Mills weighs in on UP wind energy project

April 8, 2019

In Michigan's Upper Peninsula a proposal to construct 49 wind turbines across 28,000 acres of the Huron Mountains is the subject of criticism from the local communities. To get perspective in her April 4, 2019 story on Interlochen Public Radio, Kaye Lafond turned to Sarah Mills, a researcher at the Ford School.

For some, the initiative would impose immense burdens upon the local ecosystem and disrupt people’s livelihoods and the picturesque scenery. The project also raises concerns for the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community as the project would encroach upon treaty rights.

Should the proposal be implemented, the project would be the first of its kind in the UP because many of the current wind energy farms are housed in the Lower Peninsula. According to Mills, a project in the UP provides numerous advantages. For starters, Mills says, “wind energy requires a lot of land, because you need space for the wind to regenerate between the windmills. That usually means working with many landowners.” The current proposal, however, only deals with one landowner—Weyerhaeuser timber company. Nevertheless, controversy brews because “it’s really hard to find those communities where everybody’s on board,” according to Mills.

While many are in opposition to the proposal, the wind energy farm, Mills argues, could provide “a big economic opportunity for cash-strapped local governments.” For those in the affected communities, they must ask themselves one question: do the benefits outweigh the burdens?

Click here to read or listen to the full story.

Sarah Mills is a Senior Project Manager at the Ford School's Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP). She serves as project manager for the National Surveys on Energy and Environment (NSEE) and the Center's Energy and Environmental Policy Initiative.