Wind parks bring clean energy and other benefits to Isabella County

When driving through Isabella County, you likely will see plenty of wind turbines, endlessly working to supply the region with clean, locally-sourced energy.

In Michigan, the largest single-phase wind parks are the Isabella Wind Parks I and II. The 136 turbines between the two parks produce enough clean energy to power 121,000 Michigan homes, says Dave Harwood, Renewable Energy Director at DTE Energy.

According to DTE Energy, Michigan is ranked 14th in the nation for installed wind turbines, most of which are located in the thumb.

Located in Rosebush, the Isabella Wind parks began operation this year and are two of 18 wind parks in Michigan owned by DTE Energy. They were built by APEX Clean Energy and were purchased in 2019 as part of DTE Energy’s plan to reduce their carbon emissions by more than 80% by 2050. 

Now, the turbines of Isabella County are providing clean energy all over the state.

A DTE program called MIGreenPower allows customers to choose how much of their energy comes from clean sources. According to Harwood, the added cost to the consumer’s bill is usually less than $20. 

“The environmental attributes of that project are part of our voluntary program we have with our customers,” says Harwood. “Our customers can sign up for varying levels of green energy, or clean energy, in their bill. The output of this project has already been completely sold out to some of our larger customers in the state who want more clean power in their usage, so they can also reduce their carbon footprint.”

Middle Michigan Development Corporation (MMDC) supported the Isabella Wind projects and had worked to educate the local community on the benefits of wind energy. MMDC hopes to expand and attract businesses to Clare and Isabella counties in order to build the economy and create jobs.

James McBryde, President and CEO of MMDC, says some of those benefits include temporary and permanent jobs, tax revenue for local municipalities, and security for the local energy grid. Residents using energy from the local source are also less likely to lose power in a brownout.

Beal City Middle/High School

William Chilman, Superintendent of Beal City Schools, says the school will also see financial benefits from the parks.

Tax revenue generated by the turbines goes towards paying off the school’s costs relating to the building and other infrastructure.

“We have millage that our voters have voted on for our building, the infrastructure,” says Chilman. “And those bonds get paid off quicker.”

According to Chilman, before the Isabella Wind project, one mill generated around $75,000 per year. Now that the wind parks are operational, they will generate around $150,000 per year.

As for the actual turbines, Chilman says there are around 86 in the school district and they have been unobtrusive, even during the construction process. The turbines are visible from the school, but none are on the school’s property.

The approximately 700 K-12 students who attend Beal City Schools learn about the turbines in their science classes through educational videos created by DTE Energy.

The turbines are also beneficial for the people who own the land they are built on, mostly local farmers.

Rosebush farmer, Bob Walton of Walton Farms says that the wind turbines were installed on his property about a year ago, but he and his wife were anticipating their arrival for nearly four years before that.
Rosebush farmer, Bob Walton of Walton Farms has one turbine on the property he farms with his daughter. The turbine was built in 2020 and he said the experience has been a positive one. 

The access road built to reach the turbine has made harvesting crops much easier and while building the road meant damaging some crops, Walton Farms was compensated for the loss. Walton Farms has approximately 400 acres and receives $60 per acre, all of which goes back into their family farm.

Michigan is among the states with the highest population, which means energy consumption is high. Approximately 11% of Michigan’s electricity is generated by renewable sources — mostly wind. Michigan ranks in the top 15 states for wind energy generation.

MMDC decided to help bring clean energy to Isabella County because many companies are starting to use more renewable energy sources, which means they will be looking to base their operations in communities where that is possible.

“As we see trends that corporate entities are becoming more and more environmentally conscientious and they're making pledges to move into greener spaces we want to make sure, here, that we have a really strong position to say, ‘this is a great place for you to achieve those goals,’” says Jessie Stickler, Director of Communications at MMDC.

MMDC is currently in early discussion with APEX Energy about moving to a second phase of the Isabella Wind project to expand clean energy production in Isabella County even further. They are also working with J. Ranck Electric to bring solar energy to Clare County.

“We just recently finished up the largest single-phase wind project in the state,” says McBryde. “So, we're not going to rest on that and we're going to keep moving forward and looking for other opportunities for alternative energy.”

Energy production is not often associated with the Great Lakes Bay Region, but that’s changing. Epicenter Mt. Pleasant and our sister publications, Route Bay City and Catalyst Midland, are featuring renewable energy projects that are powering our region. 

Catalyst Midland

Route Bay City

CORRECTION: This article has been updated to correct a misspelling, previously identifying DTE Energy's Renewable Energy Director, Dave Harwood, as Dave Hartwood. 
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