Keep an Eye on the Wind

In doing research for an upcoming story, I had the occasion to call Ed Rice, executive director of Traverse City Light and Power last week. The municipal owned utility has earned a reputation as one of the bright spots in the state for getting a start on moving forward into an energy future based much more on renewable energy.

Part of the reason for that is a goal that the city adopted of having 30 percent of the city’s power be renewable energy by the year 2020. By contrast, the state’s recently passed energy law requires utilities to have 10 percent of their power be renewable based by 2015.

An important piece of meeting that goal will be a wind farm that TCLP is proposing to be built on a cement plant site near the shore of Lake Michigan just south of Charlevoix. I look for this siting effort to give us an early indication about just how willing Northern Michigan locals will be when it comes to welcoming wind turbines on their landscape. The wind farm will have about 10 turbines. The fact that they’ll be placed on a heavily industrialized site should lessen public opposition, but I still think we will get a sense for whether our neighbors will be willing to do their part by accepting the visual impact of wind turbines or not.

A wind turbine proposal not far from TCLP’s proposed site met strong public opposition back in 2002, and some feel the reaction slowed the adoption of wind energy across Northern Michigan. Have attitudes shifted in ensuing years? Is the population swayed enough by concerns about global warming to set aside objections to wind turbines towering on the horizon? Stay tuned.

Jeff Smith is editor of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine and MyNorth.com.

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