Heritage Sustainable Energy of Traverse City has built the U.P.’s first commercial wind turbine in Delta County.
13 more turbines will follow next year, but the wind farm project has undergone a recent change.
Fairbanks Township Supervisor Ron Collins works on his father’s farm.
His dad signed a lease with Heritage for the wind farm.
Ron says residents have accused him of only being in the project for the money, and he says that’s true to a certain extent — he says his father and the other people with leases have a right to allow their land to make money for them.
He says it’s an especially useful time for the wind farm to come along, as he calls this year a disaster from a farming standpoint.
Heritage recently drew an imaginary line across the Garden Peninsula, about a mile south of the Collins farm.
All land south of that line is now off–limits to turbines.
The decision has affected some people who agreed to a lease, including Fairbanks Township Clerk Kathryn Denholm and her husband, who is a member of the Delta County Planning Commission.
John Denholm says he now will not be a part of the wind farm after an agreement Heritage recently made with the U.S. Department of the Interior.
So, the family of at least one elected official is in a position to make money from the wind farm.
Another elected official and a county-level appointed policymaker would have benefited directly if not for Heritage’s recent change.
Are there conflicts of interest at work here?
Collins doesn’t own enough land to be of use to Heritage, and he says even if he did, he wouldn’t consider it a conflict.
He says that’s because the township has nothing to do with administering the project — Delta County did the zoning for the wind farm.
As a Planning Commission member, John Denholm would have had a hand in deciding what that zoning should look like.
He recused himself from votes on the issue and does not believe there would have been any conflicts of interest because of that.
We’ll continue following the wind farm project, and we’ll have other stories for you about it as we learn more.
Opponents of the Garden Peninsula wind energy project have taken their message to the internet.
Earlier this month, they created a Facebook account called ‘Garden Citizens for Responsible Alternative Energy’.
If you’d like to take a look at the Facebook page, you can find it here.