricultural character

The most prevalent land use in the townships, the ordinances say, is agriculture “and its preservation has been an ongoing goal within the community for many years. This Ordinance is intended to protect the health, safety and welfare of the residents of the Township and to encourage the safe, effective, efficient and orderly development and operation of wind energy resources in the Township while preserving and protecting the character and the stability of residential, agricultural, recreational, commercial and other areas within the Township.”

Multiple studies, however, show that the presence of wind turbines on agricultural land strengthens farms’ finances and enables farmers to improve their land and facilities and establish succession plans for future generations.

“I think in terms of economic need, what farmers told me was that they re-invested the money in their properties,” said University of Michigan researcher Sarah Mills. “They said they were more likely to have a succession plan for their farms. So, there’s a chance the younger generation will stay around to farm.”

Turbine height limits

The maximum “tip height” of each turbine, according to the three ordinances, is 500 feet. Tip height refers to the height of a turbine with a blade at its highest point.

This height limit could exclude many of the turbines in new wind developments, such as those in the recently opened Isabella Wind project in Isabella County. There the turbines’ tip heights range between 500 and 600 feet.

Meanwhile in the Polaris wind farm in Gratiot County, tip heights are slightly less than 500 feet.

Taller turbines with larger blades generate more energy, wind farm developers say.

Language from the Pierson Township ordinance.

Turbine setbacks

Turbine tip heights are also used to calculate the distance that turbines must be from roads or neighboring property lines, all three ordinances show.

“The minimum set-back from any property line of a Non-Participating Landowner or any road right-of-way shall be no less than four (4) times Tip Height,” says the Casnovia Township ordinance. That language is repeated in the Almer and Pierson township ordinances. (Language from the Casnovia Township ordinance)

Setback requirements are devised to limit potential damage caused to roads and adjacent properties caused by ice thrown from turbine blades, falling turbines and related noise.

In Ohio, lobbyists backed by the fossil fuel industry used a setback requirement in a state law to cripple the attempts to develop wind farms in several counties, according to a 2018 Checks and Balances Project report.

Language from the Almer Township ordinance.

Ohio counties that welcomed wind projects also were able to generate far more revenues than neighboring counties that rejected them.

Evaluation

The above information is useful in the debate. But don’t think that the locals, the grassroots, are the bad guys and girls. They are the real environmentalists. And they give NIMBY a good name given the invasion of a government-created, government-enabled industry.

If Checks and Balances is really “an investigative watchdog blog holding government officials, lobbyists, and corporate management accountable to the public,” then the wind industry and its crony public officials need a little critical analysis, don’t you think? Talk about bought-and-paid for ….

4 Comments


  1. Richard Greene  

    ” A 2018 study by the federal Berkeley Laboratory found that “that only 16% of all residents within 5 miles have ever heard sounds from the turbines and, of those, more than half are not at all annoyed by them.”

    Infrasound is felt — the frequencies are too low to be “heard”

    If “more than half are not at all annoyed by them”,
    then less than half ARE annoyed by them.

    Less than half could be as high as 49%

    Reply

  2. Kevin T Kilty  

    So, ordinance wording is the same in many counties? Why is this a surprise? Ordinances of all sorts, i.e. UBC is an example, are worded the same across the U.S. Wind farm regulations are often written poorly across the country, being typically very weak to encourage wind development.

    I am not anti private property. If farmers need additional income, and counties need additional revenue, then they will certainly consider wind farm development, but my impression is that the lease payments are rather small, and the taxes are quite modest too.

    Going back to the survey done by Berkeley, we wonder, what is the age of the wind turbines involved? How did they choose survey participants? What was the actual wording employed? and so forth. The survey results are not useful as far as I can see except for pro-wind people. Noise problems do not affect everyone living near a wind farm uniformly — noise problems are somewhat difficult to predict as the estimates generally use an old “standard” (ISO 9613-2) for calculations that often does not apply to the environment and circumstances of wind farms.

    Reply

  3. Mike Hardy  

    Many of the small township anti-wind ordinances were prompted by legal firms with templated language and fees. In their wake, they left these small communities with a bureaucratic mess of having to staff and manage zoning laws that they never had before. However, some communities have kicked these carpet-bagger lawyers out and are proceeding with huge wind projects.

    People are getting smart and following the money of these so-called anti-wind groups. One article in the Daily News from Montcalm County and Ionia County, Michigan, noted:” The Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition. The IICC uses false messages about wind and solar energy to engage biases against change, to stoke fear about renewable energy based on these false narratives, and incite otherwise good people into truly awful behavior. The IICC will find local opposition, help them create social media pages, and provide misinformation links: studies done by fringe researchers, anecdotal stories of sleepless citizens, townships burning, counties abandoned, school buses bombarded with “ice-fling,” and two-headed chickens. The leader of the IICC will tell his Montcalm County followers that they cannot argue against renewable energy on the merits of their anti-wind arguments. They must form an angry mob, fill and obstruct public meetings, threaten and intimidate public officials and any citizen that supports this clean energy transition.”

    Gratiot County kicked out the IICC and now has the second-largest installed base of wind turbines in Michigan. (420) When the new Consumers Energy Wind Farm is completed this year it will leave only four of the county’s 16 townships, Arcada, Elba, Seville, and Sumner townships, without a wind park

    Reply

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