HURON COUNTY – There are 473 wind turbines in Huron County that are standing or have been scheduled for construction.
A cap of 550, recently proposed by County Commissioner Clark Elftman, would not leave room for the two current proposed wind overlay zones.
DTE Energy would like to build another 50-70 turbines in Lincoln, Dwight, Bloomfield and Sigel townships.
“DTE Energy believes this newly proposed cap is unnecessary,” said Jennifer Wilt, communication specialist for DTE. “… The County effectively implemented a cap by approving a revised wind energy ordinance that reduces buildable area for wind projects by approximately 50 percent. Further, until DTE’s overlay request is passed, DTE lacks the certainty to know what impact such a cap might have on a potential project.”
DTE’s proposed overlay district, which was first submitted in February, has been hitting a lot of snags recently at both the township and county levels.
“The torturous route of this approval process has unfortunately increased our normal project development costs as well as legal fees not normally incurred,” Wilt said.
NextEra Energy Resources has proposed an overlay district in portions of Sigel and Sherman townships that would include two-thirds of the 65 turbines in the entire wind park, according to NextEra project developer Ryan Pumford.
Both Sigel and Sherman townships are county-zoned. The project has additional turbines in Sand Beach Township and Delaware Township, Sanilac County.
Both DTE and NextEra have invested time, money and resources into the proposed zones.
Environmental and wildlife studies, signing fees and nominal fees to landowners have been among costs, Pumford said.
“DTE’s standard wind energy easement agreements include a variety of payments based on project phase and the nature of use of land owner property. Prior to construction, payment types include an annual payment per acre, Wilt said.
“During construction, payments such as crop damage and restoration are made, as well as a payment for turbine placement. During operation, annual royalty payments are made.”
The development includes 220 DTE Energy wind energy easement agreements, and DTE is negotiating with additional landowners for the project, Wilt said.
Operating turbines in Huron County total 328, said Jeff Smith, county building and zoning director. Additional turbines that are in construction, or have been scheduled, include:
• 72 turbines under construction for the Deerfield Wind Project in Huron, Bloomfield, Dwight and Lincoln townships.
• Big Turtle (Phase II) wind farm, being built by Heritage Wind Energy will have 14 additional turbines in Rubicon Township.
• DTE Energy’s Pinnebog Wind Park will have 30 turbines in Oliver, Chandler and Colfax Townships.
• Apple Blossom wind farm, recently purchased by Sempra U.S. Gas & Power from Geronimo Energy, is scheduled to build 29 turbines in Winsor Township, and will likely start construction soon.
If the DTE project yields 50 turbines and NextEra constructs 43 in Sigel and Sherman townships, the total would be 566. This would not count turbines built by NextEra in self-zone Sand Beach Township under the proposed overlay zone.
Elftman said at this week’s Huron County Board of Commissioners’ meeting that his initial suggestion was to cap the number of turbines at 500.
“I even had one of the gentlemen that works for a wind turbine company (who) said he thought that was a reasonable number,” Elftman told the board.
He added that county corporate counsel Steve Allen suggested 600.
Smith was out of the office the day the board met, so Elftman was unable to consult with him on exact numbers.
The board voted 6-1 to table the matter, pending receipt of the information from Smith regarding how many turbines are standing, and how many are pending.
A public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 19 before the Huron County Planning Commission for the NextEra project in Sigel and Sherman townships.
The next step would be for the planning commission to review the application and make a recommendation to the board of commissioners.
If the plan were approved by the board, it could then go to referendum if a valid petition is filed by residents within the county-zoned jurisdiction.
All residents in county-zoned municipalities could then vote on the overlay district.
The DTE proposal was sent back to the planning commission from the board of commissioners in August, when the board learned prior to its vote to approve the district that Lincoln Township is taking steps to become self-zoned.
At its meeting last week, the planning commission postponed action on the district, per Allen’s advice.
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