March 1, 2014

Energy company exploring Osceola County for wind turbines

By Jeff Broddle | 03/01/2014 |

TUSTIN – A spokesman for a wind energy company has confirmed it is exploring the potential for wind development in Osceola County and has been granted a permit to install a temporary tower for measuring wind speed.

Installation of a 196-foot tall wind measurement tower to be erected by energy company NextEra has been approved by the Sherman Township Planning Commission, according to commission Secretary Tasha Lapinski.

Lapinksi said the permit for the temporary tower, which will gauge wind speed and direction, will allow it to be constructed by July 1 and require it to be taken down by the same date in 2017.

NextEra spokesman Steven Stengel told the Cadillac News that any development is strictly in the preliminary stage, with many questions still to be answered, among them, whether there will be a sufficient number of landowners who want to participate, whether an electricity supplier would be willing to purchase the electricity, and whether sufficient transmission capability exists to get the power to the grid.

NextEra Energy Resources describes itself as the largest generator of wind and solar energy in the United States.

If the Osceola County project does move forward, Stengel said, it will involve the cooperation of landowners who wish to participate.

“It is fair to say we have been talking to landowners, and we have secured some property that could potentially participate in a project,” Stengel said.

Stengel said he couldn’t say whether any leases have been signed by landowners, and he was not sure whether terms may be covered by options or agreements. Further details of where of the project would be located is not something the company would share publicly, Stengel said.

The size of the project, and whether it would utilize standard industrial wind turbines or so-called “monster” turbines is not something Stengel said he could say at this time, other than to say if the project goes forward the equipment would be modern wind turbines.

No wind leases have been recorded with Osceola County within the last year, according to Register of Deeds Nancy Crawford.

Sherman Township resident and wind turbine opponent Victoria Brehm said the majority of township residents have indicated they do not want wind power development and have demonstrated that repeatedly, having rejected ballot referendums in both 2010 and 2012. The referendums were to establish minimum distances wind turbines could be located from neighboring property lines.

Sherman Township Supervisor David Eggle confirmed that Sherman Township did grant the permit but other than that had no comment. Eggle did note that the 2012 referendum was defeated by a couple of dozen votes at most.

Sherman Township Planning Commission Chairman Ron Moesta stated that granting a permit to allow construction of a wind-measuring tower does not necessarily mean wind turbines will be built in the area.

About five or six years ago, two companies other than NextEra placed wind measuring towers in the county but since then have not pursued permits to construct wind turbines.

Moesta also said the referendums addressed the question of setbacks for wind turbines, which means that a vote against the referendums does not mean flat-out opposition to wind turbines.

For example, the setbacks could have been too short for property owners who are opposed to wind turbines, or too far for those who are in favor of wind turbines.

Moesta said he intends to introduce a moratorium on wind development as a discussion item at the next meeting of the township planning commission, which will be the first Tuesday in March. Moesta said the commission may want to wait to see the results of a lawsuit involving wind turbines in Missaukee County before making any decisions on setbacks. In the lawsuit, a family suffering from a medical condition claims effects from wind turbines have made it impossible for them to live in their home.

A major developer of wind energy has taken an interest in Osceola County with the approval of a test tower to gauge the strength of the wind above Sherman Township.

• NextEra Energy Resources is described as the largest generator of wind and solar energy in the United States.

• Testing tower may be constructed beginning July 1 this year and must come down by July 1, 2017.

• NextEra spokesman Steven Stengel said company already has “secured some property” in the area.

• Size of the project, if it does go forward, would depend on the number of landowners willing to lease land, finding a utility to purchase the power and the ability to transmit power to the grid.

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