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Commission adjusts WECS ordinance

BY CHELSEA BOULRISSE - cboulrisse@wabashplaindealer.com

The Wabash County Plan Commission unanimously approved a revised copy of the county’s Wind Energy Conservation (WECS) ordinance last week in a move that the commission hopes will address concerns of “shadow flickers” caused when the sun falls behind a turbine.

The revision was adopted unanimously by the nine-member commission with board member David Schuler absent, Plan Commission Director Mike Howard confirmed on Monday.

The ordinance was first adopted in March 2010 when wind farms were becoming a more common energy alternative.

“We adopted it because of the developments starting for wind farms,” Howard said. “We didn’t have an ordinance in place so we tried to be proactive and created an ordinance.”

The ordinance has been revised three times since 2010, the most recent of which addresses the growing size of wind turbines. The amendment increases the setback requirements so that all turbines must be set back at least two times their height or at least 1,000 feet, whichever is more restrictive.

“Personal wind turbines continue to get bigger,” Howard explained. “It takes less of them for a wind farm and one can easily locate them so we increased our setback.”

The amendments also addressed concerns of “shadow flickers,” or the moment when the sun falls behind a turbine’s propellers and casts a shadow. The continued movement of the blades can create a flicker effect with this shadow, which Howard is concerned could be problematic.

In prior iterations of the ordinance, approved turbines could cast shadow flicker for a maximum of 15 minutes a day for only five calendar days per year. The most recent changes have prohibited any shadow flicker whatsoever.

There have only been two applications for the installation of wind turbines in the county since 2010, both of which were approved, Howard said. Those applications, according to Howard, were for personal use of windmills on private properties. Howard said there have been no applications for commercial windfarms in the county.

The revised ordinance will be considered for final adoption by the Wabash County Commissioners next week.