Last May, special elections in the Thumb Area demonstrated an unmistakable aversion by local voters to the windmills that increasingly populate the farmland in this old-fashioned section of Michigan.
But progress keeps turning as Consumers Energy recently completed construction of another 19 wind turbines in Tuscola county – with more to come. The next phase for the Cross Winds Energy Park, slated for completion within a stepped-up deadline of 2019 on a $345 million CMS Energy Corp. investment plan, will establish a total of 81 turbines providing electric power for 60,000 residents.
From a southeast Michigan perspective, that expanded wind power represents less than the energy needs for the population of numerous cities and townships in the nearby Detroit suburbs. In addition, the relatively small number of jobs created by this newest renewable energy project — maybe 150 – is not impressive.
Most of all, the CMS project demonstrates that local officials in the Thumb see wind farms as a net-plus for the area’s economy, while longtime rural residents express concerns about turbine noise and a changing landscape.
Thanks to wealthy utility companies,the Thumb has emerged as the center of the wind energy business in the entire Great Lakes region. But in those May special elections, the Thumb Area electorate took a firm stand to put the brakes on massive turbines in open areas.
Voters from 20 small townships in Huron, Tuscola and Sanilac counties overwhelmingly voted for ballot proposals that strengthen zoning laws designed to halt future multi-million dollar wind turbine projects.
It appears that Thumb residents are feeling turbine fatigue as the local economic benefits have been marginal while the perceived damage to the area’s rustic atmosphere has become a growing viewpoint.
Green energy advocates need to take notice.