Gratiot County to be home to Michigan’s largest wind farm.

14 Jul 2011

Some wind turbine blades measure over 150 feet long (half the length of a football field). Photo credit: f_shields at Flickr.

In a few weeks, construction is set to begin on the installation of 133 wind turbines in Gratiot County. The 328-foot-tall turbines (reaching 464 feet from the ground when the rotors extend vertically) will be spread across farmland in four townships. The wind farm is expected to produce 200 megawatts of electricity starting in 2012, which will power more than 50,000 homes. As a comparison, Michigan’s other wind farms currently generate only 164 megawatts of electricity combined (103 turbines currently operate statewide). DTE Energy has signed a 20-year lease to purchase $1.1 billion worth of electricity from the farm.

So why building a wind farm in the middle of the lower peninsula and not the touted hot spots in the Thumb or the shores of Lake Michigan? There are actually a number of good reasons. First, the area has flat terrain, few trees, and plenty of good, strong steady wind. Second, the county and its 16 townships created and passed a uniform county-wide zoning ordinance for the development of wind farms saving developers time and money from having to jump through different hoops in each township. Finally, unlike the Thumb, transmission lines in the area have plenty of capacity to carry electricity from the county to southeast Michigan (and that’s where the electricity generated from the turbines will be sent).

The Gratiot County project will be a huge boost for the local economy and municipalities. According to this Free Press article, the wind farm will pay more in taxes in its first year of operation than the county’s 10 biggest taxpayers combined. The farm will also generate millions of dollars in lease payments for landowners.

The wind farm is a major boost for wind energy in Michigan and Gratiot County’s economy. The farm is not only a nice cash crop for local farmers, but it will also provide rural communities and school districts with little industrial tax base with much needed cash. Seems like a win-win.

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