LUDINGTON, MI – When it comes to stopping the wind farm under construction south of Ludington, opponents are left to simply picket.
But come August and November, a lead critic of the Lake Winds Energy Park in southern Mason County promises to even political scores with county commissioners who voted to allow Consumers Energy to proceed with the $235 million, 56-turbine development.
Evelyn Bergaila of Riverton Township was in front of the Ludington Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce as Consumers Energy officials prepared a group of media members for a tour of the Lake Winds construction area. Five of the turbines have already been fully assembled as the public utility moves toward full power production from the 100.8 megawatt wind farm by early November.
With a theme of “too big, too close and too many,” Bergaila said she and her neighbors in Riverton and Summit townships are beginning to see the true size of the Vestas wind turbines with the “hub heights” at 330 feet and the top of tip of the blades reaching 476 feet, according to company officials.
“They are enormous,” Bergaila said of the turbines, five within a mile of her home and one within 1,800 feet of her front door. “The sense of scale is that they are not a fit for our rural community. And we haven’t even begun to have to put up with the noise and light flicker.”
The local opposition group in Mason County has associated itself with the national Citizens Alliance for Responsible Renewable Energy, which unsuccessfully tried to block the wind farm with a law suit in Mason County Circuit Court.
Just as the legal system refused to side with the opponents, so did the elected officials in Mason County. The opposition energy is being put into trying to defeat at the polls this year six incumbent county commissioners who favored the wind farm development, Bergaila said while picketing in front of the chamber offices on U.S. 10 in Ludington.
The goal is to put a majority on the Mason County board and planning commission who would repeal the county’s wind farm ordinance that allowed the Lake Winds project to proceed, Bergaila said.
“We don’t want any other wind developments in Mason County,” she said. “Never again should county citizens have to put up with what we are going through.”
The local opponents of the Lake Winds project have joined forces with the Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition in southeast Michigan, which has organized to fight industrial wind farms along the Michigan and Ohio boarder. IICC and the Mason County wind farm opponents picketed last Saturday’s alternative energy fair at the Mason County Fairgrounds.
Finally, the Lake Winds opponents find it ironic that with the wind farm under construction, they and Consumers Energy have the same position on a potential ballot proposal that could lead to dozens of new wind farms across the state.
Mason County wind farm critics and Consumers Energy both oppose the likely statewide ballot proposal to increase the state’s development of renewable energy to 25 percent of the Michigan’s total electricity by the year 2025. State law in 2008 created a 10 percent standard by 2015, which directly led to the Lake Winds development in Mason County.
“Now we’ve ended up on the same side,” Bergaila said. “They should have spoken the truth about wind turbines before like they are now. Wind power is not viable and does not create jobs.”
Consumers Energy spokesman Dan Bishop said the Lake Winds opponents do not understand the company’s position. Consumers Energy supported the 2008 law that was a complex, negotiated legislative proposal vs. an attempt to put such energy policy into the Michigan constitution.
While the 2008 renewable energy standard was measured and appropriate, the 25-by-25 approach will be too costly for Michigan electric customers and the force the development of 3,100 new wind turbines in Michigan by 2025, Bishop said.
“That level of turbine installation is not acceptable across the state,” Bishop said of needing the wind farm areas that total 17-times the size of the city of Grand Rapids. “The current law makes sense and is doable. The wind farms being built in Michigan today are in appropriate locations.
“A large majority of the residents in Mason County support the project but they are not as vocal as the opponents,” Bishop said of Lake Winds.
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