TAYLOR – Amid a national push to reduce fossil fuel usage, Taylor is poised to join the slowly increasing ranks of Michigan cities gambling on the wind to cut soaring energy costs.
The City Council this week signed on to a $100,000 deal to build a pair of 120-foot-tall meteorological towers in Taylor’s north and south ends. They would measure currents for a year before officials consider spending $3 million on two 1.5 megawatt turbines in 2009 that would power 600 homes.
The move comes amid debate about national legislation to require that 15 percent of energy come from renewable sources by 2020. But Taylor already is a few steps behind Wyandotte, which is amid a $1 million study of wind farms. Ann Arbor and a handful of universities also are eying wind energy.
“This isn’t a movement yet, but I hope it becomes a movement,” said Taylor Mayor Cameron Priebe. “We’re raising public awareness.”
Michigan now has six turbines, in the northern reaches of the state, and they’re hardly without critics. Some knock them as too expensive, ugly and a poor excuse for a solution to energy woes that have seen the price of crude oil spike to about $70 a barrel from $25 in 2003.
Taylor resident Gerald Johnson, 46, said he’s in favor of any effort by the city to save money.
“We could definitely use a break, cost-wise,” he said. “It seems like a good idea.”
Taylor needs approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to build the turbines because the city is near Detroit Metro Airport. The Michigan Chamber of Commerce worries federal renewable-energy standards – passed in the U.S. House – could plant some 2,000 turbines in the Great Lakes.
“These are tall and can be unsightly (people) don’t want that in their back yard or a windmill blocking their view to the lake,” said Doug Roberts Jr., the chamber’s director of environment and energy policy. “We’re so dependent on tourism. Is this the right policy?”
But boosters such as Priebe said the time has come to harness the wind.
Wyandotte erected one meteorological tower in December and another in February. The city could install two 1.5 megawatt turbines along the Detroit River in the next few years, said James French of the city’s municipal services department.
“People are actively trying to get this started in Michigan,” said Susan Williams Sloan, a spokeswoman for the American Wind Energy Association. With 3,100 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, Michigan has enough “good wind” to become the nation’s 14th largest commercial source of wind energy, she said. It’s now 30th in production. Priebe said Taylor hopes to at least provide energy to its municipal buildings with windmills, as well as selling excess power to utility companies or using it to lower bills for residents. Priebe said the move follows several green strategies, such as dialing down electricity in city buildings, that have saved $140,000 per year. Taylor now pays about $275,000 a year in electricity.
Priebe said the cost of the turbines at Interstate 94 near Inkster or Monroe or near Interstate 75 and Pennsylvania could be covered by cutting energy costs. The city also may seek federal grants, Priebe said.
“They’ve got to decide what they’re going to do, how they’re going to finance it,” said U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, whose district covers Taylor. But the plan faces numerous hurdles. The study would have to determine the impact of turbines on the airport and wildlife. In Wyandotte, officials already are considering how turbines would affect the nearby International Wildlife Refuge.
Earlier generations of windmills were blamed for bird deaths.
FAA approval also is necessary, and the agency has halted projects in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois to determine their impact on radar.
“You don’t want radar picking that up as some type of flying object,” said Tony Molinaro, an FAA spokesman. “We need to make sure airports and local authorities know this could be a hazard.”
DTE Energy spokesman Len Singer said renewable energy costs more than “traditional sources.” But the promise is so alluring that Michigan universities including Oakland University, Grand Valley State University and the University of Michigan are exploring wind farms, said Jim Leidel, an energy manager with Oakland University, which is 1 ½ years into a study.
“It’s much more in the forefront – renewable energy has caught a lot of attention,” he said.
Detroit News Staff Writer Sharon Terlep contributed to this report
By Christine Ferretti
24 August 2007
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