The Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce in Michigan has scored a rare triple victory: it helped launch and grow a new business that educates its community on an important economic development project while generating new tourism spending. And it has done so on the topic of energy generation, typically not a topic that draws crowds.
What is generating all this interest? Kathy Maclean, Executive Director of the Ludington chamber, reports that a new wind energy park has become an extraordinary tourist draw. Working with Consumers Energy, which opened the 56-turbine Lake Winds Energy Park in 2012, the chamber organized tours of the wind farm. The tours start at the chamber office, where visitors watch a 30-minute educational video about wind energy and the construction of wind farms. After the video, visitors take a one-hour bus tour of the 100 megawatt wind park in Michigan’s Mason County.
In 2012, when the tours began, Maclean says that demand was so strong that the chamber expanded the number of available seats but still ended up turning away visitors. The tours continued to be such a huge draw that eventually the chamber spun off the work to a local bus company and tour operator. Consumers Energy initially helped to underwrite the costs of the tours, but this year visitors are charged a nominal fee with no noticeable decrease in enthusiasm.
Maclean says the tours have generated tourism and commerce for the Ludington area and raised visibility for the wind farm. Her community is not alone; according to CleanEnergy.org, wind turbines across the country – and throughout the world — have become tourist attractions.
The Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber can be found online here. A website about the Lake Winds Energy Park is here. A short video from Consumers Energy about the construction of the energy park is here. The article from CleanEnergy.org about energy tourism can be found here.