TRAVERSE CITY – Elmwood Township officials insisted the new owners of an iconic wind-turbine on M-72 obtain a zoning permit to operate, just days before the blades were set to begin turning and two months after stating no permits were necessary.
Township Supervisor Jack Kelly sent an email on Dec. 19 to Heritage Sustainable Energy LLC questioning whether company officials were aware of their obligation to remove the turbine once it’s decommissioned. When Kelly did not receive a response he forwarded the matter to the township attorney and asked if Heritage could own the turbine under a condition included in a zoning permit granted in 1995 to Traverse City Light & Power.
Attorney Jim Young ruled the ownership condition does not allow sale of the turbine to a private entity and Heritage must go through the full permit process to have that condition removed.
“Compliance with the … condition CANNOT be ignored,” Young wrote to Kelly in an email.
The news caught Heritage officials by surprise because they had several email exchanges with Kelly and Sara Kopriva, the township planning and zoning administrator, back in October. Kopriva told them they would not need a permit.
Rick Wilson, vice president of operations for Heritage, called the permit issue a “little hurdle” after meeting with Kelly and Kopriva on Friday afternoon.
“Funny thing is there is not a real permit, just some letters and stuff because that’s the way they did things back in the mid-’90s,” Wilson said. “In any case we are very willing to work with the township and we have a decommissioning plan in place and that was their main concern.”
Light & Power officials required Heritage to provide a $150,000 performance bond to assure funding to remove the 160-foot turbine once it’s decommissioned.
Light & Power officials shut down the 19-year-old turbine at the end of 2013 because of problems obtaining parts and service for the state’s first and nation’s largest utility-grade wind turbine.
Heritage officials said they operate two large wind farms and have the expertise and resources to maintain and operate the turbine and purchased it Dec. 3. Wilson said he sent someone over to get the turbine operating again on Friday.
“They could be spinning right now,” Wilson said.
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