BAD AXE — A DTE Energy president has made some guarantees in exchange for a “yes” vote in the upcoming May 2 referendum that will determine the fate of what could be DTE’s final wind park in Huron County.
“If they do vote yes, and allow us to continue the development that’s been approved by the (Huron County Board of Commissioners), this is the last wind farm that DTE Energy will seek approval for and development here in the county,” said Trevor F. Lauer, president and chief operating officer of DTE Electric.
DTE has proposed 70 turbines for the Filion area.
He also promised that the Filion park will be the first in the state to test technology that would eliminate constant blinking red lights at night.
The technology would allow the lights to flash only when there is a plane approaching.
“If this farm is approved, we will install that technology on those turbines.”
Lauer said the technology, which is costly, works best when installed onto a new turbine.
“When the appropriate time comes the retrofit existing turbines that are owned by DTE,” Lauer said, “DTE will consider retrofitting existing turbines.”
The technology is currently being tested at a Wyoming wind farm, he added.
Lauer did not know the exact cost per turbine of the technology.
DTE plans to retire eight of its coal-fired plants by 2023, Lauer said.
Renewable energy assets will replace them.
Although DTE has expanded its commercial solar operations, Lauer said the energy company has no plans for such development in Huron County.
Huron County has the most desirable wind characteristics in the state, Lauer said, but there are plenty of other places that are conducive to solar development.
As Lauer spoke from DTE’s Huron Renewable Energy Center, dozens of protesters had gathered outside on the side of Van Dyke Road to encourage a “no” vote for the May referendum.
“You need to listen and pay attention to what people are saying,” he said. “Everybody has a right to a viewpoint.”
Added Lauer: “You’ve got a very vocal minority that tends to sway people, and you have largely a silent majority that supports it. And I understand that dynamic. And we respect that.”
Lauer expects a close vote May 2.
“Do I want win? The answer is yes, I absolutely want to win. We recognize that it’s going to be a close vote,” he said.
“Regardless of what happens, we’re always going to be a great partner for Huron County,” Lauer added. “We’ve been here for 100 years, so we will maintain our turbines to the highest possible specifications, and we will continue outstanding relationships with our land owners.”
Voters in county-zoned townships will vote on whether to allow DTE to develop a wind farm spanning four townships. It includes 16,900 acres in Lincoln Townshiop, 4,100 in Sigel Township, 2,500 in Bloomfield Township and 2,000 in Dwight Township.
The 16 county-zoned townships are: Bingham, Bloomfield, Brookfield, Dwight, Fairhaven, Gore, Grant, Hume, Lincoln, McKinley, Rubicon, Sebewaing, Sheridan, Sherman, Sigel and Winsor townships.