Impacts to the Community
How will the Summit Lake Project benefit the community?
In addition to improving the roads and trails for recreational use, the project will bring up to 300 temporary jobs (such as grading crews, concrete suppliers, crane operators, and electricians) during construction. It will also add up to 8 permanent jobs during operation (25+ years). The project's owner will also pay taxes to the local government. Projections prepared by the Township assessor and the Baraga County treasurer estimate $8.8 million in new revenues the first 5 years of operation and $25.6 million in new revenues over 25 years. These revenues will reduce the tax burden on local residents and contribute to roads, schools, and emergency services. It's also important to note that, due to its location on timberland, this project will be located far from most residences in the township. In addition, it is likely to spur economic development during the construction period due to increased use of local restaurants, hotels, and other services. The project will also diversify the region’s energy source.
Will noise be an issue once these are in operation?
The turbines contemplated for this project will be equipped with a sound-reducing technology called serrated trailing edge. The sounds from these turbines will be below the 55 dB(A) limit at the closest property line, as required by the L'Anse Township wind energy system ordinance. A third-party consultant will model predicted sound levels non-participating property lines near the project, and these results will be included in our application to L’Anse Township for a Special Land Use Permit.
How will RES manage the visual impact of these turbines since they are taller than the trees and have to meet FAA lighting requirements?
The turbine towers are the latest design, which means they make the smallest footprint possible and strike a sleek silhouette against the sky. We expect to use FAA-approved, radar-activated lighting so the tower lights are off when no airplanes are in the vicinity (as much as 98% of the time), minimizing the visual impact at night.
I’ve heard shadow flicker is big problem for those neighboring the turbines. How are you dealing with that?
Shadow flicker occurs when the moving blades of the turbine create a recurring shadow on the ground as the sun rises or sets behind them. Because this project is proposed on active timberland far from populated areas, we do not anticipate shadow flicker to be a significant concern. In addition, the L’Anse Township zoning ordinance requires that owners of wind energy projects “prevent, mitigate, and eliminate shadow flicker on any occupied structure on a nonparticipating property.” A third-party consultant will model predicted shadow flicker at any residences near the project, and these results will be included in our application to L’Anse Township for a Special Land Use Permit.
Safety is one of our highest priorities, so we take steps throughout the project to ensure the safety of our employees and the public. We will coordinate with local and regional sheriff’s offices, fire services, and Weyerhaeuser to develop a safety plan during construction and operations of the Project.
Full-time operations staff will be on site to operate and maintain the facility. They will have authority and responsibility to ensure operations and maintenance are conducted consistent with the applicable permits, prudent industry practice, and manufacturer's recommendations. The wind turbines themselves are designed to operate safely within specified wind-speed ranges. They have internal controls to adjust blade angles and brakes to prevent the rotors from spinning too quickly. The wind energy facility will also be monitored remotely via a dedicated communications system.
A fire at a wind turbine is a rare event, and extensive precautions are taken. Safety measures to prevent fires include systems that change the pitch of blades to prevent over-speed, temperature monitors and automatic shut-off systems to prevent over-heating, lightning protection and arc-flash detection, and remote shut-down.
Long-term comprehensive studies show wind power does not affect property values. Instead, it is a driver for economic development in the host communities and supports local services that benefit all property owners. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory conducted major studies on effects to property values from wind farms nationwide in 2009 and 2013, and found no statistical evidence that operating wind turbines have had any measurable impact on home sale prices.
Cost of Electricity
Is there any possibility the cost of electricity will go down once this power is available?
It's unlikely the rates you pay for electricity will go down as a result of this project. However, if your local utility purchases the power from the project, it may not need to seek rate increases as often and, when they do, it will likely be less of an increase after this electricity is available to them. The electricity created from this project will go into the electric grid that serves the entire region and is made available when the regional transmission operator (RTO) wants it to be. The electricity flowing from these turbines will replace electricity that would have to come from other generation sources when the RTO determines it makes economic sense to do so. That way, businesses and homeowners get the least expensive electricity possible.
That said, wind power can hold consumers’ energy costs down by reducing wholesale electricity prices. Independent experts conducted power system analyses of Texas, New York, and the U.S. Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions – all areas where energy prices dropped after wind entered the market. A May 2012 report from Synapse Energy Economics found wind power can save Midwestern consumers between $3 billion and $9.5 billion a year by 2020. More and more utilities are locking in favorable prices for wind power for 20-25 years. In November 2013, the Michigan Public Service Commission released a study detailing how renewable energy saves consumers money. The report states that “wind energy technology improvements have resulted in a decline in wind generation prices from over $0.10 per kWh in 2009 to $0.05 to $0.06 per kWh.”
Wind generation agreements typically provide 20-year fixed pricing, so the electric utility sector is anticipated to be less sensitive to volatility in natural gas and coal fuel prices, thanks to the availability of wind power. According to a 2017 study by the U.S. Department of Energy, wind power sales prices are at all-time lows, enabling economic competitiveness despite low natural gas prices.