Driving through Gratiot County over the weekend, I was struck by the seemingly endless number of wind turbines. They began just north of Ithaca, and continued popping up along our drive to Midland.

Michigan didn't have wind turbines when I was growing up. This landscape looked alien to me. I found myself equal parts fascinated and curious about these gigantic structures looming over farmers' fields, and decided to learn more.

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Even though there are a few more wind turbines generating electricity in Huron County (the tip of "The Thumb"), Mid-Michigan has led the state in output capacity in terms of megawatts since last summer. Together, Gratiot and Isabella Counties have 468 turbines accounting for a potential 1023 megawatts in output capacity. That compares to an output capacity of 872.2 megawatts by the 474 turbines that are spinning in Huron County. Additional turbines are operational or under development throughout the state, including a pair of wind farms in the Upper Peninsula.

via Al Garcia
Combined, Gratiot County and Isabella County lead Michigan in electricity output capacity by wind turbines. (Photo via Al Garcia)
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According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, about 6% of Michigan's electricity currently comes from wind turbines. That represents about 60% of the state's renewable energy, with electricity generated from hydropower and biomass making up the rest. Only about 11% of Michigan's total energy production is renewable energy.

While wind power might be the wave of the future, it doesn't come easy. The U.S. Department of Energy admits concern over "the noise produced by the turbine blades and visual impacts to the landscape."

Michigan currently ranks 15th in the nation in wind power, with significant growth since 2016, and even more projected during the rest of this decade.

LOOK: Here are the best lake towns to live in

Many of the included towns jump out at the casual observer as popular summer-rental spots--the Ozarks' Branson, Missouri, or Arizona's Lake Havasu--it might surprise you to dive deeper into some quality-of-life offerings beyond the beach and vacation homes. You'll likely pick up some knowledge from a wide range of Americana: one of the last remaining 1950s-style drive-ins in the Midwest; a Florida town that started as a Civil War veteran retirement area; an island boasting some of the country's top public schools and wealth-earners right in the middle of a lake between Seattle and Bellevue; and even a California town containing much more than Johnny Cash's prison blues.

LOOK: Here are the 50 best beach towns in America

Every beach town has its share of pluses and minuses, which got us thinking about what makes a beach town the best one to live in. To find out, Stacker consulted data from WalletHub, released June 17, 2020, that compares U.S. beach towns. Ratings are based on six categories: affordability, weather, safety, economy, education and health, and quality of life. The cities ranged in population from 10,000 to 150,000, but they had to have at least one local beach listed on TripAdvisor. Read the full methodology here. From those rankings, we selected the top 50. Readers who live in California and Florida will be unsurprised to learn that many of towns featured here are in one of those two states.

Keep reading to see if your favorite beach town made the cut.