Huron County clears way for new wind farm

BY JESI MUNGUIA

A new wind farm is on it’s way to Huron county, in the thumb region of the state.

Last week the Michigan Public Service Commission has approved a power purchase agreement between DTE Electric Company and the Big Turtle Wind Farm.

The agreement is for 20 megawatts of energy which is enough to power about 9,000 homes.

Judy Palnau is the spokeswoman for the Michigan Public Service Commission.

“This will be a wind farm that uses more than 50 percent Michigan sourced content so the materials, the components, the logistics, and the labor will all be Michigan sourced. So even the parts of the wind turbine for example will be more than 50 percent Michigan made. Which is good news for Michigan’s economy,” Palnau said.

Palnau said, the new wind farm will cover 2,800 acres and house 10 wind turbines.

She said construction will begin later this year  in order to take advantage of a federal tax credit.

Delivery of electricity will begin in 2014.

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Great Lakes Bay Region going green

BY JENNIFER WEINGART
Several organizations in the Saginaw Bay region are looking at ways to help businesses afford solar energy, including creating bulk purchasing programs.
Natalie Schiefer with Saginaw Future explains how it would work.
“The whole purpose of it is to decrease the cost of the system for the customer. So in order to do that they’re using kind of a bulk purchasing program where if they get a group of businesses or organizations to purchase at the same time then they can get a reduced rate,” Schiefer said. 
Several organizations recently completed a study looking at ways of promoting solar energy, including examining barriers to solar energy adoption. 
The findings from the study are expected to be made public in September.

Electric utilities offer free online energy audits

Several Michigan electric utilities are offering free, online home energy audits.
The online tool allows users to map their home’s energy use. It uses a series of questions, ranging from the home’s square footage to typical thermostat settings, to create a picture of how energy is being used. 
Steve Lightbourn is with the Michigan Energy Optimization Program.
“It automatically estimates a home’s energy use, and then it projects heating and cooling and hot water and lighting costs. It also will calculate the home’s energy savings potential, so you know what things you can do to get the greatest payback,” Lightbourn said.
Customers who complete the home energy audit receive an energy-saving kit that includes compact fluorescent lightbulbs, faucet water savers and a new shower head.

GLREA wins community solar grant

BY ANTHONY RIZZO
A local renewable energy association is campaigning for community solar gardens throughout the state. 
The Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association has received a $33 thousand grant to begin studies on community solar projects.
The idea is to begin community solar projects around the state for people to invest for themselves and the environment.
Officials say more people are beginning to pursue community solar projects because it can be easier than building privately.
Private solar construction may not be practical if someone rents their home, if they have trees nearby or if their roof faces the wrong direction.
David Konkle is the Program Director with the Association.
“You buy a share of a solar energy system that’s built somewhere, maybe in your neighborhood, or at least in your community. You own some sort of share of that solar energy system and every month you get the credit for the amount of energy you produce by the collectors you own,” Konkle said.
Konkle said he has his work cut out for him. He said he’ll continue educating people about the community solar idea, and lobbying state lawmakers to find what he calls the “political will” to support new development.

MPSC allows Consumers to raise rates

BY JENNIFER WEINGART
Electricity rates for Michigan residents who get their power from Consumers Energy increased effective Thursday.
The utility had first requested this current rate hike in September of 2012. 
This week’s approval by the Michigan Public Service Commission will generate an additional $89 million per year which Consumers said is needed to pay for increased production and transmission costs. 
An average residential customer using 500 kilowatt-hours will see a monthly increase of $1.67.
Judy Palnau is a spokesperson for the MPSC.
“In their filing with the commission noted several reasons for needing additional money and everything  from improving their operations and maintenance to improving the system so it is more reliable  as  it provides electric service to customers to complying with environmental laws.” Palnau said.
Palneau said the approved increase represents sixty percent of Consumers request from last year. 
Consumers provides power to six point eight million Michigan residents. 

Flint and Genesee Chamber deliver clean energy

BY ANTHONY RIZZO
The Flint and Genesee Chamber Commerce are setting an example nationally with their use of clean energy. 
A report released this week shows they have evolved to be one of the largest local chambers in the country in driving local economic development with clean energy.
The recognition comes from a “first-of-its-kind” report released by the Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy, or CICE.
Officials say the report includes a comprehensive look at the role of the Flint and Genesee Chamber.
Diane Doucette is the Executive Director at CICE. 
“They’re setting a great example. They provide a very good model for local chambers around the country to replicate. And we love what they’re doing because every local chamber in the country, and there are between four and six thousand chambers that could benefit by this example.” Doucette said.
Doucette said the chamber excels in attracting investment, supporting business growth, and diversifying the local economy around clean and efficient energy.
Nationally, she said the progression of clean energy use has slowed because of politics.

Cherryland, Traverse City Light & Power offer solar panels

Two northwest Michigan utilities have found a way to bring solar panels to their customers.
The voluntary program allows customers to pay for a solar panel up front, and then earn a credit on their bills for the next 25 years.
It’s called the “Solar Alliance,” a partnership between Cherryland Electric Cooperative and Traverse City Light and Power.
Customers can purchase a solar panel, which the utilities will install and maintain at their headquarters. The customer then gets a credit on their monthly bill.
Tony Anderson with Cherryland Electric said the utility wanted to provide solar power, but it didn’t want to force people to participate.
“I have some members who want it, and I have some members who are skeptical, and this makes it fair to everybody. If you want to try it, you can participate. If you’re skeptical and don’t want to, you don’t have to, and it’s not going to affect your rate.” Anderson said.
The panels cost about 480-dollars each. Customers who purchase one will receive a monthly credit for the next 25 years. 
Anderson said the panels will pay for themselves within 20 years, making the last five years all profit.