An Isabella County wind project that created two years worth of drama received its final approval last week in almost anti-climactic fashion.
The Isabella County Planning Commission gave its approval to site plans for 82 wind turbines slated for construction in Nottawa and Gilmore townships at a special meeting Sept. 23. It was the second meeting and a third was scheduled for Oct. 23, but that one was canceled.
Approval of the site plans, making sure that individual turbines adhere to restrictions laid out in the county’s zoning ordinance, was the final step at the county level towards moving forward with the project. Final approval on some individual windmills is still awaiting bureaucratic approval by state and federal regulators.
Work on a construction site to support the 136 turbines in the project, and on roads to move materials to their locations, is ongoing and expected to last as long into the winter as the weather allows.
It will pick back up after frost-free truck restrictions are lifted in the spring. Those restrictions are intended to reduce the amount of wear and tear on roads caused by ice in the road bed. Once that thaws and the roads dry out, trucks can move freely on roads that aren’t designed as all-weather. That will allow construction of the wind turbines to take place quickly.
The turbines will all go up next year, and the current plan is for Apex Clean Energy LLC to sell the entire farm to DTE Energy. The sale, which received approval from state regulators, will allow the utility to power the Detroit Zoo on electricity that is completely generated by renewable sources.
Approval of the site plans was a low-drama affair compared to much of the process for local approval of the wind farm. Opponents to the wind farm showed up at hearings to amend the county’s zoning ordinance and to approve the special use permit, and leveled accusations of dirty dealings. They also attempted campaigns to recall township officials, and ran campaigns in some of the townships to depart the county’s zoning ordinance and start their own. In Isabella Township, they tried it twice, most recently in August. They were unsuccessful at every turn.
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