Newsletter: Berkeley Lab Study Finds Positive Responses to Wind Development

This wind newsletter was originally published on February 16, 2018.

Lawrence Berkeley National Lab Study Finds Positive Responses to Wind Development

According to A National Survey of Attitudes of Wind Power Project Neighbors completed by the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL),  a significant majority of respondents who live within 5 miles of a turbine – or even as close as less than half a mile from a turbine – have positive attitudes toward the turbines in their community. 

The LBNL study investigated both perceptions of and reactions to some of the common criticisms of wind turbines – including noise, shadow flicker, red lights and landscape changes – as well as participation in and perceived fairness of the wind power project’s planning and siting process. This investigation helps to dispel some of the myths surrounding turbines. For instance, the study found that only 16% of all residents within 5 miles have ever heard sounds from the turbines and, of those, more than half were not annoyed by them. Further, the study also found that approximately two-thirds of those who were knowledgeable about their local wind development planning process perceived it as having been largely “fair.” However, it is clear that perceived fairness in the planning process and compensation are two factors that strongly influence perceptions toward wind energy development. These factors are especially true in Michigan, as Dr. Sarah Mills found in her survey research of community members living near 10 of Michigan’s wind farms.


Wind Energy Stakeholders Committee Releases Report on “Lessons Learned: Community Engagement for Wind Energy Development in Michigan”

On Wednesday, February 14, the Wind Energy Stakeholders Committee held a webinar to discuss a new report produced by the Committee. Skip Pruss, former director of the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth and former Michigan Chief Energy Officer, moderated the discussion. Three Committee members, Larry Merrill, Executive Director of the Michigan Township Association, George Heartwell, former Mayor of Grand Rapids, and Sarah Mills, Postdoctoral Fellow at University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, discussed their experiences on the Committee and the importance of the report.

Over the last year, the Wind Energy Stakeholder Committee brought experienced and knowledgeable stakeholders to discuss critical issues affecting wind energy development in Michigan. Its mission was not to facilitate wind energy development in any particular community, but to assist those who support wind energy generation as a desirable land use that belongs in Michigan’s energy portfolio, as well as to inform those who may be ambivalent regarding wind energy but who believe that local democracy requires a knowledgeable citizenry and a level playing field by which community decisions are made. 

There was representation on the WESC from the Gratiot-Isabella Regional Education Service District, Michigan Agri-Business Association, Michigan Association of Counties, Michigan Townships Association, Michigan Farm Bureau, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Michigan Renewable Energy Collaborative, University of Michigan, wind developers, Michigan utilities, local community representatives, the faith community, and legal representatives.

Throughout the year-long process, the Committee developed the “Lessons Learned” report to synthesize the member’s collective experience with wind energy development in Michigan. The report describes a number of questions that communities may want to ask developers and key lessons including the importance of building long-term relationships built on transparency, the benefit of providing payments to a wide range of landowners, and the importance of accurately identifying the benefits and costs of wind energy development. It is the hope of the Committee that the document will provide valuable information to all involved in future wind energy projects.

Wind Newsclips

In Michigan
  • Opponents to wind energy raised issues at a Matteson Township meeting.
  • Algansee approved a moratorium on wind turbines and solar farms.
  • DTE Energy secured easements from more than 100 landowners for a potential wind project in south-central Michigan.
  • The Delta County Planning Commission approved permits for a 22-wind turbine site.
  • Midwest Energy News reporter Andy Balaskovitz discussed offshore wind potential in the Great Lakes on Science Friday on NPR.
  • Windmills are inching closer to construction in Gratiot and Isabella counties.
  • Opposition is rising against a planned wind farm in Branch County.
  • A Huron County Planner resigned after a contentious meeting on a proposed wind park.
Across the Country
  • The U.S. added 15% less wind power last year than in 2016 because a promise of tax credits on the horizon has removed some of the urgency of rapid installation.
  • Global supply chain dynamics played a large role in lowering the average cost of wind to $21 per megawatt-hour.
  • A new forecast projects that the U.S. offshore wind market will grow at a compounded annual rate of more than 50% over the next eight years, due to state-level procurement.
  • More utilities and energy investors in America’s “wind belt” are adding wind to their generation fleets because of its low cost and proven record of grid reliability, says the president of Vestas Americas. 
  • Nike signed a power-purchase agreement with Avangrid Renewables to buy 86 MW of power from a wind farm in Texas.
  • The McLean County Zoning Board of Appeals voted in favor of Michigan EIBC member company Invenergy’s application to build a 100-turbine wind farm.
  • Restrictive setback regulations slowed wind energy growth in Ohio last year. Now, industry groups oppose legislation that would require developers to acquire more waivers from property owners before building wind projects.
  • Michigan EIBC member company NextEra Energy is developing plans for a 99 MW wind project in northeastern South Dakota.
  • Wind energy development has strong support among Iowa residents, who largely see it as an economic development tool, an industry group says.