How is the proposed wind farm for Oceana County coming along?
“It’s kind of on hold,” said Richard Vanderveen, president of Mackinaw Power.
Vanderveen said his company has been “working like crazy the last four years to get the sites, the interconnects, get the wind studies “¦” and with those in hand, he’s waiting for Michigan to become the 25th state to approve an RPS, or Renewable Portfolio Standard.
The move would ease some of the zoning issues that proposed wind farms are facing.
Vanderveen said proposed legislation, Senate Bill 213, would ease the state’s transition to “green” power. The legislation would override local zoning and would establish setbacks at one to one-and-a-half times the height of the towers. Mackinaw Power’s turbines in Mackinaw City are 235 feet tall at the hub and have 80-foot blades. Vanderveen said the proposed towers for Oceana County would be larger.
Vanderveen said he hoped to start with about 20 towers in townships where zoning is agreeable. Vanderveen said the turbines could be placed in Crystal, Golden, Hart or Elbridge townships now, but in Weare Township, a 2,500-foot setback has been established, effectively banning the turbines.
Under Michigan law, a legal use can’t be banned outright, Vanderveen said, but he said that’s what he believes Weare’s zoning has done with wind turbines.
Dale Stevenson, Weare Township’s zoning administrator, said the zoning statute actually reads that towers “shall be at least 1,500 from each property line and at least 1,500 feet from any public road right-of-way.”
For now, Vanderveen plans to press on where he can.
“Typically, you put three turbines in a square mile,” Vanderveen said. “For 640 acres, that’s three turbines, because you don’t want them to wake one another. What we’re going to do – I think we’re going to do this in phases. We want to get the first 20 turbines up in a way that shows people this is what they are, this is what they look like.”
Vanderveen said his company is ahead of the curve on many issues, including that it has the only signed interconnect agreement in the state. The agreement spells out how Mackinaw Power can connect to the state’s electrical grid.
The 144-page document spells out the details of Mackinaw Power’s plans, safety requirements and where exactly it can connect. Vanderveen said the company is approved to transmit up to 140 megawatts to a 138 kilovolt substation east of Hart.
Vanderveen said he hopes people will consider that wind energy has the benefit of being cleaner than fossil fuels and doesn’t promote reliance on foreign oil.
He said he’s also hoping to convince people that Michigan’s manufacturing base would be ideal for the wind turbine industry.
“We’d like to take the basis for new, clean technology to re-tool our manufacturing base,” Vanderveen said. “It would make us one, more internationally competitive, two more energy independent, three change how we look at our energy and our children’s and grandchildren’s health.”
Vanderveen said demand for wind turbines is out there – there are none available until 2009, unless a company has already procured some – and he hopes Michigan can become wind-friendly enough to attract the business.
“Every 1,000 megawatts is 3,000 manufacturing jobs at $30,000 apiece,” he said.
Vanderveen noted that his company has partnered with Illinois-based Invenergy, which has wind turbines on hand.
But for now, Vanderveen is waiting for winds of change to power his project.
“It’s on hold, pending the passage of SB 213, the RPS,” Vanderveen said. It would provide for a renewable portfolio standard. I’m proud to tell you four Republican senators have signed up and I’m hoping Senator (Gerald) Van Woerkom (R-Norton Shores) gets on board, too.”
By Brian Mulherin
Daily News Staff Writer
26 February 2007
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