CLINTON COUNTY, Mich. (WLNS) — Clinton County proposed an ordinance last week that would suspend large solar and wind energy projects for a year.
County officials have said residents are on board, as they are worried about the future of their farmland, as they have claimed the long-term effects of wind turbine and solar panel technology are largely unknown.
In fact, one local referred to wind turbines as “disgusting monstrosities” during a May 11 public hearing in Clinton County.
They added that the energy sources leak harmful chemicals in the earth and harm wildlife. But is that really the case?
Michigan State University assistant professor Doug Bessette was able to share some insight on the risks of solar panels and wind turbines.
Bessette works with the university’s Department of Community Sustainability, educating students on sustainable energy, energy transitions and community energy development.
“So its true that wind turbines do kill some birds and bats. Oftentimes, what makes the news is when turbines kill large birds of preys so eagles, hawks, etc.,” Bessette explained. “We don’t really know of any real evidence that solar farms have any negative impact on birds.”
As for the two means of sustainable energy leaking harmful chemicals, Bessette said there’s no evidence of that occurring.
“I don’t know of any real concern about human toxicity or wildlife toxicity from both turbines or solar panels,” Bessette said.
He added that although wind turbines kill a small percentage of birds, the impact of fossil fuels on the environment is much worse.
“There’s a lot less wildlife impacts from wind turbines then there are with regard to fossil fuels,” he continued. “There’s not a lot of evidence that solar has any negative impact to wildlife or ecosystems.”
The professor believes that the reason there is such skepticism over the sustainable technology is because it’s so new. He said people are afraid of what they don’t know, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore opinions of rural communities.
“I think we need to be a little bit better about kind of respecting where a lot of these rural communities are coming from and recognizing that a lot of these concerns they have may not necessarily be factual based, but are legitimate and we should address those concerns,” he said.
The proposed ordinance from Clinton County is on its way to the county’s board of commissioners. A vote on the ordinance is expected by the end of May.