BAD AXE – Michigan’s Thumb may be sprouting more windmills – 25,000 acres’ worth.
That’s almost eight times the space allotted to 32 windmills on the state’s first commercial wind farm, which has sprouted up near Elkton in recent months.
The latest project is being run by DTE Energy, a Detroit-based utility that serves the Thumb, mostly with coal-fired power, and operates a plant in Harbor Beach.
Len Singer, a company spokesman, said an agent with The Brokerage Land Co. in Bad Axe has been securing easements with farmers on a total of 25,000 acres of land over the past several months.
The land could accommodate up to 250 windmills, generating up to 500 megawatts of power, or enough to power about 150,000 homes, based on American Wind Energy Association figures.
The easements mean DTE has rights to put windmills on individual properties in the future. Landowners continue to own the land and can continue to farm around pads used for windmill towers. They also share a portion of the revenue from the electricity that’s generated.
”We’re still in the early stages of making decisions, but clearly we’re interested in the potential for creating wind energy in the Thumb,” Singer said.
He declined to say exactly where the land is located, but said DTE has installed four wind measuring towers in Chandler, Meade and Rubicon townships, between Caseville and Port Hope.
Singer said it may be 12 to 24 months before there’s enough data to begin the process of erecting windmills on the 25,000 acres.
”Part of the evaluation process involves looking at potential impacts on birds and wildlife and wetland areas,” he said.
Andy Sommers, a real estate agent in Bad Axe, said he and others in Huron County seem to like the windmills that have already gone up near Elkton at the Harvest Wind Farm, owned by John Deere Wind Energy.
”I don’t find them unattractive at all,” Sommers said. ”They’re rather majestic looking.”
Sommers sees windmills as an economic opportunity for the Thumb.
”Huron County is a county with a somewhat stoic population base,” he said. ”We have not had substantial increases or decreases of people for several decades.
”It’s not like our land is being gobbled up for other developments.”
Sommers said some people worry that windmills will hurt land values, but his research shows that average values haven’t dropped in other parts of the country with wind farms. Zoning regulations put in by Huron County planners also should help protect home values in the Thumb, he said.
”The real estate market is being beat up bad enough already,” he said. ”I can’t say this is going to hurt it.”
DTE generates just 1 percent of its power from renewable sources now, including landfill gas and three windmills at Laker Elementary School near Pigeon.
The company wants to increase its renewable portfolio, Singer said, in anticipation of state regulations and due to the need for more power in Michigan.
Besides the 25,000 acres under consideration, DTE has already signed an agreement to buy energy from a wind farm east of Cadillac. The company also has proposed to build a new reactor at its Fermi nuclear plant in Monroe County.
22 October 2007
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