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1/14/12 They fought the residents and... the residents won


By David Frownfelder and John Mulcahy,

via Daily Telegram, www.lenconnect.com

January 14, 2012

“The developer has concluded it is unable to develop its project in Riga, Palmyra and Ogden townships due to significant opposition to wind generation by the residents of Lenawee County."

RIGA, Mich. — Lenawee County is apparently not going to be home to a major wind turbine project — at least not in 2012. Officials from Blissfield Wind Energy LLC filed an amendment to its contract with Consumers Energy seeking permission to move the project from Lenawee County to Gratiot or Ionia counties.

Exelon Wind is one of the partners on the Blissfield project. Doug Duimering, project manager for Exelon Wind, said the group has not given up on Lenawee County, but because the contract with Consumers Energy states they would build wind turbines in 2012, the group is looking at other sites.

“We are disappointed with the way things turned out,” Duimering said. “We will continue to explore our options in Lenawee County.”

Larry Gould, president of Great Lakes LLC, which owns 50 percent of Blissfield Wind Energy LLC, said there are negotiations to take the project elsewhere, but the Michigan Public Service Commission must approve the transfer first. Gould said he could not say much due to a confidentiality agreement.

“There’s other communities that are inviting us to go someplace else,” Gould said.

Both Blissfield Wind and Consumers Energy are asking the MPSC to allow the contract between the two parties to be amended.

The request from Consumers reads: “The developer has concluded it is unable to develop its project in Riga, Palmyra and Ogden townships due to significant opposition to wind generation by the residents of Lenawee County. Hence, the developer has relocated its development plans to either Ionia County or Gratiot County, Michigan.”

The Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition Inc. was formed in opposition to the wind turbine project. Kevon Martis of Riga Township, a director of the IICC, commented on the development in an email.

“As much as the developers tried to paint this as a question of NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) opposition to change, the bottom line for most residents is that this particular project reeked of crony capitalism and corporate welfare of the worst kind: increased industrial profits at private citizens’ expense,” Martis wrote. “Couple that with solid scientific evidence that the noise limits and setbacks proposed by the developers are, in fact, unsafe, as the IICC maintained throughout this whole episode.”

Paul Wohlfarth of Riga Township headed the group Riga Residents for Wind. In an email, he expressed his disappointment at the announcement.

“We have a well-funded nonprofit corporation based in Lenawee County who collects money from across the country to spearhead an agenda that is against green wind generation in Lenawee County, Michigan and across the country,” Wohlfarth wrote. “I believe this whole project has been misrepresented by a well-funded vocal minority. It’s too bad the majority of the tri-township area didn’t take the time and visit a nearby wind farm. I think the outcome would have been much different.”

The potential siting of wind turbines in Riga, Ogden and Palmyra townships brought organized opposition from the IICC and recalls of Ogden Township Supervisor Jim Goetz and Clerk Phyllis Gentz and recall attempts against Riga Township Supervisor Jeff Simon and Trustee Richard Beagle.

The Blissfield Wind project was the only one that had reached the development stage. Another interested party was juwi Wind, a wind power company also considering a project for the area. A spokesman for juwi said its status remains unchanged.

“We are continuing to monitor and evaluate the situation,” said Aaron Peterson, manager of community relations and regulatory affairs.

In November, a referendum vote in Riga Township upheld the wind turbine ordinance enacted in July 2010. A similar vote on the Palmyra Township ordinance is slated for May 8. An Ogden Township citizens committee is weighing the benefits of a police power ordinance, which can take the place of zoning in special instances.

In addition, the Raisin Township Planning Commission is developing a wind turbine ordinance. Officials are taking the step despite no stated intentions of a wind turbine project for Raisin Township.

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