Often lost in the debate in rural Michigan communities about whether to host a wind farm is the cost to saying “no.” That’s why Checks and Balances Project investigated just how much communities and landowners stand to lose over the projected 20-year life span of wind projects in their areas.

Our research concluded that five Michigan communities – counties and townships – that rejected wind farms stand to lose more than $200 million over 20 years. The research is presented in a report Checks and Balances Project is releasing today.

More than $200 million in lost money, a C&BP report

Expert reaction

The projections of lost income and revenue “are very likely the case,” said Dr. Michael Dorsey, an international renewable energy consultant based in Ann Arbor, Mich.. The opposition to wind energy, he said, is part of “open displays of bona fide chicanery and ignorance that are crippling this country.”

“Even the worst wind energy skeptic can’t deny that this is a TON of money collectively that has been lost,” said Ed Rivet, executive director of the Michigan Conservative Energy Forum.

Charles Gould, a renewable energy expert at Michigan State University, said he has been looking for such estimates for years but they have not been available until now.

How we calculated the costs

We used the  of $10,000 per turbine per year paid to landowners who host the turbines on their land to determine the lost income. So, if a project was intended to have 150 turbines, that meant landowners would earn $1.5 million per year.

That total amount of lost income was reached by multiplying that yearly total by the number of years the project would have been operating if it had gone online on the date it was intended. In the case of a wind farm with 150 turbines, that would be $30 million.

Other reports, however, place the amount of money paid to landowners for each turbine between $12,000 and $15,000 a year. If landowners were paid $15,000 a year for each turbine they have on their land, the total amount of revenue over a 20-year period would be $45 million.

Our estimates use the $10,000-per-turbine figure to stay conservative in our calculations.

Lost taxes were more complicated to calculate, in part because Michigan has changed the formula to determine the tax payments for wind turbines. We used the current taxation rates and projections provided by each wind farm developer over a 20-year period. We then matched it with revenues received by Gratiot and Huron counties, which have longstanding wind farms.

Ray Locker is the executive director 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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