Saugatuck Township, MI – A new crop might be sprouting up among the corn and soy beans in southern Saugatuck Township. Commercial wind farms could take root if the township approves new guidelines for wind turbines and towers.
The possibility of turbines dotting the landscape has some homeowners upset as township planners look at allowing taller towers than first proposed.
Saugatuck Township has been listed as a prime area for wind power and the Holland Board of Public Works is studying turbine locations in Saugatuck and Ganges townships.
Zach Bossenbroek of SWMI Wind Energy Development LLC of Grandville said Saugatuck Township’s height limit of 300 feet for turbines is too low.
“Away from the shoreline, the wind is not as strong. We expect that to be the case in Saugatuck Township,” he said, saying towers up to 500 feet are more feasible for commercial power generation.
The Holland BPW recently agreed to pay SWMI Wind Energy Development $125,000 for a one-year option to buy or lease easements the company has with various land owners in the townships.
Another $375,000 will be spent to determine whether the sites are useful for wind energy.
Planners will look at changing the height limit, said Chairman Larry Edris.
The planning commission meets at 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 27, at the township hall, 3461 Blue Star Highway.
For its proposed ordinance, Saugatuck Township used the Ottawa County model wind energy ordinance.
The Ottawa County guidelines were released in 2009 and have been used around the nation, according to Mark Knudsen, director of the planning and performance improvement department. The model ordinance does not list height restrictions for large wind energy turbines.
“The technology is changing on a daily basis,” Knudsen said. “They’re becoming more efficient and larger.”
The model does limit size indirectly through setback requirements, how far away from other properties the turbines can be.
The height of commercial turbines confines them to argricultural areas in the southeast portion of the township, to the possible benefit of farmers, plannners said.
“Agricultural income could be augmented by turbines,” said Planning Commissioner Jim Hanson.
Michigan State University is offering a grant to farmers to test the feasibility of setting up turbines to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
The state will set up anemometers, devices used to measure wind velocity, and analyze the data for the farmer, according to Eric Wittenberg, MSU anemometer loan program coordinator.
“We look at what type of payback there is, if they have adequate wind,” he said.
Anemometers cost about $4,000, but through the state, farmers can have the equipment installed and monitored for $250.
The Holland Board of Public Works is studying the possibility of placing wind energy turbines in Saugatuck and Ganges townships.
Both townships have proposed wind energy ordinances in the discussion stage. Both address the possibility of large turbine wind farms:
• Maximum tower height of 300 feet unless an applicant demonstrates a need to go higher. Setbacks and other rules apply.
• Quantity: Determined by setback and industry standards. Planners said in a “perfect world,” there could be four large turbines per square mile section.
• All towers must be monopoles.
• Noise must not exceed the lowest ambient sound level between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m.
• No set height limit, though setbacks and other rules apply.
• Quantity: Clustering is allowed.
• Towers must be enclosed by fences.
• Noise must not exceed 65 decibels at the nearest property line
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