A year after three Hillsdale County townships approved the construction of a wind farm stretching across Adams, Moscow, and Wheatland townships, Wheatland’s concerned citizens are running for office.
Chris Pollard, one of the lead organizers of the Concerned Citizens of Wheatland Township, is one of at least four township residents seeking to replace members on the advisory board which approved the wind farm’s construction. Pollard is running for Wheatland Township Supervisor in the Nov. 3 election. Also on the ticket are Lori Lapham for treasurer, Brian Burke and Jeremy Milks for the two trustee roles, and Kathy Weaver for clerk.
Pollard’s group, which he organized in July 2019, was vocal in protesting the board’s approval of the wind farm project last October.
“Everything is going to change after the election,” Pollard said.
Construction of the 166-megawatt commercial wind farm is moving forward in Hillsdale County, and is scheduled to finish in December. Currently, several turbines have been built but have not been turned on yet, while several more are still being assembled.
Invenergy Wind, a global power producer and one of the largest independent wind power producers in the U.S., is constructing the 99-turbine farm which will be called Crescent Wind. Consumers Energy, a public utility that provides natural gas and electricity to 6.6 million of Michigan’s 10 million residents, has said it will purchase the $250 million farm and add it to its statewide clean energy power grid, The Collegian reported. The wind farm is a part of Consumers’ clean energy plan, the target for which is to produce 90% of its energy from clean energy sources by 2040, reduce its emissions by 90%, and eliminate its use of coal. Consumers’ purchase won’t affect energy rates for customers until the purchase is made, MLive reported.
Some residents of Hillsdale County say the trade-offs for the wind turbines are too high.
Cyndi Langenderfer, a resident of Wheatland Township, said she can see the turbines from her house. Not only do the machines disrupt the view from her property, reducing its value, they also produce a lot of sounds once turned on.
“I refer to them as a swarm of locusts,” Langenderfer said.
The project began when solicitors from Invenergy went to residents in Adams, Moscow, and Wheatland to offer to buy their land.
“They are supposed to get paid I think $10,000 to put one up — that’s what I’ve heard,” Langenderfer said. “And then once they’re up and running, they’ll get a monthly percentage of what it produces. But if the wind’s not blowing, it’s not producing. We do not live in a high wind area.”
Langenderfer recorded seeing Porta-Johns set up on the construction site in July, and observed workers as they constructed the turbines on the ground, dug bases for them, and erected the 515-foot-tall machines. Once all 99 turbines are completed, Langenderfer said Invenergy has mentioned a possible “phase two,” wherein another 30 turbines would be erected in Pittsford Township, directly south of Wheatland.
“You take the vehicles it takes to dig the base, to put the concrete in, to make the concrete, to make the steel — which you have to use fossil fuels to do — to get your bulldozers, your semi-trucks, the assisting cars…Each truck that I see bringing in a blade is accompanied by three other vehicles. That in itself is a lot of gas,” Langenderfer said. “By the time you take all that energy it takes to build, prepare, transport — if you put all that into a big drum of oil, you could support our cars for many, many years.”
Each turbine holds several gallons of oil to keep the machine lubricated — as many as 400 gallons, according to Langenderfer. Turbines also require frequent de-icing in the winter, which is done by helicopter.
“That antifreeze goes into our fields that we are growing our crops in and that our cattle are grazing on that we’re going to eat,” she said.
Michele and Howie Kesselring of Wheatland Township have one of the new turbines on their 54-acre property. Though some of their neighbors have been upset about the turbines, Michele Kesselring said she and her husband like the look of the machines.
“We actually went up north to see the ones that are up there before we did this,” Kesselring said. “Back in the day they used to have oil wells around here, so we thought well, you know, we might help out too.”
Invenergy plans to turn on the turbines by the end of the year, Kesselring said. At that point, residents with turbines on their property will get paid around $800 per month for each machine.
“They’ve got some kind of power station or something that they’re going to energize, and then they will turn them all on,” she said. “The turbine’s not turning, but we talked to a guy that was doing the fiber optics on it and he said it’s because the blades are in neutral. If they are turned on to catch the wind, then it would start going. It turns a little bit when the wind hits it just right, but I’m looking at it right now and it’s just sitting still. But by the end of the year, we were told, they’re going to start.”
Invenergy Communications Analyst Ben Lambrecht told MLive last year that because wind turbines do not require a lot of space, “most of that acreage can continue to be used by participating landowners as it currently is.”
For Pollard, however, the Wheatland Township board’s lack of transparency is still upsetting.
“They’ve been telling us for a year they’d create a website to tell us all about the turbines, but they still haven’t,” Pollard said. “It doesn’t take a year to create a website.”
According to Pollard, eight of the board members voting on last year’s decision had contracted with Invenergy to have turbines built on their property, which he called unfair. Langenderfer confirmed this.
“Jeremy and Chris, and a few other folks are trying, we’re trying to turn the board,
as they say, so we can get some new blood in there, and maybe start working on phase two,” Langenderfer said. “I don’t know what you could do, though. I know that across the country, there’s cities or areas that have fought and won, and they’ve had to take turbines down. I don’t know what the chances of that are. I would say pretty slim. But I’m willing to fight for it if it could happen.”
Invenergy and Consumers Energy did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
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