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.
“We are far enough along that, potentially, we could make commitments to wind power in the next several months, maybe late summer,” said Matthew Schmidt, a utility board member and city commissioner.
Officials would not disclose where a future project might be located, citing a confidentiality agreement.
“I can’t tell you that,” Johnson said.
There is more than one possible site, including spots in northern Michigan, but not Grand Traverse or Leelanau counties, officials said. Schmidt said revealing potential spots could cause land speculation.
“We are serious about it … (it’s) just a matter of picking where to do it,” said Ralph Soffredine, city commissioner and utility board member.
One reason for the utility’s interest in wind energy is because of its experience with its one windmill, built in 1996. Traverse City installed the turbine off M-72. At the time, it was the largest in the nation, said Jim Cooper, utility marketing manager.
The machine cost about $650,000 and contributes less than 1 percent of the utility’s total power production, or enough electricity for about 200 homes.
The utility’s recently discontinued hydroelectric dams contributed about 3 percent of its power, Cooper said.
Wind won’t ever be the “sole power supply source,” Johnson said. Utility officials said they don’t know what percent of total power might be produced by wind.
A wind farm could feature between one and 50 windmills, depending on the property and needs of other partners involved in the project, Johnson said.
Light & Power’s cost would depend on the size of the project, but Johnson said the price would be “significant” – millions of dollars. The utility could finance the project through bonding and budgeting in its capital improvements plan. A rate increase also could be part of the funding mix, she said.
Potential partners could include other municipal members of the Michigan Public Power Agency and private energy producers.
Members of the Lansing-based MPPA could be included, said General Manager Gary Zimmerman. The agency has not begun “formal” discussions of any specific projects but its board recently committed to taking a more “aggressive stance” to the development of alternative energy, Zimmerman said.
In Michigan, that most likely means wind energy.
“The one that seems most available and prevalent and truly clean is the wind,” he said.
A state recommendation calls for 10 percent of energy sold at retail to be from renewable resources by 2015.
By Vanessa McCray
1 April 2007
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