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MSU hosts conference on developing wind energy

September 11, 2007

A solution to finding sustainable energy sources and lasting Michigan jobs could come out of thin air – with wind.

The MSU Land Policy Institute wrapped up the two-day Manufacturing and Developing Wind Energy Systems in Michigan conference on campus Tuesday. Gov. Jennifer Granholm spoke at the event, selling the state as a destination point for wind energy developers and familiarizing state and local policy makers with the wind power capabilities in their regions.

“If you look at the capacity of a state to power itself through wind, Michigan is one of the top in the country,” said Soji Adelaja, distinguished professor and director of the MSU Land Policy Institute. “The problem is, the number of windmills it has in place is also near the bottom.”

While Michigan ranks as the 14th windiest state in the nation, it has the land and lake capacity to become the third-largest of the states that are currently producing wind energy in the U.S., said John Warbach, professor and associate director of the institute. The amount of that capacity currently being used is less than .02 percent, according to the institute.

Michigan relies on unsustainable fuel sources like coal and natural gas for most electricity and heating production, the majority of which comes from out of the state, said Dan Radomski, vice president of services for Detroit-based NextEnergy, a nonprofit organization that works to further alternative energy technologies.

“We own the wind that rips through us,” Radomski said. “Instead of paying someone else to bring in something out of state, we need to harness what we have as our own, which will have a greater impact on our economy.”

Besides an interest in renewable energy sources, more than 30,000 jobs could be coupled with the state’s wind power capabilities, Adelaja said.

Granholm said the state’s manufacturing resources could be put to use by those jobs.

Liz Boyd, Granholm’s spokeswoman, said those jobs would be less likely to be outsourced than other manufacturing work.

“We want to build on our strengths,” Boyd said. “We don’t see a future without manufacturing in this state.”

Michigan’s agricultural community could also see a profitable impact, said Mike Klepinger, an MSU extension specialist who coordinated the conference. Farmers who agree to have these windmills on their property could receive more than $2,500 a year to supplement their income without interfering with much of their land, he said.

The amount of wind power produced in the state could power more than 1.8 million homes, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Three commercial-scale wind turbines were up and operating in Michigan by the end of last year.

MSU Land Policy Institute is seeking about $1.3 million in three-year funding contributions to continue working with wind energy developers and state officials to install more windmills.

Craig Trudell can be reached at trudell6@msu.edu.

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