BAD AXE – A planning area for DTE Energy’s newest proposed wind project covers more than 39,000 acres and 61 square miles across four townships, setting the stage for what could be the biggest project the county has seen.
But not all of that land will see turbines, according to County Building and Zoning Director Jeff Smith.
DTE Energy’s proposed wind energy overlay district spans 39,360 acres, according to a public hearing notice Smith sent Friday: 22,080 in Lincoln Township and 5,760 each in Sigel, Dwight and Bloomfield townships.
The utility said in a letter to the county dated Feb. 24 it has over 25,000 acres of that already under lease or in negotiation. The letter shows hundreds of landowners have signed on.
However, included in the 39,360 acres are business and industrial lands currently in use and sections of M-142 and M-53, where turbines would need to be set away from. Which eliminates some of the proposed acreage – something Smith said he’ll work to convey at a public hearing set for 7 p.m. March 30 at the Huron County Expo Center.
County planners anticipate a big crowd at that meeting due to the amount of landowners affected by the project.
Smith said over 900 mailings were sent to landowners and that his office hasn’t sent that many before.
“It’s a huge list of property owners,” he said.
DTE says it’s too early to speculate the number or size of turbines planned. County planners say they can’t deliberate the project until the hearing.
Smith said he hasn’t seen a map of the turbine layout, but “it’s obviously one of the biggest ones we’ve seen lately.”
“It is a large project area,” he said, adding DTE’s requested overlay abuts existing overlay districts.
But he says it’s similar in size to other projects, just more spread out because the county’s new wind ordinance sets stricter setbacks for turbines.
By comparison, DTE’s Echo Wind Park in Chandler and Oliver townships, with 70 turbines, covers nearly 18,000 acres. About 115 landowners take part in that project. And the Pheasant Run project, with 88 turbines, covers about 20,500 acres in Grant, Oliver, Sebewaing and Winsor townships, but in 2014 DTE bought half the turbines, which split it into two projects with 44 units each. The incoming 72-turbine Deerfield wind project will span about 24,380 acres in Lincoln, Bloomfield, Dwight and Huron townships.
Talking to landowners in the project, Smith says some want to know the number of turbines they could get before signing a lease.
“Participating landowners want more turbines on their property; but on the other hand, people who don’t want wind turbines want (turbines) pushed back,” he said. “You have to balance it between the two sides. I believe our ordinance has done this.”
Currently, there are 40 DTE turbines between Sigel and Bloomfield townships. They were energized in 2012.
In a separate project, DTE plans to start building its Pinnebog Wind Park on 13,000 acres in Oliver, Chandler and Colfax townships this spring. It would add 30 turbines.
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