Articles from Michigan
Huron County planners won't take action on a noise study funded by a group critical of windmills in the Thumb. Residents for Sound Economics and Planning paid $3,000 for an ambient noise study by Richard James of E-Coustic Solutions in Okemos.
Wind proponents and opponents alike packed into Wednesday's Huron County Planning Commission meeting to hear a presentation by a noise control engineer who conducted a study to counter that which originally was submitted to the board by Noble Environmental Power, LLC. "Noble did a study for you back in 2005 in which they went through much of what is normally done for site planning, unfortunately what they did was very biased in their favor," said Richard James. He is an acoustics expert who has more than 35 years of experience in Community Noise and a former member of the American National Standards (ANSI) Noise S12 Working group that oversees ANSI Standards for Community Noise. "I can't say that it was biased intentionally, but the end result of what they did was biased."
The future of alternative energy resources in Washtenaw County is now, according to planning and environmental officials. A resolution adopted last year by the County Board of Commissioners allowed planners to study wind generated power in a project that could affect residents and businesses county wide, and pave the way for Washtenaw County energy resources to be weaned away from fossil fuels. Project organizers first will test the county's wind resources to determine if the area can sustain small or large wind turbines, according to a press release. Planers also are looking at economic feasibility and hope to provide future investment grade information to residents, businesses and statewide energy providers. To test the wind, Project Planner Joshua Long said they will erect meteorological towers to gather data in a process expected to last more than year. Planners are waiting on a report for preferred sites throughout the county to build the towers, he said. "That's the stage we're at right now," Long said. "Hopefully, we'll have that report back to us this summer then we'll take 12 to 18 months of gathering the data from the towers to determine just how much wind we have."
Traverse City Light & Power is in serious pursuit of wind energy and is in talks about creating a windmill farm. But details such as the cost, location and potential partners are sketchy. "What we are doing is we are looking for alternative renewable energy resources and one of the most accessible is wind," said utility chairwoman Linda Johnson. Johnson said the utility board is months away from a vote on a project and, if approved, several years away from its completion.
Newer, more energy-friendly political winds are beginning to blow in the state. Pending Michigan legislation regarding the regulation of windmills by local zoning bodies, local communities may be impacted. Planning and zoning officials in Leighton Township have discussed the implications contained within the pending Michigan House of Representatives Bills 4648 and 4649, and its impact, should the senate approve them. The proposed legislation, introduced in June 2006 by Howard Walker, R-Traverse City, would allow the construction of electricity-generating windmills in all zoning districts of a township, if the windmills meet certain state criteria for noise and setbacks.
The first commercial wind farm planned for Michigan's Thumb will be too loud for a rural area and could result in lawsuits unless zoning rules are changed, an Okemos consultant says. Jeanette Hagen, a manager with Connecticut-based Noble Environmental Power, which plans to begin erecting 41 large windmills in Huron County's Bingham Township around July, says the consultant's study is flawed and won't stop the long-delayed project from progressing. "So many people are wanting to see these up and we're hoping to get these up and help energize the economy in the Thumb," Hagen said. The study, by E-Coustic Solutions of Okemos, cost about $3,000 and was paid for by Residents for Sound Economics and Planning, a group of Thumb residents that has been critical of the windmill project.
Officials from Noble Environmental Power said they are continuing to work out agreements with regulators and companies involved with the Thumb's electrical grid that will allow for the construction of Michigan's first commercial wind park to begin later this year. The company plans to erect 41 wind-powered electric turbines in Huron County's Bingham Township near Ubly during the second half of 2007. It recently won approval from the zoning board to install an additional nine turbines.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, landfill gas roughly is half methane and half carbon dioxide and water vapor. It also contains small amounts of nitrogen, oxygen, and hydrogen, as well as trace amounts of nonmethane organic compounds and inorganic compounds. According to the agency's Landfill Methane Outreach Program Web site, using landfill gas to produce energy significantly reduces emissions of methane. By replacing the use of fossil fuels, emissions of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and other pollutants also are decreased. "Given that all landfills generate methane, it makes sense to use the gas for the beneficial purpose of energy generation rather than emitting it to the atmosphere," the agency said. "Methane is a very potent greenhouse gas that is a key contributor to global climate change, over 21 times stronger than carbon dioxide. Methane also has a 10-year atmospheric life. Because methane is both potent and short-lived, reducing methane emissions from municipal solid waste landfills is one of the best ways to achieve a near-term beneficial impact in mitigating global climate change." But there is some disagreement about how "green" energy is when produced with landfill gas. Critics say nothing that emits dioxins should be considered green energy. Only processes that don't create pollution when making energy, such as wind and solar power, should be considered green and renewable energy sources.
Washtenaw County will begin testing turbines this year to see how feasible wind power would be for homeowners or anyone else wanting to invest in wind in the area. Consultants' work so far shows the western part of the county is windier, but there may be a test site in the eastern part of the county as well, said Tony VanDerworp, director of planning and the environment for the county. The test site, or sites, will consist of one to three turbines, likely to be single-pole mounted and up to 100 meters high. They'll remain in place for up to 18 months to test their feasibility. VanDerworp said the county is not interested in getting into the wind power business, but that the information will be made available to home- and farm owners and businesses interested in wind power development. Wind generation facilities could include wind farms with larger utility-scale turbines that will feed energy to the power grid, or small-scale, on-site turbines that help to power individual homes, businesses and farms. The move, in partnership with the city of Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan, follows a resolution adopted last year by the county Board of Commissioners that directed staff members to test wind resources locally. The study phase cost about $20,000; the cost of erecting the poles has not been determined yet. They will go up some time this spring.
