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WIND TURBINES: Draft of discontent in Manistee and Benzie

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 couldn't profitably produce electricity for wind if it weren't 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.

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 Energy's 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, it's 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 their neighbors.

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. There's also concern that the gigantic 490-foot structures will reduce property values, block scenic views and affect the future of building more... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

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 Energy's 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, it's 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 their neighbors.

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. There's 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 aren't, 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.

THE DEAL

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 year.

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  inancial 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 it's 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."

COMMUNITY-CHANGING

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 couldn't profitably produce electricity for wind if it weren't 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 haven't 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 it's a 60-foot diameter concrete slab that goes in the ground. When the turbines come down, that slab will be in the ground forever."

There's also the potential for blade throw (when a blade accidentally detaches), blade glint, and ice throw (ice flinging from the blade), she said.

"So we've got some major impacts we're dealing with, and the more research I do, the more health effects I see. It's a very new industry. I think these things need very, very far setbacks from property lines for health and safety reasons. And that's 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 that's 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 that's because it's a work in progress, said Greg Efthimiou, Duke Energy's 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 they've 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. We've 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 he'll 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. I'll 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 panel.


Source: http://www.northernexpress....

DEC 20 2010
https://www.windaction.org/posts/29385-wind-turbines-draft-of-discontent-in-manistee-and-benzie
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