News Story

Group Opposing Wind Project Accused Of Misleading Public

Advocate of project says photo was misleading

A political flyer encouraging Bay and Midland County residents to voice their concerns about wind turbines at an April 26 Beaver Township public hearing is coming under fire for misleading the public.



DTE Energy, which wants to build wind turbines in Bay County, and wind supporter Peter Sinclair said a photo of wind turbines and buildings on the flyer makes the wind turbines appear much closer to the buildings than they actually are.

The flyer was sent out to select communities in Bay and Midland counties by the Great Lakes Bay Region SOS, a group committed to opposing wind farms in Saginaw Bay area. The group believes the picture accurately depicts the landscape from the location at which it was taken.

The photo shows nine wind turbines, many of which appear to be just a few feet from a barn and an outbuilding in the rural community of Bay Port, which sits along Saginaw Bay north of Sebewaing.

Sinclair believes the perspective of the photo is purposely misleading.

“The picture was misleading in the sense that it’s not an accurate representation of one’s experience on the ground,” Sinclair said. “The anti-wind people spread misinformation that they hope will create fear.”

In a statement, DTE Energy spokeswoman Cindy Hecht said the company purchases energy produced at the wind farm in the photo (Pheasant Run 1). Experience shows, she said, that “wind projects can be zoned in a way that balances private property rights and diverse community interests.”

On April 23, Sinclair published a video criticizing the flyer. He said the photo was taken with a telephoto lens to give the illusion of wind turbines being closer to buildings than they actually are.

Sinclair told Michigan Capitol Confidential that he didn’t know who took the photo, but he believes the the flyer was obviously meant to move people to oppose wind projects. He added that he wanted to record the situation accurately so people could think about the situation rationally.

A few days later, Michael Robb, the Bay City photographer who took the photo, created a video in which he confirmed that he used a telephoto lens. He denied that he did anything misleading.

Robb explained that he had been using a telephoto lens that day to take pictures of birds. He saw the barn and took the photo with the wind turbines behind a red barn because he thought it had an interesting photographic composition, he said.

“Heading back to Bay City on M-25, I looked across the field and there was this beautiful red barn and these massive wind turbines behind them. It was an interesting composition and I thought I would stop and take a picture of it, not ever realizing how much controversy the image would cause,” Robb said in the video.

GLBR-SOS member Joy Buchanan said that her group got permission from Robb and defended the photo’s use.

“It was not an altered photograph,” Buchanan said. “I think it was a [view] that people do see and can see as far as a lot of the wind turbines are concerned.”

Correction: This story was changed to indicate that DTE Energy purchases electricity from the Pheasant Run 1 Wind Park in Huron County.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.