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DTE Energy's next wind farm probably won't be in the Thumb

Jan 19, 2018

DTE Energy plans to move out of the state's reliably windy Thumb region for its next wind farm.

The utility has signed up 120 landowners so far in Branch County, which is in the middle of the state near the Indiana border.

Matt Wagner is manager of renewable energy development for DTE.

He says wind in Branch County can produce electricity about 37 percent of the time, as opposed to roughly 43 percent of the time in the Thumb.

But today's bigger engines and bigger blades can make up the difference.

"A larger blade is a like bigger sail on a sailboat," says Wagner.  "It catches more wind, so it takes more advantage of wind — even if it's not at the same level as it might be in the Thumb."

Wagner says it's not just the landowners who will benefit.  DTE will pay property taxes if the wind farm is built.

"It is a shot in the arm to local communities who are struggling to figure out how they're going to make ends meet going down the road," he says, noting that townships in Huron County received a total of $27 million in property taxes over three years.

Wagner says it's hoped the new wind farm will produce enough electricity to power at least 50,000 homes.

A group that opposes wind farms is complaining, but it may be to no avail.

Union Township in Branch County, where DTE is signing up farmers, has no zoning ordinances. And the township supervisor himself has signed up to have a turbine placed on his property.