Studies show urban project is economical, safe for birds
WYANDOTTE – City officials say they are making strides in the quest to build one of the nation’s first urban wind farms.
This week, Wyandotte plans to submit results from a one-year avian study to the U.S. Department of Energy. The findings, coupled with results gathered from two meteorological towers, are encouraging for plans to construct five turbines near the Detroit River, said Melanie McCoy, the city’s general manager of municipal services.
“Now we have wind data and it’s showing that this is a good project,” she said. “Optimistically, within a year, we could start construction.”
McCoy said the avian study, conducted during the spring and fall of 2006 and 2007, tracked bird migration patterns at four sites, using radar detectors to gauge the impact on birds and bats. Meteorological towers up for about a year are estimating wind capacity of the future turbines would be about 25 percent – making the project economical, McCoy said. The $190,000 studies show the five 1.8 megawatt turbines would each generate enough energy to supply power to 500 to 700 homes.
Wyandotte is the first community in Michigan to propose an urban wind energy project, but others aren’t far behind.
Last August, Taylor signed a $100,000 deal to build a pair of 120-foot-tall meteorological towers in the city’s north and south ends to evaluate their chances of harnessing the wind. Officials said they’d measure velocity for a year before considering spending $3 million on two 1.5 megawatt turbines in 2009. Traverse City and Mackinaw City have a few, and a 32-turbine wind farm is operating in Pigeon, near the Thumb. Another project is pending in Huron County.
Wyandotte said it hopes to order the first $2 million turbine and begin construction within a year. The proposal includes the installation of one turbine at the south end of the BASF property near the city’s energy plant and two at the Wyandotte Shores Golf Course and on Central Avenue. The city received a $1 million federal grant for the effort this month, complementing another $1 million federal grant in 2006.
“It’s the logical first thing for any of us to do as homeowners, school districts, businesses and as a state to save money. Being the first they have to be brave,” said John Sarver, coordinator of the Michigan Wind Working Group, which tracks the state’s wind energy projects.
But progress doesn’t come without its critics.
Some complain wind turbines could kill birds and bats and become eyesores, but Sarver said those concerns have decreased as technology has improved.
By Christine Ferretti
19 February 2008
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