With energy prices soaring, some in Sherman Township are looking to the skies for an alternative.
Developers have already started the process that could lead to wind farms in the northern Osceola community. But before actions go much further, some are saying the township needs to review its growth plans.
“Wind farms are something that most likely are going to be here,” said Ron Moesta, Sherman Township Planning and Zoning Commission chair. “If it’s inevitable, we have to make sure its not interfering with the master plan.”
A wind power informational meeting and open public discussion is being scheduled for May 23. Tammy Stoner, a township property owner, has organized the meeting for area residents in conjunction with Osceola County Michigan State University Extension. It is the second meeting she has formed. Earlier in the year she said 70 people attended and asked questions about wind turbine use, leases and private rights. She also said no one spoke out against wind developments.
“You either need to step up as a community and get your two cents in, or be quiet and be prepared to live with it even if it’s not what you like,” she said.
One developer has said his company, Babcock & Brown, hopes to build a 20-turbine wind farm.
The Houston-based developer is currently conducting studies to see if conditions are right for wind generation in the township. Babcock & Brown is in the process of obtaining land leases for the project.
Heritage Sustainable Energy of Traverse City has leased property in both Osceola and Missaukee counties. Company officials have not indicated their long-term plans.
Moesta and Stoner expect the consideration of the impact of wind machines on bird and wildlife, aesthetics, soil erosion and water quality.
The amount of concrete poured to support the turbines could be one environmental issue to examine, according to Bob Battel, Farm Management Educator for Northwest Michigan for Michigan State University Extension.
Landowners have their own issues. Dr. Lynn Hamilton, visiting associate professor in the Department of Agriculture Economics at Michigan State University advises property owners to understand the implications of their lease. Leases typically call for a 25- to 30-year agreement. Some include automatic renewals.
“With an automatic renewal you can encumber your land to your heirs,” she explained.
Hamilton also warns that the company a landowner signs with may not be the company they’re doing business with next year, as leases are often reassigned to investors.
Another concern is heavy traffic during construction causing long-term crop loss, according to Battel. Light flicker, created by turbines at certain periods of the year, can be a source of annoyance, he said. State requirements protect birds by prohibiting impact on migratory species, but noise from wind machines is an issue for some.
“Different people have different tolerance levels. I’ve also heard of cases where a turbine causes interference with television reception,” Battel said. “Certain things can be worked out and some things can’t.”
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# Sherman Township Planning and Zoning Board meets 7:30 p.m., first Tuesday of the month at township hall, 14929 21 Mile Road.
# Wind power informational meeting sponsored by Osceola County MSU Extension and open public discussion facilitated by Tammy Stoner, 6:30 p.m., May 23 at Tustin Community Center. $10 per person. For information call (231) 832-6139.
By Sally Barber, Cadillac News
27 April 2007
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