Those who attended Mark Steyn’s lecture in the Sports Complex on Tuesday night encountered something of a surprise: Standing out in front of the building, several neon-green-shirt-clad locals protested wind turbine development as Steyn’s audience filed into the Arena. He even spent the first few minutes of his speech talking about them.
The protesors were affiliated with a group called the Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition, Inc., which attempts to focus opposition to projects such as wind turbines. The organization was founded by Kevon Martis, a former Vice Chairman of the Planning Commission for Lenawee County, Michigan. Martis says that “watching wind turbine developers change zoning regulations [for wind turbines] got his attention.”
“To sum it up: the developers are telling us, yeah, they’re 50 feet tall, but they’re a 1,000 feet away, so you won’t even notice.”
When Martis’ term on the commission ended, he reached out to others concerning what he saw as some of the drawbacks, such as “the noise, the disturbance of sleep, danger to wildlife, and decrease in property values.”
Both Martis and fellow Lenawee County resident and coalition member Josh Vancamp said wind energy is impractical. Martis said that “wind energy only exists with a $52 per megawatt per hour subsidy, versus 66 cents per megawatt per hour for coal.”
According to Martis, Duke Energy Renewables, a part of Duke’s Commercial Businesses, is seeking to establish wind turbines in Reading Township, a nearby locality. Vancamp also says that the nearest of these wind turbines would be established “less than five miles from the Roche Sports Complex.
Gretchen Oberdick, a Reading resident, was also at Steyn’s speech. She is a member of a group called “Save Reading Township” which wants stricter zoning regulations for the windmills, citing concerns similar to those of Martis.
“We’re a group of people with the same goal: proper siting of the wind turbines. Duke has requested them closer to residences than our research suggests is safe,” she said.
“We’re dedicated to preserving Reading Township.”
Another Reading resident, Walt Sinzer, disagrees. He supports the project thoroughly.
“There are a number of reasons I support these turbines,” he said. “I like the looks of them, they’re big, majestic, and provide non-polluting electricity. Whether or not global warming is true, we’re polluting every time we burn oil and gas into the atmosphere, and these turbines provide an energy source that’s free, we just have to pay for the machine.”
Sinzer also cited economic benefits for the town.
“The township receives tax money, and the school and the landowners receive money, all to be spent right here in Hillsdale County. Christine Bowman, who used to promote Hillsdale’s economic development, said that for every one dollar spent on the windmill, seven dollars will result. It snowballs.”
Sinzer said that the Save Reading Committee has the wrong idea.
“Save Reading Committee…to save Reading, it needs a real shot in the arm. It was once a thriving little town, now there’s really not much going on here. What you need is money. I respect those people and their opinion, but I am disappointed.”
Sinzer’s views are similar to those of Duke Energy Renewables. A fact sheet provided by Tammie McGee of Duke Energy Corporate Communications details various misconceptions they say people have about wind energy. For example, in response to the charge that wind farms are harmful to humans, the sheet rebuts that “wind energy is a benign technology with no associated emissions, harmful pollutants, or waste products.”
The official website of the project says, “Community benefits include a new source of tax revenue that the community can count on year after year, a large number of construction jobs (and a smaller number of operations jobs), and emission-free electricity generated locally.”
All interviewed parties mentioned a Reading Township Council meeting on April 16, at which a discussion of the project’s merits are to be held.
For now, this debate shows no signs of blowing over.