Last week was a good one for clean, renewable energy in our town. Traverse City Light & Power signed a contract for more power from a planned wind farm in the Thumb. The contract adds 3.6 megawatts of wind power to the public utility’s energy supply-enough to power about 1,000 homes for a year.
The wind industry has come a long way in Michigan. Since the passage of a comprehensive energy statute in 2008 that included Michigan’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS)-10 percent renewable energy from all the state’s utilities by 2015-costs have dropped at a remarkable rate.
It is getting to be crunch time for wind power development in Michigan, so next week’s Michigan Wind Energy Forum, scheduled for Tuesday at Michigan State University’s Kellogg Center in East Lansing, is arriving right on time.
A bipartisan group of state representatives has introduced four bills, known as the Energy Freedom package that would allow Michiganders to invest more in solar, wind, or methane-powered generation; reap a better return; and share credit for the electricity they produce. Different combinations of 12 Democrats and five Republicans are sponsoring different parts of the package, marking a shift in the Michigan Legislature.
The problem that supporters of the proposed 600-megawatt plant never recognized was this: Planet Earth is not a perfect place to build a coal plant. Coal is too dirty; it has become too expensive to mine, ship, and burn; and it is the number-one source of climate-changing carbon emissions. If the world hopes to escape the worst effects of airborne toxins and global warming, it must stop burning the stuff-the quicker the better. So Wolverine’s cancellation of its so-called “Clean Energy Venture” puts the firm in step with the rest of the country and the world.
The ruckus over renewables isn’t over: Proposal 3’s advocates sound even more determined to boost renewables goals beyond their current “10 percent by 2015” target and make Michigan a jobs-rich, global, renewables manufacturing leader. And on Wednesday, Gov. Rick Snyder used his Special Message on Energy and the Environment to say he’s ready to start a conversation next year about resetting the goal for renewables.