Wind Turbines: No Tourism Turnoff?

Fears that massive, whirring wind turbines would mar the scenic landscape and drive away tourists might not come to fruition in northwest Lower Michigan’s Benzie and Manistee counties. In fact, a new report out of the area suggests that proposed wind power development could actually spur a little bit of tourism.

The Great Lakes Bulletin News Service, put out by the Michigan Land Use Institute, talked to tourist and business officials in communities that have already seen large-scale wind-power development, and said those officials “told the news service that they could not report significant, measurable negative effects on tourism.” In fact, the Great Lakes report said, several officials indicated that, “if anything, the turbines actually boosted local tourism, and their communities moved to take advantage of the phenomenon.”

image via Northeast Wind

Scenic counties like Benzie and Manistee in Michigan depend highly on tourism to generate economic activity, according to the report. Duke Energy has proposed erecting 112 turbines along ridges a few miles inland from the Lake Michigan shoreline, but some local residents have risen up in opposition, believing the turbines would turn people away from what are described as “spectacular beaches and rural scenery” in the area.

But according to the Great Lakes report, Somerset County in Pennsylvania and Madison County in New York show a rather different story could play out. In both areas, no decline in tourism has been reported after big wind farms went in – and the turbines have actually brought in a small number of tourists specifically to see them spin. Madison County has even put kiosks up around the turbines with information about clean energy.

The Michigan report also noted that residents would benefit financially from the Duke development in ways unrelated to tourism, citing “$14,000 annual payments to landowners leasing their property for the wind farm,” which would add around $1.6 million to the local economy, and annual property tax payments of $1.3 million by Duke.

  • Jim Thompson

    This is a wonderful article. I live in Benzie County and I thank you for writing this! Jim