University of Michigan Gateway Ford School

Changing Winds of Community Attitudes Towards Wind Energy Development: an Analysis of Huron County, Michigan

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June 2018

Alexander H. Wood

Abstract

Transitioning our energy supply to renewable sources has become an objective for policymakers, worldwide, and wind energy has emerged as a leading alternative energy source. In the US, much of the wind energy growth has occurred in rural communities where sentiment varies dramatically. Huron County, Michigan, has seen significant wind development over the past decade and demonstrates the inconsistency of community perceptions towards wind energy. In 2010, residents voted to support a wind development proposal but in 2017, voted overwhelmingly to oppose additional developments. This study assesses how the township-level 2010 proposal voting results compare to those of 2017, and how they may correlate with other township characteristics. For each township, this study inventories (1) whether the proposed projects were located within the township, (2) prior turbine presence, (3) the percentage of housing units occupied by renters, (4) the percentage of vacant housing units, and (5) the percentage of the township workforce in agriculture. This study found only the prior presence of turbines to be consistent with the relevant hypothesis that townships with more turbines would show higher support. This study highlights the importance of county and township zoning procedures in determining the success of proposed wind developments and provides further evidence of the volatility of community attitudes towards wind development.

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