A wind-energy development company involved in a proposed Lenawee County wind farm and the utility company to which it planned to sell its electricity are shifting their focus to two central Michigan counties after failing to obtain favorable regulations in key Lenawee townships.
Bob Judge, manager of communications for Exelon Power, said company subsidiary Exelon Wind has suspended indefinitely its interest in building 45 wind turbines as part of a complex of several hundred proposed for Riga, Ogden, and Palmyra townships because construction cannot be finished this year.
“We’re asking for the project to be moved,” Mr. Judge said Friday. “We need to build in 2012, and we would not be able to do that” in Lenawee County, he said.
In documents filed Monday, Consumers Energy has asked the Michigan Public Service Commission to approve an amendment to the utility’s Renewable Energy Purchase Agreement with Blissfield Wind – a partnership between Exelon Wind and Great Lakes Wind LLC – that would allow the latter to build the turbines in either Ionia or Gratiot counties, which are northwest and north of Lansing, respectively.
Consumers’ filing noted that while Blissfield Wind “was successful in obtaining sufficient rights from property owners to construct the portion of its proposed wind project in Riga Township,” zoning-code revisions the township approved last year “effectively precluded development of the project.”
The zoning changes, which township residents upheld at a Nov. 8 referendum, established property-line setbacks and noise limits that turbine developers decried as excessively restrictive.
“The developer [Blissfield Wind] has concluded it is unable to develop its project in Riga, Palmyra, and Ogden townships due to significant opposition to wind generation development by the residents of Lenawee County,” Consumers’ petition said in part.
Joshua Nolan, a director of the Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition, a group that opposed the wind project as proposed, said Exelon’s withdrawal “pretty much confirms what we’ve suspected for months now.”
Karlene Goetz, the Riga Township clerk, declined to comment on the Exelon decision beyond stating that the zoning regulations are “what the majority of our voters support, and I stand behind the ordinance.”
Exelon officials had said after Riga trustees approved the zoning amendment that it would make their project unworkable.
Mr. Judge said Exelon might “consider in the future” a Lenawee County wind project – “but we know we couldn’t do that in the 2012 time period.”
The Consumers filing noted that its agreement with Blissfield Wind assumed the project would qualify for a federal tax credit that expires at the end of the year.
Although the likelihood of completion this year in Ionia or Gratiot counties “has significantly diminished,” the amended agreement provides for Blissfield Wind to reduce Consumers’ payments as if the tax credit applied, whether or not it qualifies.
Representatives of Orisol Energy U.S. Inc., and juwi Wind USA, two other companies with plans for Lenawee County turbines, did not return calls Friday seeking comment about their projects’ status.
The wind-turbine proposals divided the Lenawee County communities, with some landowners eager to collect rent from wind turbines on their property while neighbors objected to prospects for noise, vibration, and “shadow flicker” from the turbines’ spinning blades at sunrise and sunset.
The controversy led to recall elections that unseated Ogden Township Supervisor James Goetz and Clerk Phyliss Gentz, while Jefferee Simon, the Riga Township supervisor, narrowly survived a recall vote.
At nearly 500 feet, the towers would be taller than any building in Toledo, and the Federal Aviation Administration has objected to parts of the development as being too close to the restricted airspace at Toledo Express Airport. The southerly towers also aroused opposition from densely settled subdivisions in Sylvania Township, where Mr. Nolan lives.
He said his group is “going to stay involved” while Ogden Township, which has no zoning, deliberates a wind-turbine ordinance with terms similar to Riga’s regulations. A Palmyra turbine code that Mr. Nolan described as “very developer friendly” will go to a referendum vote May 8.
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