A DRF Guide to the Wind Industry
I write this post with a heavy heart.
I have been avoiding writing it, because it just makes it real, on a whole different level.
You see, we may have to come up with a “Plan B” that we never once imagined — not in our Wildest dreams — Capital W-kind-of-WILDEST dreams.
We learned about six weeks ago, that our Township has been targeted for an Industrial Wind Turbine project. We learned that a good portion of the lands surrounding us have signed leases with the Wind Developer, DTE (that’s Detroit Energy for all you out of towners), to have their lands leased and be part of the commercial project.
Our DRF is that little 3 acre smudge in red. And all those yellow highlighted fields are the approximately 2,093 acres (yes I am counting) of folks who have agreed to lease their lands to DTE, within two miles, of our beloved Dirt Road Farm.
When we bought our tiny little 3 acre farm, we knew our view would include some combination of corn, soybeans, carrots and potatoes, and more corn. We cherish the green sea our DRF is nestled within! We love our agricultural community and chose it because it is rural and peaceful.
We never once imagined the green sea could include industrial 675 feet tall Wind Turbines.
That particular size Turbine is usually only seen offshore.
The size of which has NEVER — not once, been tried, or tested in Michigan.
The proposed 675 feet tall Industrial Turbines are TALLER than the Mackinac Bridge. Seriously? For crying out loud.
Your Rights versus My Rights
I am a firm believer in individual rights — after all, that is what this country is based on, right?
The reality is that we have the right to do, what we want to do, UNTIL that right infringes on someone else’s rights.
Your Rights as A Homeowner
Having just gone through the building process of our new addition — I can tell you that zoning trumps individual rights.
You can’t do much of anything with “what, where and how” you want to build, on your own property, WITHOUT first getting approval from your township, and then getting approval and passing inspections with your county.
An Armchair Quarterback’s Perspective
I have spent many of my waking hours these last six weeks, trying to get a firm grasp on the issues surrounding the Wind Industry. I didn’t want to jump to conclusions or hop on any bandwagon. I didn’t want to panic and I didn’t want to talk out of my backside.
Well, here I am — six weeks after starting my learning curve — panicked.
First of all, it is incredibly difficult to find unbiased information about the pros and cons of Industrial Wind. My conclusion is that much of the prevailing research depends on who is being paid for said “research” and who stands to gain financially. How many times will we put the cart before the horse? How many times in the rush to sell a product, to make a buck, will we jeopardize our own health and welfare? You can pick on the tobacco industry, or on Olestra, and e-cigarettes — just to name a few.
I fear Wind Turbines fall into the same category. The cart isn’t gonna successfully pull the darn horse.
It cannot be a coincident that the industry only saw a boom after it became heavily subsidized by our tax dollars. Federally speaking, subsidies and production tax credits can finance over two-thirds of a wind project. Then add state based incentives on top of that and you get another roughly 10 percent of cost covered through that. Over three-stinkin-quarters of an Industrial Wind project paid for on the back of the American taxpayers.
Whoa. That cart needs to slow the heck down.
I had no idea.
What I have learned isn’t pretty. The industry booms only when it has an influx of subsidies.
While the Wind Industry was once content to build 300-400 feet tall Industrial Wind Turbines, where wind was considered decent — my layman’s summary of scientific wind measurement — it now wants to put even bigger turbines where wind quality is weak… Like the wind around us here in Branch County. (Branch County is about 7 miles from the Indiana state line, incase you need a little more to go on.) You see, you have to physically go up ‘higher’ to harness better wind. I also had no idea that the wind farms in the “thumb” of Michigan, operate at a 20-30 percent capacity. That would be like having only 30 percent of the gas you put in your car actually make the engine run…
It makes ZERO sense.
After reading lots of policy, studies, scientific journal reports, investigative stories, and any other source I could find, on topics ranging from:
— wind speeds
— litigation (which there has been lots of) and court rulings
— health problems (environmental noise is linked to sleep disturbance, annoyance, stress, and decreased cognitive performance — which can in turn adversely affect physical health)
— low frequency and reverberation issues
— daytime shadow flicker
— nighttime blinking light issues
— decreased property values
— well failure
— damage to roads
— lease agreements
— zoning ordinances
— “pro-wind” activists
— “anti-wind” activists
— risks from ice throws and turbine failures
— the harm done to the bat population (which in turn hurts the farming industry due to the loss of natural insect control, to the tune of $22 BILLION annually…yes, you read that right. Bats save farmers $22 BILLION a year in pest control.)
ANDDDDDD…. last but not least,
–bird deaths across the board, from songbirds to birds of prey.
Insert loud exhale.
Then throw in learning about the shenanigans of the Wind Developers, the well-oiled, deep pocketed utility company, who asks folks to sign 40 to 60 year leases, that do not provide any specifics as far safety setbacks, or noise and shadow flicker, all while requiring you to not talk publicly about them…and can divide a community with the writing of their check (with approximately 3/4 of that check being financed by taxpayers).
