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Wind farm plans discussed at Galien American Legion Post

GALIEN – In what’s expected to be the first of several meetings on the proposed Galien Oaks wind turbine project, more than 60 Galien Township residents met with Apex Energy officials on Monday, Sept. 12, at the Galien American Legion Post.

Galien Township officials organized the informational meeting with Apex officials to give residents a chance to learn more about the company’s plans and ask questions. The company announced plans this summer to potentially build a wind turbine farm on farmland near Galien and Three Oaks.

Apex Energy development director Brad Lila reported Monday that Apex is the largest wind farm developer in the country in terms of industry capacity. The company has been talking to farmers and other property owners in the Galien and Three Oaks area for the last several months but has not signed an option with anyone.

Lila said that if the Galien Oaks Wind project moves forward, the company would likely erect between 25 and 40 wind turbines on around 13,000 acres in Baroda, Galien, Three Oaks and Weesaw Townships. Each turbine would cost $3 million and the total investment would be $250 million.

While Lila and other company representatives talked about the economic opportunities for individual property owners in terms of annual payments and local governments in extra tax revenue, residents asked about noise concerns, the effect on birds and other wildlife and the potential negative impact on property values.

Galien resident Michael Slabach is a sound engineer. He said there have been a number of health problems associated with the sound from the wind turbines including migraines and nausea. That concern was also raised by Ken Neumann who spoke about a British study claiming adverse health consequences for those living around wind farms.

The adverse effect on property values was raised by several residents. Connie Baber said she talked with people in the Ludington, Mich., area who said the property values had gone down there after a wind farm was erected. Residents there also told her that they were also bothered by the strobe lights on the turbines at night.

Rick Sullivan also talked about property values, citing a Forbes study that put the property value decline at 20 to 50 percent after the construction of wind farms.

Lila asked why wind farms keep being built if there are so many problems associated with them. He said that some people may not like how they look but that there is no credible evidence about their negative impact on health, noise, property values or wildlife.

“Wind farm projects keep ag land as ag land, that’s one reason why Michigan has pushed hard for wind energy development,” Lila said. “The state has a Republican government but it is very much behind renewable energy like wind because it keeps ag land as ag land.”

Even if property owners sign on and townships approve the company’s plans, people shouldn’t expect to see construction any time soon. At least one township, Weesaw, would have to change its ordinance that now prohibits commercial wind farms and other townships like Galien have structure height restrictions that would have to change.

The development phase in which the company conducts a variety of feasibility studies could take two years or more to complete. It will cost $1 million alone to get the necessary fish and wildlife permits, Lila said.