GALIEN – The Wind Turbine Analysis Committee has been formed to study a proposed wind farm project in southern Berrien County. Meanwhile, an Apex Clean Energy representative said recently that his company is still interested in constructing a wind farm here despite personnel changes and no contact with area townships in months.
Apex has proposed a $250 million wind turbine farm with 25 to 40 turbines potentially located on thousands of acres in Baroda, Galien, Three Oaks and Weesaw townships. Each turbine would cost $3 million and be 600 feet tall. Apex is the largest wind farm developer in the country in terms of industry capacity.
Apex public affairs manager Albert Jongewaard acknowledged last week that four company representatives associated with the Galien Oaks wind farm project are no longer involved with it. He has taken over from Dan Blondeau who is still with the company in a different capacity.
Others no longer involved with the Galien Oaks project include development director Brad Lila, David Guillory and Ryan Dykstra. Lila no longer works for Apex and Jongewaard said he wasn’t sure of the status of Guillory and Dykstra.
“I don’t think there’s anything to read into it (the change in personnel,” he said. “We have an interest in the project but it’s in the very early stage of development and we know people have a lot of questions. The project is not dead.”
As for the lack of communication with area townships, he said the company has to determine people’s interest in the project as well as conduct a feasibility study before approaching townships about getting approvals or changing ordinances.
At least one township, Weesaw, currently has an ordinance prohibiting commercial wind farms. In other townships, the company would have to get a variance on things like structure height.
He said Apex is also looking at what the recent changes to the state’s renewable energy portfolio means to the company. The state previously required that up to 10 percent of the state’s energy come from renewable sources, that level is now up to 15 percent.
Jongewaard also acknowledged that the company’s other wind farm project in Michigan is on hold. The Maple Rapids project is in Shiawassee County and county commissioners there put a one-year moratorium on the project in December. He said Apex will continue to work with officials there to move the project forward.
Apex representatives first came to the area nearly a year ago, approaching farmers and other property owners about locating wind turbines on their land. The project came to public attention over the summer and was the subject of a public informational meeting in September.
As for the Wind Turbine Analysis Committee, a press release from the committee earlier last week stated that the committee’s goal is to work with townships to develop “strong wind zoning ordinances that protect the health, safety, and welfare” of residents. They also plan to share the “independent” research they’ve collected over the last few months.
The press release quotes 78th State Rep. Dave Pagel, R-Berrien Springs, in support of the committee’s efforts. ”
I encourage community grassroots efforts as an important component to healthy governance and WTAC can play a vital role in helping our townships make informed decisions about industrial wind facilities,” he wrote.
“My office supports WTAC in its mission to provide fact-based information on the long term implications a wind initiative will have on Southwest Michigan.”
The committee plans to hold a number of open “townhall” meetings in coming weeks and months to keep residents informed, the release stated. Committee member Beth Denton said the committee will continue to work whether or not the Apex project moves forward as they want area townships to be prepared.
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