An international renewable energy company is no longer considering bringing wind turbines to northern Cass County.
Renewable Energy Systems, or RES, which has a U.S. headquarters in Broomfield, Colorado, was behind the Harvest Wind Energy project. It aimed to bring a 600-megawatt wind generation development to Cass and Miami counties.
RES stated in a media announcement Tuesday that it is no longer pursuing the project and that it will take action to accomplish the withdrawal immediately.
“Technical circumstances for the project have changed unfavorably, making the project no longer feasible,” according to the statement.
Scott Jansen, RES project manager, commented on the withdrawal in the announcement.
“After a careful review of several factors, RES has decided to withdraw from the Harvest Wind project,” Jansen said. “We have enjoyed working with the local communities in Cass and Miami counties and want to thank all the landowners, farmers and supporters of the Harvest Wind project.”
Cass County Commissioners President Jim Sailors by phone on Tuesday attributed the cancellation to the project’s opponents.
“So what people have effectively done is stopped $90 million in payments to people in the community,” Sailors said, referring to the funds participating landowners were estimated to make for leasing property to RES for the turbines.
The proposed project has been a contentious issue in Cass County for about the past year.
“They’ve stopped the project,” Sailors said, referring to the opponents. “It’s what they wanted to do. The community is just going to have to struggle along the way it is.”
One of the opponents, Lora Redweik, Twelve Mile, called the announcement “fabulous news” by phone Tuesday.
“That gives us some relief but we still feel like we have a lot more work to do,” she said.
Redweik and other Cass County residents are urging county officials to change local wind energy rules. They disagree with setbacks being measured to residences, as it could prevent property owners from building on their own land if too close to a neighboring turbine. A lawsuit calling that rule unconstitutional is currently being contested in Cass County Circuit Court.
Residents have also advocated for setbacks of 2,640 feet from nonparticipating property lines, saying that distance is necessary to preserve safety, property rights and quality of life.
Cass County’s current rules regulating commercial wind turbines require them to be at least 1,000 feet from residences and the length of a turbine blade from nonparticipating property lines.
The Cass County Plan Commission plans to vote next month on whether to create a committee that will conduct research and consider possible changes to the county’s wind energy rules.
A proposed contract between Cass County and Harvest Wind Energy LLC indicated that the project’s turbines would’ve been at least 1,000 feet from nonparticipating property lines and 1,640 feet from residences. While a turbine model for the project had never been announced, RES had indicated in the past that they’d be between 500 to 670 feet tall. Depending on what kind of turbine was chosen, RES reported there’d be about 150 to 225 turbines across Cass and Miami counties.
Attempts were unsuccessful Tuesday to reach some of the Cass County property owners who were participating in the project.
Sailors said over 100 property owners and 40,000 acres had been signed up for the development.
The project was estimated to have added over $100 million to Cass County’s assessed value. A proposed contract called for Harvest Wind Energy to pay $5 million in economic development funds to the county and $25,000 per megawatt for every megawatt generated over 200.
Harvest Wind Energy was eyeing Adams, Bethlehem, Boone and Harrison townships in northern Cass County for the project. A financial adviser working for the county said in May that the development would have decreased tax rates in the four townships. He indicated an Adams Township home with a gross assessed value of $50,000 would have seen its tax bill drop by about $10 and then by $20 after a proposed 10-year, 55-percent property tax abatement for the company. A home with a gross assessed value of $150,000 would have seen its tax bill cut by $130 after the abatement period.
When those figures were announced, several Cass County residents indicated the decreased tax rates wouldn’t have been worth it to tolerate the turbines.