by Graham Sturgeon, co-editor

The Shiawassee Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership hosted an informational discussion at D’Mar Banquet & Conference Center in Owosso on Wednesday, Dec. 7 to provide residents with both sides of the story regarding the proposed Maple Rapids Wind project. Marsha Lyttle moderated the discussion, and nearly 500 local residents filled the large banquet center for the event. Apex Clean Energy Director of Project Management Brad Lila presented the benefits of wind energy, while builder and former Riga Township Planning Commission Vice-Chairman Kevon Martin presented the potential drawbacks of wind energy. Persons in attendance were given an opportunity to ask questions during the second half of the discussion.

Lila emphasized the economic benefits of the project to Shiawassee County, explaining that the project would generate $12 to $15 million of tax revenue for the county over 20 years, with the 140 lease-holders receiving $26 million in compensation over that time. Additionally, he pointed out that approximately $20 billion leaves the state of Michigan annually to pay for energy, and that Shiawassee County has a chance to keep some of that money in its own community by utilizing wind energy.

He sought to dispel the myth that wind turbines hurt property values by showing that the tax base rose in Gratiot, Huron, and Tuscola counties – where most of Michigan’s turbines are located – in the years following turbine construction. In Gratiot County, the tax base increased by 38.48 percent during that time, Huron County’s rose by 34.22 percent, and Tuscola County’s rose by 26.02 percent, compared to the state average growth of 1.28 percent. He pointed out that wind energy is far less damaging to the local environment than any other type of energy production, and he provided multiple studies that demonstrated that there are no known health effects related to turbines.

Martis pointed out that, though counties are benefiting financially from wind turbines in Michigan, Huron County – which contains the most turbines in the state – is contemplating passing a five-year moratorium to end wind turbine production. He said placing 600-foot tall turbines 1,200 feet from homes puts residents at risk of being affected by potential falling debris, as well the damaging effects of the sound generated by the turbines. And while Lila agreed Wednesday that Apex would set money aside to pay for the deconstruction of the turbines after 20 to 25 years, Lila said Apex would not be able to agree to compensate residents for decreased property values. Martis also called Shiawassee County a “poor wind resource,” which makes the area less suitable for wind energy collection. He also pointed out that, though Apex will not seek any tax abatements, the company will also be exempt from paying many of the taxes most companies and residents pay. He informed those in attendance that their best recourse, if trying to oppose the project, is to sit down with county policy makers on an individual basis instead of trying to make their case during formal meetings.

Apex has not yet developed a site plan or project design, but Lila said the company hopes to begin the project by the fall of 2017 or the spring of 2018, with completion expected by the fall of 2019. He also said that the company has not decided where the potential 60 turbines will be located across Owosso, Middlebury, Rush, and Fairfield townships, but he did say the company is still seeking to increase its amount of leased acreage, which currently totals roughly 16,000 acres.

Apex Makes Its Case for Maple Rapids Wind Project was last modified: December 13th, 2016 by Karen Elford