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DTE announces sites for three wind farms in Thumb  

Credit:  By Kate Hessling, Tribune Staff Writer, Huron Daily Tribune, www.michigansthumb.com 13 April 2011 ~~

UPPER THUMB – It’s no secret DTE Energy has had its eye on the Thumb as the home of future wind projects it will develop.

The company has acquired easements on more than 80,000 acres, and the company’s had representation at numerous county and local government meetings dating back to at least 2007. The company has made it clear it is very much interested in developing and owning wind farms in Huron County.

Today, the company has announced it will build its first three wind farms in Huron and Sanilac counties as part of its efforts to expand the company’s renewable energy resources.

“We’re real excited about getting the first projects going up in the Thumb,” Chuck Conlen, DTE Energy director, Renewable Energy told the Tribune. “ … We’ve been working on this a long time.”

The Minden, Sigel and McKinley wind farms – which together will generate approximately 110 megawatts of electricity – will be sited on nearly 15,000 acres in Bloomfield, Sigel and McKinley townships in Huron County, and Minden and Delaware townships in Sanilac County. Company officials estimate about 50 wind turbines will be needed to generate the power at the wind farms. The total investment is expected to be about $225 million investment.

“This is a great opportunity to bring more renewable energy to our service area, and also a way to grow the renewable energy industry in Michigan,” stated Trevor Lauer, DTE Energy vice president, Marketing & Renewables. “These wind farms will add to the employment base, the tax base and provide many other economic development opportunities. Statistics show that nearly five jobs are created for every megawatt of installed wind capacity.”

Conlen said the Minden farm will generate about 35 megawatts, the McKinley farm will be around 14 or 15 megawatts, and the Sigel farm will consist of about 60 megawatts.

He said DTE Energy has not selected which type of turbine will be used in the three wind farms, though it has received bids two weeks ago from turbine manufacturers and the average turbine submitted in the proposals is 2 megawatts. The company’s team currently is reviewing to determine which unit has the best reliability and will perform best at those three sites, Conlen said. A secondary consideration will be whether turbines are built with components manufactured in Michigan.

“We want to build the renewable energy industry as much as possible within the state,” said Senior Specialist Scott Simons, of DTE Energy, Media Relations.

The wind farm development is part of DTE Energy’s plan to meet Michigan’s renewable energy goals. DTE Energy expects to add about 1,200 megawatts of renewable power, or about 10 percent of its power, by 2015. The company plans to own facilities to supply up to half of that power and contract with third-party producers for the remainder.

Conlen said the three wind farms announced today will be the first wind farms DTE Energy has developed and owned. He said the first wind project DTE Energy will have ownership of is being developed in Gratiot County and will be online next year. The difference between that park and the three announced in the Upper Thumb area is that the Gratiot County wind project is being developed by a different company, and DTE Energy will assume ownership once the project’s built.

DTE Energy expects the majority of its renewable energy will come from wind resources, but it also has two solar energy pilot programs that could produce about 20 megawatts. The utility’s renewable energy capacity under contract is nearly 4 percent of total generation.

Given the company has acquired easements on 80,000 acres in Huron County, there will be plenty of land left in the Thumb to house future facilities – and it’s expected the company will do more wind development in the local area after the construction of the three wind farms announced today.

“That’s certainly our expectation. These three projects had the advantage of not relying on the transmission buildup at this time,” Conlen said, noting the three wind farms will be able to connect into the existing transmission line.

Once the transmission Thumb Loop is built, DTE Energy will be able to continue development on the remaining acreage the company has acquired easements on in Huron County, he said.

Conlen said DTE Energy does not anticipate the route of the Thumb Loop – which consists of four new substations and about 140 miles of double-circuit 345,000 volt (345 kV) lines, and runs in Tuscola, Huron, Sanilac and St. Clair counties – will have any meaningful impact to where the company can site turbines.

The company already has completed wind and wildlife studies at the three wind farm sites. Once the company selects which type of turbine will be used, a detailed site plan will be created.

“I think by mid-summer to late-summer, we’ll be in a good position to see specifically where turbines will be sited,” Conlen said.

Besides selecting a turbine manufacturer, DTE Energy also will seek a construction company. Regarding transporting turbines to the three sites, Conlen said he’s heard rumors about potentially using some deep water ports, including the one in Harbor Beach, but there have been no discussions with turbine manufacturers to do that for these specific projects, he said.

In addition to selecting a turbine manufacturer, the company also will begin the permitting process that will lead to construction next year.

Conlen said the farms will be online either late next year or early 2013.

“(But) the goal (is to be) up and running by the end of next year,” he said.

Throughout the process, there will be a continuing effort in the Thumb to make sure DTE Energy works closely with the local communities and keeps people up speed with what is going on, Conlen said. He noted there will be a continuum of conversation in the weeks to come – as for the lives of the wind farms.

“Oh, absolutely,” he said. “We’ll maintain a strong presence in the community.”

He said local residents will get to benefit either through compensation for having a turbine on their property or from benefiting from taxes DTE Energy will pay the county and other local units of government.

Source:  By Kate Hessling, Tribune Staff Writer, Huron Daily Tribune, www.michigansthumb.com 13 April 2011

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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