Construction underway on new Meridian Wind Park in southern Midland County

Energy production is not often associated with the Great Lakes Bay Region, but that’s changing. Catalyst Midland and our sister publications, Route Bay City and Epicenter Mount Pleasant, present articles this week on renewable energy projects that are powering our region.

Land owners will receive royalties from DTE for the company's use of their land for the Meridian Wind Park.There’s a striking change to the landscape in southern Midland County. Several wind turbines have been erected in the new Meridian Wind Park, a project of DTE, one of Michigan’s largest utility companies.  

DTE is installing 77 wind turbines scattered across 15,000-20,000 acres in three townships: Mt. Haley and Porter in Midland County, and Jonesfield in Saginaw County. There was a beehive of activity on a recent weekday afternoon.
It's challenging to transport components of the wind turbines including the section of a tower.
Trucks were hauling segments of a turbine’s towers on Homer Road, just south of Freeland Road. Road intersections have been made larger to make it possible for the vehicles carrying the components to turn the corner. On agricultural land, blades and tower segments could be seen in different locations a few hundred yards off the road laid down waiting for installation.

In another location, spools of cables were set up by an underground trench. The cable will be used to connect the array of turbines. DTE’s goal is to complete the project by the spring of 2022. If you can envision the array of turbines kind of like Christmas three lights, they are all connected and they feed back to a substation.

This project is part of a larger effort by DTE to use more renewable energy. The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) is requiring electric providers to increase their renewable energy portfolio to 15% in 2021. DTE is looking beyond that. 

Matt Wagner, one of DTE’s two renewable energy managers, says, “We want to be clean from a net-zero perspective as we can be by 2050.” Wagner is overseeing the Meridian project. DTE recently closed its River Rouge plant which used coal to create electricity. When that plant was taken down, it was generating 358 megawatts of power. The planned capacity for the Meridian  Wind Park is 225 megawatts, which can generate power for about 78,000 homes. 
Matt Wagner is a renewable energy manager for DTE.
“We’re not planning to replace every single coal-fired plant with wind and solar,” says Wagner. “It’s not one-for-one. We’re in the process of constructing a natural gas plant in St. Clair County.”

DTE started the process to develop the Meridian Wind Park in 2016. They assessed the land, wildlife, figured out layouts,  and met with government officials. They also met with property owners. DTE was interested in this area primarily for two reasons. Wagner says the area has a decent wind source and there’s a lot of agricultural land — the land is flat, so it doesn’t slow the wind down as much. 

The MPSC approved the project in July 2020. After that, DTE had to request and get approval for special use permits from the three townships. Documents on the Mount Haley Township website show the board approved a wind system ordinance in 2018. That ordinance has several specifications including how close a turbine can be to a property line and at what decibel level the turbine can operate. A tower stands 328 feet tall and the blades are 164 feet in length, so the entire turbine reaches a height of 492 feet. DTE offers a comparison of the Statue of Liberty that is 305 feet in height. One blade weighs seven tons.

The Meridian Wind Park is being developed on agricultural land in Midland and Saginaw counties.Property owners will receive a royalty from DTE for the use of their land. Depending on the amount of energy generated, the royalty could range from $20-$40 per acre per year. The typical acreage in an agreement is 80-100 acres. Wagner says the landowner can still use 98 -99% of their land for production. They have agreements with “Anybody whose land is in the footprint of the project,” says Wagner. DTE’s website lists 800 participants in this project. The local units of government will also see a tax benefit.

The energy created by the turbines will be sent to the power grid, going to wherever demand is.

“If you can envision the array of turbines kind of like Christmas three lights, they are all connected and they feed back to a substation,” says Wagner. That substation is in Saginaw County. The towers are manufactured by Ventower in Monroe, Michigan. Sixty-seven of the 77 turbines are made by General Electric (GE). The remaining are made by Vestas. 
Wind turbine base under construction

When the Meridian Wind Park is in operation, 7-10 technicians will be assigned to support it. Some of those will be reassigned from other areas. DTE serves over two million electric customers, primarily in the Detroit area. They serve one million natural gas customers across the state.

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Read more articles by Ron Beacom.

Ron Beacom has served as the managing editor of Catalyst Midland since October 2020. He's also a freelance writer for the Midland Daily News and the producer/host of "Second Act: Life at 50 Plus" for WDCQ-Delta College Public Media (PBS). He's the co-producer of two WDCQ documentaries about the Tittabawassee River Disaster in 2020, "Breached! and Breached!2-The Recovery."