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County-selected energy company plans solar, wind arrays at wastewater site

MUSKEGON COUNTY, MI – Muskegon County recently secured an energy company to develop solar and wind arrays on the county’s 11,000-acre wastewater treatment facility.

In a lease signed last month, the county agreed to lease 1,908 acres of facility land to Tradewind Energy for the construction of solar arrays.

The county signed another lease with the Kansas energy company to develop portions of the 11,000 acres into wind farms, said Dave Johnson, wastewater director for the facility.

The solar panels would be implemented south of M-46 in Moorland Township, while any wind farms would be placed north of that area, Johnson said.

Johnson estimated that, if all goes well, the solar array could be up and running by 2019. The completion of the wind farm, he said, was a little more unclear.

The wastewater treatment facility, which is located in Moorland and Egelston townships, was previously eyed for a wind farm by Gamesa Energy USA, a subsidiary of a Spanish wind-turbine company.

The company held development rights starting in 2011, but those plans came to naught, with some citing poor wind volumes in the area.

Tradewind Energy vied with Geronimo Energy of Edna, Minn., this summer for development rights on the county land.

At a June 16 Muskegon County Board of Public Works meeting, both groups pitched their ideas for a solar array. The decision to pick Tradewind Energy, Johnson said, was a combination of “the dollars and the vision.”

Johnson said Tradewind Energy officials offered higher payments for the land and expressed they wouldn’t back out if Consumers Energy opted to not buy power produced from any of their future solar and wind arrays.

The proposals from Consumers Energy called for wind and other renewable energy. Johnson said Tradewind Energy plans to make its wind and solar arrays both 50-megawatt structures in an effort to land the proposal.

At a Muskegon County Board of Public Works meeting Thursday, the board unanimously approved Tradewind Energy’s proposal to construct meteorological stations at the wastewater treatment facility.

The stations will give the company an idea of the average solar collection at the site, Johnson said.
The energy company will pay the county $250 a month for routine maintenance on the station which largely consists of wiping the apparatus with a rag, according to the proposal.