DTE Energy is evaluating land in the Washington Township area of Gratiot County, and surrounding townships, for a potential wind farm project and are seeking land leases from property owners for it.
Officials from DTE Energy met with the Washington Township board and about 20 residents Thursday during the board’s monthly meeting at the township hall to explain the wind farm building process and to answer questions regarding land leases.
“We’re early on in the process; the step we’re at now is approaching landowners for them to sign lease agreements,” said Scotty Kehoe, DTE regional manager for west and central Michigan. “It’s difficult to say today how many turbines we’re going to put up.”
The company is continually evaluating sites around Michigan for future wind development and determining a good candidate for a wind farm is a years-long process, according to Cynthia Hecht, DTE senior communications specialist.
“A landowner who gets a letter now, this could be a project that’s five or 10 years off,” she said. “Even if someone gets a letter, it’s not even a guarantee that a project will be built there.”
Also in attendance at the meeting was Michael Sage, DTE Energy marketing program manager for renewable energy wind development.
“We put no pressure on the people (to sign the lease)” Sage said. “We do not try to sign them right then and there.”
Sage said Friday he did not know how many people in the Washington Township area have signed lease agreements with DTE for a potential wind farm.
“We’re leasing all of the land that belongs to the landowner, but the land actually used for the wind turbine is 2.5 to 3 acres but the royalty payment is based on the entire piece of land,” Sage said.
According to DTE’s standard utility easement agreement for wind energy development obtained by the Morning Sun, within 45 days of the agreement’s signing, the company pays an amount per acre within the easement area up to the one-year anniversary of the agreement being signed.
The evaluation phase can be extended for up to nine years at the same rate.
Sage said that once wind farm operations begin, the land owner is paid a royalty every four months based on acreage and the amount of electricity generated from turbines for the entire wind farm in a given year.
Area residents asked questions and voiced concerns to the DTE officials.
Dennis Kellogg, who has a farm in Ithaca, was concerned about the wind farm being on a property “in perpetuity”, meaning forever.
He asked if the DTE contract – which he has not signed for his land – can be renegotiated; Sage said Friday that DTE generally does not do that.
“If we have a beginning, we need to have an ending,” said Kellogg, a fifth-generation farmer. “Harvesting the wind is a great idea but let’s try to do it right, not only for the landowners today but five generations from now.”
Phil Patrick, from Ashley, said a placing a wind farm is a “major ramification.”
“It changes the land forever,” Patrick said. “We need an enormous amount of study.”
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