CASNOVIA TOWNSHIP, MI – A proposed wind farm project at the border of Muskegon and Kent counties has moved closer to reality.
Casnovia Township’s approval of a special use permit was an important first step to move the project forward, but the approval came with several stipulations for the Ohio-based American Electric Power. Site plans for the project also need to be approved before the company can construct the sprawling wind farm.
Several residents and township officials have been outspoken in their opposition to project, which caused controversy and consternation over the last year.
American Electric Power has proposed to build up to 31 wind turbines across portions of Casnovia Township in Muskegon County and Tyrone Township in Kent County. The project is being dubbed the Kenowa Ridge Wind Farm Project and likely would be built by 2020.
It was initially proposed by Sempra Energy in 2018, but the company sold its wind turbine assets to American Electric Power in 2019. Sempra previously said the farm could produce at least 100 megawatts of electricity – enough to power 38,000 homes, according to planning documents provided to township officials.
Sempra previously said the company would operate the wind farm for a period of 30 years. Company officials also promised up to $1 million in new revenue for both townships and up to $75,000 in individual land leases for residents who allow turbines on their property.
Casnovia Township Supervisor Kelli Ashbaugh told MLive/Muskegon Chronicle that those plans hadn’t changed after American Electric Power took over the project.
Sempra had asked the township for a special use permit to install and operate the proposed wind turbines and all associated infrastructure, such as an energy substation and underground power lines.
On Tuesday, April 23, Casnovia Township trustees voted 3-2 to approve the permit with a long list of conditions attached. Township Clerk Jennie Powell, Treasurer Gayle Brock and Trustee Dan Winell voted in favor of the permit, while Ashbaugh and Trustee Jason Jorgensen voted against it.
Ashbaugh said she could not provide MLive with the list of conditions because they were still being drafted and pending approval.
Those in favor of the wind farm have praised the increase in revenue – for the township and residents who agreed to lease their property to American Electric Power.
Tammy Riddout, media relations and policy communications manager with American Electric Power, said the company is pleased with the township’s “thoughtful deliberation.”
“We are excited about the opportunity to bring this renewable energy development to the township and the state of Michigan,” Riddout said. “We look forward to continuing the collaborative engagement with all stakeholders in the community.”
Now that the project has a special land use permit, American Electric Power can begin drafting site plans and finalizing locations for each of its 31 wind turbines.
Ashbaugh said those site plans and approvals for each individual turbine would need to be approved by the planning commission.
Tyrone Township has yet to approve a special use permit for its half of the project, said township Clerk Shelly Worley. The township planning commission had tabled the measure because it wanted to wait for Casnovia Township to make the first move.
The Casnovia Township Planning Commission in November 2018 recommended that the township board vote to deny the special use permit. Several Casnovia Township residents had been outspoken in their opposition to the wind farm, saying it would produce excessive noise and could create hazards for local wild life. Others worried about annoying “shadow flicker” from turbine blades.
Ashbaugh said she opposes the wind farm project because she believes it would negatively affect the quality of life for many township residents.
“I still think it infringes too much on non-participating residents,” Ashbaugh said. “Of course, the people who wanted them were happy and congratulatory. On the other side, some residents were remorseful – heartbroken, even. Some of the proposed (turbines) are so close to their property lines.”
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