Great Lakes Environmental Directory Great Lakes Great Lakes environment Great Lakes grants exotic species water pollution water export drilling environment Great Lakes pollution Superior Michigan Huron Erie Ontario ecology Great Lakes issues wetlands Great Lakes wetlands Great Lakes Great Lakes environment Great Lakes watershed water quality exotic species Great Lakes grants water pollution water export oil gas drilling environment environmental Great Lakes pollution Lake Superior Lake Michigan Lake Huron Lake Erie Lake Ontario Great Lakes ecology Great Lakes issues Great Lakes wetlands Great Lakes Resources Great Lakes activist Great Lakes environmental organizations Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat air pollution alien species threatened rare endangered species ecological Great Lakes information Success Stories Great Lakes Directory Home/News Great Lakes Calendar Great Lakes jobs/volunteering Search Great Lakes Organizations Take Action! Contact Us Resources/Links Great Lakes Issues Great Lakes News Article About Us Networking Services

Great Lakes Article:

Modern windmills clear air
'Green' electricity option aims to reduce pollution

By Gary Heinlein / Detroit News Lansing Bureau

   MACKINAW CITY -- Slender polymer blades atop 256-foot towers are cranking out enough wind-generated electricity for 572 Michigan homes and businesses whose owners have signed up to use "green power."
   They are part of a project to build as many as 25 modern windmills, mostly in the breezy Straits of Mackinac area, that could serve up to 12,775 customers statewide. The idea is to reduce the state's dependency on coal-fired plants and nuclear generating facilities, according to the man building them.
   "The goal is cleaner air, cleaner water and protecting our Great Lakes for future generations," said Rich VanderVeen, president of Grand Rapids-based Bay Windpower. He also hopes, of course, to make some money.
   Technology makes wind a feasible power source in Michigan and other states, reducing the need to build as many conventional generating plants. The propeller-topped towers, a bit gawky-looking, are becoming common in Europe -- where more than 10,000 have been built. They supply 10 percent of Denmark's electricity, VanderVeen said.
   Here, Bay Windpower has a contract to supply up to 35.85 megawatts of wind-generated power to the grid of electric lines run by Consumers Energy in 61 of the Lower Peninsula's 68 counties.
   "It's time that Michigan finally started adopting this as an energy source," said James Clift, policy director of the Michigan Environmental Council in Lansing. His group ranks Michigan as 14th among states for having dependable enough winds to use this alternative energy source. Most of the ideal areas are along shorelines of the Great Lakes.
   Under an agreement between Bay Windpower and Consumers Energy, the environmentally conscious customers can sign up to use wind-produced power for 10 percent, half or all of their electricity. They have to pay a surcharge, however: $19.20 a month for all of the 600 kilowatt hours used monthly by the average home, $9.60 a month if they opt for the 50-percent "green power" option or $1.92 for 10 percent.
   Enough customers have contracted with Consumers Energy to use all of the electricity generated by the two Mackinaw City towers. So VanderVeen is moving ahead with plans for three more wind towers next spring in the same area near I-75.
   He also is involved in talks with officials in St. Ignace, north across the Mackinac Bridge from Mackinaw City, where he hopes to build two more towers. Those would feed into the power grid of Sault Ste. Marie-based Edison Sault Electric Co., which generates 40 percent of its power from hydroelectric plants on the St. Mary's River and also buys power wholesale from Consumers Energy.
   In Traverse City, another contractor built a wind turbine in 1996 -- now operating at full capacity. Jim Cooper, head of Traverse City Light and Power Co., said it was relatively easy to find 110 homeowners and 15 businesses to buy all of the power it can produce at a surcharge averaging $7.58 a month. And the 160-foot tower is an attraction.
   "We take people up there for tours," said Cooper. "It's fun, if you like heights."
   The surcharge is the only drawback, acknowledged Clift of the Environmental Council. The main reason wind power costs more, he said, is that state environmental laws help keep the cost of coal-fired energy artificially low. They don't require that power plants do enough to clean health-threatening pollutants from smoke emitted by their stacks.
   His council hopes Congress adopts a proposed policy being debated with a national energy bill in the U.S. Senate. It would require utilities to get part of their energy from renewable "green" sources, then include those costs in their regular rates. That would eliminate the need for a separate class of customers paying higher rates.
   "Making people pay a premium sends a mixed message," Clift said. "We applaud those who do it. They truly are making a statement."
This information is posted for nonprofit educational purposes, in accordance with U.S. Code Title 17, Chapter 1,Sec. 107 copyright laws.
For more information go to: If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for
purposes of your own that go beyond "fair use," you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Great Lakes environmental information

Return to Great Lakes Directory Home/ Site Map