For six months, our team
collaborated across the country and
traveled to Wisconsin, Michigan,
Oklahoma, Kansas and New York to produce this story. For more, look
BY EMILY LE COZ & LUCILLE SHERMAN
Photo: Wind turbines, including one under construction, can be seen from a reporter’s car in Kansas. | Lucille Sherman
In The Shadow of Wind Farms began with a pitch by investigations intern Lucille Sherman to dig into the wind industry’s ties to foreign-owned energy companies.
Reporting on the project began in May 2017, but the story quickly shifted focus after numerous interviews with wind farm inhabitants revealed a pattern of discontent that was mirrored in some of the public documents our team uncovered.
Residents from coast to coast shared a litany of similar complaints about wind farms. Many criticized the development process as secretive, accused companies of aggressively soliciting land leases, and blamed wind turbines for destroying the quality of their lives through relentless noises, vibrations and shadow flicker.
Almost all described deep divisions in their communities as a result of the projects.
Wind energy officials disputed these claims as exaggerated and originating from a small number of people. They touted their companies as both community and green energy friendly, pointing to the growing number of projects as evidence that they are doing something right.
But the more the team researched, the more people they found whose experiences seethed with discontent.
For six months, investigative reporters listened to and questioned the stories of more than 70 families living near three dozen current or proposed wind farms. They also spoke to 10 state and local lawmakers, read hundreds of pages of public-service-commission records about wind projects, reviewed court filings in seven wind-related lawsuits and inspected lease agreements from at least eight wind farms.
They compiled a list of more than 450 families nationwide who publicly made similar claims via direct testimony before various state commissions and legislative hearings, local board meetings, lawsuits, other media outlets, or posted their own stories on Facebook or YouTube. These families represent 29 states and 90 wind farms.
National data projects editor Emily Le Coz pored over Federal Aviation Administration records to track down and map the latitude and longitude points of every industrial wind turbine in the U.S.
Team members visited wind projects in Michigan, Kansas, New York, Oklahoma and Wisconsin, and heard the stories of dozens of residents living near wind turbines.
Meanwhile, projects designers at the de//space, GateHouse Media’s innovation lab, collaborated to create a comprehensive, engaging view of the project. They developed a unique user interface with new digital tools to bring these experiences to life online.
Though there are many positives of renewable energy and many people live near wind turbines without complaint, GateHouse Media couldn't ignore the voices of hundreds of residents nationwide with a different story to tell.
These are their stories.
Investigations Editor | Emily Le Coz
Project Management | Tony Elkins
Investigative Reporter | Lucille Sherman
Digital Design | Mara Corbett
Development | Tyson Bird & Dak Le
Photography | Arturo Fernandez
© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved.
Emily Le Coz is GateHouse Media’s National Data Projects Editor and oversees large data-driven projects across the country. Before, she was Deputy Investigations Editor for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, where she contributed to the nationally recognized “Bias on the Bench” series that uncovered racial disparity in criminal sentencing in Florida.EMAIL // TWITTER
Lucille Sherman was the first recipient of GateHouse Media’s Investigations Internship and is a December 2017 graduate of the University of Missouri, with a degree in Investigative Journalism. She spent nine months covering state government in Missouri, including covering the legislature, and is passionate about reporting on both agriculture and the environment.EMAIL // TWITTER
Tony Elkins is the Director of Innovation for GateHouse Media in Austin, Texas, and runs de//space, the company's innovation lab. He is the former Assistant Managing Editor of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and contributed to the teams that won two Pulitzer prizes as well as two additional finalists.EMAIL // TWITTER
Mara Corbett is a projects designer with a focus on user experience, project management and typography. She graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in graphic design after spending four years involved with student media, including one year as Editor in Chief of The Daily Orange, the award-winning independent student newspaper of Syracuse, New York.EMAIL // TWITTER
Tyson Bird is a projects designer with a focus on development, video and data visualization. Originally from Sandpoint, Idaho, he studied journalism graphics and entrepreneurial management at Ball State University. He now blurs the line between design and development, bringing news design and video to life online and learning new skills as needed for projects.EMAIL // TWITTER