As a resident of New Lothrop, in Shiawassee County, I wish to voice my opinion concerning the pending Wind Energy Conversion Systems ordnance (WECS). I feel that the final decision concerning this ordnance should be placed before the voters of Shiawassee County as a ballot initiative, rather than by a vote by the Board of Commissioners.
It has become quite apparent that a substantial number of county residents are concerned about the possible negative effects of wind turbines on their health and safety, property values, infrastructure and environment. One has only to drive a few miles in any direction to find “No Wind Turbine” signs.
Some property owners have already signed agreements allowing wind turbines to be built on their land. These property owners obviously feel that the benefits of the income accrued outweigh the above negative considerations, which is their right. As you know, Gratiot County has a large number of wind turbines. According to the Gratiot County website, wind energy has substantially increased the county tax base. Other advantages seem minimal. Of the approximately 200 workers utilized during peak construction, only 120 were county residents. Now that the turbines are completed, only 20 workers are employed for maintenance.
What seems to be driving companies like Tradewind Energy is the pending phase-out of the large federal tax breaks associated with building wind turbines. According to Warren Buffet, “We get a tax break if we build lots of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credits.” The tax credits phase-out by the end of 2019. It is crunch time; maybe even crisis time for Tradewind Energy and other wind energy companies. With all due respect to Tradewind Energy and the others, a crisis on your part does not necessarily generate a crisis on my part as a Shiawassee County resident. We need time and a countywide referendum to responsibly decide what, if any, wind energy is right for us.
Furthermore, Shiawassee County is a very close-knit community. Members of the county board, who may soon vote on this issue, may already have agreements with a wind energy company or have close relatives or friends who do. In order to avoid any appearance of impropriety, a ballot proposal should be used to decide this matter, as opposed to a vote by the county board. The proposal should address the most contentious issues of ambient sound, setback, turbine height, flicker, decommissioning and insurance.
Eugene J. Allardyce, New Lothrop