The Caro Chamber of Commerce says that its hometown of Caro, Michigan, has a “Norman Rockwell feel with modern amenities.” Among some of the most modern of those amenities are the turbines from nearby wind farms that are steadily transforming the region.
Those wind farms have also led to many questions from nearby residents, so many in fact that Brenda Caruthers, Executive Director of the Caro Chamber enthusiastically agreed when Consumers Energy, the state’s largest utility, proposed that the chamber host a series of tours of the new Crosswinds Energy Park that is nearing completion.
Caro is the second chamber in Michigan to help its community better understand wind farms through public tours. (The first chamber to host public tours – the Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce in western Michigan— also partnered with Consumers Energy).
More than 300 people took the Caro tours. More than half of those people, Caruthers said, came to Caro specifically for the tours. “We’re a rural area,” she said. “We’re not a tourist area and that’s a huge number of visitors for us.”
The tours started at the chamber’s office – also a benefit for the chamber, Caruthers noted, because it can be difficult to get direct traffic to the chamber’s building – where a video about the wind farm was shown. A chamber member with a tour bus company then took the visitors to the wind farm, which has 62 turbines that will generate 105 megawatts of power enough to supply electricity for 31,000 homes.
For the first month, Caruthers personally greeted the wind farm visitors and, of course, took the tour herself. “Most of us had already seen the wind towers because they are so close to us,” she said. “But the size is so impressive. The plans that had to be developed and everything else that goes into these wind farms is just mind boggling to me and many others.”
The chamber also surveyed people returning from the tours, asking if their position on wind power had changed. More than 60 percent of respondents said they were more inclined to support wind generation. All in all, Caruthers said, the wind farm tours were a “very positive experience” for the chamber and for Consumers Energy, a major chamber member.