HURON COUNTY – Developers this year plan to build nearly 150 wind turbines in the state’s unofficial wind energy capital, boosting Huron County’s total count to about 475.
Although halted by the frozen ground, here’s a look at the limited work done so far in 2016 and where developers plan to pick back up in the spring:
Deerfield Wind project
Almost half the 150 incoming turbines would be part of the Deerfield Wind project in Huron, Bloomfield, Dwight and Lincoln townships.
The $303 million project would add 72 turbines: 47 between Dwight, Bloomfield and Lincoln townships and 25 in Huron Township. 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, development manager at Colorado-based RES Americas, told county officials last year that 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.
In October 2015, Canada-based Algonquin Power & Utilities announced it would help RES develop the project. Indiana-based White Construction Inc. will build the turbines using local union workers, according to Algonquin. At peak construction, the utility expects the project to provide 200 jobs, about 10 permanent. Turbines are expected to turn by the end of next year.
“Most access roads are put in,” said Jeff Smith, the county’s director of building and zoning.
Smith says a laydown yard for storing equipment and materials and where workers and officials meet is nearing completion, near the corner of Kinde and Verona roads.
“I believe right now they’re not working because of the weather,” Smith said, adding that there was work being done about two weeks ago.
Pinnebog Wind Park
Oliver, Chandler and Colfax townships have approved DTE Energy’s final site plans for 30 turbines on about 13,000 acres.
“We remain on target to begin construction of the Pinnebog Wind Park in the spring of 2016,” Jennifer Wilt, DTE’s lead communications specialist said in an email.
In the spring, DTE and Detroit-based Aristeo Construction plan to begin building access roads and turbine foundations. The utility anticipates turbines will be delivered in early May. Residents can expect to see excavators, concrete trucks, 18-wheelers and other large vehicles designed to carry long components, Wilt said.
There are about 30 landowners participating in the project, according to DTE, which expects 100 to 150 people to be employed during the course of the project.
The project is a redo of a larger one that last year got the go ahead from nearby Meade Township officials, but which residents voted against in a referendum (http://bit.ly/1dNlFGU). There, officials were hopeful DTE’s estimated $4 million in tax revenue over 20 years could be used toward public improvements, like roads.
Wilt says the utility does not have specifics on potential tax revenues for the project.
“However, we can say the local communities will receive significant tax revenue for the 20-year life of the project,” Wilt said.
Proposed turbines border Meade Township to the west and southwest, and are near DTE’s 18,000-acre, 70-turbine Echo Wind Park in Chandler and Oliver.
DTE plans to use General Electric 1.7-megawatt turbines, which would stand about 480 feet.
DTE owns or operates the majority of turbines in the county. According to Wilt, the utility is the largest investor in renewable energy in the state. DTE does not have specific renewable energy projects planned for Huron County or the Thumb at this time, she said.
Though the townships have approved DTE’s plans, Smith says county planners have to work through DTE’s application.
“We have 23 sites in Oliver and Colfax to review for airport zoning approval,” he said.
Apple Blossom Wind Farm
Minnesota-based Geronimo Energy plans 30 turbines in McKinley and Winsor townships. The total project area spans close to 5,000 acres.
Turbines would be situated on a 285-foot tower, which with blade height would stand about 415 feet.
Geronimo said last summer (http://bit.ly/1RHS2IZ) it plans to obtain building permits by the end of the year and start construction in 2016.
Big Turtle: Phase 2
Traverse City-based Heritage Energy currently has 10 turbines operating in its Big Turtle Wind Farm in Rubicon Township and they plan to add 15 turbines as part of the second phase of the project.
The expansion would cover about 3,840 acres, northwest of the current 10 turbines between Filion and Kinde roads.
Smith says Heritage is continuing to move forward and the developer is slated to have construction done this year.
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