Wind Energy Powers Rural Communities

For years, renewable energy projects have been good community partners by providing significant boosts to rural economies across America. In Montcalm County, Apex Clean Energy is excited to partner with the community to design Montcalm Wind. Our model for community-based clean energy will encourage economic growth in the county by supporting local farmers, creating new jobs, and investing in Montcalm County’s future. (click here for full Op-Ed from The Daily News)

We aren’t waiting for the project to be built to start investing in the community. Last month, we launched the Montcalm Wind Community Grant Program – these grants will invest in projects in the areas of economic development, public health, environmental sustainability, and education. Grants are available to groups working within Montcalm County to make a positive difference in these areas. We are looking for projects that encourage entrepreneurial spirit, build healthy communities, revitalize environmentally sensitive areas, and empower students.

Though it may be new to this area, wind energy is not new technology. There are more than 60,000 wind turbines operating safely across the country today, with more than 1,200 right here in Michigan. Since 2012, Gratiot County has received more than $50,000,000 in direct tax from more than 400 turbines supporting the farms, families, and community organizations that live and work around them safely every day.

The Gratiot story helped transform struggling county towns into thriving rural communities. This story is not unique. In January, the Rocky Mountain Institute released "How Rural America Is Reaping Economic Development Benefits from the Growth of Renewables", a report that highlights case studies from communities where renewable projects resulted in “significant contributions to local tax revenues, land lease payments, and dollars spent on the local service economy.” In Michigan, these funds come from property taxes paid by wind farms to townships, school districts, and county services like senior programs, libraries, ambulances, and community colleges. Community-based projects provide annual rent payments to all participants, regardless of how much land they own, further supporting the local economy and ensuring wind farms benefit everyone living in host communities.

As someone who has worked in Montcalm County for nearly a decade, I’m proud to help our communities grow and thrive. I have spent my career working for non-profits that give-back to the community and I can tell you that Montcalm County is unique. This county has a tight-knit group of service agencies, educational institutions, and giving organizations that work together to ensure the health and safety of its citizens. While working at Montcalm Community College, I felt fortunate to contribute to educational services in our community and served a term as Chair of the Montcalm Human Services Collaborative. I am excited for the opportunity to keep giving back and making a meaningful impact as part of the Public Engagement team for Montcalm Wind.

To learn more about our community grants, visit to find details on our areas of interest, guidelines, and online application. Grants typically range between $500 and $5,000, with a total of $10,000 available per quarter. The application deadline is February 28, 2021.

Mel Christensen is a Public Engagement Organizer for Apex Clean Energy and previously worked on the Community Relations team at Montcalm Community College