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Colfax waits as Meade debates wind

While voices in Meade Township have been raised against a proposed DTE Energy wind park, things are a bit quieter in Colfax Township.

“We’ve had no issues that Meade has, whatsoever,” said David Howard, Colfax Township supervisor.

There has been no response from residents, Howard said, and the township is consulting with Spicer Engineering while waiting for DTE to start the process.

However, that process is delayed as Meade Township, where some 42 turbines are planned, mulls whether to approve a wind energy overlay district for the new wind park. An approval would designate an area deemed suitable for construction of a wind park, but it doesn’t guarantee developers the right to build. Construction is dependent on a site plan approval from planners.

Colfax Township’s ordinance does not require the approval of an overlay district, Howard said. Instead, developers must obtain special use permits for each turbine.

And rigor is necessary because Colfax is closer to the airport, said DTE Wind Site Development Manager Matt Wagner, adding that the utility is working on a project application to submit to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The proximity is a reason for why the township has not seen any wind development, according to Howard.

DTE said it originally planned for 52 turbines in Meade Township and 13 in Colfax. That number has since been reduced to about 50 turbines between the two townships, fluctuating throughout as the utility works to compromise with Meade residents’ demands for further setbacks and other restrictions.

About 10 turbines are planned for Colfax, in the township’s northwest corner north of M-142 and west of McMillan Road, Serafin said.

Announced in July as a $250 million, 58-turbine and 100-megawatt park bringing nearly 200 new jobs, it would power the utility to 10.2 percent of the 10 percent renewable energy goal utilities must meet by 2015, DTE officials said.

But trimming the total turbines much below 50 would mean the project might not be viable, DTE says.

“We have to look at if there’s other opportunities, if there’s a better opportunity than what we currently have at Meade,” said Mike Serafin, a DTE project manager. “(Having) one turbine per square mile really stretches the economics.”

To Meade, the park would bring an estimated $4 million in tax revenue in a 20-year period, according to DTE.

But in Colfax, where Serafin said “a couple dozen” landowners have signed up to participate in the project, both Howard and DTE officials couldn’t provide a figure for how much revenue the 10 or so turbines would bring.

“We don’t have a go (for the) project, so there’s really no sense in working on that yet,” Howard said.

“The focus right now is trying to get the project ready to go,” Wagner said. “Colfax Township has been really good in having an open discussion in how to apply the ordinance. It’s been a nice exchange.”

Turbines planned for the project reach a maximum of 480 feet from ground level to the rotor’s tip. Two-thirds of Meade landowners are signed up to participate in the project, according to DTE. But at least 73 residents have signed a document “opting out” their property from the overlay district.

DTE says opposition from some Meade landowners and delays at the governmental level have not pushed back its expected spring 2015 construction date. A December 2015 completion date remains.

“We’re still hoping to have success at Meade,” Wagner said.

The Colfax Township board meets the second Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. at the town hall, 177 Barrie Road. Meade planners meet again at 7 p.m. Oct. 28 at the town hall, 2119 W. Filion Road, while the township board meets at 7 p.m. Nov. 10.