Apex Clean Energy is working on a proposal to bring wind turbines to five townships in eastern Ingham County.
The Kalamink project is exploring the possibility of installing wind turbines in the Wheatfield, Leroy, Ingham, White Oak and Stockbridge townships.
Brian O'Shea, public engagement manager with Apex, said they think this area would be a good fit for a wind farm.
“The area has a strong wind resource, it has available transmission lines, it has plentiful open farmland and very rural atmosphere,” O'Shea said.
O'Shea said the turbines could generate enough electricity to power 72,000 homes a year.
David Sheathelm owns 80 acres in White Oak Township.
“We were approached by Apex if we were interested in leasing our 80 acres here,” Sheathelm said.
At first, Sheathelm said, he had some concerns.
“We were concerned about the noise,” he said.
O'Shea said noise is a common concern, but that the company takes steps to minimize it.
“You wouldn’t have anything that’s any closer than a quarter-mile to someone's house," O'Shea said. "We measure, okay, what would we predict noise to be at people's homes and you generally try to keep that you know below 50 to 45 decibels.”
A wind turbine that's placed at least 300 meters away from a home falls between the noise of a refrigerator and an air conditioner.
Sheathelm took a trip to a wind farm in Gratiot County to listen for himself.
“We did stop by about three or four of them and listened to see if they were noisy and if it would be a problem for us and we came away thinking that it was not a problem,” Sheathelm said.
He decided to lease his land to Apex after looking deeper into the benefits.
“Trying to become less reliant on fossil fuels I think that’s a good thing for all of us,” Sheathelm said.
Not just the energy benefits, but also contributing money to emergency services, libraries, and the school district while still keeping the township rural.
“We’re the only township without any subdivisions or business, stores and things like that to speak of, in Ingham County, and helping to raise our township tax base like this is a real opportunity I think,” Sheathelm said.
Leroy Township Supervisor Earl Griffes said they already have an ordinance in place for wind turbines 400 feet tall or less, but this project is expected to be taller than that.
“We do not presently allow anything over 400 feet and I’m not sure whether we would allow that," Griffes said. "But if they want taller ones our ordinances would have to change or they wouldn’t be allowed.”
So, why does Apex want them to be so tall?
“The tower gets a little bit taller the blades get a fair amount longer and that means you can generate almost twice as much power as you could with a turbine that might only be 100 feet shorter just by going up about that much you can essentially double the power,” O'Shea said.
Griffes said he worries that, with turbines that tall, the community would never be able to get away from them.
“There would be no body in our township that will not be impacted by them they will see them all the time being that tall,” said Griffes.
Another concern is oil spills because of the lubrication that needs to be applied to the turbines. O'Shea said oil spills aren't common and the company is responsible for any turbines that break down.
“We had to put down essentially a quarter-million dollars per turbine in a bond to say hey this money is set aside," O'Shea said. "So, if some unforeseen circumstance happens… that money is already set aside so that the land owners not on the hook, the township’s not on the hook, the taxpayers not on the hook, we’re on the hook.”
Griffes said Leroy sent a survey to residents and found that 73 percent oppose the turbines.
“I think there’s some definite negatives to them, but they are clean energy so that’s a positive,” he said.
No official proposal has been made in any of the townships, yet. O'Shea said they're still about a year out from making one.
“If all went well this would be a project that we wouldn’t expect to be operational until the 2024, 2025 time period,” O'Shea said.
Leroy Township is the only of the five that have a wind farm ordinance in place. While Apex is creating an official proposal, the townships will discuss what rules to put in place.
“That’s a process we’re engaged with right now with the public and with the townships is here’s what wind energy can mean, here’s what some of the benefits are, and take that into account as you design your zoning rules locally," O'Shea said.
Griffes said he's worried about the divide the project discussion will cause.
“My concern with it is it’s very divisive to the community because some people think their great other people think they’re terrible," said Griffes. "So, it’s going to divide the community.”
Sheathelm encouraged anyone who might be skeptical to visit a couple of wind farms for themselves.
“If they have concerns go to Gratiot County and talk to the people up there and find out if any of their concerns are legitimate,” Sheathelm said.
More information on the project can be found on the Kalamink Wind Project website.