November 11, 2022
The hype about renewable energy keeps colliding with motivated opposition in rural America. That fact was made clear again on Tuesday when several rural communities in Ohio and Michigan voted overwhelmingly to reject proposed wind and solar projects.
In Crawford County, Ohio, residents voted by a 3 to 1 margin to reject the proposed 300-megawatt Honey Creek Wind Project which was being promoted by Apex Clean Energy. As reported by Gere Goble of the Bucyrus Telegraph-Forum, “The room erupted into cheers as Kay Weisenauer read the results to members of Crawford Neighbors United who had gathered at the Crawford County Courthouse on Tuesday night: A referendum vote had upheld a 10-year ban on industrial wind development in Crawford County.”
Also on Tuesday, voters in three Michigan townships “resoundingly rejected ordinances enabling the Montcalm Wind project by Apex Clean Energy, a developer attempting to erect 75 turbines on farmland in Montcalm County northeast of Grand Rapids.” That’s from an article written by Garret Ellison of Mlive.com. Voters in Maple Valley, Douglass, and Winfield townships rejected ordinances amid what Ellison called “growing animosity toward wind and solar projects among rural residents in Michigan who see them as a potential threat to health and property values.”
In addition, voters in Belvidere Township rejected an ordinance that would have allowed solar energy projects, and “seven township officials in Montcalm County were recalled over their support” of Apex’s proposed wind project. The rejections continue a losing streak for Apex, whose projects have faced staunch opposition in local communities in New York and other states. Apex gained notoriety in New York for its failure to disclose the presence of known Bald Eagle nests on Galloo Island where it wanted to install multiple wind turbines.
Tuesday’s rejections in Ohio and Michigan bring the total number of rejections or restrictions of wind energy in the US this year to 51. Since 2015, there have been at least 375 rejections of restrictions and those have occurred in states from Maine to Hawaii. In addition, the rejection of solar in Belvidere Township increases the number of solar rejections this year to 76 and to 103 since 2017. These rejections are all documented in the Renewable Rejection Database which is on my website, robertbryce.com. (Please note that the database is being updated and reformatted, so some of these latest rejections have not been posted.)
Before going further, let me remind readers that you won’t see these rejections being reported by The New York Times or National Public Radio. Those news outlets routinely ignore what is happening in rural America when it comes to land use conflicts. Nor will you read about these rejections in the studies being published by elite academics at places like Princeton or Stanford. But the numbers are clear and the rural resistance to the energy sprawl that comes with large-scale renewable projects is widespread and very strong. Yes, more wind and solar capacity is being built in states across the country. And those expansions are being fueled by staggering quantities of federal tax credits through the production tax credit and investment tax credit.
The rejections of wind and solar in Ohio and Michigan (and the recall of pro-wind township officials) came just about three weeks after another rejection of renewables in Kansas. On October 24, county commissioners in Osage County, Kansas voted unanimously on a provision that will prohibit the construction of large wind and solar projects within the county’s borders.
According to an October 26 article written by Sarah Motter for WIBW, a TV station in Topeka, the commission’s vote came after “the county’s 12-month moratorium on alternative energy projects for commercial use ended early in 2022. The Planning and Zoning Board also held several public meetings before it unanimously recommended these projects be not allowed to move forward.”
The vote apparently is the death knell for a proposed wind project called Auburn Harvest. Motter wrote that that project included about 60 wind turbines with a projected capacity of 150 megawatts that was to cover some 30,000 acres. It is worth noting that if those numbers are correct, the capacity density of the wind project was going to be a mere 1.2 watts per square meter, which is significantly less than the 3 watts per square meter that is common on many wind projects. Motter also reports that the project was being promoted by a company called Steelhead Americas, a subsidiary of struggling Danish wind-turbine maker Vestas, which recently reported substantial losses due to supply chain constraints and inflation.
On Thursday morning, I spoke by phone to Norm Stephens, a retired middle-school teacher who lives in Almer Township, Michigan. Stephens became active in opposing wind projects in Michigan and elsewhere in 2017 after Almer Township was sued in federal court by NextEra Energy, the world’s biggest renewable-energy producer. As I reported in National Review back in 2017, NextEra filed the suit after Almer Township officials implemented an ordinance that banned wind projects. NextEra lost that lawsuit.
Stephens said decided to help other communities organize against big wind and solar projects because small towns were “getting the bully push from big wind companies.” He was ebullient about the victories in Crawford and Montcalm counties. “This sends a strong message that people in rural America oppose irresponsible siting of wind turbines,” he said. “There’s pushback because nobody wants a pig farm or landfill 1,000 feet from their home. They don’t want a 656-foot-high wind turbine, either.”
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