A local sand-mining company took the first step toward producing energy from windmills in Muskegon County by winning permission to erect towers on its Lake Michigan dune property that will measure the wind.
“We’re virtually certain we’ll have enough wind,” said Nugent Sand Co.’s consultant Tim Langenberg, who made a presentation to the Norton Shores City Council Tuesday. Council members unanimously approved the one-year experiment, following a half-hour of consideration.
Nugent Sand Co. President Bob Chandonnet is keeping quiet at this point about exactly how the company would use the electrical power if his firm’s property at 2925
Lincoln proves suitable for wind-power generation. He said possibilities include providing electricity for existing sand-mining at that location, a future residential development and/or selling the power to the regional electrical grid.
“There’s a constant demand for electricity and there’s a great demand for non-fossil fuels for energy,” Chandonnet said. “The study will show what the windows of possibility are.”
Langenberg introduced himself to city officials as an environmentalist. His business card lists his address at 2266 Seminole as “Beacon Hill USA” and features a photo of a tree-lined dune.
Back in 2000, Chandonnet advocated building an upscale neighborhood of homes called Dune Harbor on property formerly mined by Nugent Sand. Those plans stalled after Michigan Department Environmental Quality Director Steven Chester refused to grant the pipeline permit Nugent said it needed to make construction of 65 homes possible.
The permit would have allowed the firm to control the level of the lake around which the homes were to be built by discharging wastewater from its operations into Lake Michigan.
Langenberg wasn’t involved when Dune Harbor was proposed. There are signs a more environmentally friendly project, which won’t run into as much citizen opposition, is being contemplated.
Within the next month, Chandonnet plans to have NGR Systems Inc. install two meteorological towers on Nugent’s land to measure wind speeds and direction during the next year. That information will be used to determine whether installation of one or two wind turbines within a five-mile radius makes economic sense.
One turbine could power up to 2,000 three- and four-bedroom homes, according to Langenberg.
City council gave conditional approval Tuesday to installing a meteorological tower of up to 130 feet on the top of a critical dune located on 15 acres Nugent owns in the Idlewild neighborhood. The other taller, 162-foot tower will be placed in a valley between two critical dunes just west of the North Lake sand-mining operations produced.
Permission from both the DEQ and Federal Aviation Administration are required as conditions for conducting the one-year experiment, after which the towers must be taken down. Chandonnet said he already has those okays and does not believe strobe lights must be attached to the towers to warn aircraft of their location. However, Mayor Jerry Wiersma was under the impression Tuesday those lights will be necessary.
A few neighbors and Mayor Pro Tem Lowell Kinney unsuccessfully argued Tuesday that more study should be done before council approved the one-year experiment.
“Nugent Sand has not been a good corporate neighbor,” said Frank Buck, 2224 Arbor. He complained the company’s mining operations have cautioned erosion at the end of Lawnel Street.
He warned city officials that allowing the experiment allows Nugent “to put their foot in the door” toward construction of a wind turbine farm, if that is the direction it chooses to go.
However, Chandonnet insisted no more than one or two wind turbines are contemplated. They would be of modern design and create no more noise than a whisper, he asserted.
Wind turbines can be on a column up to 300 feet tall and have blade spans of up to 360 feet, according to Langenberg. Throughout Michigan, there are only three commercial wind turbines in operation in Michigan. Two of those turbines are located in Mackinaw City and the is in Traverse City.
John Wolar, another Nugent consultant from Alternate Energy Solutions Inc. of Eastpointe, Mich., predicted the use of wind power will increase as the cost of fossil fuels escalates and “the effects of carbon emissions start taking more of a toll on the State of Michigan.” Congress may actually mandate that wind farms be allowed, he said, adding this is the time for the state to capitalize on the new market.
While the experiment is conducted to determine whether installation of a wind turbine is feasible, city council plans to explore adoption of a new ordinance regulating them.
Gail Law, 3085 Idlewild, lives next to one of the meteorological towers that will be erected. She indicated she is a strong proponent of wind power, but would like to serve on whatever committee drafts the ordinance to regulate them. Law said wind turbines can decrease surrounding property values. If that occurs, the ordinance should be written to allow neighbors to be compensated by Nugent Sand, she said.
Wiersma didn’t take any action to accept her offer, saying there’s time to decide how the new ordinance will be produced. City planning commissioners grumbled after the city council’s special Tuesday session they weren’t given advance notice of Nugent’s proposal.
“I think you should give the citizens more than three hours time to appear at these meetings,” Dorene Carloni, 3045 Idlewild said, explaining she only learned about the project three hours before Tuesday’s rare special city council meeting began.
By Nancy Stier
13 June 2007
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