As an alternative energy source, wind power is riding a wave of interest throughout Washtenaw County.
The county recently erected a meteorological pole in Sylvan Township on the Chrysler Proving Grounds to measure sustained winds for the next 12 to 18 months. That will test whether wind farms are feasible on the western side of the county.
And Tuesday night, a representative from the state Wind Working Group met with a group of about 35 residents and members of the Saline Sustainability Circle.
John Sarver told the group that Michigan is currently an energy consumer, rather than a provider. He said wind is a clean, renewable resource that can be harnessed to provide electricity – and also create jobs in Michigan.
Across the state, there are now 1,250 wind turbines, and the greatest potential for wind farms is offshore in the Great Lakes, Sarver said.
“Michigan is ranked fourth for potential to make wind turbine components,” he said, adding that 29 companies are already making them and 900 more could get into the business, including current auto parts suppliers.
Sarver said wind power could account for 8,000 to 24,000 new jobs in the state.
First, Michigan needs to adopt a “renewable portfolio standard,” that would mandate a specific percentage of the state’s energy come from renewal sources like wind, Sarver said.
Sarver also offered guidelines for township and city zoning ordinances to regulate wind turbines as local residents express interest in installing them on their properties.
Elected officials had questions about visual, avian and wildlife impacts, as well as the noise levels that wind turbines could have in their townships.
Lodi Township Supervisor Jan Godek asked Sarver about the noise made by smaller turbines. A church in Lodi Township has filed plans to erect a small wind turbine.
Today’s turbines are much quieter than previous models, Sarver said, adding that they make less noise than refrigerators and in some cases have a lower decibel level than normal conversation.
The smaller ones are louder than large commercial turbines.
“The most noticeable noise is the whooshing of the blades,” he said. “In rural communities, farmers who have signed lease agreements like them, and the neighbors not being paid don’t like them.”
The visual impacts of wind turbines also can be a point of contention for residents. In Cape Cod, a public outcry against wind turbines off the Massachusetts coast has been loud, while in New Jersey and Rhode Island, plans to place large wind turbines in the ocean have met little resistance.
The Saline Sustainability Circle is made up officials from Saline, the school district, chamber of commerce, and Saline, Lodi, York and Pittsfield townships. The group meets once a month to discuss area issues.
By Lisa Allmendinger
News Special Writer
21 May 2008
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