MUSKEGON COUNTY – Muskegon County officials are preparing to seek proposals from wind-energy developers interested in erecting large, commercial wind turbines on the county’s 11,000-acre wastewater site.
Citing the strong winds that blow across the property in Egelston and Moorland townships and its lack of nearby neighbors, officials have said they believe it is a prime spot for turbines. A mobile wind-test unit, purchased by the county, has gathered wind-speed data on the site, and the early findings show favorable winds for turbines.
“It’s such an ideal site for this,” said Dave Kendrick, the county’s public works director.
The public works board Tuesday agreed to hire an engineering firm to help wastewater staff develop a bid package for potential developers.
A private developer, Scandia Wind, has proposed a wind farm on the site and drafted an exclusive agreement, but the county is looking to open it up to others before signing a contract. County officials said General Electric Co. also has contacted them regarding the site.
“I think there are a number of people who would be interested in it,” Commissioner John Snider said during a planning session when commissioners discussed the option of requesting proposals or signing with Scandia Wind.
Scandia proposed a 150-megawatt wind farm on the wastewater site as part of a larger wind-energy development proposal that features a 500-megawatt offshore wind farm in Lake Michigan off Grand Haven. Scandia developers said their proposal of 50 turbines on the wastewater site would produce enough electricity to serve 30,000 homes and could be operational by 2013.
County officials also proposed installing three county-operated turbines on a capped landfill at the wastewater site to produce energy for its on-site operations.
Two bird studies have been conducted on the site, based on concerns for potential bird kills, but county officials were unsure whether another study would be needed for construction of a wind farm. Because of the variety of habitat, the site is considered by many as a top bird-watching location.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sent a letter to the county opposing the proposal to put wind turbines on the site because of the potential for bird kills, but the federal agency would only be able to halt a project if federal funds were involved.
The debate centers around the prospect of migratory and resident birds being struck and killed by the wind turbines’ large, spinning blades. The county points to a consultant’s survey that said the wind farm likely would not create a significant hazard for birds. The Fish and Wildlife Service points to the wastewater site’s bird-friendly habitat that the agency contends would increase chances of bird kills.
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