TRAVERSE CITY – Duke Energy Renewables pulled the plug on plans for a wind farm in Benzie and Manistee counties.
The company proposed installing wind turbines on about 13,000 acres to generate up to 200 megawatts of output. Duke Energy announced Wednesday it discontinued the project, citing “timing” difficulties and work on wind projects in other locations.
“We’ve got great wind. We’ve got great transmission,” said Milton Howard, vice president of wind development. “Just the power purchase agreement – the timing is off.”
The plan sparked debate amongst residents and property owners who signed lease agreements to install turbines on their land. Estimates ranged from about 62 to 112 wind turbines for the project. Duke Energy’s original plan included property in Joyfield, Blaine, Arcadia and Pleasanton townships, but Howard said recent development plans focused in Joyfield and Pleasanton.
Matt Emery lives in Joyfield Township and said preliminary maps indicated his house would have been surrounded on several sides by turbines. The decision to stop wind plans surprised him. “I guess that I’m still a little bit in disbelief and cautiously optimistic that we’ll now have some time to get our house in order in Joyfield Township,” Emery said.
Halting the project could give the township time to adopt zoning rules to regulate noise, property line setbacks and other potential issues posed by such a project.
“We wanted to make sure that we had input on it, and we were protected,” Emery said. “Hopefully, this will give us some breathing room to get public input, get the right ordinances in place.”
Michigan law requires electric providers to achieve 10 percent renewable energy by 2015. Howard said Duke Energy’s local site and proposal “has all the ingredients for a wind farm” but “the development time line doesn’t match.” Duke Energy will move ahead with wind projects in other states and a turbine project downstate in Hillsdale County, he said.
The company would consider selling the local project to another wind farm developer. Howard believes “in this area and this project” and thanked those who supported it.
“That part makes me sad that we’re moving away,” he said.
Susan Zenker agreed to lease her Joyfield Township farmland for the now-terminated project, and said just because Duke Energy is leaving doesn’t mean a wind project won’t happen.
“I believe there’s a possibility that some other company could step in and try again,” she said. “When the next developer comes in, everybody’s a little bit wiser, so we’ll know what to look for. It might be easier to address the concerns of those who have concerns, as well as for those who want to participate in the project. It might be easier to get the two sides to work together.”
She supported the project because she likes clean and renewable energy of wind and the revenue it would generate for the township and county.
But the plan caused controversy – including a November recall election that ousted three members of the township board – in what she used to consider a “quiet, little township where everything seemed to be perfect.”
“Duke Energy is leaving, but the bitterness is still going to be there. The bitterness that the project caused between family members, between neighbors, it’s still going to be there,” Zenker said. “Some people will forgive and forget easily and others won’t. It’s still going to leave a mark on the community.”
Duke Energy’s Beulah office will remain open through March 30 to meet with land owners by appointment.
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