By Mary Drier
GILFORD — Site plans for the last segment of wind farms were approved by the Gilford Township Planning Commission Monday.
The last round of approval for NextEra Energy Resources LLC is to build 29 turbines and an anemometer in the area south of Akron Road and north of Darbee Road in Sections 1-3, 5, 7-11 in the township.
The planning commission conducted site plan hearings over the last three weeks approving several turbines. The latest approval clears the way for NextEra Energy to develop 63 wind turbines in township, but there could be more coming.
Last month, Merritt Township officials denied NextEra Energy’s request to build nine wind turbines there even though the company’s site plans seemed to meet and in some cases exceed the township’s ordinance for their development.
Because of that, more wind turbines could be developed in Tuscola County rather than in Bay County.
“We talked about the possibility of adding some additional turbines in Gilford Township,” said Mary Wells with NextEra Energy’s media relations. “They are considering the possibility.”
Besides wanting to build turbines in Gilford and Merritt townships, NextEra Energy also plans to build seven in Blumfield Township in a project that was to be called the “Tuscola – Bay Wind Farm;” but now that Merritt Township is no longer part of the project, the name of the project might have to be changed.
According to Gilford Township Supervisor Jim Stockemeyer, NextEra proposed a plan to look at 13 possible sites to consider as locations to build five additional wind turbines.
“From what I understand, if they do follow through with their proposal for more turbines, there will be another special use hearing for that,” said Stockemeyer.
NextEra Energy’s overall goal is to build 79 turbines for their wind farm. If only five more go into Gilford Township, it could be possible that more might be proposed for Blumfield Township.
The company’s plan is to develop a wind farm that generates 120 megawatts. That amount of power would be capable of providing electricity to 30,000 homes.
The company’s wind farm is a $250 million investment, which is expected to generate about $19 million in property taxes, $51 million in land leases, and $21 million in salaries and benefits for 10-12 full-time staff over the next 30 years.
Although wind farming is new to Michigan, commercial wind generators have been in use in other parts of the U.S. for about 30 years.
NextEra Energy has been in wind energy development since 1989 when it bought existing wind projects in California, and built its first wind plant in Oregon. Since then, NextEra Energy operates about 85 wind projects and is the largest generator of wind energy in North America.
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