The expanding cluster of wind turbines sprouting just over the line in Missaukee County may cross the border into Wexford County next year.
A spokesman for Heritage Renewable Energy, the company behind the Stoney Corners Wind Farm, recently confirmed that Phase III of the project could include installing wind turbines in Clam Lake Township in Wexford County and Highland Township in Osceola County.
Project manager Rick Wilson said the company plans to apply for special use permits that could allow for construction next summer.
“The final sites are undetermined,” Wilson said. He noted the company will likely try to pull permits for more sites than it actually needs as a precaution.
Wexford County Zoning Administrator Michael Green confirmed Heritage Sustainable Energy has approached his office with proposals to erect wind turbines in Clam Lake Township, but have not yet applied the special use permits that would be necessary to move forward.
Green said the county is in the process of updating the draft Wexford County Zoning Ordinance, including sections that apply to wind turbines, but for now wind developers fall under the current ordinance which does not include specific standards for wind turbines.
The draft standards do include proposed setbacks from homes, occupied buildings, property lines and also have noise guidelines as well as “ice throw” guidelines relating to how wind turbines shed sheets of ice from the spinning blades.
“The planning commission could incorporate standards from that into their conditions of approval if they chose to do so,” Green said.
If Heritage applies for a special use permit, by statute neighboring property owners closer than 300 feet would be notified. Additional neighboring property owners may also be notified “just as a courtesy,” Green said.
Clam Lake Township would also be notified by mail. In Wexford County, wind turbine construction could be considered in agricultural/residential districts, not a district that was zoned strictly residential, Green said.
The planning commission would hold a public hearing on the permit as part of the process. The commission would hear deliberations from the applicant, as well as from members of the public both opposed and in favor.
Residents may have noticed that all of the wind turbines recently stopped temporarily.
Wilson explained the turbines were shut down to allow the project’s electrical substation to be upgraded. The work could not be done while the turbines were sending current to the grid.
The wind farm is currently in phase II, adding 10 turbines this year capable of generating an additional 20 megawatts. The substation upgrade will allow a phase III upgrade in 2011, with another 19 megawatts of generating capacity expected to be added.
At least four of the ten turbines going up this summer have been completed and are ready to be commissioned. Plans are to have five more erected by the end of September.
Wilson also said that several weeks ago the company suffered a theft of a section of electric cable from a transformer to the turbines.
Wilson said the loss of the wire cost the company around $30,000, although the salvage value would have been only a small fraction of that.
“We have to replace the whole thing, we have to replace five times as much as they cut off,” Wilson said.
According to Wilson the thieves would have a very difficult time selling the wire because scrap yards now routinely ask for identification and fingerprint anyone who comes in to sell high-value items.
The tenth and last turbine of the season is a special prototype constructed by Merrill Technologies Group of Saginaw. According to Wilson, the prototype wind turbine will have a permanent magnet direct drive instead of the gear box found in most turbines.
If the prototype is successful, the wind turbines would be manufactured in Michigan near Saginaw, Wilson said.
The prototype will probably be installed around the end of October.
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