Within the next couple of weeks, Apex Clean Energy LLC will start letting property owners in northern Isabella County know where they plan to build their 136 wind turbines.
Originally, they were permitted to construct 157, but after switching to a shorter turbine that generates more power they found they could get by with fewer, said Albert Jongewaard, Apex’s development manager.
Seven of the sites originally slated for turbines that won’t get them are in Vernon Township. They were removed from the project over a complication involving an airstrip near Farwell.
Right now, one of Apex’s subcontractors is running map simulations to test different locations for things that generally annoy neighbors. Those include sound and shadow flicker, a phenomenon that happens when light from the sun is interdicted by turbine blades, creating fast-moving shadows.
Jongewaard said they expect to have the maps completed in the next couple of weeks so they can hammer down plans for what should be an intense 2020 construction season.
One wild card that could influence plans is November’s election in Wise Township. There, voters ware being asked to approve wind turbine restrictions. Wise does its own zoning, and while its ordinance permits wind turbines, it doesn’t lay out restrictions for property setbacks, noise, turbine height, or other things necessary if you want to build a turbine.
Voters rejected a similar slate of restrictions last year. The township board tweaked them and adopted them again, but they were challenged by a petition drive. If Wise voters approve the restrictions, Jongewaard said they’d take a look at spreading the project out to include Wise properties.
The plan right now is to hold off erecting the turbines until next year after the frost restrictions are lifted from the county’s roads not designated all-weather. Once that happens, the plan is to build all 136 turbines by the end of the calendar year.
Some work has already started. Apex has started construction of its laydown yard on the south side of Rosebush Road between Lincoln and Whiteville. The laydown yard will serve as a storage property for tools, equipment and vehicles needed for the project.
Once the farm is completed and operational, DTE will take ownership of it. Jongewaard said DTE has agreed with the terms in leases signed by county property owners.
Unlike other wind farm projects, Jongewaard said the leases Apex offered focused on inclusivity. A steering committee of local property owners required that everyone who owns property in the project area be given a chance to participate and make money. The choice to Apex was either make it available to everyone or no one will sign it.
Properties that get turbines get paid per turbine, but property owners get per-acre payments and payment if they have a house on the property. It ensures that just a handful of big property owners don’t get most of the money.
People who signed leases, some as long as three years ago, are already getting a nominal payment while the project is in its developmental stage.
Once the turbines start going up, those property owners will start getting bigger payments for the operational stage of the project. The exact timetable for when this will happen is currently not known, Jongewaard said. Probably they will start putting up the turbines in batches.
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