Cherries

More On Solutions, Less On The Problem

July 4th, 2017

Written by: Tony Anderson

Wind turbines

At a recent Rotary Club meeting, I listened to a spokesperson for a local environmental group lamenting the state of our environment. The name of the group doesn’t matter as 90 percent of the message could be attributed to many such groups. Sadly, the message was very similar to one I had heard almost 10 years earlier, as well as every year since.

I am not writing today to disparage any group of well-intentioned individuals. However, I am writing to encourage individuals on both sides of every climate issue to spend more time on realistic solutions and less time debating or lamenting a problem.

I stood up at that Rotary meeting and asked a simple question: “Zoning issues are preventing utilities from achieving higher levels of renewable wind resources. What is your group doing to improve zoning in Michigan?” The answer: “Our group is not working on that issue.”

I drove home shaking my head. Cherryland has a power supply portfolio that is 18 percent renewable. We failed at an attempt to reach 30 percent when zoning votes in two townships in November 2016 killed a large wind project.

All I ever hear from environmental groups is “do more renewables.” There wasn’t one of these groups—local, regional or national in nature— encouraging these townships to pass ordinances favorable to renewable energy. The developer and Cherryland’s power supplier, Wolverine Power Cooperative, were in the losing battle alone.

While disappointed, I am far from surprised. Big wind is not sexy. It doesn’t bring in donors any longer. A carbon tax and railing about the “cost of carbon” are all the rage today. Tax carbon all you want. If we can’t build alternatives in Michigan, then old, dirty plants will be called on to operate longer just to keep the grid stable.

What are the solutions? The biggest one is the “not in my backyard” gorilla in the room. If you want cleaner air, we need more large wind projects in Michigan. They are going to have to go somewhere. Environmental organizations need to get behind key locations, step into the mud and help with the dirty work that is zoning for these structures.

Transmission is another solution that could use support from all sides. Michigan has a weak connection to the Upper Peninsula. As a state, we need to improve this connection and continue on into Canada. Canada is rich in renewable resources that could help improve our clean energy portfolios in Michigan.

Green groups need to get into these fights soon. I expect I will get responses about solar and conservation. They are small drips in a huge bucket. Climate advocates need to care a little less about donor dollars, tone down the sky is falling rants, work with utilities and really get strategic about achievable results that are meaningful on a big scale.

Debating the size and scope of the problem for another 10 years is a disservice to everyone. Working together on the not-so-popular solutions is where all sides need to put their time and effort in the years to come.

Tony Anderson

Categories: Energy PolicyManager's ColumnMichigan Country LinesRenewable EnergySolarWolverine Power Cooperative

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40 thoughts on “More On Solutions, Less On The Problem”

  1. Louis Burruezo says:

    I agree, we need solutions not bickering, cooperation not just lip service, action not more meetings. The U P needs help now and the sooner we start on the infrastructure to move the power the better.

  2. David Scheppe says:

    Thank you for taking the time to write out a response that helps bring to light the problem with moving forward.
    Bring on the wind!
    David Scheppe

  3. Nancy Bazemore says:

    If this hasn’t been published in the papers, it certainly should be. What side are our politicians on? Shouldn’t they be questioned?

  4. George Granlund says:

    Zoning and NIMBY are indeed large problems that, I believe, most big wind advocates agree on. The eastern shoreline of Lake Michigan is a windy, pretty place. Apparently few residents want turbines here, at least in Benzie County where I live. But we all want lower rates and reliable energy. I’ve long criticized the leadership at Cherryland for being anti-renewable, but I’m rethinking where the blame may lie, and that blame is right in the mirror.

  5. Maia Turek says:

    Hi! You make a great point, but maybe instead of waiting for those groups to come to your aid, why aren’t you mobilizing them? Do you have an email list with contacts for each of those groups? An organized advocacy campaign could help you move your initiative s forward. I work in government and have found that our 236 stakeholder groups are our most powerful asset in any communication campaign.

    1. Tony Anderson says:

      Honestly, I really don’t have the time or energy to mobilize grass roots organizations who should be doing this already. I’m sure many of them get this newsletter. I also write 3-4 editorials each year in the Record Eagle. So, I believe my message is out there. If the local groups wanted to hear from me, they would ask. Interested individuals need to mobilize themselves. When they want to lament their perceived problems, they have no trouble mobilizing or holding another rally. All I am asking is for them to take this effort and actually seek meaningful solutions.

