Planning Commission gives go-ahead for windmill project
OGEMAW COUNTY — The Ogemaw County Planning Commission voted unanimously Nov. 16 to allow Smiley Energy Services LLC to begin constructing windmills in the county.
The decision to allow wind power into the county was made after County Commissioners Bruce Reetz, Ron Quackenbush and Greg Illig, along with several others, including people from the planning commission and Ogemaw County Economic Development Corporation, took a trip to Huron County to observe other wind farms.
“We (saw) where they (the windmills) were at,” Reetz said. “They’ve got 70 to 80 towers out there.”
Reetz said there were three or four people working to maintain the windmills, so it is unlikely that constructing windmills in the county would bring many jobs into the area. Reetz said he was in favor of the windmill project, though he said the trip to Huron County showed him just how divisive the issue can be.
“One thing I found out down there is there are some people for it and some people against it, and you’ve got to work with both sides,” Reetz said.
Smiley Energy Services President/Owner Steve Smiley said the proposed windmills would be able to generate about 50 million kilowatt hours per year, which has the ability to power more than 500 households.
Smiley said there are still concerns being expressed by residents neighboring the land on which the windmills will be built. He said the Ogemaw County Planning Commission is requiring him to continue sound and visibility tests as a result.
“We’re going to do more studies,” Smiley said.
According to Smiley, he has lease agreements with each of the property owners where the windmills will be located in order to place the windmills. He said his company is paying for the windmills, and will recoup costs by selling the energy produced to Consumers Energy.
“The wind energy is sold into the utility system,” Smiley said.
According to Cumming Township resident Gary Wangler, there will be 12 windmills located on DenMar Farms LLC, which is owned by him and his wife Barb, two windmills located on the property of Mark and Jane Sisk, two windmills located on a farm owned by Earl, Mary and Travis Grezeszak, as well as three windmills and a substation located on the property of Wangler’s sister, Gloria Schmitt.
According to Smiley, it would be feasible to expand the project to power the whole county in the future.
“I think even doubling the project would be enough,” Smiley said. “We’ll want to expand the project.”
Smiley said he expected to break ground on the project sometime in late 2011, and hopes to finish in early to mid 2012. He said that before he can begin construction, he has to give notice to the Federal Aviation Administration and Michigan Department of Transportation, as well as obtain construction and electrical permits.
Smiley said he intends on forming a limited liability corporation, under the name Ogemaw Rose Community Energy, within the next couple of months in order to enable local people to invest in the project.
Smiley said he has been involved in bringing the windmill project into the county for more than a year, and appreciates having the ability to move forward.
“I’m very pleased with the planning commission and zoning director, and all the support we've gotten,” Smiley said. “It’s almost a year and a half we’ve been working on this.”
Wangler said he was glad to see the planning commission approve the project.
“I’d like to compliment the county commissioners and planning commission for looking into the future benefit of the county,” Wangler said.