TRAVERSE CITY — Like a giant sign welcoming future visitors, Traverse City has a made a bold proclamation when it comes to renewable energy.

Traverse City Light & Power's board wants to achieve 40 percent renewable energy by 2025 — and to reach 100 percent by 2040. The goal was added to the utility company's strategic plan in August.

Working toward that goal was the subject of a clean energy roundtable on Monday at the TCL&P offices.

"Our state is definitely moving in the right direction and Traverse City is the bright light that is leading the way," said Kate Madigan, energy and climate specialist for the Michigan Environmental Council and the moderator for the discussion.

Tim Arends, executive director of Light & Power, said the utility company has "a history of being first" and this ambitious goal echoes that sentiment. He said TCL&P is participating in statewide and local projects toward that goal and is talking with the commission at Cherry Capital Airport about adding solar panels to the "vast amount of open property they have."

Amy Shamroe, Mayor Pro-Tem of the Traverse City Commission, said the cost savings and environmental impact make it a "no brainer" to invest in clean, renewable energy for both commercial and residential applications. Shamroe said the renewable energy demands from the consumers is a strong economic driver as the cost savings and environmental impact reduction "all comes together."

With the demand for more renewable energy sources comes an increase in a workforce to put it in place as well as maintain the system.

A big part of the discussion centered on training a workforce not only to install, but to maintain the clean energy sector.

Allan O'Shea, the director of sales and president of CBS Solar in Thompsonville, said he's seen his work force grow by 40 percent over the last several years to handle the demand. O'Shea said CBS Solar today needs to teach people about the benefits of solar power less than in it did in years past.

"These are exciting times," O'Shea said.

Marguerite Cotto, vice president for lifelong and professional learning and Northwestern Michigan College, and Daniel Goodchild, program coordinator for construction/renewable energy technology at the college, admitted that the workforce demand will be difficult. But they hope cross-training, as well as tapping veterans who often have a specific skill set, will help fill the void.

Goodchild, who served in the Air Force, said veterans who served their country can now serve their community.

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