By Anne Stanton
Winds of controversy are sure to arrive at Benzie Central High School on
Tuesday, December 21, when residents are invited to attend a panel
discussion on the industrial wind turbines planned in southern Benzie and
northern Manistee counties.
There are definitely two sides to the proposed construction of 112 wind
turbines by Duke Energys Gail Windpower Project -- and potentially other
energy companies -- seeking to erect wind turbines.
Many farmers are jubilant about the potential income to their struggling
farms, while some environmentalists love the idea of alternative wind
energy in their back yard. Wind energy would not only provide jobs and
local tax revenues, its virtually carbon free and a step toward energy
independence from troublesome and sometimes violent countries. They
believe the turbines can work with sufficient regulation and setbacks from
But others have joined the grassroots group, Citizens for Responsible Wind
Development, and have expressed fear the turbines will produce noise,
shadow flicker and vibration. Theres also concern that the gigantic
490-foot structures will reduce property values, block scenic views and
affect the future of building more homes in the rural townships. Bird
lovers fear the turbines will kill migrating birds and bats.
As may be expected, landowners in a position to potentially receive
royalties from a wind farm think the towers are beautiful, and those who
arent, but would have to look at them anyhow are concerned about their
negative physical and visual impact on the area, said Brad Hopwood,
planning commission chairman for Arcadia Township.
So far, Duke Energy has gathered signed leases from about 100 property
owners living on 6,000 acres of land. The company, however, has not signed
nor filed the leases with the Register of Deeds. They will move forward on
the project only if they get a purchase power agreement from a utility
company. The company will divide a share of the revenues among the
property owners living within the 12,000-acre footprint. Owners who have
signed leases have been told they can expect to receive about $14,500 each
Meanwhile, there is much to be done in terms of zoning among the four
townships in Benzie and Manistee counties.
Currently, Arcadia Township in Manistee has a height restriction for wind
turbines of 300 feet. Pleasanton Township officials (also Manistee County)
are working on an ordinance with a targeted finish date of June 2011, when
the company will have results from a wind metering tower they set up in
the township. The draft ordinance says that a wind energy company must
reimburse property owners for any loss of value.
Joyfield Township (Benzie County) has no ordinance at all, so a wind
energy company could conceivably do anything it wants. And Blaine Township
(Benzie County) recently approved a moratorium on permits until it can
write an ordinance. Doug Carter, an Arcadia Township golf course owner who
opposes the turbines, said he hopes that all four townships adopt a
uniform ordinance. Even so, he has profound doubts that wind energy makes
any financial or environmental sense.
Why are we giving Duke Energy tremendous federal incentives to build wind
turbines to satisfy the needs of all the inefficient lifestyles, when its
your money and my money? Why not give me $200 if I can show I have saved X
amount of kilowatt hours with a front-loading washer or by adding
insulation? Give the subsidy money to people who will benefit, rather than
an energy company to make us feel good.
Rochelle Rolenhagen, who is writing the ordinance for Pleasanton Township,
said her views on wind turbines have changed. She believes the company is
intentionally preying upon poor people in an area that couldnt profitably
produce electricity for wind if it werent for a 30% federal subsidy.
A year ago, I was so pro wind you have no idea. But this is a
community-changing event because it is superimposing on our rural
residential townships a total of 112 wind turbines. Think of that. They
are 495 feet, which I equate to a 50-story building. We havent even
talked about the massive amount of foundation that will be put in the
ground. Twenty feet in diameter above the ground, but under the ground
its a 60-foot diameter concrete slab that goes in the ground. When the
turbines come down, that slab will be in the ground forever.
Theres also the potential for blade throw (when a blade accidentally
detaches), blade glint, and ice throw (ice flinging from the blade), she
So weve got some major impacts were dealing with, and the more research
I do, the more health effects I see. Its a very new industry. I think
these things need very, very far setbacks from property lines for health
and safety reasons. And thats what zoning is all about. To protect the
health, safety and welfare of the citizenry.
Meanwhile, an ad hoc committee from the Grand Traverse Regional Land
Conservancy has made a recommendation that wind turbines not be allowed on
the 3,800 acres known as the Arcadia Dunes. The conservancy also owns
conservation easements on 2,200 acres it bought from CMS Energy --
farmland thats either been resold as farmland or will be resold in the
future. The conservancy will allow wind turbines on the farmland, said
Jennifer Jay, communications and outreach director.
WORK IN PROGRESS
Some people complain that they have yet to see a map of the wind turbine
footprint, but thats because its a work in progress, said Greg
Efthimiou, Duke Energys spokesman in an email.
There is no map of the project yet, because we are still piecing together
the footprint of the project. The project encompasses parts of Arcadia,
Pleasanton, Bear Lake, Joyfield and Blaine Townships. As a result, our
final footprint has not been finalized as we are still adding leases and
doing our upfront due diligence.
He also emailed that theyve begun work on the view-shed analysis, but the
target continues to shift slightly as the exact dimensions and
specifications of the wind project evolve.
We know from firsthand experience that thoughtful upfront design work can
mitigate potential impacts on the view-shed. Weve heard from a lot of
neighbors at our existing wind farms who were surprised over how graceful
the wind turbines actually are in appearance.
Carter said that hell live with the township ordinance as long as it
protects the rights of all property owners and protects the environment.
I will respect the decision of the township boards. Ill just suck it up
and live with it. But I will make my opinion known before then.
The upcoming forum is sponsored by the Benzie Soil and Water Conservation
District. It will start at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, December 21, in the Benzie
Central High School auditorium. Peter Payette of WIAA will moderate the