MID-MICHIGAN (WJRT) – Environmentalists are sounding the alarm that more needs to be done now to slow climate change.
They are calling for more renewable energy to be produced in Michigan. This may mean more wind and solar farms around Mid-Michigan, adding to the significant facilities already in place.
Wind and solar projects are a hot topic in the region and often generate public debate.
MORE MONEY FOR THE FIELD
The Gross family’s third-generation dairy farm on 800 acres in northwest Isabella County, near Beal City, is now producing a new crop: wind power from eight turbines installed on the farm l ‘last year.
Steven and Philip Gross took over their grandparents’ farm.
“We have been here for over 90 years,” said Steven.
The Grosses said they weren’t sure if they wanted to have wind turbines in their fields because of how they looked, but ultimately decided it was worth it. They felt that the benefits outweighed all the rest.
“I mean let’s face it. Economically, it was going to help us generate more income on our land – and that’s farming, ”said Philip.
They say it takes a while to get used to having wind turbines around, but they say it’s no different having a cell phone tower nearby. They hope that in the future more people will see the good and not necessarily the bad.
“It benefits everyone. This is what I saw, ”said Steven Gross. “Look at the big picture.”
He would not say how much money the family farm receives from wind turbines on its land. But they just need to consider doing construction work they had already delayed and enlist local contractors to help them.
MID-MICHIGAN WORKS FOR THE WIND
Gross Farms is located in the state’s newest and largest wind farm, Isabella Wind. It includes more than 130 wind turbines capable of producing enough electricity to power 120,000 homes per year, according to DTE Energy.
But Isabella Wind is only a fraction of all wind turbines in the state. Currently, there are 1,581 operational wind turbines in Michigan, and 1,257 of them – or about 80% – are located around Mid-Michigan.
Weather conditions around Mid-Michigan make region suitable for generating electricity with wind power
“To be blunt, it’s windy,” said Frank Harwood, director of renewable energy at DTE.
He said DTE is looking for places that generate a lot of wind and where they can work with communities on the project.
When wind farms are built in communities, they produce more than renewable energy – they also make money. Revenues from the Isabella Wind project will help Isabella County pay the cost of building a new $ 40 million jail.
COMMON LOCAL PUSHBACK
But wind farms don’t work all over Mid-Michigan – and not just because the typical weather isn’t favorable. Wind turbines were proposed in an area in northern Lapeer County, but the project never happened because some people who live there pushed back and said no.
They include Michelle Peel, who lives on 10 acres just outside of North Branch.
“I live in the countryside because I want to be in the countryside,” she said. “I want to be where it’s quiet. I want to be where there are cornfields, where people know your name and I don’t want to live in an industrial complex.
Peel said DTE was looking to install a wind farm near their property and they didn’t want to. She was also worried about noise and how far wind turbines might have approached her property.
This is a concern shared by Norm Stephens.
“I have attended over 50 different township or county meetings statewide. And the residents who stand up and talk say the same sort of thing. They are not against wind power. They are against irresponsible implantation, ”he said.
Stephens is a retired teacher and said he doesn’t like the way things are run when energy companies come to town looking to build wind turbines. Harwood of DTE said he was happy to work with area residents to alleviate the issues.
“We want to understand what the concerns are. Often the concerns raised can be easily mitigated or explained, ”he said.
CONTINUOUS GROWTH PLANS
In the future, advocates want to see more renewable energy production in Michigan.
Michigan currently ranks 15th in the country for its wind power capacity and production. But only 8% of the state’s electricity comes from renewables like wind. Coal, nuclear power and natural gas are still leading the way.
That’s not enough, according to Mike Buzza, president of the environmental group Sierra Club’s Nepessing group.
“We really need to speed up these things quickly,” he said. “We’re sort of, we should have done this sort of thing 10 or 20 years ago and now we finally just do it and we have a lot of catching up to do.”
There is some catching up going on. Meridian Wind is under construction in Saginaw and Midland counties with nearly 80 wind turbines expected to be commissioned by next year.
So this form of renewable energy doesn’t seem to be going anywhere and in fact it is growing. Harwood said DTE’s plans continue to move forward with wind and solar farms as customers demand more and want the utility to do more to protect the environment.
“Renewable energies will continue to grow,” he said.
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