Jerry Decker is ready.
His company, Midland Energy, has leased 12,000 acres of farmland in Michigan’s Thumb as plots for up to 120 windmills.
Decker and his partners are just waiting for Michigan leaders to pass a renewable energy standard, like more than 20 other states already have done.
Enter Sen. Jim Barcia, D-Bay City, who has co-sponsored legislation with Sen. Patricia Birkholz, R-Saugatuck, to create a 10 percent standard in Michigan by 2015. Barcia also introduced legislation of his own last week to push the standard to 20 percent by 2020.
”We’re making big plans,” said Decker, 85, of Saginaw.
”The energy is blowing in the wind and we should get to it.”
Barcia’s bill – and another like it in the House from Rep. Robert Jones, D-Kalamazoo – would dramatically increase alternative energy use in Michigan. Most of the state’s electricity comes from coal-fired power plants, a major source of pollution.
Just 3 percent of the state’s energy comes from renewable sources like wind, solar and biomass from the agricultural industry.
Barcia’s legislation would require 13 percent of all electricity sold in the state to come from renewable sources by 2015, ratcheting that up to 20 percent by 2020.
”Michigan should be a leader in alternative energy if we want to transition our economy and create new jobs in our state,” Barcia said.
Michigan currently imports most of its energy-related resources from other states, subsidizing thousands of out-of-state jobs, Barcia said.
All 16 Senate Democrats have signed on to Barcia’s bill.
Last month, he signed on to the more moderate Birkholz legislation as a symbolic gesture.
Barcia said he expects the Senate Republican majority to support the Birkholz bill, but thinks the House will set the bar higher, resulting in a compromise standard that’s somewhere between 10 and 20 percent.
Barcia expects action on a standard in the next several months, after legislators are finished with budget cuts to resolve a more than $900 million deficit this fiscal year.
”By developing home-grown, clean energy production, we can support economic development, environmental protection and energy efficiency,” Barcia said.
Decker, vice president of Midland Energy and former corporate energy manager for Dow Chemical Co., was one of the first to talk about the potential for wind energy in the Thumb in 2004.
Midland Energy put up wind measuring towers and leased plots for turbine construction. Decker said Midland Energy later sold some of its wind data and leases to Noble Environmental Power of Connecticut, which plans to put up 41 windmills near Ubly this summer.
But Midland Energy has since leased 12,000 acres of land near Pigeon and Port Austin, Decker said, with plans for erecting 120 windmills when a renewable energy standard creates more demand.
”We have what we think are some of the very best sites,” Decker said.
Other partners in Midland Energy include Arthur J. ”Bill” Fisher, chairman of Fisher Contracting Co. of Midland, and former Saginaw Mayor Paul Wendler.
Barcia said he plans to request a hearing on his bill before the commerce committee, chaired by Sen. Jason Allen, R-Traverse City.
”We’re going to continue to promote the concept of wind energy as something that is certainly desirable in terms of meeting the energy needs of Michigan in the future,” Barcia said.
By Jeff Kart
2 April 2007
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