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Huron County Approves Wind Energy Project; Turbines Also Planned in Oceana

State Wind Energy Policy Needed, Says Traverse City State Representative

July 31, 2005       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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Native Bay Cityan and alternative energy "guru" Steve Smiley tries to inspire attendees at the Michigan Recyclers Conference in Bay City toward developing renewable energy sources.

Despite skeptics, more wind energy appears to be in the breeze for Michigan.

And, Steve Smiley, a Bay City native and energy consultant from the Traverse City area, says the state needs to move toward 100 percent renewable energy to escape thedominance of oil, the price of which he says is "never coming down."


The Huron County Commission has recently approved an extensive wind energy initiative by Noble Environmental in Ubly that could lead to a $150 million investment in 32 turbines with blade span of 246 feet(please see "Windmill Investments...", June 17, 2005) and another Thumb area project for 20 turbines near Pigeon reportedly is backed by the John Deere Co. and other investors.

Paul W. Kerr, writer for the Thumb Newsweekly, reported July 27 that the Huron County Board of Commissioners adopted two zoning ordinance changes permitting the construction and placement of wind turbines in Huron County.

Meanwhile, Mackinaw Power, headed by Rich VanderVeen of Grand Rapids, is proposing 21 turbines for an 8,000 acre development in Oceana County northof Muskegon, the Detroit News has reported. VanderVeen says the 230-foot high wind turbines would produce power for about 27,000 persons.

Noble officials estimated decommissioning costs of the wind towers at $10,000 to $15,000 per tower, that seemed to pacify critics. The ordinance includes a decommissioning provision providing for $1 million for tower removal and site restoration in the event the technology becomes obsolete. Ice throw would be less than 400 feet, company officials assured commissioners.

State Rep. Howard Walker, R-Traverse City, has introduced two bills that would establish statewide standards for windmills, taking the issue away from control by individual townships.

"Wind is a statewide resource," saysRep. Walker, noting that townships are banning the sometimes controversial windmills. Rep. Walker stresses that alternative energy sources are good for the environment and the economy.

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Meanwhile, Steven Smiley, of Suttons Bay, the "guru" of alternative energy in Michigan, has told the Michigan Recyclers Conference in Bay City "this is the dawn of a new age" and "there is no waythat oil prices will ever go down again."

He challenged conference attendees to do "creative thinking" about renewable energy.

Smiley, a native of Bay City and Central High graduate, is a noted researcher and consultant on alternative energy. He was involved in the state's first windmill projects, beginning in 1996 in Traverse City and Mackinaw City.

He called energy waste "institutional ignorance" as he envisioned a broad spectrum of renewable energy sources to free the nation from oil dominance.

"Windpower is the cheapest and cleanest energy on the market," said Mr. Smiley. With a combination of biomass, solar and other sources the nation can achieve 100 percent renewable energy, he said.

Mr. Smiley said communities, especially those with local power generation facilities, such as Bay City, can marshal resources to ensure energy independence in the future.

He issued the "City Apollo Challenge" to communities across the state to be the first to use 100 percent renewable energy. Bay City and Traverse City should be in the forefront of competition, he said.

Contact: Steve Smiley, P.O. Box 777, Suttons Bay, MI 49682,, phone 231-271-4850.###

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Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
(Contact Dave Via Email at

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