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Energy company looking at potential 50,000 acre wind farm project in 11 Montcalm County townships

SIDNEY TOWNSHIP – Montcalm County residents could see a local wind farm project sooner than they think – and it could encompass up to 50,000 acres throughout 11 townships.

Albert Jongewaard, development manager for Apex Clean Energy in Virginia, presented some initial details about his company’s wind farm goals for Montcalm County during Monday evening’s Sidney Township Board meeting. Jongewaard himself is based at the company’s Minnesota office, but he has been spending a lot of time in central Michigan, including at a wind farm project in Isabella County. He said Apex officials have spent the last year and a half looking at privately owned land in Montcalm County for a potential wind farm project.

“We’re currently looking at about 11 different townships in Montcalm County, including Sidney,” he said. “We don’t know who’s going to be interested in signing a lease or who’s not. There’s likely to be upwards of 50,000 acres signed into this property. Probably several hundred landowners and their families will be participating. We’re still a couple years out. There’s a pretty lengthy permitting process we have to go through at the township level, the state level and the federal level.

“We’re approaching this with an open mind,” he said. “It’s a newer concept to this area, but it’s not necessarily a new thing. We’ve been doing a lot of homework, now we’re out there talking to the landowners. We’re starting to see some things coming together. We actually think we have a reasonable project opportunity here.”

Dan Paris, a Lakeview native and the brother of Sidney State Bank President Jim Paris, was also present at Monday’s meeting. Dan said he’s worked on utility developments throughout the U.S. for the past 25 years, including wind energy projects for 15 years – most recently on the wind farm project in Gratiot County just east of Carson City.

“This is my home, I plan to live here a long time, God willing,” Dan said. “I want to see those economic benefits that were brought to Gratiot County, I’d like to see us have the opportunity to have it here in Montcalm County. Heaven knows we can use some of those economic benefits.”

Pine River Township Kevin Beeson was also present at Monday’s meeting to share how Gratiot County township officials educated themselves about wind energy and how the county is now benefitting as a whole. He offered up his township’s wind ordinance, which isn’t copyrighted and is available to Planning Commissions in other municipalities.

“I encourage you as you do this process, remember that I am available,” Beeson said. “You don’t have to get online to look, you can come on over and stand underneath the turbines, drive by them. For us, from a public standpoint, it’s just been great. We protected ourselves and we did work hard with our Planning Commission to make sure that we covered ourselves. It’s really important when you’re talking about that much money that you do it right. It works for us.

“It’s kind of an evolving industry, just like Tesla,” he added. “Wind companies are figuring out what’s important to townships and finding out what works and what doesn’t work.”