BAD AXE — It is no surprise that both sides of the community have been vocal when expressing their opinion of the ongoing wind turbine development, but with less than a week until the May 2 referendum elections, the heat has been turned up a notch.
Huron County is unique in a lot of ways, including the potential for more wind energy.
It is now left in the voter’s hands to decide the fate of what future prospects the county may or may not face – which is why it is crucial to be informed of exactly what a “Yes” and “No” vote means.
DTE has proposed plans for completion of the Filion Wind Park, and in October, the Huron County Board of Commissioners approved a wind overlay district in Bloomfield, Dwight, Lincoln and Sigel townships to allow the park to be sited.
Residents who opposed the decision responded quickly by turning in approximately 1,200 signatures to force a referendum vote. Only 807 valid signatures were required to get the issue on the ballot.
In December, a hesitant board voted to approve an overlay in Sherman and Sigel townships as requested by Huron Wind, LCC. Again, residents knocked on doors to collect enough signatures to force a vote.
If either referendum fails, the companies will be forced to move their projects elsewhere.
During an interview Friday, DTE Energy president Trevor F. Lauer made a commitment to the community in exchange for a “yes” vote. DTE would add an additional 70 wind turbines to the Filion Wind Park, and upon completion, would no longer look to Huron County to farm renewable wind energy.
“We have a lot of people that host sites today and have been vocal about supporting it, but there’s also another piece of the county of residents that don’t support it,” Lauer said. “We’re respectful of that opinion, and that’s why we have made commitments to the community that this would be the last wind farm we develop.”
The Thumb is attractive to wind-energy companies since it was designated as Michigan’s prime zone for wind energy in 2008 by the Michigan Public Service Commission.
“I tell you, this is a wonderful county to develop wind in, but if it’s not the desire of the people in the county, then that’s not something we’re going to do here,” he said.
He also said a “yes” vote means new technology would be used on turbines constructed within the Filion Wind Park. Lauer said, pending Federal Aviation Administration approval, the state-of-the art technology would dramatically reduce the blinking red lights most visible at nighttime – which was a hot topic among local complainants.
On the other side of the fence, many residents impacted by turbines say the nuisance they present override any positives “yes” vote. Some of the more common issues residents complained about were the turbines being an eyesore, taking up too much space and making too much noise.
A “no” vote from the voters would cease all activity on current and future development plans in county-zoned townships.
There have been outspoken advocates against the development of wind energy such as Huron County Wind Resistance.
The political organization prides itself on taking a stand against the wind energy movement. They claim to be dedicated to ending wind energy development in Huron County.
Advocates against future wind development say that wind turbines have a direct impact on how people view the landscapes of the county, as well as overall health.
Although there have been no validated reports of any medical conditions caused by living near a turbine, enough is enough for a county that already has an excess of turbines, opponents argue.
Many members of the wind resistance will vote “no” because they do not want to give energy companies the ability to construct any more unsightly, noisy industrial turbines.