New wind tur­bines in township have created con­tro­versy and have inspired some people to run for office. Kalli Dal­rymple | Collegian

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 60-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, according to her, they also produce a lot of sound 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.

“Once they’re up and running, they’ll get a monthly per­centage of what it pro­duces,” Lan­gen­derfer said.

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 500-foot-tall machines. Once all the 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 Moscow 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.