A plan by energy provider DTE for a wind farm in Branch County is on hold.
Since 2017, the energy giant has been signing leases for farm land in Batavia, Matteson, Sherwood and Union townships as sites of large, industrial wind turbines and associated equipment to generate power to the grid.
According to DTE spokesperson Cynthia Hecht, given the current economic climate and other factors, DTE ise suspending efforts to develop a wind energy project in this area.
The statement came last week after questions from The Daily Reporter following a large number of filings on its property easements at Branch County Register of Deeds.
Hecht did not suggest the project is dead.
“Since 2017, DTE Energy has been evaluating parts of Branch County for potential future wind development,” Hecht said. “We maintain that the agricultural setting and wind resource in this area is promising for a successful wind energy project and have appreciated the support we’ve received from many land owners.”
Company representatives have been opposing many of the restrictions included in a wind turbine zoning ordinance passed in Matteson and Sherwood townships. A similar ordinance is pending in Batavia Township.
Voters in Sherwood Township on Tuesday voted to approve the ordinance restrictions, 321 to 157.
Union Township, which does not have zoning, saw supervisor candidate Gary Chester lose. He was supported by Concerned Citizens of Branch County, which lobbied for regulation.
Until November 2019, DTE recorded easements on more than 280 parcels of agricultural property in Branch County for the purpose of evaluation of developing wind farms. The company said it had spent in excess of $250,000 buying lease easements in the county.
Since March, the company has recorded a series of 32 release of easement or partial release of Eeasements relating to those original leases.
An analysis of those documents show DTE was giving up its easements for wind farm use on many parcels of land in the four township. Also included were random parcels of land scattered in other townships, such as Quincy and Ovid.
It did retain easement rights and leases on at least 2,000 acres of land in the four township. It appears those parcels could be in areas where turbines and associated equipment could be built under restrictions listed in the laws.
While company representatives had argued the setback and other restrictions would not allow any locations for the industrial wind turbines, township officials and planning consultant McKenna and Associates stated there are sites that do qualify.
Drafting laws to totally prohibit a use would violate Michigan zoning laws.
In April, DTE commissioned its Polaris Wind park, located in mid-Michigan’s Gratiot County. Now operating, it provides enough clean energy to power more than 64,000 homes. With 68 turbines generating 168 megawatts, Polaris Wind is the largest operating wind park in Michigan and the first of four new wind parks DTE will commission in 2020.
Since 2009, DTE has driven investments of $3 billion in renewable energy infrastructure, and the company will invest an additional $2 billion in wind and solar assets over the next five years, said Trevor F. Lauer, DTE president and COO.
DTE is serving 2.2 million electric customers in Southeast Michigan and a natural gas company serving 1.3 million customers in Michigan.
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