ESCANABA – Members of the Delta County Board of Commissioners were updated on progress made at the Heritage Garden Wind Farm during Tuesday’s county board meeting.
Rick Wilson, vice president of operations for Traverse City-based Heritage Sustainable Energy, updated the board on the wind farm project, which became fully operational in September.
The Garden Wind Farm consists of 14 wind turbines with a total installed generation capacity of 28 megawatts, or two megawatts per turbine. The farm is anticipated to generate more than 70,000 megawatt hours annually of renewable, clean electricity. This could power nearly 7,000 average households.
“Everything’s been operating very well,” said Wilson. “We have a service team in place in the village of Garden. We have four technicians which we use to service machines as well as our site manager’s office is in there also.”
Wilson also spoke about the economic impact to the community, noting over the next 20 years, the wind farm is estimated to generate more than $4.5 million in personal property tax revenue based on 2011 state and local tax rates. He said on average, close to $300,000 in royalty revenues is expected to be paid annually to landowners who have wind turbine infrastructure on their property.
According to Wilson, October marked the first full month of operating the wind farm.
“It was quite a windy month,” he noted. “We produced about 9,300 megawatt hours for the total project, which is about a 45 percent capacity factor, which would be very good.” This is right around the estimated average, he said.
In November, approximately 7,900 megawatt hours were produced, or about a 39 percent net capacity factor.
Wilson also updated the board on wildlife assessments completed at each of the sites due to concerns on the impact of turbines on migratory birds and other animals.
“Since the implementation of the project, it turned out to be about three acres on every site is monitored every week with an ornithologist walking and surveying, looking for any fatalities to bats, birds, eagles or raptors,” he said.
To date, only 14 birds and 12 bats have been found throughout the duration of the project.
“Those results … are slightly below the average found on a per turbine basis for wind turbines throughout the United States,” he said. “The results are coming in right where we expected them to, which is no significant impact whatsoever to any birds, bats, raptors, or eagles.”
Wilson said the sites will continue to be monitored until at least August 2013.
Wilson presented the board with a list of additional facts regarding the project. According to the fact sheet, more than $10 million was injected into the local economy during construction and more than 40 local and regional businesses in the Upper Peninsula were used for site work, equipment rental, supplies, fuel, maintenance, fencing, materials, food and lodging during construction. More than 75 local jobs were created for the construction of the wind farm.
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