BAD AXE – A public hearing for another proposed wind overlay district in the area has been tentatively set for June 1, following action by the Huron County Planning Commission Wednesday evening.
The district is for a project called “Apple Blossom” that’s being developed by Geronimo Wind Energy, LLC, a utility-scale wind energy developer based in Edina, Minn., with two active wind farms in Minnesota and a pipeline of wind farms in various stages of development throughout the Midwest.
David Shiflett, Geronimo Wind Energy development assistant, said the company has deep roots in agriculture, as it was founded after its chairman, Noel P. Rahn, was approached to be part of a large utility-scale wind farm near his farmland in Odin, Minn.
Shiflett said Rahn didn’t think he was treated fairly and began to investigate the benefits of wind energy. He passed on the developer’s offer and, instead, developed a wind farm himself, which became the Odin Wind Farm, according to Geronimo’s website, www.geronimowind.com.
Geronimo began looking at Michigan because of the state’s strong renewable energy portfolio standard, and Shiflett was contracted to identify possibilities for development or merger acquisitions, he said. During this exploratory time, Shiflett met with residents from Midland Energy, which was the first company to explore wind energy development in Huron County, including the first to erect a MET tower and a leasehold in the local area. The first leasehold is what is now Michigan Wind I and the second is in McKinley, Winsor and Fairhaven townships, where Geronimo now is developing the Apple Blossom project.
Though Shiflett said the company is working in another area in Dwight Township, the Apple Blossom project is the one for which the company submitted an application for a wind energy overlay district, which was reviewed during Wednesday’s planning commission meeting.
Establishing a wind energy overlay district is the first step of creating a wind development. Once a district is established, it gives developers the go-ahead that the area is fitting for a wind energy project and a development will be approved so long as the company can meet all the requirements of the county’s wind energy zoning ordinance. Final approval comes following the site plan review process, during which the company has to prove it meets the requirements of the county’s wind ordinance.
Shiflett told planning commissioners Geronimo has deep financial backing and its core value is “farmer-friendly,” meaning it focuses on building trust with landowners within the project footprint.
Already, the company has done quite a bit of work, including contracting an expert to perform an avian (bat/bird) study, receiving preliminary approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and conducting a preliminary analysis of property footprints.
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