Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Tuesday

March 11, 2014

Editorial: Plan to power Northport with sun, wind worth try

It’s one thing to debate the merits of renewable energy like wind and solar power. But it’s rare to see the concept put to a real-world test like the one planned for Northport.

About two dozen Northport-area residents want to power all of Leelanau Township, including the village of Northport, with renewable energy.

The plan would make the community one of the first in North America to commit to 100 percent renewable electricity.

Members of the Northport Energy Action Taskforce plan to fund the project through grants, donations, and other non-municipal venues.

They’ve recruited a half dozen University of Michigan graduate students from the School of Natural Resources and the Environment who will spend a year creating a plan to make Leelanau Township run on electricity from only renewable resources.

At least one of the students has worked on small solar projects, but nothing on this level. But then almost no one has.

“To move toward 100 percent, it’s pretty unique,” said U-M student Jeremy Good.

Northport Energy already installed a wind turbine to power Northport’s wastewater treatment plant and some members have installed solar arrays on their homes. The group is working closely with the Northport Creek Golf Course, which will run on solar power. The course is still being built.

While Northport Energy says community members generally support them, the treatment plant wind turbine sparked fierce opposition from neighbors who worried about noise and others who worried the structure would kill too many birds, said Leelanau Township Supervisor Doug Scripps.

“The debate up here is a good one. We like it and we encourage it,” Scripps said.

That may be. But there has been plenty of heat, too. And it seems likely that the all-renewable plan will be the object of much debate.

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