MUSKEGON COUNTY – A potential partnership involving West Michigan municipalities could lead to a Muskegon County wind-energy farm selling power to some of the area’s cities.
The new concept, unveiled Tuesday, calls for Muskegon County to investigate setting up agreements with such cities as Grand Haven and Holland, which operate their own utilities, and/or Grand Rapids, which reportedly has a strong interest in going “green.”
Under the concept, the cities would agree to purchase power and/or invest money in the project involving the placement of large wind turbines at the county’s wastewater site.
Those three cities have expressed interest in pursuing renewable-energy projects in the past, and County Administrator Bonnie Hammersley said representatives of some municipalities contacted Muskegon County after Scandia Wind proposed a wastewater site wind development as part of its larger, regional wind-energy project.
Howard & Howard, a wind-energy consultant hired by Muskegon County, suggested the new concept as a way to make the proposed project even more valuable to the county. Rodger Kershner, a partner with Howard & Howard and former CMS Energy vice president, said Tuesday that a partnership with other municipalities and signed power purchase agreements would enhance the project, reducing the county’s risks by already having buyers in place and financial assistance.
The potential municipal partnership is just the latest in a series of options that have been raised in recent months concerning development of a 150-megawatt wind farm on the 11,000-acre wastewater property in Egelston and Moorland townships. The wastewater site is considered an ideal location for potential developers because it is a large site with one owner, has two sets of power lines that cross the property and wind speeds that seem adequate.
The unveiling of the new concept Tuesday essentially gives the Muskegon County Board of Public Works two main options to consider. In addition to the newly unveiled concept, the board could remain with its initial plan to select a private developer to finance and erect the wind farm on the site.
A meeting involving Muskegon County’s public works board members, county staff and West Michigan Strategic Alliance President Greg Northrup is being scheduled for early December to further discuss a potential renewable energy-purchasing partnership in West Michigan.
“There are a number of options to explore; Some of them are exciting,” said Marvin Engle, public works board chairman. “We have the potential to add new dimensions to the wastewater system.
“This has always been a state-of-the-art system, and we’re staying there.”
Kershner said the two options – sending out a request for quotes from private developers or pursuing a partnership with area municipalities – could both be pursued, so board members could get more information before making decisions. Kershner indicated that considering the new concept would not delay the proposed wind-energy project that would still be years from operation.
“We have the potential to make what we already have to sell more valuable,” Kershner said.
County officials have outlined two direct financial benefits to the county if it signs an agreement with a developer for a large, private wind farm. The lease payments from the development would go into the wastewater fund, and the taxes generated would go through the typical allocation formula to all the taxing entities there, including the county.
Some county officials have expressed interest in tying in a wind farm at the wastewater site with L-3 Combat Propulsion Systems’ push into the wind-energy manufacturing market. L-3 officials recently made a presentation to public works board members about the company’s magnetic-based generator for wind turbines and the possibility of setting up a prototype with the county’s project.
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