March 13, 2011

Wind turbines twirl cash, but many hesitate

By Tom Henry, Blade Staff Writer, Toledo Blade, 12 March 2011

3 townships in Lenawee County set moratoriums; 4th mulls

Even as wind developers dangle the promise of multimillion-dollar investments, officials in four cash-strapped townships in southeastern Michigan’s Lenawee County apparently aren’t in a rush to close deals.

Ogden Township on Tuesday became the third Lenawee County township targeted by wind developers to call a timeout and pass a moratorium on the installation of industrial-scale wind turbines, citing a decision to step back and study the issue for at least six months instead of taking action in haste that might infuriate residents.

Riga Township acted first, with a six-month moratorium on turbine-installation in October. It gave itself an option for an additional six months.

Fairfield became the second on Feb. 14 with a one-year moratorium.

Palmyra, the fourth township in the group, has not taken action.

Riga on Thursday took comments from dozens of people on its plans for a 26-page set of amendments to its zoning ordinance.

The amendment was written to help the township regulate wind turbines. It includes calls for a half-mile setback from homes.

Some in the wind industry called those proposed regulations excessive while some area residents called for setbacks of at least two miles.

Joshua Nolan of Sylvania Township said nearly 200 people were “packed in like sardines” at Riga Township Hall.

He said he is one of several Sylvania-area residents who fear they could be impacted by the development of a Lenawee County wind farm. His property near the state line is “in the shadow” of a Riga parcel that already has been offered a lease, he said.

At least three groups of developers are eyeing some combination of farmland in Riga, Ogden, Fairfield, or Palmyra townships.

A spokesman for one of them, Robert Judge of Exelon Generation, said it’s because the wind is especially strong in that part of Lenawee County.

Two hundred or more of the largest land-based wind turbines – each 80 feet taller than the highest building in downtown Toledo – could dot the landscape in that area if all known projects came to fruition.

More than 500 additional turbines are proposed for Paulding, Van Wert, and Hardin counties in northwest Ohio, near the Indiana line.

Reg Karg, Riga Township Planning Commission chairman, said Thursday’s hearing “was very orderly.”

“People should be praised,” Mr. Karg said. “It could have been a contentious setting when you have such polarized views on [wind turbine] siting.”

Concerns about property values, noise, vibrations, and shadow-flickering were raised, as was one about digital TV reception.

According to a letter submitted by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters, wind turbines in the vicinity of Blissfield and Jasper, Mich., could disrupt broadcast signals of WLMB-TV 40 in Toledo and unspecified AM radio stations that serve those four townships.

The association said the TV and AM radio stations have “an important part of the Emergency Alert System for the area, carrying weather and emergency information in times of need and Amber Alert information on abducted and/or endangered children.”

The letter was signed by association President and Chief Executive Officer Karole L. White, who claimed to be in agreement with Larry Estlack, the association’s technology director and the federally appointed Michigan Emergency Alert System Coordinator, in that “so many wind turbines will impact the distribution of emergency information in your area, putting citizens at risk.”

Representatives for the developers and for the wind power industry said they are willing to do whatever it takes to resolve issues and be perceived as good neighbors.

A technical impact report that was submitted by Jamey Schmitz, WLMB-TV 40 president and CEO, concludes that “significant degradation and interference to WLMB-TV signal will likely result from the construction of the proposed wind turbine farm,” with that station’s signal being lost for 65 percent of the people who now get it on cable and satellite systems.

In addition, it would be lost for most who receive it with indoor and outdoor antennas. “That’s something we hadn’t seen before,” Mr. Karg said.

He also said special care would be needed for creating setback requirements for any turbines erected in the vicinity of three private airstrips in Riga Township.

The Riga planning board’s next meeting is April 4. It is not clear whether the board will be ready to act then.

“I think we need to do due diligence to please all sides,” Mr. Karg said.

URL to article: