HURON COUNTY – The number of wind turbines still is on track to more than double since 2012 totals.
At the end of 2012, there were 160 turbines in the Huron County.
As 2014 comes to a close, 328 are set to turn.
It’s enough for Huron County to claim 47 percent of the total turbines currently operating in Michigan, according a state listing of utility-scale wind farms in Michigan.
Plans for construction next year may add 100 more.
DTE Energy now owns or purchases power from five of the county’s nine wind parks. This year, the utility officially flipped the switch on its 70-turbine Echo Wind Park in Chandler and Oliver townships. DTE also announced it would purchase power from NextEra Energy’s 44-turbine park in southwestern Huron County, called Pheasant Run Wind II and later renamed Brookfield Wind Park.
An anticipated spring 2015 construction of a new, unnamed park could bring 50 more turbines, about 40 of which are planned for Meade Township and about 10 for Colfax Township. DTE officials say the park would put it at 10.2 percent of the state’s 10 percent renewable energy goal all utilities must reach by 2015, as set by Michigan’s Renewable Energy Standard.
Geronimo Energy has plans for its first wind park in the state. Planners are reviewing a site plan that places about 40 turbines in Winsor Township and 10 in McKinley. Construction is set for April.
Geronimo’s placement of turbines in the park, named Apple Blossom, has required special attention – about 20 of the 50 are sited for within two to three miles of the Saginaw Bay shoreline.
“It has presented challenges because the fact that (the U.S. Fish and Wildlife) will not give approvals of these projects in writing,” said Jeff Smith, the county’s building and zoning director. “Apple Blossom will be the most difficult for review in that regard.”
The county’s wind energy ordinance also has been given special attention this year.
Planners and a wind subcommittee seek to revise the ordinance, namely in the areas of sound and noise regulations, updating terminology and rewriting bylaws to comply with state guidelines, Smith said. They expect to send an updated draft ordinance to county commissioners in 2015.
Smith said the level of scrutiny has changed in terms of how long it takes to review wind projects.
“It’s not an overnight deal,” he said. “It’s not a rubber stamp process.”
Residents also have given much attention to wind energy, voicing numerous concerns and opinions at several townhall meetings this year – some in favor of wind energy, some seeking compromise and many others opposed.
But in terms of formal complaints received at the county building and zoning office, Smith said there haven’t been any this year.
“There is some misconception out there,” Smith said. “You have to really review your processes and procedures. Could they be stricter? Yes. Could they be less strict? Yes. A lot of things I see as a county zoning director are happening in local townships that aren’t proper procedure.”
More land leased for wind development
Other developers have land leases or easements in the county.
RES Americas, headquartered in Colorado, was approved for an overlay district in 2011 for its Deerfield Wind Farm. The company has leases in Bloomfield, Dwight and Lincoln townships, but a site plan and power purchase agreement has not been submitted to the county, Smith said.
Consumers Energy has 15,000 acres leased in Sebewaing, Brookfield, Winsor and Grant townships, Smith said. They’ve met with the county once this year to announce the leased acreage, but Smith said it still is uncertain as to when and where the utility plans to develop.
“It may be sooner or it may be five years out,” Smith said.
Geronimo Energy has land leases in Dwight Township, but the developer is not pursuing anything there currently, according to Project Manager David Shiflett.
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