Wind Proponents Say MI Proposal is Hot Air

Legislation to promote energy innovation now under consideration in the Michigan Senate will do little to stimulate wind power production in the state, could actually retard industry growth, and should be squashed if it reaches the governor's desk in its current form, according to a group of the nation's leading wind power authorities.

The concerns, outlined in a May 6, 2008 letter the American Wind Energy Association sent to Governor Jennifer Granholm, is the first direct public opposition to a package of legislation designed to spur energy innovation passed by the Michigan House of Representatives in mid-April.

Michigan, once an innovative industrial powerhouse, has done little but slash jobs, shudder factories, and cede population for three decades. But the state strives to organize much of its economic recovery plan around the booming global renewable energy industry.

The Great Lakes region's blowing wind resources have the potential to power hundreds of thousands of homes with clean energy, stimulate $80 billion in new economic activity, and generate 300,000 jobs, according to the United States Department of Energy.

Most agree Michigan, one of the windier states in the region, can capture a significant share of that market with the proper policy and spending strategy.

The bills recently passed by House lawmakers would, among other things, require utilities to satisfy 10 percent of energy demand with renewable sources like wind and solar by 2015.

Environmentalists rushed to support the legislation.

Traditional business leaders are keeping a watchful eye on the proposals as they head to the Senate.

But the nation's leading wind power advocates, including Vestas, the world's largest wind turbine manufacturer, and Rich Vander Veen, president of Michigan-based Mackinaw Power, say the proposal fails to establish a meaningful market for wind energy. The proposal, as passed, does not effectively incentivize wind power production; contains weak bench marks for renewable energy production; and could potentially undermine the wind industry in Michigan

“The House legislation, as a package, cannot accurately be described as a renewable energy standard, and the public should not expect economic benefits to result from the package," the letter states. "To avoid unwarranted market and public confusion created by opaque legislation, our industry asks for your assurance of a veto should such legislation reach your desk."