DTE officials have stated that the wind turbine project in Ingersoll Township is in the “very, very early” stages of development. But, initial feedback from township residents wasn’t very positive for DTE.
Wednesday night saw nearly 200 people pack Ingersoll Township for a special meeting of the township board. Of the 20 people that spoke during the public comment portion, 15 were opposed to the wind turbines, two were in favor of them and three others were seeking more information or neutral.
“We are at the very, very early exploration stages of a possible wind project here in Ingersoll Township,” said Scotty Kehoe, DTE Energy regional manager for corporate and government affairs.
Calling it, “the toughest issue we’ve been through in quite some time,” Ingersoll Township Supervisor Chuck Tabb presided over a meeting that had the potential for explosiveness, but remained civil and peaceful.
“We wanted to make sure that the residents of the township were aware of the issue. We’re really pleased with the turnout. We had a lot of input here,” Tabb said.
During his introductory remarks, Tabb shared the township vision: “Ingersoll Township is a safe, attractive, rural community that balances farming and residential uses while protecting our natural environment and individual freedoms.”
At the top of Wednesday’s agenda was printed the vision statement, which a couple of speakers cited during public comments.
Kehoe followed with an update on the process of building a wind park, and an overview of DTE.
“We want to take a ‘Michigan first’ approach,” said Kehoe, of the reason why DTE has targeted Ingersoll.
The approval process, which may take up to 10 years, includes the following steps:
• Determining if appropriate wind conditions exist
• Determine if the property is appropriate: flat, open farm land
• Approach land owners with lease agreements to determine interest
“This is where we are today,” Kehoe said.
• If residents show interest, then a wind park would be designed
• Approval/rejection by the township board and possible permitting
• Construction of the park
“Along the way we will do some significant environmental studies as well,” Kehoe added.
Of the two proponents, one earned his living by construction of wind turbines and the other was local environmentalist Peter Sinclair, a long-time supporter of the green energy movement.
“I love the wind turbines that we see just south of here. I spent a lot of time in Gratiot County and one of the things I found out was that the increase in their tax base between 2011-2015 was 38 percent,” he said. “This means they can have better roads, better infrastructure, better schools.”
Various speakers talked about living in Ingersoll for the views, peacefulness and wildlife, including Dee Horn, who has lived in Ingersoll for about 30 years.
“We picked this area because we wanted to live in a quiet, residential, farming-type of setting,” she said.
Horn grew up Gratiot County, where her father still has a large farm and DTE installed wind turbines in 2012.
“DTE courts my father as well as the other farmers in that area heavily. Because my dad is a farmer there, I know how lucrative it is for farmers,” she said. “There are some farmers this will be lucrative for, but the rest of us will lose.”
Trips back to her homestead don’t bring the love of wind turbines that Sinclair feels.
“Last week I went over to my dad’s and all I could see was synchronized red lights flashing on the turbines,” Horn said. “You didn’t see the dark sky with the stars, nor the sunset. All you see are the turbines, not the peaceful sunset.”
DTE also is considering placing wind turbines in Mount Haley and Porter townships, which brought out Larry Feusse from the Mount Haley Planning Commission.
“One of the things we’re interested in is light flicker. That’s when the generators are running and there is a certain light condition that can reflect off the blades and will cause a flicker,” Feusse said. “The other thing is what happens when this thing is all done? One of the things we’ve looked at is getting a bond that can provide clean-up after something has been abandoned or shut down.”
Russ Darby of Tittabawassee Township encouraged each person to diligently look over the lease agreement and ask all the pertinent questions before signing.
Heading into Wednesday’s meeting, Tabb was concerned the issue might possibly divide the township or even families.
“I value what we have in this community with peacefulness, quietness and neighbors,” said Glenn Linton, 76, who has resided in the township for his entire life. “We don’t need to divide our township, our neighborhoods over wind towers. We need to come together in this thing and have an agreement whether it is for or against. Fighting one another accomplishes nothing.”
The township board voted on a one-year moratorium on the issuance of special use permits for wind energy. Three trustees, Tabb, Mary Keel and Curtis Shaffner voted in favor of the motion while Jacob Terwillegar opposed. When asked his reason for voting against the motion, Terwillegar declined comment. Fellow trustee James Terwillegar was absent from the meeting.