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More turbines planned for northern Tuscola County

TUSCOLA COUNTY – More than 100 wind turbines are expected to be built over the next year in four townships in northern Tuscola County by two energy companies.

NextEra Energy Resources is the latest company to file for special use permits in Almer, Ellington, and Fairgrove townships to develop Tuscola III Wind Energy Center.

“It is a $200 million project with 52 turbines in those three township – 17 in Fairgrove and 19 in Ellington and Almer,” said NextEra Manager of Communications Bryan Garner.

Earlier this month, Consumers Energy officials filed paperwork for special use permits for 19 turbines to be built as phase two of their Cross Winds Energy Park in Columbia Township, and there is a possibility 33 more turbines could be built if phase three is developed.

Phase two is expected to include 19 turbines, with phase three adding up to 33 more if approved, but the exact number of turbines to be built in each phase is subject to change, said Consumers Energy Community Engagement Manager Dennis Marvin.

The three projects are expected to add 104 more turbines and represent an investment of about $450 million.

“We expect to start and finish the project in 2017,” Garner said. “NextEra is a world leader in alternative energy development with 110 wind farms in the U.S. and Canada.”

However, for several months, some residents in Almer and Ellington townships have strongly opposed wind development, and petitions are being circulated to take the issue to a referendum vote of the people in those townships.

“We are sensitive to that and are addressing those concerns,” Garner said.

Garner contends that: NextEra’s application in Almer Township meets or exceeds all of the current requirements of the current wind ordinance and in some cases is more restrictive than required. In Ellington Township the permit application meets or exceeds Huron County’s setback and sound requirements, which was requested by some residents. And, in Fairgrove Township the application also exceeds sound and setback requirements.

Also, NextEra plans to use the newest technology with the project.

“We filed with the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) to use radar-controlled lighting,” Garner said. “Some (area residents) don’t like seeing the blinking lights. If the FFA approves our request to use radar lighting for the lights on the turbines, the lights activate only when there is a plane.”

NextEra currently has two wind farms in the area. Tuscola-Bay Wind farm is primarily located in Gilford Township with a few turbines in Bay County. It started operation in 2012. Tuscola Wind II is located in the townships of Gilford, Akron, Fairgrove, and Juniata. It became operational in 2013.

“We are proud of this project. It has a lot of benefits – economic stimulus for landowners, jobs, and property taxes.”

The third wind project is expected to have a capacity of up to 125 megawatts produced by GE turbines. The turbines will be 308 feet tall from the ground to the hub and overall 500 feet tall from the ground to the end of the blade.

When the project is able to start, it will generated more than 200 construction jobs. When completed it will generate eight to 10 full-time operational jobs. It will generate more than $41 million in property taxes and more than $27 million in landowner payments over 30 years.