  6. Willard Susan says:

    Well said!!

  7. Gordon Grimm says:

    Thank you Mr. Anderson. This article is very well stated and reflects the core problem of the issue of renewable energy. Putting renewable energy in someone else’s backyard or in more remote forested, natural, and/or uninhabited areas is not the answer. If we want renewable energy in the form of wind, water, and solar we must except the cost and having those systems in our community and not someones else’s.

  8. Jim Weller says:

    Tony,
    I agree with you 100%.
    People worry about and spent way to much time debating things that make take years to accomplish
    when they could be addressing issues that can have a positive outcome in a reasonable time frame.
    Wind energy is a viable solution for us as we are living in an area that provides the key source to make
    it work. To me this is a no brainer.
    I will say another part of the resistance to wind energy will be the people involved with fossil fuels. They will push
    to stop this anyway they can.

    Best Regards,

    Jim Weller

    1. Tony Anderson says:

      Thanks. However, I don’t believe I agree with the fossil fuel resistance statement. They have nothing to resist because there is no grass roots effort with a viable and proven solution. I say take a stand on a solution and let’s see what resistance is really flushed out rather than use fossil fuel resistance as an excuse to do nothing for another 10 years.

  9. Dennis Ring says:

    Couldn’t agree more. I believe one of the reasons more people don’t get involved is they understand that the main driver in this debate (the need for renewables due to CAGW) is not true.

    1. Tony Anderson says:

      All I want is for those who do believe in a position to take action on solutions rather than try and convince others there is a problem. All sides waste energy trying to convince others they are right. We are missing out on affordable solutions as a result.

  10. Clifford Falls says:

    I strongly oppose your position and your belief that you are the savior of all. It is shallow thinking and to shut down debate is sad. I am alarmed that you are in a position to impose your thoughts on all. You need to do more homework.

    1. Tony Anderson says:

      It is a simple opinion piece. I simply relayed my observations from meetings/rallys/events I have personally attended over the years. There is no homework necessary. I have lived it. You are perfectly within your bounds to disagree. I respect that. If I wanted to impose my will on all, I wouldn’t have this blog where anyone can make a comment.

  11. Alan Weverstad says:

    Tony you are right on point. NGOs need funding from the community and therefore need a crisis to get people to spend. Most are good intentioned volunteers that have enough partial truths to be passionate if not accurate. What do you do to store wind energy? Can you even take down mainstream generation since you can’t always count on wind, either not enough or too much

    1. Tony Anderson says:

      We do nothing to store wind energy at this time. We have natural gas peaking plants that we can utilize when the wind doesn’t blow. The intermittency of renewables will always require utilities to have coal, nuclear or natural gas resources until the day arrives when storage on a large scale is affordable. That day may come but I don’t see it in the next 10 years.

      1. Robert Lenten says:

        What is CEC’s policy for individual wind turbines that are grid tied? What do you offer the individual for their excess power generated? As an individual, I tried to get a reasonable quote, from companies, to install a system that would generate enough power to offset our power use. I was astounded at a couple of quotes. This was some time ago, but the bottom line is that it is a statement, not a practicality, to have a wind turbine.
        My wife and I were very interested at that time, but now with tighter zoning, doubt we could install a system due to the size and height(and cost) needed to be effective. The best way an individual can impact this issue at this time, is conservation. All of those chargers and power convertors and electronics that are plugged in, are collectively using a significant amount of power, even when “off”.

        1. Tony Anderson says:

          Members can tie wind and solar to our grid in what we call our “net metering” program. We pay our avoided cost of power which is currently around 5.5 cents per kWh. We also offer a “buy all sell all” program where you put 100% of the output of your wind turbine onto our grid and for that we are currently paying 10 cents per kWh. The buy all sell all program gives us a more predictable supply of power and thus we pay more. Under net metering, you only send us what you don’t use and this is obviously less predictable. If you are serious about either program, please call our office at 486-9200.

