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Wind Outreach Team Feels Hot Air Blown by Locals

Posted to on Thursday, February 18, 2010

INTRO: The Granholm Administration is counting on wind energy to make up for lost manufacturing jobs. The state Wind Outreach Team goes where windmills go. As Michigan Now’s Chris McCarus reports, the team tries to counter angry locals with facts.

The Michigan Public Service Commission was required by law to spell out where’s the best wind in the state that can be harnessed? MPSC Spokesperson Judy Palnau said,

“The commission designated two wind energy resource zones. The primary one being in the thumb and a second one in Allegan County. By designating those zones they now can move forward on an expedited basis with transmission projects that will be needed for those areas.”

The areas are remote, not near Michigan’s biggest cities. But close enough that power lines can be hooked up to send electricity where it will be used. Last year a state appointed committee, The Wind Energy Resource Zone Advisory Board, held hearings around the state. They determined the Thumb could handle up to 2,800 turbines. They would light up 4 million homes. The board said Allegan County could handle one-tenth as many turbines. So it would power about 400,000 homes.

On January 28th, locals came to Hopkins Middle School. That’s between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo. They came to hear Tom Stanton.

“The best study that’s been done on property taxes was just published in December from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. They did a study of all the studies that have been done to look at property values.”

The study looked at windmills as close as 800 feet to people’s houses and as far away as five miles. It calculated property values 2 years before any announcements were made of windmills coming in. It looked at property values nearby but no closer than five miles away. Stanton continued. He’s been studying this stuff himself for 2 decades.

“This is the gold standard study that’s been done so far. They can’t find this effect of decreases in property value. They can’t find it………We’re not kidding. Anyone can look at the report.”

Tom Stanton is the renewable energy coordinator for the Michigan Public Service Commission. He’s part of the state’s Wind Outreach Team.

The crowd of 250 people was not convinced.

“Monteray! Tell me another township besides Monteray that’s in Allegan County. That’s being targeted.”

These Michiganders are a lot like others the Wind Outreach Team has met. They said ‘We’re not against windmills. Just don’t put them here.’

“You gotta whole state and you have to put them in our township. You’ve got a lot of state land. That way!”

One member of the audience said cookie cutter nuclear plants are being built right now for cheap.

Tom Stanton told the man he’s misinformed. Michigan State University researcher Chuck McKeown is also on Stanton’s team. He was asked why the county hasn’t put a moratorium on wind turbines.

Mckeown said banning windmills doesn’t work because, like a lot of things people put on their land, windmills are legal not illegal. The Michigan Public Service Commission has recommended that each county and township make the zoning laws for windmills. McKeown mentioned that. But another member of the audience in Monteray Township didn’t like it.

“You say this is a zoning issue? This is a people issue. We live here.”

And that’s the tone that dominated. Not in my backyard. The Wind Outreach Team is trying not to fight emotion with emotion. Susan Harley lobbies on wind power for the group Clean Water Action. She speaks with emotion and facts.

“There is a one in 50 chance of cancer in many communities that are near these ash sites. So when we are faced with real and concrete evidence of health impacts for traditional sources of power it’s very difficult to allow potential impacts that could easily be solved to outweigh these clear and real health impacts.”

Wind Outreach Team 4stations

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