Back in March, we profiled the impending arrival of Michigan’s largest wind farm, in Gratiot County. While the standard narrative is that wind farms are controversial and hotly opposed by residents, Gratiot County was welcoming, even enthusiastic, about the project and the revenue it would bring.

Here’s what Dan Rossman of the local extension office had to say at the time:

“Even in the beginning we did not experience serious opposition. People had the typical questions and when their questions were answered, their fears just evaporated,” he said. “They were very open-minded.”

“No one has called my office to complain,” Rossman said. “There are people who chose not to have a turbine on their farm, but they did it because they didn’t need the financial help or didn’t want to lose acreage or deal with the construction or have their view changed.”

The wind farm is now well on its way to becoming reality. This video, made by Portland, Oregon filmmaker (and Michigan native) Ben VanderVeen, shows some photos of the project and gets some reaction from local officials.

YouTube video

VanderVeen’s father, Richard VanderVeen, is president of Wind Resource LLC, which developed the project and paid for the video (Ben tells me via email that he’s working on a longer version). So while it provides a great visual look at how construction is proceeding, it probably shouldn’t be considered the final word on how the project is being received.

The Midland Daily News also visited Gratiot County in October and still found widespread support for the project, but with a few exceptions. One business owner who shared in a $45,000 payment to have power lines run under his property, says “I’m not thrilled about looking at them. But, I understand the economic impact it’s going to have.”

Another declares the project as “stupid” and “a waste of money.”

But those opinions seem to be the exception rather than the rule. The News says the construction project has been a boon so far for local businesses. That’s also reflected in an interview the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun conducted with Jeff Ostrander, the village manager for Breckenridge.

The biggest question — and this is important, it’s huge — is where are the workers from? We have hundreds of workers and they’re from Aristeo in Detroit. They’re from Michigan. That’s what the visitors want to know. They want to know these are Michigan people working.

Julie Turner, a cafe owner in Breckenridge, expressed to the Midland Daily News the type of enthusiasm that we found when initially reporting on the project earlier this year.

“The turbines are going to be great for Gratiot County.”

Ken is the director of the Energy News Network at Fresh Energy and is a founding editor of both Midwest Energy News and Southeast Energy News. Prior to joining Fresh Energy, he was the managing editor for online news at Minnesota Public Radio. He started his journalism career in 2002 as a copy editor for the Duluth News Tribune before spending five years at the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, where he worked as a copy editor, online producer, features editor and night city editor. A Nebraska native, Ken has a bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a master's degree from the University of Oregon. He is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors.

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