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Northport wind project dies of neglect

Plans to establish a power-generating windmill on village property near the sewer plant in Northport will not get off the ground this year.

The Northport Energy Action Taskforce (NEAT) has learned that its grant application to help fund placement of a windmill 135 feet in the air east of the Braman Hill Recreation Area was denied by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

“It was back there for 17 months (measuring wind speed) and no one ever saw it,” said Tom Gallery, who along with Leelanau Township resident Doug McInnis helped spearhead the project with the Village of Northport. “The wind there was excellent … outstanding and would provide enough energy to power the sewer plant (350,000 kilowatt hours) and other things as well.”

Possible other uses include powering street lights, the municipal water system and the Betty Mork administration building which houses village offices.

The Village Council supported a request for 2 percent funding from the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians in December 2009 which was used to study wind energy at the site.

NEAT submitted an application for a USDA grant $138,000 by the June 30 deadline. This, along with a guaranteed loan of $276,000 from a local lending institution would have funded the project, which totaled an estimated $550,000.
But when two months passed without word from the agency, McInnis inquired about the status of the application and learned that it had been denied.

“It sat in a USDA office for two months,” McInnis said. “They said it wasn’t complete.”

Missing from the package were documents required of the local lending institution which assured NEAT members they were well versed in dealing with applications of this type. These included a matching fund commitment and leader/credit analysis.

“We provided the information requested,” said McInnis. “It’s a frustration many people have found lately in dealing with banks … they weren’t forthright in telling us exactly where we were.”

Gallery agreed saying that the lender hadn’t submitted the right paperwork.

With no financing in place, the project is on hold until at least next year.

“Everything is in place. As a group, we believe our project was well-designed and we remain enthused and energized,” McInnis said.

NEAT officials have not sat down with the lender to determine what went wrong during the process. They may do so, but haven’t yet determined whether they will look elsewhere for financial assistance.