There’s a battle brewing about how Michigan will produce energy in the future. Much of the debate is focused on whether wind-powered turbines are the answer.
“This industry is marked by a history of litigation, referendum, recall, political action and social turmoil,” said Kevon Martis, the director of the Interstate Informed Citizen’s Coalition.
Martis formed the coalition in 2011 to oppose wind projects that were proposed where he lived in southeast Michigan. Now his focus is in Branch County.
DTE Energy says more than 120 landowners have signed easements for about 25,000 acres of land. The easements compensate the landowners on a per-acre basis for the right to be considered part of a wind farm project in the future.
“We know that people are excited in Branch County because this is a tremendous opportunity for them,” Matt Wagner, renewable energy development manager for DTE Energy, said.
Not so fast, Martis said.
“I know the majority of people who live in Branch County, given the chance to go into a secret ballot process and to vote whether or not this was good for their community, they will vote no roughly 60/40 every time,” he said.
The objection? People don’t like 60-story wind turbines on open land.
“And so from a zoning perspective, we don’t care if those large, noisy structures extract coal or oil out of the ground, or turn sows’ ears into silk purses, or generate wind energy, none of those things matter to us,” Martis said.
Martis also says wind energy is not cost-effective.
DTE Energy disagrees with Martis’ math.
“Wind energy is on par with natural gas energy,” Wagner said. “So we find it to be very cost-competitive.”
Martis isn’t buying it.
“Instead, what they’re doing is picking certain technologies and saying, ‘You will build this type of technology’ irrespective of the fact they are not cost-effective ways to reduce emissions,” he said.
“We don’t come in and say, ‘You must do this,’” Wagner countered. “We’re more apt to say, ‘Other communities have done it this way.’”
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