Development would take years to become a reality
NEW TROY — Wind turbines standing 600 feet high could be going up in Berrien County, but everyone involved cautions there are many hurdles to clear and it would be years before the project could become a reality.
Apex Clean Energy, based in Charlottesville, Va., has already made offers to farmers to lease ground for housing between 28 to 40 wind turbines, including some in Weesaw Township, south of here.
Gary Sommers, a Weesaw Township trustee, said he's among the farmers presented with a written offer by Apex Clean Energy for leasing some of his ground for erecting and operating wind turbines.
There would be no more than two turbines for every one square mile and the farm would be spread over a wide area into the townships of Three Oaks, Galien and possibly Baroda, Sommers said.
Sommers noted any turbines in Weesaw Township would have to go south of New Troy to avoid being too close to a residential area.
For wind turbines to go up in Weesaw Township, though, a ban on commercial wind farms would have to be lifted. However, if enough farmers are interested in a lease, the firm would have incentive to ask the township planning commission to change the ordinance, Sommers said.
The project was laid out by representatives of the company during an informational meeting attended by more than three dozen landowners in late July at the Galien American Legion.
Talks with property owners began in December to gauge support for the plans.
Sommers said Weesaw Township resource person Jack Dodds said it's probably too early to know just how the community stands on the proposal first laid out publicly within the past two weeks.
''I hear both sides of it. I don't have a good handle on how many are opposed to it, how many are neutral to it and how many are favorable to it,'' Sommers said.
''There's been just one public meeting,'' said Dodds, who noted 100 turbines were originally proposed but now it's down to 40 or fewer.
Nationwide, Apex is involved in 60 wind projects, including plans to begin turbine projects in the Indiana counties of Newton, Wells, Huntington, Henry and Rush over the next two years, according to the company's website.
The company was formed by a group of successful wind and solar energy executives who got together in 2009 to expedite the shift toward clean electricity, the company says.
Dan Blondeau, public affairs manager for Apex, said the project in Berrien County would generate 150 megawatts of electricity and the area was chosen as a potential generating site because of the availability of wind, high-voltage power lines, road network and open farmland.
He also said it's too soon to know if the project is viable.
''We're very early in the development process,'' Blondeau said.
According to terms of the contract presented to him, Sommers said much shorter test turbines would go up first to study over a six-year period if there is enough wind to justify erecting permanent generators.
Without getting into specifics, Blondeau indicated it would take awhile before any long-term decisions are made on the project known as ''Galien Oaks Wind.''
''Projects like this typically take several years to mature,'' he said.
If the project moves forward, Blondeau said, the community would benefit from the creation of construction jobs and local purchasing of materials and services.
''In the long term, the project would deliver sustained revenue for local landowners, governments and schools. In addition, the community could expect to see more than two decades of local purchasing, employment and investment,'' said Blondeau.
Dodds, the Weesaw resource person, said wind turbines are not known to be huge job creators and there would be property taxes generated but he wasn't sure how much.
He did say the contracts with landowners are for 40 years and each one with a turbine would receive about $3,500 a year and ''other payments.''
People having some other form of infrastructure related to wind generation on their properties would also receive a yearly stipend.
''So, if you're going to stay on the land for a while and you have a turbine you can make a whole bunch of money,'' Dodds said.