ONEIDA TWP. – With stricter controls expected on smokestack pollution, and more demand for clean energy, Eaton County soon might see wind being harvested along with the traditional crops of corn, soybeans and wheat.
The Oneida Township Planning Commission will take the first step toward regulating the development of a planned 63-tower wind farm in Oneida and Roxand townships in Eaton County when it holds a public hearing June 5 on a proposed amendment to the township’s zoning ordinance.
The applications were filed by Horizon Wind Energy, which is owned by EDP Renewables, whose parent company, Energias de Portugal, is based in Lisbon, Portugal, and has significant electricity and gas operations in Europe, Brazil and the United States.
Approval of the ordinance changes are under review because the turbines are not currently regulated by the ordinance, Oneida Township Zoning Administrator and Township Clerk Dave Carpenter said.
“They are not illegal now. Currently there is no way to regulate them,” Carpenter said. “The choice is to regulate or do nothing, and that’s not a good idea.”
The draft ordinance covers placement, maximum size, setback requirements and eventual removal requirements for wind turbine towers, and also regulates noise and electromagnetic interference.
Based on applications filed with the Federal Aviation Authority, each wind turbine is expected to be nearly 500 feet tall from the ground to the tip of the blades, and would be located within a 42 square mile area north of Needmore Highway, south of Eaton Highway, west of Kenyon Road., and east of Gates Road.
Company officials did not returns calls seeking comment.
Even though applications are in the process of being reviewed, the final development decision is not expected to be made until after a six-month to one-year test of the winds at a point several hundred feet above the ground. A meteorological tower has been erected in western Roxand Township to measure wind speed and consistency.
Utility-scale wind turbines average approximately 2 megawatts of capacity each. This means that one wind turbine is rated to supply enough energy to power 500 to 600 average-sized homes, and the entire wind farm, if constructed as planned and operating at capacity, could provide power to more than 30,000 homes.
Large wind turbines have been criticized for noise, shadow flicker and harm to birds.
In addition, the tower’s height and air turbulence can be an issue for aviation.
Marita Noon, executive director of Albuquerque, N.M.-based Citizens Alliance for Responsible Energy, said large-scale wind farm operations are not economically viable because of uncertainty as to whether federal tax credits for wind turbine manufacturers will be renewed this year in Congress.
The group is opposed to many wind farm operations but has taken no position on the Eaton County project.
“We as taxpayers have been underwriting the wind energy industry for 20 years,” Noon said. “Without the tax credits, the industry will collapse.”
The Grand Ledge Abrams Municipal Airport Advisory Board voted to ask the FAA to deny the required tall structures permit due to safety concerns for aircraft arriving and departing from the airport.
State Journal staff writer Scott Davis contributed to this report.
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