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Project to build 72 turbines put on hold

HURON COUNTY – Plans to build 72 wind turbines in north and northeastern Huron County have been put on hold.

The county’s director of building and zoning, Jeff Smith, said in an email a contract with the RES Americas construction group has ended, putting the Deerfield Wind project on hold until a new contractor is selected.

This week, Canada-based Algonquin Power & Utilities announced it will help RES develop the $303 million project in Dwight, Bloomfield, Lincoln and Huron townships. The utility expects the turbines to turn by the end of next year.

Board of Commissioners Chair John Nugent, in an email exchange Friday with Smith, questioned if Algonquin is the potential buyer, and said it was rumored Michigan workers won’t be used to build the turbines.

“No matter what company is ultimately chosen to finish building it, they all use subcontractors from local union shops in Michigan,” Smith wrote, adding that Michigan-based Barton Malow stated they are in discussions with RES to bid the project.

Nugent responded: “I have a sinking feeling about this.”

“I am concerned that if Algonquin holds the controlling interest, in essence the Deerfield project has changed hands,” Nugent wrote. “It’s up to Algonquin/RES who they choose for workers but they had made assurances that they would use Michigan labor.”

In September, officials issued building permits to RES, and said residents should see progress after Labor Day. Farm fields in Dwight, Bloomfield, Lincoln and Huron townships were marked for siting.

Forty-seven turbines are planned for Dwight, Bloomfield and Lincoln townships, while Huron Township would get 25. They would reach 492 feet from ground to blade tip. None are planned within three miles of the Lake Huron shoreline, according to the developer.

More than 24,000 acres in the project area were deemed suitable for wind development in 2011, when 220 landowners signed up to participate.

Brad Lila, an RES development manager, told county officials earlier this year every landowner within 2,100 feet of a turbine would receive payments, even those with or without turbines.

The 149-megawatt project would power 50,000 to 60,000 homes, according to RES. It’s the second the Colorado-based developer has undertaken in Huron County.

Cadillac-based Wolverine Power Cooperative is the power purchaser.