Development team revealed for proposed Muskegon County wind farm; Gamesa, Scandia are county’s proposed partners
MUSKEGON COUNTY – More than a year after the possibility was first discussed, a proposed large-scale wind farm at Muskegon County’s wastewater site now has developers’ names attached to it.
And one of the names will be familiar to many in West Michigan.
Gamesa Energy USA, a subsidiary of a Spanish wind-turbine manufacturer and wind-farm developer, and Scandia Wind Offshore, a developer that generated a public debate after proposing an offshore wind farm in Lake Michigan, make up the development team, called Muskegon Wind.
A proposed lease agreement between Muskegon County and the development team is scheduled for consideration Tuesday afternoon.
If the county’s public works board approves the lease, the wind-farm development team would pay the county for exclusive rights to research and investigate the suitability for constructing a large-scale wind farm, potentially 100 megawatts, on the county’s wastewater site. The proposed agreement establishes the lease payments during three potential phases – development, construction and operations.
The names of the wind-farm partners were revealed for the first time Thursday in county documents obtained by The Chronicle. County officials had followed the advice of their hired consultant and kept the names of the developers secret from the public until a lease was negotiated.
A Scandia Wind official declined comment until a lease was signed.
Scandia Wind Offshore proposed a large-scale wind-energy development, much of it based in Lake Michigan, beginning about two years ago. That proposal, which drew much objection in Oceana and Mason counties, called for 500-megawatt wind farms off the shorelines of the Pentwater/Ludington areas and the Grand Haven area.
The special public works board meeting is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Hall of Justice. The county board’s regular meeting is set to follow.
County officials directed their consultant, Howard & Howard, to negotiate a proposed lease agreement in July with the hopes of eventually bringing a large wind-energy development to the 11,000-acre wastewater site in Egelston and Moorland townships.
The proposed lease’s development term – which is five years long, with two possible one-year extensions – allows for the study of the property for development of a wind farm and pursuit of a long-term contract to sell the generated power and necessary permits.
During the development term, the county would be paid $5 an acre per year for the 11,000 acres with the first two years’ payments made in advance and nonrefundable. In addition, a payment of about $165,000 would be due on the third anniversary of the lease if the development team had not terminated the lease.
The proposed lease’s construction term, which sets a maximum of 3½ years though it typically takes less than a year, would begin with construction of the first turbine on the site. Like the development term, the construction term calls for the developer to pay $5 per acre per year.
The proposed lease’s operations term, which is 25 years long with an option for a 25-year extension, covers the time when the wind farm is operating commercially. During the operations term, the county would be entitled to 5.5 percent of the gross revenues from the sale of electricity in the first 10 years and 6.5 percent of gross revenues after that.
The proposed lease also calls for the removal of any equipment put on the property at the end of the lease. The developer would be required in the 12th year of the lease to establish a fund to guarantee restoration of the property at the end of the lease.
The wastewater site’s 11,000 acres are divided into different areas with some places available to locate wind turbines and supporting facilities and other places off limits without the agreement of the wastewater department director that it would not interfere with county operations.
In addition to a signed lease, several items would need to be completed before construction of the possible $300 million wind farm could begin. The county’s consultant told commissioners earlier this year that a project could be constructed and operational by 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.
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