Wind energy boost pursued

September 27, 2010
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LANSING — Michigan may soon rely more heavily on wind energy to reduce energy costs for residents, some experts say.

“We started a program to help wind and solar energy. Alternative energy is important because we don’t want to rely on one form of energy,” Chuck Hadden, president of the Michigan Manufacturers Association, said.

The association launched the program, Wind Energy Community, in April.

Hadden cited some of the benefits of wind energy: It won’t dirty the air or emit pollutants like other energy sources, which means less smog, less acid rain and fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Wind energy is cost-competitive with other fuel sources such as natural gas and is the least expensive of all renewable energy sources.

Turbines convert the kinetic energy of wind into mechanical or electrical power. Modern commercial turbines produce electricity by using rotational energy to drive a generator. Smaller wind turbines can provide power to individual homes.

Hadden said that low operating costs and short construction times mean that wind energy can provide low cost and clean energy more quickly.

Norm Saari, chief of staff for Sen. Jason Allen, R-Alanson, said, “Wind energy provides an important energy mix for the state to achieve. The need for alternate energy will jump-start the market. It will also jump-start what projects and powers need to be used to help better Michigan as a whole.”

Saari also said the utilities will provide an incentive for marketers because wind projects keep more energy dollars in communities where projects are located and provide a steady income through lease payments to the landowners.

Wind projects also pay significant property taxes and state taxes and create local jobs, he said. However, some experts note drawbacks that include locating turbines near residences and the impact they may have on animals.

John Sarver, supervisor of technical assistance at the state Energy Office, said, “Local communities are concerned about the visibility of wind turbines and the sound levels, particularly in the rural areas. Residents also have safety concerns about whether the turbines will fall over and blow up.”

Sarver also said wind turbines can have an impact on birds because the blades can injure them during a windstorm.

Wind energy production is scattered throughout Michigan, mainly in the Lower Peninsula, including the Thumb and Traverse City area.

Tom Stanton, renewable energy program coordinator at the Public Service Commission, said,  “One region designated as the primary wind energy resource zone includes parts of Bay, Huron, Sanilac and Tuscola counties. Another region includes parts of Allegan County.”

Wind energy proponents are using a variety of strategies to win local support for projects. Sarver referred to wind outreach programs that provide factual information.

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