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Big expansion soon for Michigan's wind power grid

Sun, 07/10/2011 - 12:13pm
The Associated Press

BETHANY TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — An array of 133 wind turbines that will tower 46 stories over farmers' fields and rural homes will begin taking shape in a few weeks in central Michigan's Gratiot County.

The Invenergy LLC project is designed to produce 200 megawatts of electricity, starting in 2012. That's more than the 164 megawatts made by all of Michigan's wind turbines now in operation, according to the American Wind Energy Association. In all, 103 turbines now operate statewide.

The new turbines will be spread across four townships in an area about 25 miles west of Saginaw. The largest concentrations will be in Bethany and Wheeler townships.

"We kind of compare it to when the railroad came through in the 1800s," said Jeff Ostrander, village manager in Breckenridge, near the heart of the project. "It's new. It's different. It's interesting."

"I think they look kind of neat," 37-year-old farmer Kent Humm, who will be hosting four of the turbines, told the Detroit Free Press. "It's going to change the landscape, that's for sure."

The Gratiot County project should be a big boost for the economy and for government treasuries as well, officials say. The wind farm will pay more in taxes in its first year of operation than the county's 10 biggest taxpayers combined, Gratiot County Administrator Nicole Frost said.

About 150 construction workers will participate in the project. Once it's up and running, Chicago-based Invenergy says it will employ 15 technicians at its Breckenridge office. DTE Energy Co. will buy all the turbines' power for 20 years.

Elsewhere in Michigan, other wind power projects are taking shape as well.

In western Michigan, the Muskegon County Board of Public Works will have a special meeting Tuesday to hear from a consultant about plans for a $300 million wind farm.

A number of developers have expressed interest in the project, and consulting company Howard & Howard is expected to make a recommendation on the top proposals for the board to consider.

"It's a very important part of the process," County Administrator Bonnie Hammersley told The Muskegon Chronicle. "The board will learn of the interest and what is available."

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Online:

Invenergy LLC: http://www.invenergyllc.com

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