The winds of change could soon bring energy to Ann Arbor – literally. Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje has proposed increasing the share of renewable energy the city uses to 20 percent, centering his attention on wind energy. Wind turbines will not only make the city more environmentally friendly, but also may help out residents’ wallets by creating a more economically stable energy source.

Jess Cox

Ann Arbor city energy coordinator David Konkle hopes the city will sign a long-term contract to bring power from a large number of windmills currently being built in Michigan’s thumb. The steady winds that blow off Saginaw Bay make the thumb area a logical place for wind turbines. Consumers’ Energy will purchase wind energy from Noble Environmental Power, which is building 32 wind turbines in the Thumb and plans 218 more.

Bringing wind power to Ann Arbor would send a message to state legislators to embrace and explore renewable energy options. Electricity produced by wind power does not rely on finite supplies of fossil fuels and does not create pollution. While showcasing Ann Arbor as an environmentally conscious city, using wind power will also increase demand for renewable energy among other communities, lowering its price.

Besides being a key environmental issue, the adoption of wind energy by Ann Arbor and its residents could help the city economically. Renewable energy sources are not subject to the wild price fluctuations that fossil fuels experience. A long-term wind energy contract would shield at least a portion of the city’s energy costs from the nearly inevitable rise in fossil fuel costs.

The rapid growth of wind energy across the state and country is not without its costs. Unsightly turbines could be distressing to nearby homeowners concerned with the view out their bedroom windows, and their mighty arms could kill thousands of birds each year. These windmills could be subject to attack by any number of Don Quixotes defending the beauty of Michigan Thumb – and its birds – from the energy-producing monstrosities that threaten to dominate their land.

These sacrifices, however, pale in comparison to the potential consequences of global warming. Embracing clean energy sources can slow the rise of fossil fuel emissions that are among the chief contributors of greenhouse gases. Without changing our behavior, rising temperatures and melting ice caps will leave more than just Michigan’s bird populations suffering.

Hieftje is not alone in recognizing the potential and need to embrace renewable, clean-burning energy sources A– wind power capacity increased by 35 percent nationwide last year. By embracing wind energy now, Ann Arbor can set an example for neighboring communities while enjoying the benefits of a more economically and environmentally sound means of acquiring its energy. A greener national energy policy does not have to wait for the federal government to open its eyes to the growing crisis of fossil fuel dependence. If local communities, regions and states act independently to embrace renewable energy, they will soon find that one answer to rising energy costs may indeed be blowin’ in the wind.


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