A Virginia-based clean energy corporation could have a wind farm operating in Isabella County in 2020.
Apex Clean Energy has not yet filled out paperwork to operate in Isabella County but has entered into a lease agreement with a Nottawa Township dairy farming family and is currently looking at building as many as 200 turbines in Wise, Nottawa, Denver, Isabella and Deerfield townships, and potentially Gilmore Township, according to Albert Jongewaard, public affairs manager for the firm.
Apex has cleared one potential hurdle – the Isabella County Planning Commission recommending approval of amendments to the county’s current wind energy ordinance, and met with mostly approval at that meeting last week.
With the exception of two men who are not from Isabella County, residents attending the meeting spoke positively about clean energy but were concerned about the noise turbines make.
Planners recommended that the county commission adopt a noise limit of 50 decibels from the property line of the nearest non-participating land owner.
Decibel readings taken earlier this week at a turbine off South Baldwin Road between East Pierce and East Fillmore roads in Gratiot County’s North Star Township measured 55 to 61 decibels directly under the structure.
In comparison, the noise level of a normal conversation is 50 to 65 decibels, a refrigerator humming is 40 decibels, a vacuum cleaner is 70 decibels, a farm tractor is 98 decibels and a chainsaw is 110 decibels, according to the United States Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health.
At a tenth of a mile away, the turbine emitted 41 to 42 decibels.
A profile provided by Apex indicates that “Isabella Wind” would be expected to generate 400 megawatts of clean energy and that wind data in the county confirms that the area being considered is ideal for a project of its size.
If the wind farm comes to fruition, it will produce enough clean energy to power as many as 130,000 homes in the United States, according to Apex officials.
Electricity generated by the turbines would be sold to utilities, municipalities and possibly corporations, Jongewaard said.
Apex currently is working with Steelcase in Grand Rapids to sell the company electricity from a wind farm in Oklahoma, according to Jongewaard.
Electricity will be fed into the regional grid system if the project moves forward, but it isn’t possible to know exactly where each electron will end up, he said.
Utilities such as Consumers Energy and DTE Energy could purchase electricity from the wind farm, and both utilities have recently indicated they are closing down coal plants and looking for alternative energy, Jongewaard said.
Apex is now working with landowners and community leaders as well as other stakeholders on the project and benefits if the project becomes a reality are, according to the firm:
• Hundreds of jobs and local spending during construction.
• As many as 10 full-time jobs for operations and maintenance.
• Taxpayers being protected from decommissioning costs.
• 30 years of annual revenue for the county, landowners and schools.
• Existing high-voltage power lines and highways would limit the need for new infrastructure.
Creating a partnership with the community is also important to Apex and is one of its core philosophies, according to Jongewaard.
That could include starting a community grant program and will include a local office, he said.
A wind farm would cause minimal environmental impacts and land owners participating will receive annual lease payments that will continue over the 30-year lifespan of the turbines, Jongewaard said.
If created, the wind farm would also inject millions of dollars into the local economy to support merchants, contractors, equipment suppliers, automobile dealers and others, according to the Isabella Wind profile.
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