Grand Valley State University’s alternative energy director says he hopes seeing is believing for Michigan leaders touring a working manure-to-energy plant on a Muskegon County farm.
Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm was upbeat Monday on the future of alternative energy in the state after GVSU’s Imad Mahawili showed her the bio-digester plant at the den Dulk dairy farm.
Both Granholm and Mahawili want the state’s future energy policy to include “renewable portfolio standards” that would mandate a certain percentage of renewable energy, such as wind, solar or bio-mass, by a certain date. Such a policy would fuel the manufacture of energy parts.
It would help in two ways by preserving the environment and creating jobs.
“I am very encouraged by the progress we have been making,” Granholm said at the Ravenna Township corporate farm Monday afternoon. “There is a jobs opportunity with this and it has links to education as we need to train the technicians to take care of these technologies.”
But it might be wind that has the greatest potential for the state and the Muskegon area, Granholm told The Chronicle’s Editorial Board after the den Dulk visit.
“We are geographically well situated,” Granholm said. “We are primed to do this wind thing.”
However, Granholm wasn’t so upbeat about the prospect of placing wind turbines on Lake Michigan. She said she is concerned about public reaction if the turbine towers can be seen from popular tourist beaches, but she would be supportive of investigating the technology if the towers are located in areas that residents support.
Mahawili and other community leaders have discussed in the past the possibility of placing wind turbines on Lake Michigan that could not be seen from any point on the shoreline.
Beyond wind power on the Great Lakes, Granholm said she has seen emerging technology in northern Europe that captures wave action and converts it into electricity. Such wave power systems are submerged on the bottom of the lake bottom, she said.
The governor said she has spoken to a major wind turbine manufacturer that needs to develop seven new manufacturing plants in the coming months. It would consider Michigan if public policies were in place to support renewable energy.
If the three-part energy policy before the Legislature is adopted, the governor said the state’s two public utilities – Consumers Energy and Detroit Edison – are prepared to invest $6 billion in new wind turbines and wind farms. At the heart of the legislative debate over energy is what will happen to the current Michigan customer choice program allowing electric users to purchase power from outside of the two major utilities.
Along with customer choice and renewable standards policies, the Legislature also has before it incentives and policies designed at promoting energy efficiency as a way of diminishing Michigan’s need for new power generation.
At the end of her day in Muskegon, Granholm met with a group of Muskegon-area economic development leaders who are working on developing the manufacturer of alternative-energy devices and component parts in Muskegon County.
Granholm told the economic developers and community leaders that Muskegon County needs to have existing industrial buildings ready for occupancy by wind turbine manufacturers looking at the state. She said that publicly owned industrial land is best positioned to be offered to interested companies. She said she is interested in a three-county West Michigan “foreign trade zone” that could provide incentives for European companies looking to build wind machines in the United States.
By Dave Alexander
11 March 2008
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