Adams Township discusses wind turbines

BALTIC – Adams Township officials don’t know yet who’s pursuing a wind farm in the township, but they want to have provisions ready in case it happens.

At its monthly meeting Monday, the township board approved having township attorney Kevin Mackey gather ordinances from other townships downstate that have regulated the wind farms.

A private company is considering a two-square-mile commercial wind farm project with six turbines, South Range resident Amber Roth said during a presentation at the meeting Monday. The developer is doing a feasibility study on the project, which would be located on leased privately owned commercial forest land west of South Range. It would likely produce about 15 megawatts.

Roth, an assistant professor at Michigan Technological University who studies birds, found out about the project from a Department of Natural Resources biologist who contacted her with a question about birds in the project area.

Hancock Township has already passed an ordinance regarding private and commercial turbines. Calumet Township also has an ordinance regarding wind power to home and business use.

Roth said she brought the issue to the board to be proactive about issues that could arise if South Range expands to the west.

“It’s pretty good wind potential … at some point, something could very well happen, even if this one doesn’t,” she said.

Roth said the DNR is concerned about the potential impact on birds and bats. The impact of the turbines would be relatively minor for birds, but bigger on bats, Roth said.

The motion of the blades causes a sudden drop in the barometric pressure near the turbine, which can cause bats’ lungs to explode.

“Given that we have all these old mine shafts right around here, they’re worried that all the bats that are hibernating, coming out for the spring and getting ready to migrate might be right where the turbines are,” she said.

If the location is where she estimates it to be, it shouldn’t affect eagles, Roth said.

Mackey, who was previously a community development director downstate, said many townships there already had to enact ordinances regarding turbines, due to the noise and the potential for causing seizures due to strobe effect from the blades.

Aside from the Thumb area, the Keweenaw Peninsula is the only viable area for wind farming in Michigan, he said.

In talking to the DNR, Roth said, much of the outcome depends on how well-sited the turbine is.

“A lot of times, farmland is the best place, because one it’s just farmland and there aren’t a lot of houses, and two, there isn’t a lot of wildlife to hit the turbines,” she said.

Supervisor Denny Mulari said he was worried about the potential for it to be an “eyesore,” comparing it to a cell tower.

“You could be 10 miles down the road and see a cell tower,” he said.

However, Roth said, if it’s located where it will minimize damage, it could be beneficial.

“I also don’t like getting my energy from coal and natural gas either, so it’s balancing the pros and cons,” she said