Is a wind farm coming to your neighborhood?
If you live in the highlands of Osceola, Wexford or Missaukee counties, the likelihood of a commercial wind turbine popping up in your neighborhood is increasing but before the blades start spinning power, developers and communities have more to accomplish.
Close to 75 highland property owners have entered wind leases with the Traverse City-based Heritage Sustainable Energy, providing the developer access to more than 9,000 acres. Heritage expects to install two 2.5-megawatt turbines later this year at a site south of McBain. By late 2008, it anticipates adding another six, according to Rick Wilson, company land manager.
To accommodate the new energy, Heritage is funding a $3 million electric substation in collaboration with Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative. The substation will be built this season at a location between McBain and Strief Road in Richland Township.
In Osceola County, Sherman Township Planning and Zoning Board has granted a tower permit to the Houston-based Babcock & Brown Renewable Energy Holdings Inc. for monitoring wind and climate conditions.
Babcock & Brown lease agreements for secured properties are not yet recorded with county offices. If the wind resource, transmission and permitting issues prove favorable, the company would install 20 turbines.
Together, the two proposed highland projects would add 70 megawatts to Michigan’s current commercial wind generation capacity of 2.1 megawatts.
Throughout the state, more than 50 projects are in the planning stages. Among them is a Wolverine Power and John Deere Wind Energy venture.
Wolverine announced earlier this month it would purchase electricity from John Deere’s Harvest Wind Farm under construction in Huron County. With 32 turbines, it is Michigan’s largest commercial-scale wind energy producer. Wolverine also plans to establish a wind farm near Rogers City.
Projects advance the 21st Century Energy Plan designed by the Michigan Public Service Commission. The plan calls for the state to promote renewable energy sources, like wind, that will keep electricity costs down for consumers as the price of fossil fuels rise.
A state-funded pilot study to help local officials manage wind farm developments is underway in Manistee County. County commissioners have asked townships to refrain from approving any wind projects until a model is established.
“We’re trying to enhance county and township government with a formula that will help make decisions,” said Commission Chair Allan O’Shea.
A discussion is scheduled for Saturday June 23 at the Manistee fairgrounds in Onekema to address wind energy development in the region. Any interested citizen may attend. The discussion begins at 11 a.m. at the pavilion.
Sherman Township Planning and Zoning Board encourages residents to participate in a forum at 7:30 p.m. July 10 at the township hall. Dialog will provide the board input for drafting township turbine and tower ordinances.
By Sally Barber
18 June 2007
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