Everything comes at a price.
Nearly 50 township and county officials and landowners gathered in Tustin Wednesday to learn how jurisdictions could evaluate what the trade-offs are in bringing wind energy production to their communities.
“Nothing we do for energy comes without a cost,” said Mike Klepinger, Land Use Specialist for Michigan State University Extension. “We have to decide what kind of cost we are willing to pay.”
Klepinger was part of a group responsible for developing Michigan wind turbine siting guidelines for planning officials and was a key presenter at Wednesday’s meeting.
“Every decision you make should be based on public safety and welfare,” he said.
The session was organized to help officials and property owners work with wind energy developers pursuing projects in the highlands of Wexford, Osceola and Missaukee counties.
Statewide, 52 wind projects are in the planning stage, according to Klepinger. Until wind energy developers entered the picture, most local jurisdictions lacked ordinances addressing the installation and operation of wind turbines. Northern Michigan jurisdictions recently adopting guidelines include Benzie County, Emmet County, and Bingham and Suttons Bay townships in Leelanau County.
However, legislation could shift decision-making power to the state. House Bill 4254, introduced by State Rep. Howard Walker, R-Traverse City, in February, would deny local zoning from prohibiting wind turbines and create siting and operation standards. Klepinger opposes the idea.
“Acceptance of renewable energy has to come from the local people,” he said.
But terms of service for the state’s 16,000 land planning volunteers average only three years, little time for the decision makers to develop expertise, he pointed out.
Klepinger’s presentation included data for evaluating what communities trade off to participate in producing wind energy. He addressed setbacks, noise levels, shadow flicker and impact to wildlife and provided comparatives for energy production costs and an overall look at Michigan’s wind resource.
“Land use officials need to know there is science behind these issues,” he said. “If they take a little time to do their homework, they can feel more comfortable about making these tough decisions.”
Sherman Township planning and zoning board member Flo Nye said she attended the meeting to better understand how a wind farm could benefit the community as a whole. The board is currently in the process of establishing rules for commercial and residential turbines. Its goal is to have ordinances in place by the end of 2007, she said.
Sherman Township property owner and advocate for wind energy Tammy Stoner presented information to help lessees understand to pitfalls and benefits associated with wind lease agreements. She urged land owners to consider the long-term impact of contracts and to involve an attorney in the decisions making.
“We’re the ones that have to live with the developments,” Stoner said. “Let’s make sure it’s what we all want.”
Your local connection
# Meeting topic: Planning for wind energy production
# Participants: Local government officials land owners, developers
# Purpose: To provide guidelines for siting wind turbines and the associated infrastructure; to review wind lease agreement issues
# Open to the public: Sherman Township Planning and Zoning meeting, 7:30 p.m. June 5 at township hall, 14929 21 Mile Road
By Sally Barber
26 May 2007
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