Cooperative Approach Utilized for Michigan Wind Project
Dec. 31, 2014
Wind energy is taking off in the state of Michigan and has been the state's primary source of new renewable energy. Rich VanderVeen is president of Mackinaw Power, and since 2001, he says two turbines in Mackinaw have created a sense of purpose for those in the community. VanderVeen says that purpose is to continue protecting the Great Lakes and family farms for future generations. He says financially, socially, and ecologically, it's the triple bottom line for the community.
"We created a unique cooling easement agreement and invited everyone in the targeted area of 35,000 acres to be part of the project. So we've met with 275 families, 256 signed our easement, and today they are sharing $2 million dollars a year for the next 20 years. So we're creating wealth from the wind for people who host a wind farm. The second thing we did was to create a countywide zoning. We wanted to be sure that everyone in the community agreed to the rules at which the wind farm could be constructed, protecting wildlife, protecting human health, and yet laying out clear, achievable standards regarding setbacks, noise, and all of the respective issues, to make sure that the wind farm was targeted carefully."
VanderVeen says engaging the public, inviting citizens to participate from the very beginning, and clearly identifying project goals is important.
"If that's not done well, people who are not part of a project can easily say 'Well, I can think of 10 reasons why we don't like the project.' Conversely, if they are invited to participate and they are part of the project from the beginning, then I think you can find the wind is another way to keep family farms for future generations."
VanderVeen is helping plan the Michigan Wind Forum that will take place on January 20.
"It's going to be an all-day event. It's very affordable. It provides a forum to hear from legislators, the governor's office, wind farm developers, people who host wind farms and regulators on a local, state, and federal basis, to think about what are the current and future issues affecting wind. How can we make sure that wind power is in fact a way to empower local communities? How wind power can in fact be a way to reduce our environmental footprint and create new wealth from the wind."