Winds of Change: Union Township experiments in green energy with new turbines
Union Township’s prospects for clean energy in the future are blowing in the wind.
The township is promoting energy efficiency and sustainability by raising wind turbines south of the township hall building, 2010 S. Lincoln Road.
Two of the turbines were raised Wednesday afternoon by Wind Wire of South Bend, Ind. The third and final turbine will be installed by Block Electric Co. of Weidman later this month.
“We’re trying to work toward more sustainable systems wherever we can,” said Tom Rohrer, director of the Great Lakes Institute for Sustainable Systems and assistant professor of environmental studies. “We’re trying to evaluate whether or not there are sufficient winds in the Mount Pleasant area to make these turbines worthwhile. It’s a research project to determine if that’s true.”
He said the funding for this project was given to Union Township as a part of a $67,865 grant from the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth.
Township Zoning Administrator Woody Woodruff said the total cost of the wind turbines is $47,738.
The remainder of the grant will go toward other projects to lower the energy usage and improve the township’s sustainability.
Over time, the turbines will pay for themselves, Woodruff said. He does not know how much money the wind turbines will save in the long run, though he is hopes for a $5,000 to $6,000 a year reduction.
“When the wind is producing a lot of energy, that gets tapped into first before we tap into the Consumers (Energy) utility side,” he said. “It reduces the (electric) consumption of Union Township.”
Rohrer said the wind turbines are part of an ongoing project between CMU and Union Township.
Two different types of wind towers are a part of the project. Two Skystreams have been installed and one WindSpire will be installed at the same location.
Skystreams, Rohrer said, are horizontal access wind turbines resembling small-scale commercial turbines. The Windspire that will be installed at the end of October is a vertical access turbine better suited for low-wind and residential areas.
Associate Physics Professor Fred Phelps said the location selected for placement of the turbines should prove to be ideal.
“They’re not very tall so they don’t need a lot of clear air around them,” he said.
The cold weather in central Michigan won’t harm the performance of the turbines, Phelps said. Colder air has a higher density, which leads to better power generation for wind turbines.
Phelps thinks the long term outlook for the turbines will be positive for Union Township.
“They generate electric energy, which we all need, and the fuel is free,” he said. “It’s a lot less expensive as far as fuel goes and there’s no pollution.”
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