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Gratiot getting another wind farm

Gratiot County is getting yet another wind farm.

Members of the County Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 on Tuesday to approve a $10,472,000 wind turbine decommissioning agreement with Delaware-based Polaris Wind Energy, clearing the final hurdle for construction to begin next month.

Commissioner Chuck Murphy cast the lone dissenting vote.

The issue had been tabled during a previous meeting due to a deadlocked 2-2 vote. At that time Commissioner Jan Bunting had also voted no and Board Chairman George Bailey was absent.

This time Bunting changed her mind after talking to officials in some of the townships she represents.

Her only remaining concern was where the paperwork for the bond would be stored.

“We need to know where it is,” Bunting said after the meeting. “It’s like a (winning) lottery ticket, if you lose if you don’t get to collect.”

The Polaris bond would pay for the removal of any turbines that become obsolete or need to be replaced. It would cover $154,000 for each of the 68 planned turbines and seven alternate sites.

Those will be constructed in Lafayette (42), Hamilton (22) and North Star (7) townships by Polaris, which is an affiliate of Chicago-based Invenergy, which already has two other wind farms in the county.

Earlier this month, Invenergy assigned the permits to Polaris, which will develop, finance, construct and operate the project, according to the agreement.

Once a turbine needs decommissioned the company will be responsible for removing the blades, tower, foundations, substation, electrical systems and access roads, and returning the land to the condition it was “on the date of initial installation of any project component.”

The wind farm will produce 160 megawatts of electricity for DTE Energy and is do to be operational sometime in 2020.

The other project currently underway is taking place in North Shade and New Haven townships in the southern part of the county, where 75 turbines will be constructed.

Lenexa, Kansas-based Tradewind Energy is developing that project for Consumers Energy.

When both projects are complete it will bring the total number of wind turbines in the county to well over 300.

Invenergy recently completed a wind farm that spans Gratiot County’s Pine River Township and Coe Township in Isabella County that features a total of 65 turbines.

Invenergy also developed Gratiot’s first, and the state’s largest, wind farm that was completed in 2012. That one includes 133 turbines in Wheeler, Bethany, Emerson and Lafayette townships.

In addition, Beebe Community Wind, which was purchased by Chicago-based Exelon Corp., has 55 turbines located in Emerson, North Star and Hamilton townships.