Wind opponents only whispering their campaign

There is clearly opposition in the L’Anse Township community to a wind farm proposed by Renewable Engery Systems (RES), as demonstrated at a Feb. 1 public forum at the American Legion.

A few of these folks met with the Daily Mining Gazette editorial board on Friday to offer more details and explanation behind their opposition — but only with the condition that what they said would be “off the record,” so at this point we will refrain from identifying them.

Just so readers and future news sources are clear about what “off the record” means, it means the identity of sources providing information to news media is protected from public exposure, but the information can be published.

If “off the record” meant the information cannot be shared, it would prohibit journalists from ever publishing that information, even if they got it from other independent sources, which would be disservice to the people’s right to be informed by a free press.

So in the interest of serving the people of L’Anse Township and any other local government officials who will encounter the issue of allowing wind farms in the future, we will reveal what these unnamed individuals said regarding their opposition to the project.

They believe a wind farm with what they described as a “footprint” of 26,000 acres built at the top of Mt. Arvon, the highest point in the state of Michigan at 1,979 feet, would be aestetically detrimental, adversely impact local tourism.

That seems like an exaggerated claim, but OK.

The term “footprint” used to describe wind farms is a misnomer. The ground around the 500-foot-high turbine posts can be used in a number of different ways — which could be mandated in an special-use permit agreement with RES.

We would suggest to L’Anse Township officials that negotiating for any number of favorable benefits for their residents during permitting process — rather than concocting an overregulated ordinance effectively killing the economic opportunity — will provide a long-term economic boost to the region.

Even though RES has plans to market renewable-engery certificates (RECs) to sell to fossil-fuel power providers in other areas of the country from what’s generated in Baraga County, there is no reason why the township could not negotiate a cut of that revenue on behalf of its electricity consumers. Everything is negotiable in situations like this, and the township has leverage because it has the site.

The truth is, RECs are merely paper financial exchanges in the power industry. The actual power generated is fed into the regional grid, because long-distance power transmission is inefficient to the point of being unfeasible.

Even if the township cannot negotiate a cut of the wind farm’s product, it will still generate economic development in the form of sales taxes and provide a clean form of renewable alternative energy, which is the inevitable direction the global energy economy is transitioning.

There is little downside here, except for those people who don’t like to look at a collection of tiny windmills on the horizon of eastern Baraga County.