BAD AXE – Following a public hearing Thursday, the Huron County Planning Commission voted to recommend the creation of a new wind district to facilitate the expansion of Harvest Wind 1.
Harvest Wind II is a 59.4 megawatt expansion of Harvest Wind I, and it encompasses land in McKinley, Chandler and Oliver townships, said Timothy C. Gehring, project manager for RMT, which is assisting Exelon Corporation. Exelon acquired John Deere’s wind energy business, including Harvest Wind I in Oliver and Chandler townships and Michigan Wind I in Bingham and Sheridan townships, late last year.
If the project consists of 2-megawatt turbines, there would be 30 turbines in Harvest Wind II, county officials previously explained. If it uses 1.8-megawatt turbines, it would consist of 32 to 33 turbines. Currently, in the Harvest Wind I project, there are five turbines in Chandler Township and 27 in Oliver.
The Harvest Wind II project is very mature, as the company already has established there is good wind there, obtained a power purchase agreement, and it’s pretty much done with the avian (bird and bat) studies, Gehring said.
Regarding transmission, Gehring said he estimates the interconnection agreement will be done by mid-summer. The system eventually will connect to the new transmission line, once the upgrade project is complete, he said.
Prior to the completion of the new Thumb loop transmission line, Harvest Wind II will use the existing system, however, there will have to be some curtailment until the entire system can run on the new transmission line, Gehring said.
As for a project timeline, Gehring said the schedule is to have Harvest Wind II up and running by the end of 2012, so construction likely would start next year.
Huron County Building and Zoning Director Russ Lundberg noted the planning commission’s focus in this project is on McKinley Township, because the other townships handle their own zoning approval for the balance of the project. In McKinley Township, the proposed district encompasses two sections: Sections 35 and 36.
Brian Delpiere, who lives within the proposed district in McKinley Township, asked where turbines would be located and how far they would have to be from houses within the district.
Officials noted turbines have to be a minimum of 1,320 feet away from any house.
Gehring said the purpose of expanding the original wind district for Harvest Wind I is to be able to figure out where turbines can go for Harvest Wind II. Once the new district that expands the existing Harvest Wind I district is established, the company will be able to do more definite planning as to siting turbines and access roads.
Generally, they site no more than two to three turbines per square mile, Gehring said. It also depends on noise modeling studies, because the project will have to comply with the county’s zoning ordinance in order to be granted approval in the site plan review process, he added.
When asked whether the turbines will be the same ones that are in Harvest Wind I, Gehring said the new turbines will be a little taller than the existing ones.
Delpiere was the only resident living within the proposed wind district in McKinley Township who wished to speak during the hearing. There were not any residents living within 350 feet of the proposed district who wished to speak.
McKinley Township Clerk Michael Stevenson was the only other person who wished to comment during the hearing. He said he was there representing the McKinley Township Board, which is in favor of the expansion.
Following public comment, Huron County Planning Commissioner Fred Hasen noted there have been proposals in Lansing to eliminate personal property tax, which is the tax businesses pay on equipment, and it’s the only tax levied on wind turbines. He asked what Exelon’s stance on providing community support in the absence of the personal property tax.
Steve Juhlin, Exelon Wind Project Development Support manager, said Exelon is committed to paying its taxes. He said he didn’t really want to say anymore than that until it’s clear what direction Lansing will take on this issue.
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