Traverse City Record-Eagle

February 24, 2014

Energy is forum topic

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY -- Northport resident Ann McInnis installed solar panels on her roof about 18 months ago. In the summer, the panels generate excess energy and in the winter, her husband Doug keeps them clear of snow.

“Even when the sun doesn’t come out, we still get generation,” McInnis said.

McInnis and her husband chair the Energy Study Committee of the League of Women Voters Leelanau County. The group will host a fair and forum on energy resilience on Tuesday.

The event is focused on educating people about renewable energy and reducing energy use.

“We’re just hoping people will become more conscious of the fact that not only are we going to have to become more energy conscious, but it’ll save us money and it certainly will contribute to cutting down on emissions.”

Solar power is an increasingly popular option in Leelanau County, McInnis said. The Northport Creek Golf Course, which hasn’t opened yet, is supposed to be entirely solar-powered, and several other businesses are switching to the renewable source.

“A lot of businesses are more interested in solar because it’s quick to install and costs come way down,” McInnis said.

Steven Smiley, an energy economist and solar and wind power developer who will speak at the forum, said the key to renewable energy is using multiple generation techniques.

For example, wind power can help supplement solar on cloudy days.

“You mix them together. That’s the key to the future of clean energy,” said Smiley, who also owns Smiley Energy Services.

Forum speakers also will discuss what individuals can do to become more energy efficient.

Brian Beauchamp, the energy program director at the Michigan Land Use Institute, recommends a home energy assessment, done by professionals.

“People can see a significant savings in terms of energy and cost,” Beauchamp said.

Beauchamp works on TC Saves, a group that helps homeowners and businesses become energy efficient. He said assessors can help determine where air leaks from a roof, or why one room is always colder than the rest of the house.

“I think we have a very engaged community and we’ve seen through our program, TC Saves, huge rates of participation, relatively speaking,” Beauchamp said.

The event will be held on Tuesday at the Leelanau County Government Center. An energy fair will run from 6 to 7 p.m. and be followed by a forum. Speakers will talk about energy efficiency and conservation, renewable energy and how to live a low energy lifestyle.