MUSKEGON COUNTY – By the end of this calendar year, a wind-energy developer could be in place and Muskegon County officials likely will be considering specifics of the proposed wind farm for the county’s wastewater site.
County officials are planning to move rather quickly over the next couple months in setting up and selecting a wind developer for the planned project that would result in large turbines generating 150 megawatts of power.
Wastewater officials conducted interviews with five engineering firms recently in a process to hire one to help the county develop a bid package and consider proposals from wind-farm developers.
Mark Eisenbarth, the public works department’s deputy director overseeing the wastewater system, said once the engineering firm is hired, then the plan is to seek proposals from developers in four-to-six weeks. Eisenbarth told county commissioners last week that 14 different wind developers already have contacted the county though officials haven’t yet officially sought proposals.
The county has talked about the possibility of erecting turbines at the site for years. But the most recent plan has gained much more attention from inside and outside county government.
In addition to the high interest shown by developers, the county has taken steps over the last year in preparation for the planned project. The most visible step was when the county purchased and installed a mobile wind-test unit to gather wind-speed data at the 11,000-acre site in Egelston and Moorland townships.
A private developer Scandia Wind, has proposed a wind farm on the site and drafted an exclusive agreement, but the county decided to open it up to others before signing a contract.
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.