ELKTON, Mich. – So pervasive is the misinformation surrounding wind farms in rural Michigan that when Robert Krohn developed lung cancer, some of his neighbors who have known him for years said he probably got it from the 17 windmills Krohn has on his 1,400-acre farm.
“It ain’t from the windmills,” the soft-spoken 77-year-old lifetime resident of Elkton, Mich., says. “Everybody says. ‘You got it from the windmills.’ It’s chemicals I used years back.”
Multiple studies have concluded that wind turbines pose no significant health threats, and there are no signs the turbines cause cancer.
Krohn was born in the house next door to his current home in Huron County, located at the tip of the “thumb” of Michigan’s lower peninsula.
Now, 17 wind turbines sit on Krohn’s farm. He said they bring in about $40,000 in annual revenue. That money, Krohn says, can turn a terrible year on his 1,400-acre corn farm into a decent one, and a good year into a great year.
Wind farm opponents routinely claim wind turbines are too noisy, disrupt sleep and heart health.
Yet, while sitting in his home’s living room, a turbine rotated outside. Only the TV was audible to a reporter. Passing cars made far more noise than the turbines. Krohn said the turbines never affect his sleep.
Wind opponents claim that windmills are too noisy, but this video shows a passing car makes far more noise.
Even in Michigan’s wind capital, opponents pursue bans
No other county has as many wind turbines as Huron, which is considered the wind capital of Michigan. The state is trying to produce 35% of its energy from renewable sources by 2025. Huron County’s 472 wind turbines are 32% of the state’s total of 1,481.
Yet even in Huron County, opponents won a moratorium on new development that started in 2018 by using a combination of scare tactics and often-heated rhetoric.
These efforts have stymied wind development in economically distressed rural communities, efforts typically led by a small group of anti-wind activists who have persuaded local governments to pass restrictive ordinances on turbines in at least six Michigan communities.
Despite having some of the state’s most productive farmland, Huron County’s economy has stagnated. The size of its labor force, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, has shrunk from 16,481 people in 2010 to 15,554 in 2020, a loss of 927 workers or by 5.6%. Compare that to two counties in the Detroit metropolitan area, Oakland and Macomb, whose labor forces grew by 5% and 5.3% respectively, over that same period, or Kent County, home of Grand Rapids, where the labor force grew by 13.9%.
Empty storefronts mark many of the county’s towns, and debates over shrinking government revenues are common.
Wind pays the bills for more than farmer like Krohn. The 70 turbines in Krohn’s hometown of Oliver Township provide about $2,000 a year each in taxes – about $140,000 for a township of 1390 people.
That extra money has enabled the local school system – Elkton Pigeon Bay Port Laker Schools – to service debt created by bond issues to expand school services.
Mike Mikus is a reporter for Checks and Balances Project, an investigative watchdog blog holding government officials, lobbyists, and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP is provided by Renew American Prosperity and individual donors.
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