MUSKEGON COUNTY – Muskegon County is ready to begin negotiations with a wind-farm development team in hopes of bringing a large wind-energy development to the county’s wastewater site.
The county’s public works board gave authorization Thursday for its consultant’s attorneys to enter into negotiations with an unidentified wind development team toward a definitive agreement to lease all or part of the 11,000-acre wastewater site in Egelston and Moorland townships.
The county’s consultant, Howard & Howard, has 30 days to negotiate the lease agreement for the proposed 100-megawatt wind farm.
Howard & Howard attorney Rodger Kershner recommended the unidentified development team, being kept confidential until a contract is signed, during a special planning session of the public works board Tuesday.
The consultant-recommended development team is a joint venture consisting of a large, international wind-energy corporation and a smaller, local partner. Kershner said the large corporation has experience bringing wind farms online.
If negotiations fall through, the consultant recommended a second development team to county officials.
Once a final agreement is reached, several other items will need to be completed before the $300 million wind farm is constructed. The project would feature 25-50 commercial-sized turbines, the exact amount depending on the size of turbines the developer uses.
Wastewater Director Mark Eisenbarth, one of the county officials working closely on the proposed project, said the first step for the development team, if and when an agreement is finalized, would be to install its own instruments to verify the wind speeds, especially those at the height of the proposed turbine’s hub, and hire its own experts to study environmental issues, including effects on birds and other wildlife. He said the goal, ideally, is to have the assessment ready for the fall bird migration.
In addition, the development team likely would begin researching potential involvement of local companies for construction of the project, seeking power-purchase agreements for the electricity generated and working through the regulatory process to connect to power lines that already cross the property.
The consultant said the assumption is that a project could be constructed and operational by the end of 2014 or early 2015.
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.