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Gratiot County approves second company for wind farm permits

Despite near blizzard conditions last week, area residents braved the weather to attend a special use permit hearing for Gratiot County’s second proposed wind farm set to be placed in Elba, Emerson, Hamilton, Lafayette, Newark and North Star townships.

The hearing was held at Town and County Recreation Center in Ithaca on Feb. 1.

The permits for Beebe Community Wind Farms LLC were approved unanimously, according to Mark Hull, project manager for Beebe Community Wind Farms.

Hull and several other Gratiot County residents have been working on the wind farm project for the past several years. The company has been securing leases from farmer since 2007.

Although the weather kept many away from the hearing, those who were in attendance were supportive of the project, according to Chris Brooks, project development manager for Nordex, Inc.

Nordex has partnered with Beebe Community Wind Farms to manufacture the turbines and assist in finalizing project development tasks for the proposed wind farm.

“The landowners were pleased and excited about the project,” Brooks said. “We had a couple of the landowners asking us when we were going to speak to them about leasing their land. We are moving ahead aggressively with our land lease agreements.”

Three additional 300 foot wind measurements towers are set to be installed this winter, according to Brooks. The company is working on placing the first tower this week.

The next step for the project is securing a power purchase agreement with a power company, according to Hull.

“We are actively speaking with potential buyers for the power now,” Brooks said.

Brooks added the construction of the wind farms is tentatively slated to begin by the end of this year.

“The turbines must be in service by 2012 to receive government tax credits,” Brooks said.

Hull noted the project has made a lot of progress over the past few weeks and is pleased with the work that has been done.

The project has moved into additional townships over the past few weeks because they are going with larger turbines.

“Larger turbines need more space,” Brooks said. “To make them more efficient they need to be spread out further.”

Hull noted farmers like the idea of spacing the turbines further apart as there is less interference with farming. He said the next step in the permit process will include site plan reviews.

“We will be staking out the towers so farmers know where they are going. Then we will work to get the site plans approved,” Hull said.

Brooks said that if the towers are built as currently sized they will be the largest in Michigan.

Hull said he was pleased with the progress on the project and credits the work done by Greater Gratiot Development, Inc., to bring wind energy to the county and with the county planning commission on the work that had been done to create zoning ordinances for wind farms.

“The county really does have a good system in place for permitting wind farms,” Hull said. “They have all worked cooperatively on the process.”