  12. Lucy M Couturier says:

    Excellent column, Tony Anderson! You hit the nail on the head. It’s so much more satisfying to sit around and complain than to get up and do the work to fix things. I hope your wise words will inspire the groups that can do something .

  13. Marek ulicny says:

    What are you, and Cherryland doing to improve zoning laws? Why do you rest so much on wind energy and in effect zoning laws as the hold back?

    What are some stats in wind vs solar energy in progressive countries that are more focused on renewable energy? If not in my backyard, what are others doing in their backyard?

    Lastly, especially coming from a coop, being in touch with the community is a necessity. You sound foolish to be dismissive to the issue being raised (not to mention clueless as it is s global issue in recent issues –
    See American politics) by the people of your town. However I totally agree with your point in that we neee solutions. It sounds like you agree there is an climate issue and environmental stewardship is a must. So where were your solutions? Came across as a soap box rant just the same.

    I’d start talking about solar power benefits as a solution, but you made a point to run down any solutions people may point out to you. So. No voicing concerns of issues. And only suggest solutions (the one) that you agree with. Got it .

    1. Tony Anderson says:

      When I visit with state and federal elected representatives, I mention the zoning problems. Nobody wants to touch local control and I understand that. Meaningful change to “not in my back yard” problems needs to come from the grass roots citizens (my opinion). In the past 14 years, Cherryland’s portfolio of energy has gone from less than 5% renewable to 18% renewable. If you want to talk about carbon free energy resources, I can point to a portfolio of power that is over 50% carbon free.(actual calculation is currently underway after a recently signed new contract – stay tuned) Cherryland has a concrete record of significant progress. I only ask the same from all environmental groups. I don’t need to hear your suggestions. I need to see your results. The piece was about a little less talk and a lot more action.

  14. Robert Courson says:

    I subsidise wind power by using Arcadia. My Cherry Land electric bill goes up $5.25 a month. Hope we are burning a bit less coal as a result.

  15. Roy Aydelotte says:

    Tony, thanks for taking the big picture perspective. As someone concerned about the world I also take a look at what is happening, but from a purely scientific perspective. On the climate front, our Earth is about 0.5 degrees C above from a long term perspective (10,000 years) of the bottom of the the temp range. The highest temp (from ice/core readings in Greenland) over the same period is about 3 degrees C warmer. Hmm, a long way from Earth level global warming!

    And then there is the carbon argument. A little quoted study of a couple of years ago showed improved crop and forest growth are tied to increases in carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Of course, too much politics and not enough big picture awareness can lead to misinformation.

    Keep up the good work!

  16. Edward Doty says:

    I do agree on the renewable energy and with that being said, how do I do the wind turbine, is it easy and affordable?. My back yard is a hill so I would assume a good wind source.
    I also seem to have a problem that to this day has not been resolved. Every couple years you send a check in the mail, a refund or sorts for power usage/members. Now the problem is when I get the check it comes in my EX-wifes name and she has been gone over 15 years. I have asked you about this in the past a few times and was told it would be corrected but as of the last check/refund, it still has not been done and I have to tear the check up. I built this home and have paid the electric here at the property when I purchased here since the early/mid 90s at the barn and 2000 when I built my home. Why would my ex wife even be on the billing? for members?. Is there someone I can talk to about this?, because I seem to get know where at the desk in the past.
      I have 2 meters, 1 for home and one for farm(pole barn).
      Is there someone high up I can talk to about this?.
      Thank you
    ed

    1. Tony Anderson says:

      Wind energy for an individual home may be easy to install but affordability is a person by person issue. I will look into your capital credit refund issue. If you don’t hear from the office in 3 working days, please give me a call at my direct line – 486-9214. Thank you.

  17. Kathryn Mead says:

    As an owner of three of our Cherryland Electric solar panels, I am very committed to supporting clean energy. I drive a Prius by choice… in spite of the currently low gas prices. Your focus on the problems with implementing well laid plans in local communities is well stated, and I had not given that aspect much thought before your opinion piece. Thank you for a factual, practical approach to helping us become more sustainable with our energy and giving us all more ideas on where we might become more directly involved in finding solutions.

  18. Thank you for a thoughtful, information, and solution-oriented message. Which counties would be best for wind? Have ideal sights been identified yet? I’d like to help.

