By Mary Drier
GILFORD — Additional soil samples and finalizing paperwork are about all that is left to do before construction of the “Tuscola – Bay Wind Farm’ to harvest the wind in Tuscola County can begin.
A key part in the project was completed Tuesday when the Gilford Township Planning Commission approved eight site plans for five additional turbines and an anemometer tower.
At the start of the meeting, a new commission chair had to be appointed to replace Dennis Richards who resigned after the April 17 meeting where special use permits were approved. Tim Gruber was selected as chair.
A site plan is to assure compliance with the local zoning law, explained township attorney John McQuillan.
The commission went through the same process they did over the last few months when they approved a total of 63 turbines previously. The additional turbines and sites were requested by NextEra Energy Resources LLC so they could meet their contract with Detroit Edison to build 75 turbines. The other seven are to be built in Blumfield Township.
The sites were approved with three commission members voting yes and Kent Houghtaling abstaining.
Approval was given for: one more turbine in Section 8 to go along with the three others that were approved before. That section is between the roads of Van Buren, Quanicassee, Dutcher and Darbee.
In Section 11, one more was approved to go with the three others previously approved. That section is between the roads of Bradleyville, Garner, Dutcher and Darbee.
In Section 14, two more turbines were added for a total of five in that section between the roads of Darbee, Garner, Bradleyville, and Fairgrove.
In Section 16, one was added to the three turbines previously approved between the roads of Darbee, Quanicassee, Bradford, and Fairgrove.
In Section 17, an anemometer was approved along with the two turbines granted before. That section is between the roads of Darbee, Van Buren, Quanicassee and Fairgrove.
Section 23, which is between the roads of Fairgrove, Bradleyville, Garner, and Deckerville is an alternate site for one turbine.
Section 24, which is between the roads of Fairgrove, Vassar, Garner, and Deckerville is an alternative site for two turbines.
Also, the commission approved allowing McQuillan to finalize the language and contract for the process of decommissioning turbines when they don’t operate for over a year. Also, details have to be worked out with the Tuscola County Road Commission and the Drain Commission before construction and state.
According to NextEra’s Project Director Jason Utton, most of those details have been completed.
The turbines are expected to be between 397-426 feet tall from the base to blade tip, and have a cement base about eight feet deep and about 60-65 feet wide.
Overall NextEra plans: to invest about over $250 million to build 75, 120 megawatt wind generators, spend about $51 million in escalating lease payments over 30 years to supply enough power for 30,000 homes.
At the end of the meeting, commission member Jacob Dohrmann recommended a moratorium on any further wind development for at least 10 months; and although the other members concurred, it is up to the township board.
The next planning commission work session will be 7:30 p.m., Monday, June 11.