Wind farm may blow into region; Proposal calls for more than 100 turbines in Benzie, Manistee counties
TRAVERSE CITY – A proposed wind farm in Benzie and Manistee counties features more than 100 turbine towers and blades that could stretch nearly 500 feet high.
Duke Energy Corp. wants to erect up to 112 turbines with blades more than 300 feet in diameter in five townships along the Benzie and Manistee counties line. The project has raised concerns among residents of at least one Lake Michigan shoreline community.
By comparison, Traverse City Light & Power’s turbine along M-72 in Elmwood Township stands 175 feet tall, with blade tips that reach 230 feet.
Turbine size and the overall scope of Duke’s project led officials in Benzie County’s Blaine Township to adopt a moratorium on industrial turbines. They plan to draw up regulations in response to residents’ concerns.
“We are pretty much a rural, residential area and these turbines are 500 feet tall and they are not what people moved in here to see,” said Blaine Township Supervisor Tom Campbell. “There are so many things wrong about this proposal.”
Blaine Township borders Lake Michigan and is home to both Upper Herring and Lower Herring lakes in a hollow bracketed by ridges on the north and south. Most township residents live around the lakes, while farms comprise the higher grounds slotted for wind turbines, Campbell said.
Duke Energy hasn’t requested permits from the township, Campbell said, but he knows the company contacted local farmers to gauge their interest in leasing land. Additionally, Joyfield Township lies to the east, is mostly farmland and has no zoning.
“They’ll encircle our residents with these turbines,” Campbell said. “They are going to line the farmer’s pockets with gold.”
The township is concerned about noise, vibration, wildlife, migrating birds, night lights and the impact on their view sheds, Campbell said.
Environmental attorney Scott Howard said there’s little wind turbine regulation at the federal or state level, so such reviews fall on local government.
The most common zoning provisions for wind turbines address separation distances and property line setbacks. Other big issues include noise, bird migration pathways, and the effect of the sun glinting off blades.
“View sheds are also an issue, but it’s typically a hard thing for municipalities to regulate,” Howard said.
Howard will serve on a wind energy panel hosted by the Benzie Conservation District today at 6:30 p.m. at Benzie Central High School.
A press release from the conservation district touts the need for energy from renewable sources such as wind, but Tad Peacock, conservation district administrator, said the agency is neutral on Duke’s project.
“We don’t have a position. We’re purely here as a conduit for education and information,” Peacock said. “We’ve tried to put together a balanced panel.”
Allan O’Shea, a Manistee County commissioner and owner of Environmental Energies, works for Duke as the project’s regional coordinator. He’ll also serve on the panel.
O’Shea said each county would play host to 56 turbines at full build-out. Joyfield Township would be home to the majority in Benzie County. In Manistee County, turbines would appear in a small portion of Arcadia Township, a large section of Pleasanton Township, and some of Bear Lake Township.
O’Shea said he’ll have a map of turbine sites available at tonight’s meeting.
O’Shea called the wind farm concept a long, complicated process. Duke needs an energy purchase commitment from a major power company to push along the project; the company likely will know in three to six months if that will happen, he said.
The area Duke targeted includes 6,000 acres owned or controlled by the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy.
The conservancy won’t grant wind leases for a 3,800-acre nature preserve known as Arcadia Dunes, based on potential negative impact to conservation and recreation uses, said Glen Chown, its executive director.
But the conservancy hasn’t closed the door on 2,200 acres of farmland that it either owns or controls with conservation and utility easements.
“We knew the potential existed out there, so in those utility easements we reserved wind rights, so we have control over those in the future,” said Matt McDonough, a conservancy land preservation specialist.
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