A proposed wind farm in Hillsdale County’s Wheatland Township has been met with the resistance of 120 angry residents.
Members from the group “Informed Citizens of Wheatland Township” gathered outside Wheatland Township Hall during the Oct. 8 township board meeting to voice their disapproval for the wind farm initially proposed from Invenergy, an Illinois-based energy company.
Chris Pollard, a resident of Wheatland Township, is leading the efforts to slow down construction of the wind farm.
“The wind turbines are not as green as people think,” Pollard said. “They are made of carbon and leave a large carbon footprint, and they use a lot of oil in their generators. They also aren’t very efficient; they only work around 36% of the time.”
Dave Stone, supervisor of Wheatland Township, said that by state law, power plants are required to produce a certain percentage of green energy. The percentages required continues to increase. Windmill energy is an emerging alternative as coal plants continue to be shut down due to environmental reasons. Stone said that by putting wind farms in, they are “just trying to comply with the law.”
This wind farm will span three townships in Hillsdale County and 25,000 acres. Invenergy, a privately-owned energy company, plans to install the 166-megawatt commercial wind farm in Adams, Moscow, and Wheatland townships.
Invenergy is placing windmills in more than 33 townships throughout Michigan, according to Stone.
After constructing the wind farms, Invenergy will sell the wind farm to Consumers Energy for $250 million, according to Stone.
The wind farm won’t affect consumer energy rates until after the purchase. Consumer Energy’s mission statement is to have 90% of its energy come from clean energy sources, reduce emissions by 90%, and cease the use of coal by 2040.
Many citizens in the townships say they have concerns that the windmills will hurt their quality of life.
“People come up with reasons such as they think they’re ugly or they don’t want them in their backyards,” Stone said. “There’s lots of anger from seeing things on YouTube and Facebook.”
Pollard said that he has no problem with windmills as long as they stay within the confines of the owner’s property and don’t affect other people. But these wind turbines, Pollard said, will affect everyone in the area.
Pollard said that windmills produce “sub-sound,” which “transfers through your home and can thicken your blood and cause other health concerns.”
About 120 members of the Informed Citizens of Wheatland Township back Pollard, and they are protesting the process used to approve the wind farm.
“We have found that our township has put zoning ordinances in and mishandled the vote to do it,” Pollard said. “We are fighting the township and the board to go back and do it legally. All of the boards have too many people on them that have contracts with the company. They did not recuse themselves, but voted it through.”
Klaus Law PLLC is representing the citizens and filed a petition for administrative appeal.
“If you look at the media minutes for the Wheatland Township commission and board, you’ll find several of the voting members have a conflict of interest, yet they voted in favor of a conditional use permit,” attorney Nicholas Klaus said.
The group petitioned the Zoning Board of Appeals, which denied their appeal. Pollard said the group will file its complaint with the Hillsdale County Circuit Court.
Pollard said the group is asking that the board put the issue up for a vote.
“That’s all we’ve ever asked for,” he said.
Additionally, Pollard said he believes the company Invenergy chose the three townships because they are poor communities.
“They knew we were poor,” he said. “They went into the townships and flashed money around, and then all of a sudden, here we are.”
The citizens who agree to have wind turbines placed on their property are financially compensated by Consumers Energy.
Pollard said he is concerned the townships will not see any of the money being invested in the wind turbines, and he is also worried about property values dropping.
“Invenergy is paid in federal subsidies, which are millions of our tax dollars, and then they will sell the farm to Consumers Energy for $250 million and have approval to raise everybody’s energy rates 20% to pay for this,” Pollard said. “We’re paying for it a second time. The third time we will be paying for it is when they have to decommission the turbines within 15 – 20 years. It costs a million and a half to decommission one.”
But Stone said Wheatland Township has commissioned extensive research studies, and experts from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources have found no reason not to construct the windmills in the area.
“Everything people come up with against the windmills –– those matters have all been resolved,” Stone said.
One of the issues citizens complain about is “shadow flicker,” which is the effect of the sun shining through the rotating blades of a turbine. It can be an annoyance to residences in close proximity to the windmills.
Stone said that there are only about 30 hours a year in which shadow flicker could potentially occur.
“When there is a possibility for it, they turn the turbines off based on how the sun is hitting the wind turbine,” he said.
Residents also fear the wind farm will damage the wildlife population. Pollard said he is concerned the turbines will affect the animal habits and will change the water table, which would, in turn, affect the open wells.
Stone, however, said the Michigan Department of Natural Resources along with other organizations “have done extensive research on this issue and it’s just not true.”
Without any legal setback, the construction of the wind farm is set to begin at the end of 2020. “We as a community do need green energy,” Pollard said. “But instead of just shoving this down our throats, we need to look at it and find an objective green energy.”