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Michigan turbine facility in midst of lawsuit

More and more focus is being put on finding alternative and sustainable sources of energy, but sometimes those developments come at a price. Residents of one Michigan city are not happy about the noise levels of Lake Winds Energy Plant, and Consumers Energy is finding itself in the midst of a legal action.

On Feb. 3, a 51st Circuit Court denied Consumers Energy's request for a stay in the case and ordered the company to come up with a plan to lower the nose levels by Feb. 7. A spokesman for Consumers Energy said that the utility company did indeed want to submit a plan and were hopeful that the court would eventually find in its favor.

It may not be quite that easy, though. The director of the Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition said that there really are only two options to lower the noise level in the area: either move the turbines or lower the decibel level. It is too late for the turbines to be moved, and the director said it would be very expensive for the plant to drop the decibel level.

The plant is the first of its kind in Michigan. It consists of 56 turbines and cost approximately $250 million. It didn't take long for residents to start complaining, however. The original lawsuit was filed on April 1, 2013, and said that the vibrations, noise and flickering lights of the plant created ill effects in the residents, including sleeplessness, dizziness and headaches. The plant was also found to be in violation of safety guidelines by the Mason County Planning Commission, a ruling that was later upheld by the County Zoning Board of Appeals.

If the 51st Circuit Court does not rule in favor of Consumers Energy, the company will likely take the suit to the Michigan Court of Appeals. With these types of alternative energy sources becoming more common, it is likely that this type of litigation will continue. Understanding the zoning laws and land use guidelines can help those involved in these types of situations weigh out all of their options.

Source: Michigan Capitol Confidential, "Court orders utility to address wind turbine noise problems" Jack Spencer, Feb. 07, 2014

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