WHEATLAND – Representatives from Invenergy, a Chicago-based renewable energy company, has confirmed that the firm is currently in the early development stages of a wind project in Wheatland Township. If Invenergy completes the project, Wheatland Township would host Hillsdale County’s first large-scale wind farm.
At their regular board meeting on June 12, the Wheatland Township Board of Trustees voted unanimously to strengthen the township’s existing wind energy ordinance, as part of an effort to protect residents and land values while allowing for wind projects to move forward in the township.
The amended ordinance now regulates how far wind turbines must be removed from public roads, as well as implements restrictions on height, maximum sound pressure levels, and flicker – shadows cast by rotating wind turbine blades that can affect nearby buildings.
Invenergy has completed 123 clean energy projects worldwide, according to its website, including projects in wind, solar, natural gas, and energy storage.
Although Invenergy would not disclose any information about easements with landowners other than telling Hillsdale Daily News the company is actively seeking easements, David Stone, a township trustee, says that Invenergy has already signed easements with many township residents.
Stone said that he doesn’t see any problem with wind farms in Wheatland Township, and views the issue as a matter of private property rights.
“I have nothing to gain or lose,” said Stone. “I think it’s a right for people to do what they want on their property.”
Stone acknowledges, however, that some residents are hesitant about having wind farms in the township altogether – although he estimates that fewer than five percent of residents oppose the plan altogether.
Wind projects can be controversial in rural Michigan communities.
While most wind farms are located in Michigan’s thumb region, technological advances in wind turbine construction mean less wind is needed to power modern turbines, which open up other areas in Michigan’s south central region as possible locations for new projects.
In nearby Branch County, DTE Energy is also in the development stage of a wind project that could see between 50 and 70 wind turbines operating in the area when the project reaches completion.
The Daily Reporter, reports that Michael Sage, DTE Marketing Program Manager for Renewal Wind Energy Development, told Branch County Commissioners at a July 19 commissioner meeting that more than 180 people had signed up, comprising just over 31,000 acres of land.
That project has come under fire from a Branch County opposition group, Concerned Citizens of Branch County, who staged a protest outside the Branch County Courthouse before the commissioner meeting.
Pam Reed, a spokesperson for the group, said DTE Energy is presenting “half truths at best.”
To help assuage concerned residents in Hillsdale County, Beth Conley, a senior manager of strategic communications at Invenergy, says the company is planning to open an office in the county no later than September of this year, and adds that Invenergy currently has multiple representatives working on the ground every day, speaking with Wheatland residents and meeting with landowners.
Conley says the company is always willing to answer resident’s questions.
For Wheatland residents who sign on with Invenergy, Conley says they will receive a payment for the life of the project, regardless of whether facilities are added to their land.
While Conley says it is too early in the project to determine the approximate tax benefit to Wheatland Township, by comparison, townships in Gratiot County where Invenergy operates a wind farm received more than $800,000 in tax revenue last year alone – and more than $4.5 million in tax revenue since the project began, according to figures Invenergy provided Hillsdale Daily News.
Individuals who have questions or concerns regarding the project are able to contact Invenergy by using a contact form on the company’s website.
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