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Keys to Local Wind Energy Development Success

January 3, 2012

Audio with Rich VanderVeen, Mackinaw Power, LLC president (MP3 2.0 MB) Download Windows Media Player. Time: 00:02:10

Perhaps you've thought about the environmental, financial, and energy benefits of producing wind energy in the U.S., but Rich VanderVeen says there are big agricultural benefits as well.

VanderVeen, the president of Mackinaw Power, LLC in Michigan, has seen how wind energy development can save farmland for future generations.

"Example, our 35,000 acres under one set of easements with 250 families and 133 wind turbines in Gratiot County, guarantees that that 35,000 acres will not be subject to sprawling America, not subject to forms of degradation of the countryside, but rather kept intact for the next 30 to 50 years. That farmland will still be farmland, for the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of the people who are signing the easements in 2011."

VanderVeen says the Gratiot (grash-it) County wind project did not face much opposition. He says that's because of the way they approached the project. He says his golden rules of development could be utilized by any community across the country to garner support for local wind energy production.

"Earn the trust and confidence of the local community. That takes a lot of engagement of the public, and informing the public, and education, education, education. Involving people, allowing them to make sure that their questions are asked and answered. That's number one. Number two. Of course you have to spend a lot of time and energy and money investing in wind studies. Number three, you must of course have the transmission available to bring the project forward. You must then utilize the trust and confidence of the local community, the state and federal government to secure local, state, and federal permits and approvals. And finally, of course, you have to sell the power."

From there, VanderVeen says it's time to negotiate a wind turbine supply agreement and construction contract. Then he says it's important to assure the project is built safely, on time and on budge, and that it is run efficiently. Finally, he says all promises made to the landowners and community must be kept.

—Julie Jones