Wind turbines have become so much a standard feature, an integral element, of local society in some Michigan counties that officials don’t gush much about them anymore.
But all the same, they’re feeling a lot of satisfaction from some of the side benefits – not to mention the less-costly renewable energy – that residents are enjoying.
“They stand there. They turn. They do their thing,” says Kevin Beeson, supervisor, Pine River Township. “You listen to them. You look at them,” and you may from time to time chat about them around the local breakfast place. “They’re there, they’re different, they’re kind of fun to sit and watch. They just spin lazily in the wind.”
Wheeler Township Fire Chief Jeff Westall points to a flashy new 2019 fire truck and “a lot of equipment that we wouldn’t have been able to buy” without funds made available as a result of the turbines.
Windmill developers aren’t just paying the farmers offering them a site, says Sara Mills, PhD, of the University of Michigan, who has studied the wind turbines’ economic influence in the state. She points to “huge” property tax increases in some communities having turbines and says one community experienced a 500% increase in tax revenues in just one year.
“They’re also paying property taxes, and those property taxes go to local governments, they go to the school districts, they go to the county government,” says Mills.
“This is for the future,” adds Beeson, supervisor of Pine River Township in Michigan. “They’re a neighbor.”
A neighbor that consistently brings some goodies – some additional technology for the schools, a new fire truck for the volunteer fire department, some lower tax bills for residents resulting from the taxes the turbine owners themselves chip in.
Huron County farmer Keith Iseler points to residents having to pay “nothing … nothing” in advance of hosting turbines. “They didn’t have to build a road, they didn’t have to construct a center, they didn’t need to do anything.”
Beeson agrees, saying the township didn’t need to add extra police, cover additional ambulance calls, or build more schools to accommodate the turbines. “They just provide the quality of life for everyone else. … Every taxpayer is saving. … They pay some taxes to our schools and to our township. They’re a neighbor.”