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Wind project proposed in Adams, Stanton townships

SOUTH RANGE – Adams and Stanton townships both have public meetings coming up on a proposed wind turbine project.

Circle Power, a Royal Oak, Michigan-based company, is looking to build 12 wind turbines for the Scotia Wind project – four in Adams Township and eight in Stanton Township. The 575-foot turbines would be located on land owned by Lake Superior Timberlands.

The turbines would be on a different location further back on the same property as an earlier project pursued by Farm Wind Energy. That project was scrapped in 2015 after running into a lack of community support.

Unlike the Farm Wind project, which would have required Adams Township to amend its ordinance, the Scotia Wind project meets the township’s existing requirements, said Chris Moore, a partner at Circle Power. Adams Township’s ordinance includes restrictions limiting the sound level to 55 decibels at the nearby property line and setbacks of at least 3,000 feet from the nearest property line.

Moore said Circle Power’s projections showed decibel levels at 40 or lower anywhere off the property. The amount of shadow flicker is expected to be lower than the standard of 30 hour per year at a building within one mile, Moore said.

“We can meet all the requirements of the ordinance and still have a successful wind project, because the wind here is fantastic,” Moore said.

The person behind the first project in Adams Township had approached Moore and some of the other principals in 2016 when they worked at another company for help financing the project.

After Moore came on in 2018, Circle Power purchased the assets from the project, mostly consisting of data taken from a wind measurement tower.

“We were aware of the resistance that David (Hokens owner of Farm Wind Energy) had, so we’ve made some movement in where the wind turbines are going to go, but generally it’s the same landmass,” he said.

Adams Township and Stanton Township both have public meetings on the project coming up. Adams Township Supervisor Gerald Heikkinen said the township plans to hold a town hall regarding the project. He is looking to have it sometime in July after coronavirus restrictions lift to allow more people to attend.

Stanton Township will take comments from residents during a public hearing 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Stanton Township Hall. If more people show up than can be in the hall, the hearing will be moved to the Liminga Fire Department building next door.

Based on comments received from the public at township meetings so far, Circle Power may also move one or two of the turbines further back, Moore said.

“We’re evaluating that also, trying to be responsive to what people have asked,” he said.

About a dozen Adams Township residents attended a board meeting Tuesday to hear about the project. Of the several who spoke, all were opposed to the project.

“If it were feasible, UPPCO would be doing it,” said resident Bill Manderfield. “There’s only certain people in this room who benefit, and it’s none of us.”

Don Jarman, owner of the Mosquito Inn in Toivola, described the impact a near 400-turbine wind farm had on property values at his previous home in Illinois, a town of 300. His tavern, which had been appraised at $650,000, sold at $350,000. He had to sell his home at $84,000 after buying it for $250,000, he said.

The work done on the land had also rendered it unsuitable for future use, he said.

“If you want to see a place that’s devastated, I will take you out of my own pocket and pay for your hotel and take you to Illinois,” he said. “And I will fight tooth and nail.”

While individual locations have seen value reductions or longer times on market for properties nearby wind farms, studies conducted in the U.S. have generally shown minimal impact either way on property values.

A study by the University of Rhode Island reviewing more than 48,000 homes within a five-mile radius of wind turbines found no statistically significant decrease on home prices; the low bound of statistically possible impacts was a 5.2% drop.

The impact has been greater in European studies, with one German study showing property value declines of more than 7% within 1 mile, and up to 23% for old houses in rural areas.

Citing anecdotal evidence in the other direction, Moore said a development near his first wind farm in Illinois sold out within a year after having no sales in the previous five. That was more due to the economy, he said.

“By and large, the studies show people don’t lose money on property values,” he said. “They don’t go up, they don’t go down.”

Residents also questioned the potential health effects from the shadow flicker caused by the turbines. Peer-reviewed studies so far have not found links between wind turbines and reduced physiological health. They have linked the turbines to greater levels of annoyance, which could lead to effects such as disturbed sleep, according to a U.S. National Institutes of Health review.

Responding to resident requests to bar the wind farms, township attorney Kevin Mackey said the township’s hands are tied. With no zoning ordinance in place, it can only pass ordinances putting standards in place. The township cannot outlaw anything allowed under state and federal law, he said.

“If it’s excessively regulated, it means they can’t do it, and they sue you…” he said. “And you lose.”

The projects are financially feasible because of tax breaks and other incentives, including a federal payment of 1.8 cents per kilowatt hour, Mackey said.

“You’re talking to the wrong people,” he said. “If you’re really against it, you need to talk to state and federal elected officials.”

There are still a number of regulatory hurdles to clear with the project. Circle Power still has to gain approval from several agencies, including the Federal Aviation Administration, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. FAA approval is required for anything over 200 feet; the turbines are planned for 575, Moore said.

Several residents expressed concern about the potential impact on bats. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has estimated wind turbines kill about 500,000 birds annually.