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Wind farm in Mason County taking shape despite legal challenge

Consumers Energy
Consumers Energy map of the Lake Winds Energy Park in Mason County. Construction of access roads and turbine bases began in November 2011.

Consumers Energy is wrapping up the initial phase of its first wind farm. Construction of the 100 mega-watt farm began last fall. Consumers plans to have the wind farm operating by the end of this year.

The project is known as the Lake Winds Energy Park. Since construction began last fall, workers have built about half of the large bases for 58 utility sized wind turbines.

Dennis Marvin is a spokesman for the New Generation Group at Consumers Energy. He says Lake Winds Energy Park is not really a park. The project spans 30-square miles in rural Mason County; about 90 miles north of Grand Rapids. “Some of the wind projects that you might see on television or on the web where all the turbines line up next to each other – it doesn’t work that way," Marvin said. 

Marvin says the area has enough wind to support a farm. But he says the availability of transmission lines there made all the difference in choosing that location. Transmission lines can get the power from turbines into the electrical grid.

“The best wind in Michigan is in the thumb area and that’s why most of the wind development is occurring in the thumb," Marvin said. "What they lack is adequate transmission capacity to support all the wind development.” Consumers is building an even bigger wind farm in the thumb area. That wind farm is supposed to come online in 3 years. And Consumers is planning a third wind farm too – they plan to have that one up and running in 10 years.

Meanwhile, a court battle over the Lake Winds Energy Park is not over. Earlier this month a Mason County Circuit Court judge heard arguments in a case filed against Consumers Energy and Mason County.

A group of citizens claim there wasn’t enough notice to the public about the project. They also raise legal concerns about special zoning permits authorizing the wind farm.

It’s unclear when the judge will rule in the case. The group has filed an injunction to stop construction of the farm but that decision is also pending.

Lindsey Smith helps lead the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Radio’s Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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