ROGERS CITY - A Rogers City-based company is confident its plans for a nearby 42-turbine wind farm will get a buyer.
Scott Smillie and Nick Redburn, both of Swan Bay Wind, LLC, presented their plan to the Presque Isle County Board of Commissioners Wednesday. Near Adams Point and Trout Lakes, 140 megawatts of wind generating capacity would be installed in two phases on land leased from Carmeuse Lime and Stone and United States Steel. Swan Bay Wind took up where Wolverine Power Cooperative left off, including buying the results of a wind study Wolverine ordered for the area.
These results show favorable wind conditions in the area, and two of three interested parties are willing to sign on even before the power the wind farm would generate has a buyer lined up, Redburn said. The study results are part of a package Swan Bay Wind has put together, including preliminary environmental reports, construction proposals and leases in the final stages of negotiation. Prospects for a sale are even better if Gov. Rick Snyder increases the percentage of renewable energy state utilities companies are required to have in their portfolio.
A few missing pieces remain, including an owner/operator, a power grid connectivity review and another step from the county, Redburn said.
"This is one of the best wind sites in Michigan, compared to Traverse City and other places," he said.
If a buyer bites, the wind farm would need a considerable amount of temporary workers to build it, with six staying on for the 25-year lifespan of the turbines, Redburn said. Swan Bay Wind would maintain a presence, both as a majority shareholder and with an office in town, Smillie said. Any landowners could negotiate directly with the local company, rather than the owner/operator.
These wind turbines are valued at $240 million total, and would provide a boost to the county's taxable value, Redburn said. Commissioner Steve Lang pointed out it would translate to about $180,000 in the first year, and shrink over the wind farm's life due to depreciation.
Swan Bay Wind has an office at 252 N. Bradley Hwy, Smillie said. It's been there since June, but the company's three employees had to keep its existence a secret while the plans came together.
"There are wolves out there who would swoop in on this," he said.
Redburn told commissioners he was presenting the plan to them to ask a question: What does the company need from the county? Chairman Carl Altman said they would need to speak with Building and Zoning Official James Zakshesky for starters.
The wind farm would need a site plan review, Zakshesky said. Lang questioned about adding a stipulation to assure there's private money for turbine removal if they're built and the plan falls through, with Redburn replying this contingency is covered.
If a buyer is found before the year's end, construction could start as soon as spring 2014, according to Redburn's presentation. The turbines would each have three blades of about 187.5 feet in length, and stand at least 300 feet high from the ground to the blade hub. That's according to Vestas specifications for the turbine model included in the development plans. Each one can generate up to 3 megawatts of electricity, and start producing in 6.7 mph winds.
In the Thumb region, an area where wind turbines already are spinning away, Heritage Sustainable Energy is moving ahead with a $50 million, 10-turbine wind farm project, according to an Associated Press report. Huron County commissioners gave the company the go-ahead for the project, and construction is expected to begin this year. The new farm has a capacity of 20 megawatts and will serve DTE Energy customers.
Michigan's commercial wind energy production has grown massively in the past six years. In December 2012, there were 573 turbines with a total capacity of 986 megawatts in operation, with many more set to come online this year and next, according to Michigan Public Services Commission data. Most of these turbines started producing earlier that year. The single biggest wind farm is located in Gratiot, with 133 turbines and a capacity of 212.8 megawatts.
Of the 108.7 million megawatt hours generated in Michigan in 2012 across all sectors, including by utilities, industry and the commercial sector, a little over 1.1 million megawatt hours came from wind, according to United States Energy Information Administration data. In December, wind turbines produced 165,000 megawatt-hours of electricity.
In other business:
commissioners listened as Philip Wolf of Anderson Tackman went over the county's annual audit. The county took a hit to its carry-forward balance, which is down to about $390,000, including money owed to the county. Of some concern is the eventual loss of $300,000 in transfers from a state revenue sharing fund, and the nearly $2.5 million in unfunded pension liabilities. The county eventually will need to pay this down, and to find ways to do without revenue sharing fund transfers, Wolf said. While the revenue sharing fund is set to be replaced with some kind of state aid, just what the replacement is remains to be seen.
commissioners approved resolutions supporting legislation that would create a day for ORV users where a license wouldn't be required, and would allow ORVs to be used on state trunkline roads' rights-of-way.