I am completely and utterly exhausted, dumbfounded, and angry.
I have read and learned more than I ever wanted to know about any of these topics. And my profound conclusion?
The whole prospect stinks to high heaven.
Because much “research” has been paid for, I have concluded that it is the experiences of “regular” folks — folks like you and me — that I am putting the most stock in. These folks didn’t set out to turn into spokespeople for a cause. These folks provide the most reliable “data” on whether or not Industrial Wind Turbines make good neighbors.
The answer is a resounding NO.
These examples are from people sharing their first hand experiences of living in the footprint of an Industrial Wind Turbine. Sadly there are hundreds and hundreds of stories just like theirs. Folks who had to abandon their homes — their sanctuaries — because their township or county didn’t have strong zoning in place to protect them. I applaud these gentlemen for speaking out in the midst of their own private hells.
If you take the time to learn about their experiences, it is truly heartbreaking.
You may be wondering why we don’t hear more stories like theirs, like I did. Well, folks who sign leases and receive monies for doing so, are also bound to not talk, complain or criticize the project. That’s how someone can claim, “We haven’t had any complaints from participating homeowners.” There is no Better Business Bureau for people living with improperly sited turbines.
When a company wants you to sign away the rights to your property, without telling you the what, where and how big, there is a suspicion.
When a ginormous amount of taxpayer money is spent to output a minute portion of renewable energy, that appears to be truly fiscally irresponsible.
When a company pays for ‘research’ to ensure the public that their product is safe, and refuses to explain any research that they didn’t buy themselves, there is deception.
When bigger and bigger still products are rushed to market, without long term data on their safety and viability, that is reckless.
But what about folks that don’t choose to lease or buy the product the Wind Developer is selling? What about folks like us, that find ourselves in the industrial footprint of a proposed Wind Turbine project?
Why then, that’s when we need responsible, fair zoning. Because when zoning doesn’t protect the health, safety, and welfare of ALL of its residents, that is the most fundamental component to the problem.
Hope Still Prevails
Yet hope prevails.
Since 2009, over 40 Michigan townships have said no to the Industrial Wind Turbine industry, whether through strong zoning focused on protecting the health and welfare of its residents, or through the ballot box. The last 17 Michigan townships that ended up putting Wind Referendums on their ballots defeated the Wind Industry each and every time.
You Speak Up
We have grouped together with concerned neighbors to ask our Township Board for help. We have met some wonderful, lovely people, who care a great deal about maintaining our rural, agricultural community… and protecting it from the harmful consequences of Industrial Wind Turbines.
I have been doing a lot of praying, and a lot of hoping, that our Township Board, as well as our Planning Commission, will do their own research. If they are willing to do the research, I have to believe that common sense will prevail. And if they aren’t willing to do the research, well, then, we will do our best to respectfully educate them. 😉
We are starting a petition to help the Township gauge everyone’s two cents.
We have to believe that zoning will put our safety, health and welfare, before the wants of a private corporation.
What history will report about the efficacy, and ultimately the safety, of Industrial Wind Turbines, has yet to be determined — but I personally wouldn’t bet on either of those horses.
What Can You Do?
Follow our little band of homeowners on Facebook, “Concerned Citizens of Matteson Township” — it helps us show up in the feeds so that people can learn about what is going on around them. https://www.facebook.com/MattesonTownship/
Research your local zoning ordinances. (What state you live in determines who mandates that — your Township or your County.) But if your zoning doesn’t have any language specifically about Industrial Wind Turbines, I strongly suggest learning about the issue, and then passing any concerns you may have on to them. Get the zoning amended to protect the health and welfare of all your neighbors, not just those signing leases.
Pray for us here at Dirt Road Farm. Pray for our Township to be wise.
Our Plan B would mean that if zoning doesn’t require strong setbacks, to protect us from the effects of having Industrial Wind Turbines as neighbors, we would not stay at our beloved Dirt Road Farm.
That was really painful to type…
Most of you know how long we have waited, and planned to be here at DRF, for this next stage of our lives.
As I sit here and look out at my little hill, our little grain barns, and can hear the cooing of the doves, the sqwalks of the blue jays, and the song of the red winged blackbirds, my heart fills with dread over the possibility of not being here. Anxiety fills my heart. I must breathe and give it back to God.
We are still trying to decide if we put the renovation on hold. If we find ourselves within 2 miles of a Turbine, we lose approximately 20 percent of our property value. If we find ourselves less than 1 mile from a Turbine, we lose roughly 30 percent. If we find ourselves 1/4 of a mile from a Turbine, the loss grows to approximately 40 percent. But continuing to put money into the farmhouse now, before we know what will happen, could be throwing more money after already lost money.
I know that whatever happens, we will deal with it. Together. With as much faith as we can muster.
We really do covet your prayers. Please pray that we grow old at our Dirt Road Farm (and no, I am not talking about turning 50 next month)…
See, I am still trying to keep my sense of humor. 🙂 What else can we do?
Big love from DRF to you…