BLISSFIELD, Mich. – Those who harness wind power should have a better idea soon how strongly the political breezes are blowing for their industry in southeastern Lenawee County.
Ogden Township, which has no zoning, is expected to discuss the potential impacts of wind projects when trustees meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Ogden Township Hall, 10128 Pence Highway, Blissfield.
On Feb. 14, neighboring Fairfield Township surprised would-be developers by passing a one-year moratorium on the installation of industrial-scale wind turbines. It is not known if Ogden is contemplating a similar move.
And on Thursday night at 7 p.m., the Riga Township Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on its proposed 26-page set of wind-power amendments to that township’s zoning ordinance. The hearing will be in the Riga Township Hall, 7817 Riga Hwy., Riga, Mich.
Reg Karg, Riga planning commission chairman, said the ordinance proposes restrictions for height, setback, noise, and shadow-flicker from the towering turbines.
Among other things, the set of amendments calls for a 2,640-foot setback from homes. Some officials in the wind industry have called those proposed regulations excessive while some Sylvania-area officials Monday night said they will urge Riga officials to require setbacks of at least two miles.
The proposed amendments are weeks away from a final vote; after the planning commission’s review, they will be examined by Lenawee County commissioners for at least a month. Township trustees have the final say, Mr. Karg said.
“One of the toughest jobs of being on the planning commission is getting to understand what people really want,” Mr. Karg said of Riga Township and its 1,439 residents.
Riga Township is across the Michigan-Ohio state line from Sylvania and Sylvania Township, prompting officials in those jurisdictions to weigh in. They believe they’re close enough to experience some concerns people have cited about wind turbines without reaping benefits from them.
In a letter dated Thursday, Sylvania Township board Chairman John Jennewine implored his Riga Township counterparts to proceed cautiously and consider following Fairfield’s footsteps with a one-year moratorium. “We believe that this is a prudent approach and that an error in the establishment of regulatory criteria could ultimately have a profound impact on property values for both of our jurisdictions,” Mr. Jennewine wrote. “Our residents are apprehensive that these proposed structures may impact the peace and tranquility of Sylvania as well as Riga Township.”
Both Mr. Jennewine and Sylvania City Council President Todd Milner said they plan to attend the Riga Township meeting.
Monday night, representatives of the wind industry addressed many of the concerns residents have raised.
An open house that Exelon Generation and Great Lakes Wind held at the Blissfield American Legion hall on High Street drew more than 200 people during a four-hour time slot, the second major gathering on the issue in a month. On Feb. 5, nearly 250 people converged on Blissfield Middle School for a seven-hour seminar sponsored by the Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition Inc., a group formed in opposition to the proposed Lenawee County projects.
Exelon, Great Lakes Wind, Juwi Wind LLC, and Orisol Energy US Inc. are making plans to erect some 200 turbines across Riga, Ogden, Palmyra, and Fairfield townships. Many turbines under consideration in those townships are Danish-built Vestas V100 models that stand 493 feet tall. That is 80 feet taller than downtown Toledo’s highest building and 25 percent taller than the four turbines American Municipal Power installed in the Wood County landfill southwest of Bowling Green in 2003 and 2004.
Skip Pruss, former director of the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor, and Economic Growth and the state’s former chief energy officer, said at the open house that Michigan is “well-suited” with its available work force and manufacturing infrastructure “to have an opportunity for what is truly a trillion-dollar industry.” “Any energy we choose is going to have benefits and burdens,” Mr. Pruss said.
John Richey, 54, who owns 34 acres on Yankee Road in Riga Township, is a crane operator employed by a contractor to help install turbines in Van Wert and Paulding counties. Between those two counties and Hardin County, as many as 535 utility-scale turbines could be going up near the Indiana state line.
But Mr. Richey said he can’t support them in Riga Township and other parts of Lenawee County “without seeing more benefits to people there.”
Steve Juhlin, Exelon Wind project development support manager, said many of the issues can be resolved with proper siting.
Mark Thayer, co-author of a 2009 report about wind turbines and property values that was underwritten by the U.S. Department of Energy, said his team found no evidence of property values being affected positively or negatively by the devices. “There’s apprehension out there,” Mr. Thayer, San Diego State University’s economics department chairman, said. “It’s common.”
Wind power commands only 2 percent of the electricity market, but is America’s fastest-growing form of energy.
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