Skip to main content
Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

Informing you and your community in 2024

Bridge Michigan’s year-end fundraising campaign is happening now! As we head into another news-filled election year, we are crafting our strategy for helping Michigan residents make informed decisions at the ballot box, reaching new audiences, and more fully living up to our mission of making Michigan a better place through nonpartisan journalism and engagement. Will you help us prepare for the new year? Your tax-deductible support makes our work possible!

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Pay with PayPal Donate

Opinion | Wind energy is generating new opportunities at Beal City Schools

As a former Earth Science teacher, I have long supported harnessing our planet’s natural resources — the wind and the sun — to generate electricity. Today, as a school superintendent, I have seen that wind and solar energy can power far more than only our homes and businesses. They can power new opportunities for students, teachers and entire school districts through the benefits they bring to communities that host them.

William C. Chilman IV headshot
William C. Chilman IV is superintendent at Beal City Public Schools in Isabella County.

In early 2021, the Isabella Wind project was completed and began operations in our community. The new 383-megawatt, 136-turbine project was the largest wind project constructed in Michigan. In total, 83 of those wind turbines are located in the Beal City School District and our school building sits in the heart of the wind project.

Prior to the project’s approval, our school district passed a supportive resolution because we could see the huge benefits the project would bring to our community, not only through hundreds of construction jobs and new long-term careers for future graduates, but also the millions of dollars in new tax revenue it would bring to local school districts like ours and other local governmental agencies.

In the project’s first two years of operation, it has already generated more than $10 million in new tax revenue for Isabella County, local townships, and local school districts, including more than $1.5 million to Beal City Schools alone.

On August 9, voters in our district passed a millage proposal that will raise more than $11 million to pay for new buses, construct additional classrooms, make our bathrooms ADA-compliant, and remodel the school stage, among other upgrades.

The amazing thing is that despite that $11 million price tag, tax bills for residents in our district are not increasing one dime to pay for the upgrades. And that’s thanks to the new revenue generated by the wind project. Before the project was built, one mill ($1 in property taxes for every $1,000 of taxable value) generated about $75,000 in revenue. With the wind farm, that same one mill now generates almost $260,000. Taxable value in the district has increased significantly because of the taxes paid by DTE on the wind turbines, collection lines, and other project infrastructure.

Thanks to the wind farm, we are going to be able to modernize our school district and have the kinds of resources and amenities a small rural school district like ours typically would not be able to afford — and we are far from the only district seeing these kinds of benefits from wind energy. School districts in Gratiot County have received more than $40 million in new tax revenue from wind projects since 2012.

I am incredibly thankful for the new opportunities that Isabella Wind will be generating for our community for decades to come. When I talk to my students about the project, they wonder why we had not done this years ago. After all, this is a lot bigger than new funding for buses and buildings. It’s about powering a better future for the next generation.

How impactful was this article for you?

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission. If you are interested in submitting a guest commentary, please contact David Zeman. Click here for details and submission guidelines.

Only donate if we've informed you about important Michigan issues

See what new members are saying about why they donated to Bridge Michigan:

  • “In order for this information to be accurate and unbiased it must be underwritten by its readers, not by special interests.” - Larry S.
  • “Not many other media sources report on the topics Bridge does.” - Susan B.
  • “Your journalism is outstanding and rare these days.” - Mark S.

If you want to ensure the future of nonpartisan, nonprofit Michigan journalism, please become a member today. You, too, will be asked why you donated and maybe we'll feature your quote next time!

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Pay with PayPal Donate Now