Michigan city embraces renewable energy

Solar panels Photo: ilovememphis (flickr)

To encourage green living, Wyandotte, like other cities, created a community garden. But this Michigan city’s project supplies solar energy instead of vegetables.

The 49-kilowatt solar garden is just one way the city can generate 30 percent of its electricity from renewable energy.

Roof-top solar panels power the water department, said Melanie McCoy, the general manager of municipal services in Wyandotte. A partnership with Ohio-based American Municipal Power supplies Wyandotte with wind and hydro power.

It’s not just city government that’s moving toward renewable energy.

In the past six months, six to eight businesses have installed solar panels with grant funds, McCoy said. Several residential homes have them as well.

Solar is not the only green move the city is making.

Bloomberg Businessweek reports that Wyandotte, using federal and state grants, has instituted a series of green energy programs for homes and businesses:

  • Free energy audits Loans guaranteed at 1.99 percent for updating things like insulation and wiring Loans for solar panels
  • Incentives to switch to geothermal energy
  • The city’s “Save a Watt in Wyandotte” program encourages residents to use compact fluorescent lightbulbs.

And the city’s eyeing other green energy opportunities, including the expanding wind market.

“There’s a lot of entrepreneurs looking for partners to sell renewable power to,” McCoy said. “It’s a dynamic time.”

Only 6 percent of Wyandotte’s renewable energy is generated in Michigan, the rest comes from Ohio. That means the city still has some work to do to meet upcoming state mandates.

In 2008 Michigan required 10 percent of generated electricity to come from Michigan- based renewable energy by 2015. The state defines renewable resources as those that replenish naturally over the course of a human’s lifetime – solar, wind, biomass and hydropower.

McCoy isn’t worried about the deadline.

“There’s some folks in Michigan right now that we are in talks with,” McCoy said. “There’s a good chance we will beat the 10 percent by a long shot.”

Aiming high could benefit Wyandotte and other Michigan cities in the long run. Voters will decide on an expanded renewable initiative this November. The proposed 25 by 25 amendment would require 25 percent of the state’s electric energy to come from clean renewable resources by 2025.

Supporters of the initiative say Michigan is already on track to meet the 10 percent standard.

“It’s come to be that it’s not hard,” said Dianne Byrum, who works with Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs, a bipartisan organization promoting the measure. “Utilities are well on the way to meeting the 10 percent by 2015 requirement with ease.”

She’s referring to a 2012 report by the Michigan Public Service Commission on the implementation of the 2008 mandate that found that “progress is going smoothly.”

 

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