GARDEN – A landscape dotted with wind turbines is in the Garden Peninsula’s future, thanks to a downstate sustainable energy firm. Heritage Sustainable Energy, of Traverse City, Mich., has already signed leases with a number of area residents, but not everyone is welcoming the company.
After nearly two years of various wind studies conducted in the Garden area, some by Heritage, few residents were surprised when a company began to seriously pursue unused parcels of land.
Heritage, which is best known for its nearly 2,000-acre Stoney Corners Wind Farm Project near Cadillac, Mich., plans to site leased areas and assess the land’s potential in housing one of their nearly 400-foot wind turbines.
According to Heritage Project Manager Rick Wilson, the company is excited about the Garden Township Wind Energy Project and has already leased approximately 10,000 acres throughout the Garden Peninsula, including Garden and Fairbanks Township.
“The size of this wind project is moderate; about 13 wind turbines will be placed on agricultural land between south Garden to north of Garden,” Wilson said.
“We’ve been doing energy analysis in the area for about three years and have three meteorological towers already out there.”
Wilson said the turbines will be used to produce energy that will then be sold into the transmission grid and passed on to larger Michigan utility companies.
“We’ve done the preliminary studies, done the pre-planning work, and now we are in the pre-development stages,” he explained. “We’re working toward developing this project and are hoping to begin installation of the wind turbines by the end of 2011 or early 2012.”
According to a Heritage 10-year lease provided to a Garden resident, anyone leasing their land to Heritage will be paid $15 per net surface acre. If the company decides to actually build on the leased land, a one-time $10,000 fee will be paid to the lessee. The lease also notes that Heritage has the option to continue the lease beyond the 10-year period by paying an extension payment of $30 per net surface acre. For this reason, the lease is “considered to be continuous.”
While some residents were quick to jump on board with Heritage’s project, whether it was for the financial perks, to support alternative energy or a combination of the two, others are not as willing.
Cliff and Rosemary Stollings of Garden were approached by Heritage, but decided against leasing their land. Their concerns are rooted in the fact that, currently, Delta County has no zoning ordinance for wind energy. This would give too much leeway to Heritage, said Cliff, and offers no governance on the distance a wind turbine needs to be away from a residence.
The Heritage lease stipulates that a wind turbine will have to be at least 400 feet away from a residence. Conversely, the Stollings claim that, in researching wind energy, it is now generally recommended that wind turbines be at least a mile to a mile and a half away from a residence.
While there is conflicting research regarding a wind turbine’s proximity and subsequent impact on wildlife and human health, the Stollings’ factored the potential negative impact in their decision.
A portion of the lease addresses some of these possible impacts, but not in the way that the Stollings would have liked:
“…Lessee shall have a non-exclusive easement over and across said property for audio, visual, view, light, noise, vibration, air turbulence, wake, electromagnetic, electrical, and radio frequency interference, and any any other effects attributable to Lessee’s operations.” The lease further stipulates: “Lessor waives any claim with regard to any such interference or effects.”
Garden Township Supervisor Morgan Tatrow said that Heritage has been visiting the area frequently, working with the township and attending a county joint governmental meeting, various Garden township meetings, and even school board meetings.
“Heritage has already obtained lease permits from private property owners, and their plans right now are to obtain the permits for access roads leading to their wind turbine locations,” explained Tatrow. “We, the township, are talking with our legal people because there are currently no ordinances regarding wind towers.” In the meantime, Heritage will continue work on the project as residents from both sides voice their support or concern.
“It’s an excellent project and an economic opportunity for Delta County and Garden Township,” said Wilson. “It is going to mean around $5 million worth of investment in the local community during the construction process and the estimated personal property tax revenue is between $30,000 to $40,000 per turbine, per year.”
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding