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Thinking Green, Speaking Green
Wednesday, 13 April 2011
California Continues To Lead US Clean Energy Agenda
Last week, the California Assembly approved the most ambitious renewable energy program in the country with a bipartisan vote of 55 to 19. The Renewable Portfolio Standard, or Senate Bill 1X 2, will codify increasing the share of renewable energy supplied by California electricity providers to 33 percent by 2020. Promoted by Governor Jerry Brown and legislative leaders of both houses, the bill creates the most aggressive renewable energy requirement in the country and it positions California as a national leader in clean energy investments.

The California Senate approved this RPS bill in February, and this latest victory now sends the bill to the governor’s desk. This law will spur billions of new dollars of investment in clean energy and infrastructure projects that help create jobs in a state where clean-tech is already the fastest growing sector of the economy. Indeed, California leads the nation in the number of clean energy jobs, businesses and patents generated, accounting for over two-thirds of U.S. venture capital investment in clean technology—totaling $6.5 billion between 2006 and 2008.

The California Apollo Program, which was widely endorsed by renewable energy businesses, labor unions and environmental and community organizations put passage of a 33% RPS at the top of its agenda as a strategy for growing our state's clean energy economy

In the weeks before the passage of the 33% RPS, Apollo collaborated with a number of clean energy partners, including the Union of Concerned Scientists, the State Building Trades Council and Natural Resources Defense Council to educate lawmakers about the need to pass this important policy.

The 33% RPS creates the necessary conditions for the job-creating and climate-protecting clean energy policies we've called for to become reality. This is a huge victory for California, and now that we've hit this benchmark, we'll continue to raise the bar.

Posted by votespisak at 12:01 AM EDT
Tuesday, 12 April 2011
Why Not Ohio? Clean Energy Tech To Boost Michigan's Economy

Job Boom in Michigan, as Clean Energy Manufacturing Drives Economic Recovery

In an exclusive interview, former Gov. Granholm says Michigan has emerged from a 'decade of hell,' with jobs growth spurred by clean energy policies

By Maria Gallucci

Apr 6, 2011
GM's advanced automotive battery lab in Warren, Mich. Credit: GM Press Office

Michigan's "green" economy is growing fast, data shows, with thousands of clean energy jobs on the horizon as a new manufacturing base is being built on the expertise of its battered auto industry.

The change raises the prospect that Michigan might one day be a global hub for electric vehicles and advanced battery development, along with biofuel technologies, wind power parts and solar panels.

Former Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm, whose second term ended in January, said in an interview that Michigan businesses are expected to create more than 89,000 clean energy jobs in the next decade from $14 billion of projects in the pipeline. (Includes correction, 4/07/2011)

The jobs will stem from 17 advanced battery companies and more than 25 solar, wind and biofuels companies that came to Michigan from August 2009 to December 2010, lured by state tax credits and federal stimulus grants, Granholm told SolveClimate News.

"Michigan has gone through the decade from hell," Granholm said.

"The first eight years of the last decade were an example of job loss. But these last two years are an example of positive national and state policy working in tandem. What that can bring … is more investment, more research and development, and, most importantly, jobs."

As governor, Granholm implemented aggressive clean energy policies and tax incentives to attract businesses, foster collaboration with universities and reverse massive job loss in the automotive and manufacturing sectors.

The state's new governor, Rick Snyder, who campaigned as a "good green Republican," is expected to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor.

Bottom Line: 'Policy Matters'

For the first time in a decade, Michigan is projected to gain jobs and break its unprecedented string of rising unemployment, according to April 4 figures from the University of Michigan's economics department.

This week, the department updated its earlier projections of 20,000 new positions for 2011. Economists now anticipate Michigan will add 64,600 jobs in 2011 and 61,500 more in 2012. The increase reflects "in part a bounce in manufacturing following the traumatic situation of the recent past," they wrote. 

The state lost more than 900,000 jobs in the last decade due largely to the bankrupt auto industry, fleeting manufacturers and the national economic downturn, the economists said.

Today, however, Michigan ranks No. 1 in the nation for job creation improvement in a recent Gallup survey of state job markets.

"The bottom line is that policy matters," Granholm said. "Without policy, this would not be happening."

The former governor, who last month was appointed senior policy adviser to the non-profit Pew Charitable Trusts, said she hoped that Michigan's story could be that of "the canary in the coal mine" for national lawmakers struggling to pass a federal clean energy standard.

"We are excited about the opportunities that clean energy jobs bring," she said. "But we don't want those jobs to go away because the federal government has failed to press on the accelerator."

Granholm began her clean energy approach with the $2 billion 21st Century Jobs Fund, a ten-year program started in 2005 to encourage venture capital investments and R&D funding for 1,500 startups or existing firms looking to transfer skills from the old economy to the cleantech industry.

Posted by votespisak at 12:01 AM EDT
Monday, 11 April 2011
IEA: Oil incentives should be shifted to renewable energy
IEA: Oil incentives should be shifted to renewable energy
Governments should redirect oil subsidies to renewable energy to hasten the growth of low-carbon energy sources and lessen global dependence on coal and other high-carbon fuels, according to a report from the International Energy Agency. Coal supplied about 47% of the world's new electricity demand during the past 10 years, while renewable sources accounted for only 6.5%, the report said. "We must see more ambitious, effective policies that respond to market signals while providing long-term, predictable support," said Richard Jones, the IEA's deputy executive director.

Posted by votespisak at 12:01 AM EDT
Sunday, 10 April 2011
Wind Power Grew in 2010

NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--U.S. wind-generating capacity rose 15% last year in tough economic conditions, and new development started off this year at an even stronger pace, the American Wind Energy Association said Thursday.

Last year, the construction of new turbines increased wind power generation by 5,116 megawatts to 40,181 megawatts, enough to power 10 million U.S. homes, the industry group said in its annual market report for 2010

Posted by votespisak at 12:01 AM EDT
Wednesday, 30 March 2011
U.S. Drops To Third Place in Clean Energy Investment

U.S. Drops To Third Place in Clean Energy Investment

Mar. 29 2011 - 2:02 am | 298 views | 0 recommendations | 0 comments

The United States dropped to third place behind China and Germany in clean-energy investment last year, according to a report released at midnight by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Other key findings in the report:

  • Investment in clean energy rebounded from flat recessionary levels, growing 30 percent from 2009 to set a record at $243 billion worldwide;
  • The recovery was funded by increased investment from all three sources: government, corporate research and development, and private venture capital;
  • The recovery was fueled primarily by investment in small-scale projects, such as residential scale solar projects that generate less than one megawatt;
  • The solar sector grew fastest, at 53 percent, but wind remained the leader, seeing growth of 34 percent;
  • Growth occurred much faster in Asia than in the West.

“Overall, it is clear that the center of gravity for clean energy investment is shifting from the West (Europe and the United States) to the East (China, India and other Asian nations,” according to the report, “Who’s Winning the Clean Energy Race?” (pdf).

U.S. investment in clean energy technologies increased more than 50 percent, from $22.5 to $34 billion, but could not catch up with China, which invested $54.4 billion, and for the first time fell behind Germany, which doubled its annual investment to $41.2 billion.

The numbers suggest the U.S. is falling behind at a time when Administration rhetoric increasingly appeals to competition to justify investment in clean energy.

Earlier this month President Obama urged that “we keep pushing to find ways to free ourselves from dependence on foreign oil, and make sure that America is the capital of clean energy for decades to come.”

And at a Pew Environment forum one week ago, Energy Secretary Steven Chu promoted wind, solar, and small modular nuclear technologies to “win the race” against China and other countries.

The Pew report tallies all investment, public and private, including research and development, and ranks the G-20 group of industrialized nations. In 2010, more than 90 percent of all clean energy investments were directed to companies and projects in the G-20, the report finds.

Posted by votespisak at 12:01 AM EDT
Tuesday, 29 March 2011
Fracking is Polluting PA. Water

 The natural gas boom gripping parts of the U.S. has a nasty byproduct: wastewater so salty, and so polluted with metals like barium and strontium, that most states require drillers to get rid of the stuff by injecting it down shafts thousands of feet deep.

Not in Pennsylvania, one of the states at the center of the gas rush.

There, the liquid that gushes from gas wells is only partially treated for substances that could be environmentally harmful, then dumped into rivers and streams from which communities get their drinking water.

In the two years since the frenzy of activity began in the vast underground rock formation known as the Marcellus Shale, Pennsylvania has been the only state allowing waterways to serve as the primary disposal place for the huge amounts of wastewater produced by a drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

State regulators, initially caught flat-footed, tightened the rules this year for any new water treatment plants but allowed any existing operations to continue discharging water into rivers.

At least 3.6 million barrels of the waste were sent to treatment plants that empty into rivers during the 12 months ending June 30, according to state records. That is enough to cover a square mile with more than 8 1/2 inches of brine.

Researchers are still trying to figure out whether Pennsylvania's river discharges, at their current levels, are dangerous to humans or wildlife. Several studies are under way, some under the auspices of the Environmental Protection Agency.

State officials, energy companies and the operators of treatment plants insist that with the right safeguards in place, the practice poses little or no risk to the environment or to the hundreds of thousands of people who rely on those rivers for drinking water.

But an Associated Press review found that Pennsylvania's efforts to minimize, control and track wastewater discharges from the Marcellus Shale have sometimes failed.

For example:

_ Of the roughly 6 million barrels of well liquids produced in a 12-month period examined by the AP, the state couldn't account for the disposal method for 1.28 million barrels, about a fifth of the total, because of a weakness in its reporting system and incomplete filings by some energy companies.

_ Some public water utilities that sit downstream from big gas wastewater treatment plants have struggled to stay under the federal maximum for contaminants known as trihalomethanes, which can cause cancer if swallowed over a long period.

_ Regulations that should have kept drilling wastewater out of the important Delaware River Basin, the water supply for 15 million people in four states, were circumvented for many months.

In 2009 and part of 2010, energy company Cabot Oil & Gas trucked more than 44,000 barrels of well wastewater to a treatment facility in Hatfield Township, a Philadelphia suburb. Those liquids ultimately were discharged into a creek that provides drinking water to 17 municipalities with more than 300,000 residents. Cabot acknowledged it should not have happened.

People in those communities had been told repeatedly that the watershed was free of gas waste.

"This is an outrage," said Tracy Carluccio, deputy director of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, an environmental group. "This is indicative of the lack of adequate oversight."

The situation in Pennsylvania is being watched carefully by regulators in other states, some of which have begun allowing some river discharges. New York also sits over the Marcellus Shale, but then-Gov. David Paterson slapped a moratorium on high-volume fracking last month while environmental regulations are drafted.

Industry representatives and the state's top environmental official insist that the wastewater from fracking has not caused serious harm anywhere in Pennsylvania, in part because it is safely diluted in the state's big rivers. But most of the largest drillers say they are taking action and abolishing river discharges anyway.

Cabot, which produced nearly 370,000 barrels of waste in the period examined by the AP, said that since the spring it has been reusing 100 percent of its well water in new drilling operations, rather than trucking it to treatment plants.

"Cabot wants to ensure that everything we are doing is environmentally sound," spokesman George Stark said. "It makes environmental sense and economic sense to do it."

All 10 of the biggest drillers in the state say they have either eliminated river discharges in the past few months, or reduced them to a small fraction of what they were a year ago. Together, those companies accounted for 80 percent of the wastewater produced in the state.

The biggest driller, Atlas Resources, which produced nearly 2.3 million barrels of wastewater in the review period, said it is now recycling all water produced by wells in their first 30 days of operation, when the flowback is heaviest. Half of the rest is now sent to treatment plants, but "our ultimate goal is to have zero surface discharge of any of the water," said Atlas senior vice president Jeff Kupfer.

Records verifying industry claims of a major dropoff in wastewater discharges to rivers will not be available until midwinter, but John Hanger, secretary of Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection, said he believed that the amount of drilling wastewater being recycled is now about 70 percent – an achievement he credits to tighter state regulation pushing the industry to change its ways.

"The new rules, so far, appear to be working," he said. "If our rules were not changed ... we would have all of it being dumped in the environment, because it is the lowest cost option," Hanger said.

But he cautioned that rivers need to be watched closely for any sign that they have degraded beyond what the new state standards allow.

"This requires vigilance," he said. "Daily vigilance."

Natural gas drilling has taken off in several states in recent years because of fracking and horizontal drilling, techniques that allow the unlocking of more methane than ever before.

Fracking involves injecting millions of gallons of water mixed with chemicals and sand deep into the rock, shattering the shale and releasing the gas trapped inside. When the gas comes to the surface, some of the water comes back, too, along with underground brine that exists naturally.

It can be several times saltier than sea water and tainted with fracking chemicals, some of which can be carcinogenic if swallowed at high enough levels over time.

The water is also often laden with barium, which is found in underground ore deposits and can cause high blood pressure, and radium, a naturally occurring radioactive substance.

In other places where fracking has ignited a gas bonanza, like the Barnett Shale field in Texas, the Haynesville Shale in Louisiana, and deposits in West Virginia, New Mexico and Oklahoma, the dominant disposal method for drilling wastewater is to send it back down into the ground via injection wells.

In some arid states, wastewater is also treated in evaporation pits. Water is essentially baked off by the sun, leaving a salty sludge that is disposed of in wells or landfills.

Operators of the treatment plants handling the bulk of the Pennsylvania waste say they can remove most of the toxic substances without much trouble, including radium and barium, before putting the water back into rivers.

"In some respects, it's better than what's already in the river," said Al Lander, president of Tunnelton Liquids, a treatment plant that discharges water into western Pennsylvania's Conemaugh River.

The one thing that can't be removed easily, except at great expense, he said, is the dissolved solids and chlorides that make the fluids so salty.

Those substances usually don't pose a risk to humans in low levels, said Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute at West Virginia, but large amounts can give drinking water a foul taste, leave a film on dishes and give people diarrhea. Those problems have been reported from time to time in some places.

Those salts can also trigger other problems.

The municipal authority that provides drinking water to Beaver Falls, 27 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, began flunking tests for trihalomethanes regularly last year, around the time that a facility 18 miles upstream, Advanced Waste Services, became Pennsylvania's dominant gas wastewater treatment plant.

Trihalomethanes are not found in drilling wastewater, but there can be a link. The wastewater often contains bromide, which reacts with the chlorine used to purify drinking water. That creates trihalomethanes.

The EPA says people who drink water with elevated levels of trihalomethanes for many years have an increased risk of cancer and could also develop liver, kidney or central nervous system problems.

Pennsylvania's multitude of acid-leaching, abandoned coal mines and other industrial sources are also a major source of the high salt levels that lead to the problem.

Beaver Falls plant manager Jim Riggio said he doesn't know what is keeping his system off-kilter, but a chemical analysis suggested it was linked to the hundreds of thousands of barrels of partially treated gas well brine that now flow past his intakes every year.

"It all goes back to frackwater," he said.

Posted by votespisak at 12:01 AM EDT
Monday, 28 March 2011

Now Playing: Renewable Energy Is On The Upswing

Renewable energy is on the upswing, with lower costs

  • In his March 9 column ("Pricey power in the mix"), Rick Martinez was snared by a trap that befalls many when looking at North Carolina energy policy. His problem comes from comparing new renewable power plants with existing conventional power plants. His analysis would have been more helpful had he compared the cost of new renewable energy to energy from new coal, nuclear or natural gas plants. The unfortunate truth is that any new power plant will be more expensive than what we currently have. And given the continued growth of our state, we will need new generation.

In order to keep future energy prices as low as possible, renewables will be an important element in our state's future energy mix. The price of conventional sources of energy (coal, nuclear and natural gas) is rising inexorably, but the price of renewables is falling.

Last November, the U.S. Energy Information Agency updated its analysis of the projected cost to build generating plants. From 2010 to 2011, the cost of coal, nuclear and natural gas plants increased 25 percent to 39 percent, while solar photovoltaic costs dropped 25 percent. When one includes the cost of fuel, energy from wind farms costs less than that from new coal, nuclear and natural gas facilities.

It is no surprise then that about 40 percent of all new generation capacity added to the U.S. electric grid in recent years is from wind power projects, more than from coal, nuclear or natural gas. Senate Bill 3, which Martinez disparages as anti-consumer, is in fact just the opposite.

Reliable, affordable energy is a critical underpinning to our state's economy. In four short years, Senate Bill 3 is showing results and creating prosperity for North Carolinians. The 2010 census of renewable and energy efficiency companies reported 12,500 jobs in those industries, up 22 percent from 2009; this at a time when employment was falling in the rest of the economy.

The use of solar energy has exceeded the objectives of Senate Bill 3, coming on line faster and at a lower cost than anyone expected. Since the bill's passage in 2007, the cost of solar in the state has dropped by 49 percent, propelling North Carolina to ninth place among the states in solar energy. And earlier this year, a 300-megawatt wind farm was announced in Pasquotank and Perquimans counties, which will bring jobs and revenue to one of the most economically deprived parts of our state. Charlotte is developing a national reputation as the new energy capital, and Raleigh is home to a growing cluster of smart grid companies, both established firms and new innovative start-ups.

The green energy sector, rather than faltering as Martinez suggested, is vibrant, robust and growing, bringing jobs and economic opportunity to tens of thousands of North Carolinians in all corners of our state.

Markus Wilhelm

Founder and CEO, Strata Solar

Chapel Hill

The writer is chair of the N.C. Energy Policy Council's Renewable Energy Committee. The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response to the column.

Read more: http://www.newsobserver.com/2011/03/19/1063192/renewable-energy-is-on-the-upswing.html#ixzz1HqmB1yeW

Posted by votespisak at 12:01 AM EDT
Sunday, 27 March 2011
Former Michigan Governor Calls For More Renewable Energy

Granholm takes green effort nationwide

David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Former Gov. Jennifer Granholm wants the nation to embrace clean energy and green jobs as a way to fight rising oil and gas prices.

Granholm spent much of her two terms urging a push away from oil and toward advanced vehicles and other sources of power, such as solar and wind.

Now as a private citizen, the Democrat is urging both political parties to work together on alternative energy sectors.

Back from a recent trip to China, Granholm will speak today at the Pew Charitable Trusts alongside former U.S. Sen. John Warner, R-Va., and Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

"We have to promote pragmatic, bipartisan solutions," the former governor said in a 30-minute interview at Pew's offices. If the country does nothing, "then we are comfortable with our jobs going away and our economic and energy security being at the whim of the globe.

"It would mean a weak America," Granholm said.

Granholm will "map out her vision of how America can revitalize the manufacturing sector and jump-start our clean energy future," Pew said in a statement. She declined to discuss her specific plans ahead of her appearance.

Granholm said the United States needs to urgently address the energy situation with oil trading at almost $105 a barrel and the health of emerging green industries such as wind, solar and advanced batteries threatened.

"We are constantly at the whim of external events," she said. "In America, we have to get on board with having a national energy policy, because if we don't, then these energy jobs will continue to move overseas."

Since 2008, Michigan has attracted 47 clean energy firms that have promised to create 89,388 jobs and $9.4 billion of investment in the state, she said.

Granholm noted that China is investing billions of dollars in the green energy sector. Michigan companies "are being lured by China to pick up and to move because they have policy in place that makes sense to them," she said.

While some politicians have said the budget deficit and America's debt to China are the biggest problems, Granholm said the United States must address its reliance on importing more than 55 percent of its oil.

"We have a petroleum deficit, which is $1 billion a day," Granholm said. "If we don't address this energy independence, then we are going to become enslaved to China in other ways … the loss of jobs and the inability to control the price of oil."

Republicans in Congress have sharply criticized efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions, regularly calling the proposals "job killers."

Last week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted to bar regulation of greenhouse gas emissions by the Environmental Protection Agency.

More than 175 Michigan scientists wrote Congress this month to oppose the effort.

They argued that "investments in public health and the environment generate tremendous economic investments in environmental and clean energy technologies and create thousands of good-paying manufacturing jobs, including in Michigan's recovering automotive sector."

Granholm also noted that Detroit's Big Three automakers are building small cars in Michigan as they speed along fuel-efficient offerings.

"We would have lost all of these small cars to Mexico if we had not made a good business case for them to locate in Michigan," she said.

New companies may not locate if the country isn't committed to advanced energy, she said.

"My concern is in states like Michigan, where we've been hit so hard … not only won't we get any more … but the ones that we have, we are at risk of losing."

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20110323/BIZ/103230319/Granholm-takes-green-effort-nationwide#ixzz1Hj1KwhHa

Posted by votespisak at 12:01 AM EDT
Saturday, 26 March 2011
Public more supportive of renewable investments as a result of Japan crisis, poll says

Public more supportive of renewable investments as a result of Japan crisis, poll says

By Andrew Restuccia - 03/22/11 12:01 PM ET

The majority of people in the U.S. are more supportive of investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency as an alternative to expanded nuclear power as a result of the crisis in Japan, a new poll found.

The national poll was conducted for the Civil Society Institute, a think tank that has been critical of nuclear energy, from March 15-16.

The poll comes as workers continue to struggle to control nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in northeast Japan. A separate poll released earlier Tuesday by the Pew Research Center showed people are less supportive of nuclear power in light of the crisis.

According to the Civil Society Institute poll, which was conducted by ORC International, 58 percent of respondents said they are less supportive of nuclear in light of the crisis in Japan, while 24 percent said they are more supportive.

Asked if they more or less supportive of “using clean renewable energy resources — such as wind and solar — and increased energy efficiency as an alternative to more nuclear power,” 76 percent of the public said they were more supportive and 13 percent said they were less supportive.

Meanwhile, 53 percent said it would support a moratorium on new nuclear power plants if energy efficiency and renewable energy could meet the country’s energy needs. Forty-one percent said they would not support such a ban on new plants.

The United States gets about 20 percent of its electricity from nuclear power. Renewables, including biomass and hydroelectric power, generate about 12 percent of the country's electricity.

And in a poll result that underscores the longstanding, not-in-my-backyard concerns about nuclear power, 67 percent of Americans would oppose the construction of a new nuclear plant within 50 miles of their residence.

Posted by votespisak at 12:01 AM EDT
Friday, 25 March 2011
Michigan county welcomes wind farm with open arms

Michigan county welcomes wind farm with open arms

>> Midwest Energy News


More than 92 percent of the land in Gratiot County, Michigan is zoned agricultural. (Photo by Julie Falk via Creative Commons)

By M. Lisa Weatherford

While many communities are imposing moratoria on commercial wind farms, one mid-Michigan county is putting out the welcome mat to not one but potentially three major wind developments.

The first wind farm, a $440 million project with more than 125 turbines, will be up and spinning in Gratiot County by the end of 2011. Close on its heels are two more projects that are in different stages of development and could bring several hundred additional turbines within the next few years.

Gratiot County is a bucolic rural setting where farming is the primary occupation and barns and silos dot the flat landscape for miles. And for the most part, these farmers are welcoming the wind development as a means of income, a way to sustain family farms and as a boon to both the local economic and natural environments.

The first stage of the project will provide 150 skilled construction jobs, 15 full-time technician jobs, and $1.2 million in annual revenue for the county and municipalities. Landowners will get $80 per acre for leasing space for a turbine and a percentage of gross royalties. The project is expected to generate enough electricity to power 54,000 homes annually.

An energy legacy lives on

Somewhat ironically, the oil industry of the past had a hand in making the county desirable to renewable energy developers today. Because a now-closed refinery in Gratiot County was once Consumers Energy’s seventh largest customer, the electric grid capacity is already in place, although now power will be moving in the opposite direction.

But what sets Gratiot apart from other potential wind farm sites is how county officials and residents proactively went about understanding how the project will impact them.

From the beginning, says Donald Schurr, president of the local economic development organization, the goal was to educate and get everyone up to speed on all aspects of a potential wind farm, “good, bad or indifferent.”

“I went to Michigan State University to gather information and I was also familiar with turbines because I grew up in California,” Schurr said. “But when I investigated it here, I realized planning and accommodating a viable wind farm required we do things differently. At our first meeting of officials and landowners we had speakers come in to teach us what we needed to know.”

Schurr said he also visited wind farms elsewhere in Michigan as well as in the Baltic region of Germany.

“We have a sister city in Germany, so we went up to the Baltic and talked to people on farms (with turbines),” he said. “I asked one woman if she experienced problems with shadow flicker and she said, ‘Once in a while.’ So I asked her what she did about it and she said, ‘I closed the blinds.’”

County residents were also offered the opportunity to experience wind turbines up close. One such trip, to Indiana, was organized by MSU’s local extension director, Dan Rossman.

“We all got off the bus and were able to walk right up to the turbines,” Rossman said. “Everyone’s fears totally subsided and they were able to make an informed judgment for themselves.”

After months of educating and sharing experiences, another public meeting drew more than 300 people, but only three negative comments.

“The angriest calls I get now are from people who want to know why they can’t have a turbine on their property,” Schurr said.

A level playing field

As stakeholders began to understand the possibilities and the benefits, they also realized the need for comprehensive wind siting regulations.

At that time, Schurr was developing a master plan for two cities and one township. With interest in the potential project growing, others signed on, creating a seamless plan for the entire county except one southern township — likely the first of its kind in the state.

The county’s wind energy ordinance was written to cover the same area with one set of rules and regulations, relieving wind farm developers of the need to address a patchwork quilt of ordinances across the county. Without this cooperative ordinance, the first wind farm, involving 30,000 acres in four townships and 240 landowners, might not be on the horizon at all.

Earning consensus

Like Schurr, Richard Vander Veen, president of Wind Resource LLC, also believes strongly that success can be summed up in three words: “Education, education, education.”

Throughout the process, he said developers spoke with and listened to a broad range of people from Future Farmers of America to educators, local, state and federal officials, MSU Cooperative Extension, and the Michigan Farm Bureau.

“In a county where 92.5 percent of the land is zoned agricultural and there are only 42,000 people, we wanted to appreciate the culture and the community values,” he said. “In the end we are helping move the county forward in a progressive way to keep family farms in families.”

“We know that you don’t just get consensus, you have to earn it,” he added.

Rossman, with the county extension office, said there has been no organized resistance to the project.

“Even in the beginning we did not experience serious opposition. People had the typical questions and when their questions were answered, their fears just evaporated,” he said. “They were very open-minded.”

“No one has called my office to complain,” Rossman said. “There are people who chose not to have a turbine on their farm, but they did it because they didn’t need the financial help or didn’t want to lose acreage or deal with the construction or have their view changed.”

Vander Veen said that when it came to the “kitchen table” lease discussions with individual landowners, negativity was often related to the past poor practices of the oil and gas industry, not the wind farm.

“It almost always wasn’t about the turbines but rather it was about past oil and gas leases gone bad,” he said. “Situations where companies came in, tore up the property and left a mess behind.”

One landowner who will have a turbine on her 40-acre family farm is Gratiot County Treasurer Mary Sullivan. She said she is confident the wind farm will be an asset, not a liability.

“We have a cottage near McBain, Michigan, where there are turbines. We took the time to visit one and we listened and we simply didn’t hear anything but a swoosh sound.”

“I have no misgivings, none whatsoever,” she said. “We absolutely have to get away from non-renewable energy. But this is something I never thought I would see in my lifetime.”

M. Lisa Weatherford is a freelance writer based in southern Michigan with experience working in the oil, gas and renewable energy industries

Posted by votespisak at 12:01 AM EDT

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