ESCANABA – Potential wind energy initiatives could be delayed for up to a year in Schoolcraft County after a moratorium on wind farm development was approved by the county’s board of commissioners.
This moratorium, which was approved in November, officially prevents permits, licenses, and approvals for wind energy development from being issued in the county, Commissioner Craig Reiter said. It will last for either one year or until the county’s ordinance on wind energy is revised.
“Basically, it shuts (development) down,” Reiter said.
The board did this to give themselves time to develop a wind energy ordinance which is thorough, unbiased, and up-to-date, Reiter said.
“(We’re) trying to put together an ordinance that is fair to all parties and fair to the county,” Reiter said.
Another major reason the board has introduced this moratorium is so they can ensure that it will be able to cover new wind turbine technology. As development of wind energy has advanced, turbines have become larger. Reiter said the board wants to ensure the new ordinance will be flexible enough to deal with this trend.
“As the technology changes, your ordinance has to change with it,” Reiter said.
Heritage Wind Energy, the company which owns a wind farm on the Garden Peninsula, has shown interest in building another wind farm in Inwood Township, Reiter said.
However, they have taken no formal action beyond installing a single turbine for a year-long testing period to analyze wind levels in the Cooks area.
Although Heritage has only displayed interest in development in this section of the county, Reiter said it is important to make sure any updated ordinance is equally applicable to all Schoolcraft areas.
“We have to look at what’s fair for the entire county,” Reiter said.
A representative from legal firm Foster Swift, which the board is working with as they revise their ordinance, advised them to place a moratorium on wind development during the Nov. 18 meeting. Reiter said working with the firm has been a major help in the process of developing the ordinance.
“We’re willing to spend the money to make sure our ordinance is good,” Reiter said.
Schoolcraft County residents both for and against further wind farm development have spoken about the topic at board meetings, Reiter said. However, the board is not trying to declare either of these sides the winner, but to create an ordinance which is fair to all.
“There’s going to be no winners here,” Reiter said.
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