Besides grainfields, barns and silos dotting the landscape between Clarksville and Sunfield, soon be up to 50 wind turbines with rotating blades will be seen above the tree line.
Project developer Huw Roberts from TCI Renewables based in Montreal met Monday at Sebewa Township Hall in Ionia County with area farmers and homeowners to present the Tupper Lake Wind Energy Project.
The town hall was filled, and most people indicated they were in favor of the turbines.
Bob Cusack said the country has to do something to be free of its dependency on oil, and this is a step in the right direction. Brian Haskin, who farms hundreds of acres, said he is in favor of the turbines and the boost it will provide to the local job market.
According to a press release from TCI, the proposal calls for up to 50 turbines, associated cabling, access roads, permanent meteorological masts and grid interconnection facilities.
Interconnection studies are underway with the utility company for the project’s 80 megawatts of renewable energy that will be fed into the state’s grid. This is enough to power 22,000 homes. The project will have a 25-year life expectancy, said Roberts.
Environmental surveys and reviews, conducted since 2008, have been completed. Field environmental studies are currently being undertaken.
Stakeholder consultation has occurred at the township, county, state and federal levels. The project has no zoning issues, he said, but some permits still need to be obtained.
Each tower requires about an acre of land, and land acquisition for the project is ongoing.
Roberts said construction will take six to eight months and is planned to begin in 2012 to be finished by December of that year. He said he expects a local influx of 200 additional workers during construction and up to six full-time employees for tower maintenance jobs.
The towers will be 495 feet high to the tip of the blades. The blades are too high to be a hazard to livestock and wildlife, with the exception of birds and bats, he said. The industry has ongoing studies to reduce hazardous effects on avian wildlife.
Shadow flicker is another concern cited by people opposed to close proximity to turbines, he said. This occurs at certain times of day or year when the sun, or moon, is at particular angle to the rotating blades, thus creating a strobe-light effect. The pulsating light may cause migraines, vertigo or trigger an epileptic seizure in certain people.
Some people are concerned about the noise, he said, but explained that industry literature reports the noise is minimal and often less than the ambient sound of traffic and wind. On the decibel scale, a whisper is 25 decibels, office noise measures 65 decibels and a jet taking off registers 145 decibels. A wind turbine at a distance of 350 meters is 45 decibels, he said, similar to the background noise found in a typical home.
Roberts’ report went on to explain the hertz, or pitch, of the sound. He said the sub-audible low-frequency sound and infrasound of the turbines do not present a risk to humans.
Many residents in the area have commented that just as people have grown used to seeing television towers, electrical poles, satellite dishes and antennas on houses, the turbines will become just another part of the landscape.
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