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Wind turbines blowing into Sanilac County

Wind energy development is coming to Sanilac County next year. The development will mean income for property owners and tax revenue for local governments and school districts.

Representatives of John Deere Renewables have been meeting with officials from townships in the northeastern part of the county regarding plans for 50 turbines. As of yet, no special land use permits have been issued for the development, but township officials expect to be asked to schedule hearings within a month.

There is also a Lexington Township Zoning Board of Appeals hearing scheduled for Nov. 23. Alternate Energy Solutions Development LLC. is requesting a height variance to place a wind energy test tower at the corner of Aitken and Croswell roads to determine whether there is sufficient wind in the area to provide energy from wind towers.

Also according to the Minden City Herald, Barnhart Crain & Riggins Company, which is associated with wind turbine construction, has rented the former Minden City Clinc building for office space during the construction of a wind park. The lease runs through June 2011.

Doug Duimering, regional manager of business development for John Deere, said the turbines, which have not been purchased yet, will be built next year and the wind park will be “substantially done by the end of next year”.

However, by then the turbines will no longer belong to John Deere because the sale of their wind energy business to Excelon Generation Company of Chicago is expected to be completed by the end of December. Excelon is the largest wholesale marketer of wind energy in the eastern United States, and is also provides solar, hydroelectricity and landfill gas energy.

Duimering said the majority of the turbines will be in Delaware Township and some farmers will have multiple turbines. Officials from Minden and Marion townships are also expecting to see a handful of turbines in their areas.

Duimering said the wind park will be slightly bigger than the one in the Ubly area, which has 46 turbines. However, it will generate significantly more power because the turbines will be larger. The 480 foot tall turbines will be about 45-50 feet taller than the ones in Ubly, he stated.

The townships are ready for the developers, they have had wind energy ordinances in place for several years.

“They are really going out of their way to make this as friendly a project for the people as they can (because the Ubly project ran into controversy),” stated Minden Township Supervisor Terry O’Connor.

O’Connor said John Deere is talking about set backs of 1,320 feet instead of 1,000 and have lowered the noise decibils to 45.

“They told us they will try to keep them further apart so the noise issue is less,” he added.

Delaware Clerk James Bruderick said the township’s wind ordinance restricts the development to the area west of Maple Grove Road and stipulates where the turbines can be built, how close to residences they can be, etc.

“Not everybody signed up, it will stay away from them…A lot will be in the center of each mile section,” he stated.

Township officials are also learning how to protect their right to tax the development.

“We are aware of the tax abatement waiver…If it does generate some revenue we can give some benefits, expand some services. Schools will benefit, the county will benefit and the state,” stated O’Connor.

“Local communities can opt out (of the state tax abatements), then it will be fully back on the tax rolls…They have a 60 day window to opt out,” said Huron County Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Carl Osentoski.

Osentoski and Mike Krause, a member of the Huron economic board, want to establish a regional collaborative and have been making presentations to local township officials to share what they’ve learned about wind energy development. They have another meeting scheduled for tonight (Nov. 17) in front of the Lexington Township Planning Commission

“The big thing they really stressed is they hope to go as a unified group. If we have a tri-county group we have a whole lot more clout,” stated Sanilac County District 1 Commissioner John Merriman.