MUSKEGON COUNTY – Muskegon County wastewater department staff are making preparations for a potential wind-energy farm while the exclusive agreement with a private development team awaits a signature for execution.
The county is measuring wind speeds with its portable wind-testing unit, which was recently moved to a different location on the Muskegon County wastewater site, and two anemometers affixed to permanent radio towers. Staff members also are verifying the locations of its underground utilities in preparation of running power lines to get electricity from future wind turbines to the substation.
County officials, who approved a lease agreement with a private development team last year, are pursuing construction of commercial-sized wind turbines on the county’s 11,000-acre wastewater site. Gamesa USA, a subsidiary of a Spanish-based company and a leader international in the wind-energy industry, is working on a separate partnership agreement with Scandia Wind for creation of the private development team.
Talks toward the private development agreement are delaying the execution of the lease agreement, county officials have said.
The lease agreement, once signed, would give Muskegon Wind, led by Gamesa, exclusive rights to research and investigate the suitability for constructing a wind farm on the wastewater site in eastern Muskegon County. In exchange for exclusivity, the development team would pay thousands of dollars annually to the county.
Wastewater Director Mark Eisenbarth said the recent wind-speed data being collected by the testing equipment is showing similar speeds to those collected for months from the portable testing unit’s initial location atop a fly ash hill. The portable testing unit’s current location is on wastewater property on the south side of Apple Avenue.
The early wind-speed figures from the mobile testing unit featured a range of 10-15 mph, including an average of 12 mph over a 30-day period. The unit sends out sound waves, providing data including wind speed at various heights, ranging from 30 to 200 meters. The device records data every 10 minutes.
County staff members are using Geographic Information System through the county’s Equalization Department to locate the electrical and water lines that service the 5,100 acres of farmland on the wastewater site. Eisenbarth said they also are going into the field to verify the locations of the utility lines that run to each of the 52 field plots.
While the county’s preparation work will assist the developer’s investigation into constructing a wind farm, several other items will need to be completed by the Gamesa-led team. Among the expected items are completion of a bird study and additional wind-speed testing, negotiation of a power-purchase agreement with a utility company and approval to connect to the power grid.
A wind-turbine manufacturer and wind-farm developer, Gamesa has four wind farms, two manufacturing plants and five offices in the United States.
Gamesa representatives have not yet publicly talked about their specific plans for the Muskegon County wind farm. However, based on the county’s working concept, a 100-megawatt, $300 million wind farm could be built on the site.
County officials have cited several expected benefits to the community, including: 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. Some concerns have been raised about the potential loss of the personal-property taxes if the state eliminates them.
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