Michigan’s largest wind farm goes online

The Gratiot County Wind Project, a 212 megawatt wind farm in central Michigan, is online and producing power this week, according to a news release from DTE Energy.

When reporter M. Lisa Weatherford profiled this project more than a year ago, she found that it was remarkable in that it had almost universal support in the community. While some wind farms in other parts of the U.S. have faced intense pushback from locals, there were no organized opposition groups in Gratiot County.

Once construction of the turbines began last fall, follow-up reports from local newspapers found the sentiment largely unchanged. While there are certainly people who objected to the project, they seemed to be the exception rather than the rule.

While there are economic factors at play (Michigan’s high unemployment rate would understandably make the state’s residents more receptive to any sort of development), the difference in this case seems to be the early efforts that developers made in educating the community and giving them a stake in the project. From our story last year:

Throughout the process, [wind developer Richard Vander Veen] said developers spoke with and listened to a broad range of people from Future Farmers of America to educators, local, state and federal officials, MSU Cooperative Extension, and the Michigan Farm Bureau.

“In a county where 92.5 percent of the land is zoned agricultural and there are only 42,000 people, we wanted to appreciate the culture and the community values,” he said. “In the end we are helping move the county forward in a progressive way to keep family farms in families.”

“We know that you don’t just get consensus, you have to earn it,” he added.

The project, with 133 General Electric turbines, was build by a Michigan-based contractor and will now provide enough electricity to power 50,000 homes, according to DTE.

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