MANISTIQUE – Despite rumors to the contrary, an official from Heritage Sustainable Energy says there are no definitive plans to erect more turbines on the Garden Peninsula. If, when, and how many turbines will be placed in any second phase of the Garden Wind Farm will be determined in the near future, but for now, the project is at a “standstill”.
The Garden Wind Farm is home to 14 wind turbines, at 295 feet each, spread over approximately 10,000 acres of land leased from Garden area residents. The project was completed in September 2012. In various documents, such as the contract between downstate Consumer’s Energy and Heritage for power purchase, the wind farm in Garden is referred to as Heritage Garden Wind Farm I, indicating a second phase is planned – eventually.
According to Heritage’s vice president of operations, Rick Wilson, the company has no immediate plans for the construction of more turbines.
“We don’t have any actual onthe ground plans whatsoever,” he explained. “We would like to expand – go in either north up into an area we’ve been looking at in Schoolcraft County, north of about the Cooks area … So we’ve been investigating the potential of a future project there, as well as … south of the village of Garden.”
For now, however, the project is at what Wilson referred to as a “stand still”.
“We’re obviously always looking for potential opportunities, but we don’t have any plans,” he said.
Some of the delay in planning is due to an update to Schoolcraft County’s wind turbine ordinance, approved by the county’s board of commissioners in June, which, according to Wilson, all but prohibits large-scale wind turbines in the county.
“That ordinance was entirely exclusionary in nature,” he said. “The way the ordinance is currently written doesn’t allow for any turbines of the utility scale to be placed anywhere in the entire county. It doesn’t work, as it is written, for us right now.”
During a Heritage presentation to the board in mid-June, following the ordinance adoption, Wilson was offered a list of audience questions by Commissioner Dan LaFoille. LaFoille asked that Wilson send answers to the questions back to the board for review.
Neither Wilson nor Heritage responded to the questions, and Wilson explained this was due to the nature of the submission.
“The questions didn’t come from commissioners themselves – they came from seemingly opponents to any wind farm developments, and they weren’t necessarily questions, per se – they were requests for information,’ he said. “We can provide them with facts, but we can’t respond to things that aren’t reasonable in nature.”
Wilson added that he or any other Heritage employee would be willing to answer questions that are “reasonable” and not based in “myth”.
Beside rumors of additional turbines,
Heritage has also recently been under scrutiny following claims from the American Bird Conservancy that the Garden Wind Turbines and any future developments are “threatening a major migratory bottleneck for Neotropical breeding birds and raptors” and “triggering serious Endangered Species Act concerns”.
According to Wilson, Heritage is currently completing the final phase of their own seven-year preand post-construction bird study, and once that’s complete, they will release all of the “detailed” data from that study.
“In general, I think that we are finding that the previous predictions of potentials for migratory bird fatalities, eagle fatalities, raptor fatalities, that were being made either by the (American) Bird Conservancy or by the (U.S.) Fish and Wildlife Service were grossly overestimated,” he said.
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