HURON COUNTY — The planning commission here approved a revision to Noble Environmental Power’s Bingham Township Wind Energy plan which will add nine turbines to the planned windpark. The company plans to erect 41 turbines instead of the 32 originally slated to be installed. The 32 original turbines will remain in their proposed locations, said Noble Development Manager Jeanette Hagen. The additional nine turbines will be constructed near the original 32 in order to prevent further studies.
PIGEON — In November Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker Elementary School students, staff, and other school and local officials celebrated the return of the elementary turbines spinning in the wind after having been shut down due to an order from DTE Energy a couple of months earlier. It was a day many people in the district had been waiting for. Since that celebration, people have noticed the turbines haven’t been spinning on a regular basis. Some days they’re spinning, but other days they’re not — even if the wind is strong. Brion Dickens, of Woodland Winds LLC and project manager for the school district’s turbine project, said the bitter cold weather has been the main culprit for the turbines not spinning all the time. The turbines freeze up because the oil used to lubricate the gears isn’t the right kind of oil for the cold winter weather. The oil gets too thick; therefore, it doesn’t do its job. A new kind of lubricant needs to be found that is cold-weather friendly.
Some lawmakers want residents to go green - energywise, that is. They’ve proposed giving residents who buy renewable energy an annual $100 tax break.
How is the proposed wind farm for Oceana County coming along? “It’s kind of on hold,” said Richard Vanderveen, president of Mackinaw Power. Vanderveen said his company has been “working like crazy the last four years to get the sites, the interconnects, get the wind studies …” and with those in hand, he’s waiting for Michigan to become the 25th state to approve an RPS, or Renewable Portfolio Standard. The move would ease some of the zoning issues that proposed wind farms are facing.
With legislative and regulatory action this year in Lansing supporting alternative energy, Michigan’s leading wind energy proponent is ready to start building in 2008 the first of 90 wind turbines planned for Oceana County. Mackinaw Power President Rich Vanderveen said his company has secured 35 leases from farmers in four Oceana townships: Weare, Elbridge, Hart and Crystal. That makes 5,000 acres of farm land available for the General Electric wind turbines Mackinaw Power plans for the north central part of the county. Mackinaw Power also has secured a connection agreement with the Michigan Electric Transmission Co. and has the zoning issues resolved in two of the four townships, Vanderveen said. His company already operates two wind turbines in Mackinaw City.
Sherman Township residents packed township hall to learn about the future of wind power generation in their community. The Sherman Township Planning and Zoning Commission conducted the public hearing in relation to a special land use permit application from the Traverse City-based Heritage Sustainable Energy. The application requested permission to install a 164-foot meteorological tower for the purpose of measuring wind speeds. Heritage was given the go-ahead to install the tower after more than an hour of public discussion. The company has operated a similar tower in Missaukee County’s Richland Township for the past two years. “Nobody can predict what the wind speeds would be, so we’re trying to measure throughout this high plateau,” said Rick Wilson, Heritage project manager. The area of interest also includes Highland Township and Clam Lake Township in Wexford County.
HURON COUNTY — The Residents for Sound Economics and Planning (RSEP), of Ubly, have asked Huron County Planning Commission members to reconsider the county’s Wind Turbine Overlay Zoning Ordinance. “We’re asking the planning commission revisit the zoning ordinance to avoid future lawsuits … (as) there are many lawsuits going on around the country pertaining to turbine development,” said Angie Weber, the group’s representative, at Wednesday evening’s planning commission meeting. RSEP commissioned a sound study of three sites in the Ubly area to assess Land Use Compatibility and Community Reaction to the Noble Thumb Windpark Project. Weber said the study was conducted by Richard James, an acoustics expert who has more than 35 years of experience in Community Noise and a former member of the American National Standards (ANSI) Noise S12 Working group that oversees ANSI Standards for Community Noise. She said the study found the data collected by developers regarding the sound levels in the Ubly area are inaccurate and inadequate.
The head of the Michigan Public Service Commission says the state must triple the amount of electricity residents gain from wind and other renewable resources within a decade. WDET’s Quinn Klinefelter has more… The Public Service Commission’s J. Peter Lark predicts the demand for electricity in Michigan will rise by more than one percent every year for the next two decades. He says that requires a renewed emphasis on wind power and other renewable sources of electricity. Lark sent a proposal to Governor Jennifer Granholm espousing renewable energy rather than what he calls electricity that comes from volatile and expensive wholesale markets. The Commission is also proposing that the state build a new power plant within eight years.
The percentage of Michigan’s electricity that comes from wind and other renewable resources would nearly triple by 2015 under an energy plan submitted Wednesday to Gov. Jennifer Granholm. The proposal also outlines a roadmap to building a new coal-fired power plant within 8 years. “Michigan is going to need more power going forward into the 21st century,” said Michigan Public Service Commission J. Peter Lark, who created the plan.
DTE Energy is getting into the wind business. The utility, which relies mostly on coal to supply electricity to 2.2 million people in the Thumb and Southeast Michigan, has been talking to farmers in Huron County about leasing their land for windmills and may even open a development office there, company officials said. DTE also is soliciting proposals from renewable energy developers to power a proposed GreenCurrents program, which would allow customers to pay a premium to get all or some of their power from renewable sources like wind, solar, geothermal and biomass. The bottom line is, Detroit-based DTE plans to invest millions of dollars in renewable energy in Michigan in coming years. The Thumb area, with its strong winds, stands to benefit, said Len Singer, a DTE spokesman.
LANSING -- Michigan needs a major new power plant by 2015 to handle increased electricity demands, according to a report today to the governor on the state's future energy needs. The report was released by the Michigan Public Service Commission, a state agency that oversees utilities. The new plant, which would be built by one of the big utilities, would likely be a coal-fired facility although the report leaves open the possibility of a nuclear plant down the road.