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Midland, Saginaw townships could sport 70 wind turbines by 2021

Midland and Saginaw counties could be the location for DTE Energy’s new wind power project by 2021. If developed, the new wind park – which DTE named “Meridian” – will use land in Porter and Mount Haley townships in Midland and stretch south into Jonesfield Township in Saginaw.

DTE officials say they expect to install about 70 turbines involving the cooperation of over 700 landowners.

The Meridian Wind project has not yet received final approval from the Michigan Public Service Commission. Nor has it been approved by the townships involved. DTE hopes they will receive approval from the commission and townships by the end of the summer.

“We’re nailing out turbine locations, we’re talking to landowners, we’re starting the permit process, we’ve selected turbines, we’ve selected a builder – but there are still a number of hoops we have to get through,” said Renewable Energy Development Manager Matthew Wagner.

Wagner said the project is still early in development and has been for a few years. DTE officials have been assessing the land, collecting environmental data and have begun talking to landowners. The whole process to approve, permit and construct a wind farm takes about five years, he said.

“We’re pretty excited about this, there’s a lot going on. It was interesting keeping the ball rolling even through COVID-19. Hopefully we’ll be on the other side of that,” Wagner said. “We’re still planning to go to operation by the end of 2021 and we’re looking forward to seeing (the turbines) running.”

Wagner said DTE must consider a number of constraints when zoning a wind farm including roads, drainage, natural habitats and more. Landowners agree to lease their land to DTE in order for a wind turbine to be built. Property owners whose land becomes part of the wind farm receive annual payments for usage of the land.

DTE operates 15 wind farms throughout Michigan. Most are in flat, farming areas like mid-Michigan and the Thumb region.

The largest of the DTE wind farms is “Polaris” located in Gratiot County, which produces about 160 megawatts of power. The Gratiot Wind Project is a separate wind farm that produces about 200 megawatts.

Jim Wheeler, president of Greater Gratiot Development Inc., said that from 2012 to 2020, the county received nearly $49 million in tax revenue from its wind parks. Wheeler, being from one of the largest wind communities in Michigan, offered his own advice for Midland and Saginaw.

“My advice to you would be to get informed. Do your own studies of what’s coming out there. You can be careful about misinformation, make sure you’re hearing it from people that really understand it,” Wheeler said. “You have a county to the west of you that’s been around these for quite a while, get a hold of any of the supervisors in the townships that have wind projects here and they’ll tell you exactly what the situations are.”

Some residents oppose the appearance of wind turbines in certain areas. Wagner said they’ve received some complaints about turbine volume or report shadow flickering – but confirmed the turbines comply with zoning ordinances.

In Isabella County, the largest single phased wind project in the state is wrapping up its final construction steps. President and CEO of Middle Michigan Development Corp. James McBryde said he fully supports the wind projects in the area.

“Between Gratiot and Isabella, we’re going to have a lot of towers. I would welcome Midland and Saginaw joining in with us because this will really make middle Michigan the capital for wind energy,” McBryde said.