MUSKEGON COUNTY – The wind-energy consultant hired by Muskegon County is reviewing proposals and planning interviews regarding the county’s plan to install a commercial wind farm on its massive wastewater site in Egelston and Moorland townships.
If all goes as planned, the county will have a final agreement in place with a private developer for the proposed $300 million wind farm on the 11,000-acre Muskegon County Wastewater System by the end of the year. The county plans to lease land on the site to the private developer to construct and operate the utility-scale wind turbines.
Mark Eisenbarth, the county’s wastewater director, said the preliminary timeline calls for the consultant, Howard & Howard, to complete the interviews next month, followed by a presentation and possible recommendation to the county’s public works board and county board of commissioners in late June or July.
Howard & Howard, which has experience working on wind-energy projects, solicited and received an unknown number of bids from private firms that met the May 1 deadline. County officials, through their consultant, are not saying how many or who made the proposals, citing vendors’ confidentiality in regard to trade secrets and other marketplace competition involving the wind-energy industry.
County Administrator Bonnie Hammersley said the effort to land the contract is competitive, meaning more than one bid is part of the consultant’s review.
“It is very encouraging,” Eisenbarth said.
The request for bids from developers for the project began in January. Howard & Howard reported to the county’s public works board in February that the bid packages had been sent to about 60 developers, including some associated with major turbine manufacturers and others associated with major construction companies.
County commissioners will have the final decision on which bid to pursue after the consultant makes a recommendation. Once a company is selected, a months-long negotiation is expected to ensue to reach a final contract agreement for the project.
Among the project’s expected benefits are lease payments for the wastewater fund, personal-property taxes that would go through the typical allocation formula to all taxing entities, generating work in the industry for some local businesses and possible expansion of the wind farm to interested, nearby property owners.
County officials and their consultant consider the wastewater site attractive for a wind farm because it has adequate wind speed, wide-open land with few trees and buildings, one property owner and two sets of power lines that cross the property.
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