SHERWOOD TOWNSHIP – Last week, DTE explained to the Sherwood Planning Commission what they should expect if a proposed wind turbine farm is built in Branch County.
Chairman Don Esch said the commission will hold a special meeting to begin working on an ordinance to regulate wind turbines to protect “safety, health and welfare of township residents.”
The planning commission heard from opponents of turbines at two prior meetings, and limited the presentation to one opposition letter and DTE.
Esch said the commission received form letters from residents on both sides of the wind farm issue.
Michael Sage, head of wind energy for the Detroit area power company, said the firm is several years from putting a project in the northwest regions of Branch County, an area selected for a possible wind farm. Sage said, “this is the very early phase of the project.”
DTE has signed leases for 22,000 acres of land as potential sites. The target is 40,000 acres for 50 to 60 turbines.
“We are still getting parcels,” Sage said. “The lake areas are out.”
The company is looking for farm land.
Under the leases, most of the land, except the footprint of the tower, can still be farmed.
DTE usually places one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half turbines on a section of land. Because of the types of permitting required, there are often few locations, in wind farm areas, that can be utilized. The company does not lease land that is less than 20 acres.
For those with smaller parcels, DTE is now offering a participation agreement that would pay approximately $25,000, over a 25 year program, even though the land would not be leased.
Sage would not give exact numbers since, he said, the participation program is still under development.
Sage added, “the evaluation (for a wind farm) can last up to 10 years.”
There are some proposed projects, still under evaluation after 10 years, in which the company is still making annual lease payments.
Even though federal tax credit programs are ending, state green energy requirements, and company policy, are pushing wind.
DTE recently announced it will reduce its carbon emissions by 2050 when it closes its last coal plant and builds new non- renewable naturalgas plants. The company intends to increase renewable generation to 30 percent by 2030.
The west Branch County area was selected for two reasons.
The first is the location of ITC power grid lines, which will be needed to connect to the grid.
The company cannot build in an area where the regional grid transmission company, ITC-METC in Michigan, does not have the line capacity to transmit the generated power. That decision will not come until the final project is designed.
The second is the wind.
While the region is not optimal, Sage said changes in technology allow “the lower speeds to be utilized for wind turbines.”
It can reach 70 mph at the 325 foot level of the turbines, but he said “the sweet spot is 20 mph.”
Above 45 mph, the turbines are stopped.
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