Wind farm vote is about money plus much more

“It’s not about the money.”

Defenders of a principle or cause they believe in often use that phrase in making their case. In the case of the Summit Lake wind farm, which is in effect facing an up-or-down referendum to be determined May 7 by the voters of L’Anse, it is about the money — plus a whole lot more.

It is about the money for schools and local municipalities, which makes it about the money L’Anse Township and Baraga County taxpayers who stand to lose $35 million in revenue to local and county schools and governments.

What then?

•What happens to Baraga County students when — not if — the cost of education and all its operations and building costs rises beyond what is paid by the state (an inconsistent stream at best) or local property taxpayers?

•What happens when — not if — local public works departments need to replace expensive equipment for vital services like snow removal?

In both those cases, local taxpayers will have to pay more in the form of millage increases or bond issues, that’s what.

How can Baraga County promote economic development if it cannot afford to provide adequate infrastructure to accommodate new residential or business development to add to its tax base?

Given these inevitabilities and others, a vote against the wind farm is in effect a vote for higher taxes.

So yes, it is about money. It is also about about adding power generation capacity to the Upper Peninsula, because the power will physically go into the local grid – that Renewable Engergy Systems, the wind farm’s owner, will benefit by profiting from the clean energy credits someplace else does not take away from local benefit — the money.

It is also about producing clean energy with no emissions that will good for the local ecology and the world in addressing climate change.

Wind power’s carbon footprint for its life cycle — factoring the manufacturing of the turbines and maintenance — is among the smallest of any energy source, 90 times less than coal, 40 times less than natural gas and 25 less than the most efficient solar system, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Opponents have called wind turbines ugly, but they seem to be color blind to green. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Turning wind turbines producing clean electrical power without generating any greenhouse gases and an estimated $1.4 million every year for the next 25 years should look beautiful in the mind’s eye of a L’Anse Township property taxpayer.

L’Anse Township voters should make no mistake about this: Wind power and other renewable energy will be coming. Wind and solar are already more economically viable than coal, and they will find other places in the Upper Peninsula. Those places will get the economic benefit.

The Copper Country’s first economic boom was the result of mining a finite natural resource that eventually was exhausted. Harnessing a renewable resource like the wind to produce electrical power offers the opportunity to produce a revival of the region’s economy and last in perpetuity.

A Daily Mining Gazette editorial