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Crystal Township Board touches on wind energy

CRYSTAL TOWNSHIP – As multiple townships in Montcalm County are in various stages of either creating or updating their wind ordinances, Crystal Township is left wondering if they should follow suit.

The topic came up toward the end of last week’s township board meeting when Clerk Patty Baker-Marek questioned if the township should start looking into the matter.

“Obviously, everyone has seen the paper (the Daily News) blowing up about the turbine ordinances that all the townships are involved in,” she said. “This township has not talked about it. Is it something that we want to talk about?”

“Oh, yeah,” Trustee Diane Rydahl responded. “I think we should be prepared so that we’re not blindsided.”

According to Supervisor Curt McCracken, neither Apex Clean Energy or any other wind energy company has reached out to Crystal Township for any kind of wind turbine project. McCracken said one of the reasons for that might be because there is no zoning in Crystal Township.

“I don’t know how true it is, but I’ve heard they don’t like to come into non-zoned areas,” he told board members. “I’m getting the feeling that maybe that’s right. We’re just a couple of miles from Gratiot (County), which is where all the turbines went up, but they’ve jumped our township and gone all the way over to Sidney, Douglass and some other (townships).

“Myself, I would have thought they’d want to come into a non-zoned area with less restrictions, but that must not be true.”

Apex Clean Energy Public Engagement Manager Brian O’Shea told the Daily News the company decided to focus the Montcalm Wind Project in other townships besides Crystal.

“Frankly, I don’t think we spent a lot of time talking to folks in Crystal Township about it,” he said. “It’s nothing to do with the zoning laws or anything like that, (the township) just hasn’t been part of the initial area that we’ve been looking at.;

“Our philosophy is to engage in the community wherever it is that we’re working. It wouldn’t be the case that we’re ignoring officials or trying to go over anyone’s heads.”

Apex is currently looking at 10 local townships for its proposed 75-turbine Montcalm Wind Project.

Trustee Roger Martin suggested reaching out to Apex to see if they had any plans in approaching Crystal Township.

During public comments, Crystal resident Barb Leonard told board members she recently attended a Maple Valley Township meeting that discussed its wind energy ordinance and noted some of the controversies surrounding the issue.

“There were people very frustrated because the township signed up and people didn’t have an opportunity to decide,” she said.

The Maple Valley Township Board approved a wind energy ordinance update based on the recommendation of its Planning Commission in November 2020; however, that ordinance is now in the process of going to a voter referendum after concerned residents began gathering signatures.

While wind energy developments may be quiet in Crystal, McCracken did say that he did receive a call about solar energy.

“I did get a phone call (last week) from Detroit or someplace, a guy was wanting to know if we were zoned or not, but they were looking for solar,” he said.

“Did he say that if there was no zoning that they wouldn’t do solar, either?” Martin asked.

“Nope, they didn’t say that,” McCracken answered. “The only problem I see between the two is that with a wind tower, for a farmer, you can farm around it still. Solar, they use your whole field. To me, I think (solar) might pay more. Last spring, they came and seen me and wanted to take a bunch of my ground. It was like $800 an acre once they were up and going for 30 years – $800 an acre per year for 30 years. (I’m) probably stupid for not doing it.”

Rydahl reiterated that she thought Crystal Township should start doing some research into the matter of wind energy.