UNIONVILLE – Consumers Energy officials filed paperwork for special use permits for 19 turbines to be built as phase two of their Cross Winds Energy Park, and there is a possibility 33 more turbines could be built if phase three is developed.
“Securing special land use permits would give us the option to build a third phase in the future,” said Consumers Energy Community Engagement Manager Dennis Marvin. “Columbia Township Zoning members will review the permits, there will be a public hearing – probably in November, are a few of the steps that have to be done.”
The proposals for up to 52 wind turbines. They would all be located in Columbia Township because Consumers has about 17,000 acres under contract for development in that township.
Construction of phase two is expect to begin in the spring of 2017 and become operational at the end of that year. If the plan works out, phase three is expected to be constructed and operational in 2019.
The turbines would use the underground collector lines in Akron Township to connect with the grid at the existing Cross Winds substation on West Hoppe Road.
The first phase of Cross Winds Energy Park, which was completed in 2014, consisted of 65 turbines in Akron and Columbia townships. Of that number, 19 turbines were in Columbia.
Township Supervisor Ed Spannagel estimates each of the 19 new turbines will cost about $3.5 to $4 million.
When the first 19 Cross Winds Energy Park turbines were developed, they added about $220,000 to Columbia Township’s tax base.
“That nearly doubled our tax base,” said township Treasurer Christina Parmenter.
When the additional 19 turbines are completed, they will add about $223,000 also, explained Spannagel.
“The projects are designed to meet or exceed the zoning ordinance requirements developed by the township,” Marvin said.
Although there are still several steps to get all of the necessary approval for phase two, plans are to start construction in the spring.
“Phase three is just an option. It’s not 100 percent certain,” Marvin said. “The timing of the project is designed to meet federal requirements for a production tax credit available for projects that meet certain requirements deemed to have begun construction by Dec. 31, 2016.”
Last week, property owners within Cross Winds Farm were sent letters about the project and invited to attend a special meeting for them Oct. 11, at the American Legion Hall, 2960 Cass St., in Unionville.
“There will be an open house for the public to learn about the Cross Winds Energy Park project from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 12 at the American Legion Hall, Marvin said.
Marvin and Project Manager Steve Schneider attended Columbia Township’s meeting Monday to explain their rationale for moving ahead the timeline to start phase two as well as phase three of the company’s Cross Winds Energy Park.
There is an increased demand for renewable fuels and the tax incentives for renewable development will expire Jan. 1, 2017.
“We’ve had requests from major companies who want more renewable fuel and some who want to develop their own,” said Marvin who noted state and federal lawmakers are talking about increasing the renewable energy standard, and the U.S. Department of Energy’s incentives are contingent on construction be underway before the end of the year and that investment in infrastructure be made.
With the decommissioning of coal operated energy plants because of pollution, there is more of a demand for renewable fuels. Between cost and the amount of land necessary for development, wind energy is considered the best option.
“Turbines take up less space, and farm operations can continue around them, where there is limited opportunity with sun,” Marvin explained.
Michigan, especially, the Thumb area, is a prime location for wind development, according to a study done by the Michigan Wind Energy Resource Zone Board (WERZ) in 2008.
Although voters strongly rejected Proposal 3 in the November 2012 elections, which would have put into place a 25 percent renewable energy portfolio standard by 2025 as a mandate in the state’s constitution, that issue was revisited in 2013 when Gov. Rick Snyder requested another wind study.
Michigan is ranked 14th in the U.S. for wind energy potential. WERZ identified four regions as having the highest potential for wind energy harvest. The Greater Thumb Area is Region IV. The areas with potential wind energy development in Tuscola County are in the townships of Akron, Almer, Columbia, Denmark, Elkland, Ellington, Elmwood, Fairgrove, Gilford, Juniata, Novesta and Wisner.
In Huron County, the study shows the townships of: Bingham, Bloomfield, Brookfield, Caseville, Chandler, Colfax, Dwight, Fair Haven, Gore, Grant, Hume, Huron, Lake, McKinley, Meade, Oliver, Paris, Port Austin, Rubicon, Sand Beach, Sebewaing, Sheridan, Sherman, Sigel, Verona and Winsor could have wind energy development.
In Saginaw County, the Blumfield and Buena Vista townships are listed as having development potential, as do the townships of Merritt, Portsmouth and Hampton in Bay County.
Those have been the target areas for wind development.
The 21st Century Energy Plan signed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm on Oct. 6, 2008, requires Michigan electric providers to achieve a retail supply portfolio that includes at least 10 percent renewable energy by 2015.