DOUGLASS, Mich. — It was a contentious Tuesday night in Montcalm County as property owners gathered in protest and in support regarding the possibility of a wind farm in their community.
An open house was held by Apex Clean Energy at the Douglass Township Hall to share more information about the project. The company currently estimates that the wind farm it is developing would include 75 turbines that would then deliver power to the Michigan power grid, reducing the need to provide power from outside markets. The company says the need for the project is greater than ever due to Michigan closing some of its power and nuclear plants, along with residents in support of the project.
"We think that it will enable, well, perhaps some of our younger relatives not to have to sit in the cold in the wintertime or swelter in the summertime because they don’t have enough electricity," said Laura Engel, a resident who signed a lease agreement with the company. However, no turbines will likely be placed on Engel's property due to the location next to two lakes.
Those in opposition argue the turbines are noisy, cause wildlife disruptions and could go so far as to cause disruptions with sleep patterns due to the intrasound they create.
Those in opposition worry most about what they describe as "unsafe" distances between turbines and homes or property lines.
"These people are in the right by thinking that there's a problem of these things being too close are real. You’re playing Russia roulette with a wind turbine, and nobody wants to do that," said Tim Thornhill, a local farmer.
Apex says their current internal standard is to use the base of the turbine to the tip of the blade as part of how they measure a safe distance. The turbines in total length must be one and a half times the length away from a property line and two times away from a home. Opposers say it's not far enough, with those in support saying more restrictive distances would eliminate turbines all together from areas in West Michigan.
"We are not against green energy, clean energy—any of that at all. We support that," said Erik Benko. "But what we are all concerned is that this company wants to build 600-foot industrial turbines 1,200 feet from our homes. There is a place for this, and it’s away from people."
If the plan is successful, the turbines could be implemented in 2024.