If you want to allow wind turbines in your township or limit them, it is possible by using zoning regulations, according to Sarah Mills.
Mills, a senior project manager at the Ford School’s Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy, spoke to a crowd at Union City Middle School last week. The two-hour session was held for the Sherwood Township Planning Commission, but representatives of the four townships where DTE has signed a majority of its land leases attended.
DTE plans to lease 40,000 acres as possible locations for 50 to 60 wind turbines, primarily in northwest Batavia, east Matteson, southeast Sherwood, and western Union townships.
“It’s not all or nothing,” Mills said. “You can limit them to a particular area.”
Mills serves as project manager for the National Surveys on Energy and Environment and the Center’s Energy and Environmental Policy Initiative. Her research considers how renewable energy development impacts rural communities, the disparate reactions of rural landowners to such projects, and how state and local policies facilitate or hinder renewable energy deployment. This was from a seven-year study with a C.S. Mott Foundation grant.
Mills grew up on a farm in the now urbanize Monroe County, between Detroit and Toledo. She said those with farms lease the land to secure guaranteed 20-year income for volatile farm businesses and to ease succession to the future generations.
“Those with turbines pass on drought free income,” she said.
Mills said the land leased for turbines does not void its classification under PA 116, the Farmland Preservation Act.
On the other side are those who have vacation or second homes in the wind farm area and are opposed to the towering turbines.
In her generalizations, she did not mention a number of those who have opposed the turbines locally, those who have moved to the rural area to avoid industrialization and urban areas, and those farmers opposed to the change in land use.
“You need an ordinance for constraints” on the turbine companies “who lease a lot of land to hedge their bets” on where they will be allowed to build.
“There is no zoning silver bullet that will make everyone happy,” she said. “You either make it feasible or very difficult” in the ordinance.
The planner did point to other constraints: federal aviation regulations, wildlife regulations, and that any selected site must have enough winds.
Wind turbines do increase the cost of aerial applications on farm land in turbine areas.
The researcher said the use of pooled royalties, like DTE is using, where those who have land that will not be used for but are close to turbines, are signed to non-participation leases, bringing with it more community support.
Calling wind farms economic developments, Mills pointed to property taxes paid for each turbine. The first year is the highest and they are depreciated each year, but then never less than 30 percent value by year 10 and beyond. Statewide her research showed the average paid by a turbine was $22,000 per year from the 900 plus located in Michigan. Because of Proposal A, the increase in school taxes is captured by the state except for a small amount to ISD’s. The turbines do pay for school sinking funds and other voted millage. Prime tax beneficiaries are the county and townships.
Mills found there was little permanent job creation after construction.
Nationwide she found little impact on property values, but in Michigan 54 percent of land owners perceived a negative impact on land values. Because wind turbines farms in Michigan are less than 10 years old on a large scale, there is no study yet on effect on property values.
Mills also said there was no direct impact on health except for a “low minimal risk” on epileptics from flicker. In Michigan, 72 percent of land owners in wind farm regions perceived no health impact.
There is noise pollution. When running each produces less than 45db of noise from turbine blades. Nationally 18 percent said they were annoyed by the noise. In Michigan, 48 percent said turbines created “noise pollution.” Mills said this is a drawback to those who left cities to get away from industrial and urban noise.
Another drawback is after turbines are decommissioned. She urged local ordinances require a financial guarantees that turbines and the pads be taken down and removed when no longer used.
Mills urged the townships to get specific information from DTE, “but fact check.”
Review studies. “There are pros and cons to every source of energy. If a study shows only pros or only cons, then it is biased,” she said.
The researcher also urged each township and board “try to be neutral so you can make good choices.”
All three townships, except unzoned Union Township, are working on ordinances.
[NWW ed. note: formatting has been added for ease of reading]
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding