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Traverse City developer gets closer to building 100% ‘Pure Michigan’ wind farm

Heritage Sustainable Energy's Garden Wind Farm in the Upper Peninsula was completed in September 2012.
Heritage Sustainable Energy
Heritage Sustainable Energy's Garden Wind Farm in the Upper Peninsula was completed in September 2012.

When Heritage Sustainable Energy built its first wind farm in 2008, almost all the money was funneled to companies in Europe.

Compare that to the Big Turtle wind farmthe company is building now. More than half the materials, turbine parts, engineering, and labor will come from Michigan. That means half of the roughly $40 million project will go to Michigan companies.

Rick Wilson is the company’s vice president of operations. He says they want to build a wind farm that’s "pure Michigan."

“We’ve tried several times and we’ll keep trying,” Wilson said, “We’re a Michigan company and we’re very committed to being a part of the economy and we’re going to get there.”

“It’s a little challenging right now because the wind energy market has kind of gone through quite a rollercoaster ride,” Wilson said.

He says giant wind turbine blades are the hardest part to source in Michigan. Each individual blade at Big Turtle will be almost 200 feet long.

There are blade manufacturers in Michiganbut orders haven’t been steady or big enough yet to make it feasible to build the expensive blade molds.

“Unless you have a huge long-term development pipeline and sales pipeline, it’s been a real challenge to get that mold and the manufacturing geared up,” Wilson said.

Big Turtle will be a 20 megawatt wind farm in Huron County’s Rubicon Township. DTE Energy will buy energy from the 10 turbines. The farm is expected to come online in a little less than a year.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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