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New owner will build energy park

BAD AXE – The winds have changed in the Pheasant Run Park.

NextEra Energy of Juno Beach, Fla., has purchased the project from RES America’s in March. The company is hoping to start construction on the wind park this summer. It is planning to have 88 turbines in portions of Brookfield, Fairhaven, Grant, Oliver, Sebewaing and Winsor townships,

Project Manager Ryan Pumford gave an introduction to the Fortune 200 company at last week’s Planning Commission meeting.

“We’re pursuing a customer to make sure we can get this thing built in 2013,” Pumford said. “Pheasant Run Wind is a proposed 150 megawatt wind site. It’s enough energy to power 40,000 homes with clean wind energy.”

NextEra Energy is projecting $2.4 million in tax benefits from the project to townships in 2014, $2.4 million in 2015, $2.2 million in 2016, $1.8 million in 2017, $1.6 million in 2018, $1.2 million in 2019, and $1 million per annum in 2020 and thereafter. Seventeen percent of the revenue will go to local school districts.

The transition has not been without turbulence however.

Jeff Smith, director of the Huron County Building and Zoning Office, said his office had received a lot of calls since NextEra took over the project.

“There have been property owners that have been discouraged with the transition between RES and NextEra,” Smith said. “… I believe NextEra is working on communicating with those property owners, but that has been a topic of discussion in my office for the last couple of weeks. A lot of it was communication.”

Smith said he had not received any more calls since NextEra held a meeting for landowners in Pigeon, on March 28.

He said the situation was comparable to some of the problems that were faced in Exelon’s Harvest Wind II Project.

“I believe with Exelon even it was (fine) as long as there were people to contact and feet on the ground,” Smith said. “(Landowners wanted) someone they could talk to about their concerns, and (to make sure) that their concerns were being taken care of.

“It helps the overall project, and at the Planning Commission level it helps with the approvals also. You want to start out on the right foot here, and not get too far ahead of ourselves, even in project design and site plan approval. We want to make sure that all the T’s are crossed and the I’s are dotted.”

Pumford said NextEra hoped to have a site plan review ready for the Planning Commission to look over at its May 1 meeting.

He said the March 28 open house for landowners went well, and that there would be a by-invitation dinner for lease-holders this week, as well as more meetings in the future.

“We’ve been working with the landowners to start the communication process,” Pumford said. “(We want) to make sure that everyone is involved, that everyone is consulted (on everything from) improvements that are going to be on their property, to the provisions of their lease. We definitely are going to honor that.”

Randy Elenbaum, who has a lease agreement in Brookfield Township, said there initially had been rumors about the leases changing with the company switch. They were found to be untrue after talking with NextEra.

“There have been some discussions, we’re working through those issues,” Elenbaum said. “We’re going to hold NextEra, of course, to task to try and make sure this is a good project. We’re asking for your help, not only this committee but (also) Jeff’s help, to get through this process. Things change hands. We didn’t have anything to do with that process. … Hopefully everything will be settled by May 1, and we can have a site plan approved for a very, very good project.”