In Joyfield Township, Mich., plans to build wind turbines have been met with a bizarre form of resistance. Amid concerns over potential noise and lowered property values, some residents of Joyfield protested the turbines’ construction by building heliports — small airports just for helicopters — in their backyards. Because wind turbines cannot be built near heliports, several people applied for permits to build landing pads on their property. Though property owners have the right to use their land as they wish, using a loophole to combat the construction of wind turbines is simply an abuse of the law. Citizens of Joyfield and the rest of Michigan should consider the statewide benefits of wind power and other forms of clean energy before exploiting regulations.
As Michigan begins to move to alternative energy sources (as evidenced by the consideration of Prop 3), citizens must inform themselves on the reality of current clean energy methods. A lack of public knowledge of wind farms is evident: only 12 percent of respondents in a Michigan State University Land Policy Institute survey reported agreement or strong agreement when asked if they considered themselves well-informed on the topic. As green technology improves, initial concerns regarding the noise, safety and property value decline associated with wind energy are often put to rest.
According to Jim Cummings, the executive director of the Acoustic Ecology Institute, improvements in turbine designs, including adaptive controls that allow rotation speed to be adjusted, have resulted in quieter turbines. Other manufacturers have begun to incorporate a nighttime mode, which slows the turbine’s speed in order to reduce noise. Duke Energy Renewables, the company that was hired to install the turbines in Joyfield, maintains that noise is not a problem in modern wind technology. Further research from the U.S. Department of Energy suggests that property values are not affected by the presence of turbines, stating that neither the view of wind turbines nor the distance of the home to such facilities appear to have a statistically significant impact on property value.
While residents should continue to research and make informed decisions regarding clean energy, energy companies and local governments that hire them must do a better job surveying community interest in such projects. In the case of Joyfield, where residents resorted to building backyard helicopter pads to stop turbine construction, it’s clear that widespread consent was not sought by contractors. Conducting surveys before embarking on clean energy initiatives would allow companies and residents to determine what technology best fits the community’s needs. Public discussions on pros and cons of wind facilities could also appropriately gauge interest and further community knowledge on clean energy. Open dialogue is key to keeping contractors and citizens satisfied with community development and its realities.
As the United States moves toward independence from foreign oil, alternative sources like wind energy are poised to supply power to more American communities. It’s imperative that citizens continue to educate themselves on improvements in the field, and express their concerns in the public forum. Open communication between companies and the communities they serve will ensure effective implementation of greener alternatives to fossil fuel.