Most talk on windmills in Michigan is about the giant ones going up on farms and off-shore.
But small wind turbines designed for urban homes, small businesses and schools, which cost $15,000 to $30,000, are generating debate in some Detroit suburbs.
Facing requests from homeowners, Royal Oak enacted a zoning ordinance last year to regulate home-based wind turbines, with Birmingham and Novi soon to do so.
We’ve had some people very eager to see this come, and a small number wanted them on their houses to feed electricity into their homes, Birmingham Planning Board chairman Robin Boyle said.
This week, the board voted 7-0 to ban wind turbines in residential areas, restricting them to commercial districts and to areas of mixed-use zoning where condos coexist with shops. The ban could get final approval April 26th by the City Commission.
Among the concerns? The injury risk of turbines spinning near people, the threat of towers being residential eyesores and the quality-of-life fear of flicker, the distraction of sunlight slashing off moving blades, like a strobe light that belongs in a nightclub.
“If technology changes, we’ll revisit this and see whether they can be more compatible with residential zoning,” said Boyle, who is also chairman of urban studies and planning at Wayne State University.
Royal Oak’s ordinance, passed last year, is less restrictive, allowing wind turbines at twice the maximum permitted height for homes, about 60 feet, and up to 100 feet in other zoning districts, city planner Doug Hedges said. No residents have applied for a permit, Hedges said.
Novi’s new ordinance might get final approval in May, Community Relations Director Sheryl Walsh said.
“If this goes through, it does allow for wind turbines in residential areas,” but the City Council likely will impose limits, Walsh said.
A single, $20,000 wind turbine could power a small home, “but you need an average wind all the time of at least 14 m.p.h.m” which in Michigan puts ideal sites at high elevations or along lake shores, said Donna Napolitano, co-owner of Mechanical Energy Systems in Canton.
Turbines in southeastMichigan can work in tandem with solar power to provide much of a homes electricity, Napolitano said.
Schools are exempt from most local zoning, and some have installed turbines for energy classes.
A 60 foot tower with a single spinning blade was installed in 2001 at Seaholm High School in Birmingham. A 30 foot Windspire, made in Manistee, is to have a ribbon cutting Tuesday at the Birmingham Covington School in Bloomfield Hills, school officials said.
Oakland Schools Technical Campus in Clarkston is to have a $35,000 system of wind and solar installed in May, according to Oak Electric Contractors in Waterford.
Also getting turbines, as soon as this fall, are Cass Tech High School in Detroit, the Allen Park School District and Woodhaven Brownstown public schools, paid for by grants from statewide surcharge on utility bills, said Emile Lauzzana, project director of Energy Work’s in Michigan.
Lauzzana is to speak Wednesday at the Michigan Wind Energy Conference at Cobo Center in Detroit.
Source: Bill Laitner, Free Press Staff Writer