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Voters defeat Michigan wind energy project, toss supportive officials  

Credit:  By Garret Ellison. Published: Nov. 09, 2022, mlive.com ~~

Trufant, MI – Rural voters delivered a crushing blow to plans for a 375 megawatt wind farm in mid-Michigan, where several local renewable energy ordinances were defeated across three townships and multiple officials were thrown from office for supporting the project.

On Tuesday, Nov. 8, midterm voters resoundingly rejected ordinances enabling the Montcalm Wind project by Apex Clean Energy, a developer attempting to erect 75 turbines on farmland in Montcalm County northeast of Grand Rapids.

Zoning ordinances in Maple Valley, Douglass and Winfield townships were voted down by substantial margins amid growing animosity toward wind and solar energy projects among rural residents in Michigan who see them as a potential threat to health and property values.

A Belvidere Township solar energy ordinance also fell amid the wave of referendums.

Seven township officials in Montcalm County were recalled over their support for the $463 million wind project, which would have generated $118 million for leasing property owners and $80 million for local governments and schools over 30 years, according to an Upjohn Institute report.

Voters recalled Winfield Township supervisor Phyllis Larson, clerk Colleen Stebbins and trustee John Black. Douglass Township supervisor Terry Anderson, clerk Ronda Snyder and trustee Tom Jeppesen were recalled. Maple Valley Township supervisor John Schwandt was recalled.

Voters told the Greenville Daily News on Tuesday that turbines are an “eyesore” and several cited disputed claims about their impact on wildlife such as migrating birds.

Opposition signs reading “2 Tall, 2 Close, 2 Loud,” “Big Wind, Go Home,” and “Not In My Backyard!” have become common along Montcalm roads since opposition to the contentious wind project began to coalesce in 2019.

It’s unclear whether Apex will attempt to challenge the referendums in court. The Virginia-based company is also facing opposition to a planned 300-megawatt project in Ingham County, where townships have passed turbine height restrictions and moratoriums.

Last year, Apex sold Michigan’s largest wind farm, a 383-megawatt project in Isabella County, to DTE Energy.

Environmental and clean energy advocates in Lansing are frustrated by the anti-renewable push happening in rural communities across Michigan.

Increasing renewable generation from wind and solar is crucial to transitioning the energy market away from fossil fuels which are helping drive climate change, they say.

In 2021, renewable energy accounted for about 11 percent of generation in Michigan and wind energy accounted for about 60 percent of that, according to federal statistics.

Nationally, the Biden administration wants the U.S. to be free of carbon-based electricity by 2035. In Michigan, the state’s Healthy Climate Plan entails getting 60 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

Utilities like Consumers Energy and DTE Energy have also both pledged to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from their portfolios by 2050.

“We’re not unique in some NIMBYism and concerns over renewable siting, but it’s uniquely bad here because of our township model, which is not something a lot of other states have,” said Charlotte Jameson, chief policy officer for the Michigan Environmental Council.

States like Wisconsin have put guardrails around renewable energy siting and “are seeing less issues because they put in place a statewide solution, whereas in Michigan we’re still sort of fumbling through what to do about this,” she said.

Jameson said renewable project siting ought to be part of a comprehensive climate-focused legislative package, which would be more likely to succeed after Democrats took control of the both the state House and Senate and retained the governor’s office this week.

“The siting issue is definitely one where you have environmental groups, utilities and labor in agreement that there needs to be some kind of solution here,” she said.

Source:  By Garret Ellison. Published: Nov. 09, 2022, mlive.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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