Traverse City Record-Eagle

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April 20, 2012

Forum: Reduce energy consumption

The U.S. Census reports that the average Michigan household pays $71.56 per month for electricity. In Northport, Leelanau Community Energy, LLC, hopes to generate and sell $2.70 (gross) worth of electricity per month to each residential equivalent unit in the sewer district by installing a Vestas V20-120kW commercial wind turbine (blade-swept area 66 feet) for the sewer plant. How do we generate electricity for the remainder of the $71.56 electric bill?

To utilize electricity from wind is challenging. Operational costs and responsibility are considerable, while the electricity being generated is intermittent and unpredictable. Consequently, the blending of electricity from wind into the alternating current grid is difficult because there is no "storage" capacity and the AC grid supply must be kept in balance at all times. Why hasn't Traverse City Light & Power installed more than one commercial wind turbine?

It is arrogant and irresponsible to supplement our excessive addiction to electricity with renewable energy without reducing our gross overconsumption. Human health problems have reached epidemic proportions. The health of planet Earth is also being adversely impacted by bad choices and overconsumption.

The pharmaceutical industry is making billions with promises to fix our health with a pill because we are unwilling to change our lifestyle. Caution, "windpill" has side affects! Birds don't understand a wind turbine and millions are killed annually around the world because it is their space that we invade. The hypocrisy, as stated by the American Bird Conservancy, "the federal government is seeking to promote an energy sector (wind) in a manner that is in violation of its own laws".

For a perspective on electricity consumption today, go back 50 or 60 years to a time before summer "brown outs," the mall, big box stores, and the air conditioning phenomenon, which replaced sensible design that allowed for structures to be self cooling. Because we could and because electricity was cheap, we began an era of great growth where building design depended on air conditioning to make human habitation tolerable.

Most buildings today do not have windows that open for ventilation and are heat traps during the summer, which is "peak time" for electricity consumption. That's why we are blasted with cold air upon stepping into a big box store on a breezy and beautiful 75-degree summer day. Eighty degrees in the shade with ventilation and air that moves is most tolerable.

Unnecessary, gross overuse of electricity needs to stop. Our government should immediately mandate and provide incentives for all buildings to be retrofitted for self-cooling so air conditioning need not be turned on until the thermometer reaches 80. You and I can make a conscious effort to do the same. Is your home energy efficient? Do you heat your second home when you are away? Do you use air conditioning responsibly? "I have seen the enemy and it is us."

Make a difference. Reduce consumption and promote conservation now.

About the author: David C. Brigham, of Leelanau Township, is a long-time licensed residential builder who has studied and taken classes on renewable energy at Northwestern Michigan College. He is president of the Leelanau Forum, a Michigan non-profit corporation with a primary goal to educate the public on important land use issues.

About the forum: The forum is a periodic column of opinion written by Record-Eagle readers in their areas of interest or expertise. Submissions of 500 words or less may be made by e-mailing letters@record-eagle.com. Please include biographical information and a photo.

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