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County’s biggest wind park yet receives final OK

BAD AXE – The Huron County Commissioners unanimously approved a decommissioning plan for NextEra’s Pheasant Run Wind Project at this week’s commissioner’s meeting. It was the last step the company needed before it was allowed to start constructing the wind park, which will have 88 turbines in portions of Brookfield, Fairhaven, Grant, Oliver, Sebewaing and Winsor townships, making it the largest one in the county.

It has been a journey for NextEra, as it had several delays in its Pheasant Run Wind Project after purchasing its rights from RES Americas in March.

“(It’s) like a tremendous weight has been lifted off of my shoulders,” Project Manager Ryan Pumford said when asked how it felt to have the final roadblock out of the way. “It’s been hanging over our heads for a little while. Last week, we worked a lot with (county personnel) … to make sure we addressed all the board’s concerns on our decommissioning plan. Now we have a product in place that the board’s happy with.”

NextEra was originally going to present a site plan review to the Planning Commission at its May 1 meeting, but a temporary restraining order in relation to a lawsuit centered around zoning control in Brookfield Township was approved by Circuit Court Judge M. Richard Knoblock that afternoon. The order was pulled May 6, and the company was allowed to have discussions about the project with planners.

The company’s site plan review was approved at the Planning Commission’s June 1 meeting, but with three conditions: that NextEra revamp its complaint process to be more in-line with the county’s, that the company get all necessary permitting from the Department of Environmental Quality and Michigan Department of Transportation and that the Board of Commissioners Finance and Corporate Counsel Stephen J. Allen get an opportunity to review the insurance bond set aside for decommissioning.

The first two requirements were taken care of relatively quickly, but discussions with county personnel went into last week, as Pumford alluded to.

Commissioners requested at last week’s meeting that Next Era fall more in line with past wind farms when it came to individual turbine financing, and that language revolving around inflation and landowner agreements be put in.

Board members said at their meeting that they felt NextEra had met those requests, and that there initially had been some confusion about the decommissioning figures because the company had them listed under two different phases.