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Michigan’s First Commercial-Scale Wind Farm Gets Planted in the “Thumb”

By Susan Sturtz. Pigeon, Michigan

Say John Deere and most folks think green tractors by some well-intentioned nay-sayers when
and farm implements. But in Huron County at the tip of the first horseless carriages began rumbling
Michigan’s “thumb,” John Deere isn’t just churning up their way down rutted dirt roads.
farm land anymore. Now its helping harvest the wind. So, where does John Deere fit into all
This spring access lanes were built and construction this? John Deere Wind Energy, a business
began on Michigan’s first commercial-scale wind farm. unit of John Deere Credit, the financial
Progress was well underway by late August as the first services arm of Deere & Company, is the
seven turbines could be seen from miles away towering facility’s principle owner and is serving
above the tallest corn fields, trees and utility poles. as the project developer. According to a
“They’re shooting up at a rate of approximately one report in Wind Energy Weekly, the facility
every couple days or so,” one resident said. “Sort of like is benefiting from a state tax incentive
watching a sprout push its way through the earth’s crust package worth $6.5 million over 12 years,
and unfold its petals in a time-lapsed film.” as well as approximately $5 million in
On any given day, right around noon, sales tax exemptions through Michigan’s
you can spot a car or two pulled manufacturing-industrial processing
off to the shoulder and the driver exemption.
munching his lunch while watching the Wolverine Power Cooperative, based
activity. Some folks have taken to in Cadillac, is purchasing energy produced
inviting neighbors and friends over to by the Harvest Wind Farm under a 20-year
set a spell in the yard and watch while yellow- purchase power agreement. Wolverine
vested workers piece together a tower and a giant crane will then sell the energy to its member-
helps hoists the three blades into place. Each blade is companies and their member-companies
so long that they had to be railed in by freight train to a throughout Michigan. Wolverine’s members
spot for unloading between the villages of Elkton and include: Cherryland Electric Cooperative
Pigeon. From there they are hauled to work sites on (Grawn), Great Lakes Energy (Boyne City),
flatbed trailers that can barely navigate the turn from HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative
one wide-ditched two lane county road to another. (Portland), Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op
Once completed, the Harvest Wind Farm will boast a (Onaway), Spartan Renewable Energy (Cadillac), and economy – two top priorities for Michigan.”
bumper crop of 32 of the renewable energy wind giants Wolverine Power Marketing Cooperative (Cadillac). She noted also, “Our infrastructure has aged and
spaced across 3,200 agricultural acres leased from a Wolverine plans to explore other renewable energy our ability to produce energy will not be able to keep
half-dozen or so local farmers. Total project capacity for projects in the state. “We plan to take what we have pace with demand, which is a formula for rising costs.
the Vestas V82 wind turbines will be 52.8 megawatts, learned from the Harvest Wind Farm project and apply At the same time, we have enormous opportunities that
enough to produce electricity for more than 15,000 it to studying the potential for a wind project near we can take advantage of given that Michigan has the
homes. Company and government sources expect the Rogers City,” said Eric D. Baker, president and CEO wind potential.”
$90 million project, in development for over three years, of Wolverine, in a June 6th press release. Want to know more about establishing a wind farm
to begin operating in early 2008. An estimated 80 jobs “Renewable power has an important in your neck of woods? You can find information and
will be created during the various construction phases, role to play, along with other technologies applications on the Deere & Co. web site, www.deere.
with several permanent employees eventually needed available today, in the creation of a more com for developers and those with land to lease.
to operate and maintain the farm after completion. balanced and cleaner electric generation in For those with more modest dreams of wind farming
Project plans haven’t been without controversy. Michigan. interested in building their own working wind towers
Based on comments at public hearings and penned in At a June 11, 2007 press conference, check out the Poor Man’s Guide to Wind Power and
letters to the editors to area newspapers, it appears most Michigan Governor Jennifer M. Granholm Battery Systems, available as a downloadable e-book at
locals voicing concerns cite technological uncertainty said, “Projects like the Harvest Wind www.poormansguides.com, or the Renewable
and the potential unreliability of sufficient Farm, the first of its kind in Michigan, Energy Solutions E-Book on the OffGrid Living
wind and such newfangled contraptions as and investments in the alternative energy website at www.off-grid-living.com.
reason enough to thwart planting a wind industry are key to our economic future. Pictures By: Robin Lindenberg
farm. Complaints reminiscent of those made They create jobs and help diversify our

16 UP Magazine Volume 18 - # 9 Today’s subliminal message is . . .