    1. Tony Anderson says:

      What I have been told is that the counties in the Thumb are the best for wind. What the difference is between wind in the Thumb and our region, I don’t know. With the improvements in turbine technology, the gap is likely smaller than it was 10 years ago. Other than the Thumb, I am unaware of the identification of ideal sites.

      1. Geroge says:

        Turbine site studies have been made. The Thumb region is a good siting location because of the flat terrain and its’ wide open fields. The next best location is all along Lake Michigan between Muskegon and the tip of the Leelanau, again because of the lack of obstructions and the typically reliable wind caused by the temperature differential caused by the lake and land. Couple that with the upsweep of wind on the dunes and hills adjacent to the lake and we have great wind potential. Following those wind sites is the offshore <100' depth water of Lake Michigan. Obviously there is strong opposition to locating turbines on those sites, whereas there was not strong initial opposition to locating wind farms in the Thumb.

  19. Lynda G Wonn says:

    I could not agree more. We need more pragmatic solutions, incrementally if need be, to achieve ultimate goals. Holding out for ‘perfection’ is fraught with difficulty and disappointment. NIMBY has ALWAYS been in issue in public policy as has been the ‘who benefits & who pays’ dichotomy. Ultimately, clearer minds must prevail and work toward concessions/compromises that achieve desired results. We need to keep in mind the goals, the alternatives, the distractions & the options. Where do we want to be in 5, 10 & 20 years? How do we want to get there? How will we know when we’ve arrived?

  20. Jinny O'Connor says:

    Thanks for your article, Tony!
    I have a question: do the wind turbines have to be the hulking things that I’ve seen blemish the landscape from New Zealand to McBain? Wasn’t some organization working on turbines that are cylindrical and could be put in the middle of Lake Michigan?
    Keep up the great work – I love your blog!

    1. Tony Anderson says:

      Unfortunately, the big wind turbines you see in the McBain area are necessary to get the volume needed for utility scale production. I too have seen some cylindrical turbines and even turbines that resemble a tree. While these are more pleasing to the eye, I don’t believe they can compete with the large turbines today.

  21. Maxine cleveland says:

    Maybe environment groups feel like they need to keep talking about it since the president of the United States and the director of the EPA still don’t think its a problem

  22. Mike Madison says:

    Tony- I have read your comments since becoming a member of Cherry Land Electric when I purchased a property in your service territory five years ago.

    I appreciate your view points particularly with respect to wind and other environmental related issues that impact Cherryland. Too many environmentalists are overly strident about their views but are afraid to consider reasonable alternatives that have a positive impact on the environment.

    Keep fighting the good fight!

  23. Myra Thomet says:

    If what you are saying is that we need more wind sources, I agree with you. I even think that they doIn’t look bad. In away, kind of pretty. I like the fact they are doing something important and useful.

    If I misunderstood what you said, I am sorry.

    People need to wake up to all of the SERIOUS PROBLEMS that are going on, and are going to keep happening.

  24. Gary Atkinson says:

    I have 5 acres in Green Lake Township that I would love to lease out for a windmill or solar project. Please contact me if interested.

  25. Kim Cook says:

    I agree with what you said.

  26. Rev. Eugene & Philis Baughan says:

    Tony – Thank you for
    your efforts. Keep up the good work

  27. Steven Holl says:

    As a member of Cherryland and one of those sexy climate groups, I appreciate your pragmatic hands on approach. Clearly the road ahead holds many detours and problems to be solved, but I am curious about your appraisal of the impact side of the carbon economy. How urgent do you think the need is to reduce carbon emissions? Also, to your main point, how can we help change those zoning ordinances?

    1. Tony Anderson says:

      I choose not to get into the carbon debate. It serves no purpose. For every cost of carbon, there is also a benefit. How many births and life saving surgeries take place every day with the use of carbon based generation? There HAS to be a benefit to carbon but it is never talked about. I simply see no purpose in arguing the costs and benefits of any fuel. If you want utilities to use more renewables, help make it easy to construct them or efficiently deliver them. Our (yours and mine) power supplier, Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative, has proven that they will purchase renewables when the price is affordable. Your group can contact wind developers like Next Era and Heritage Sustainable Energy and ask what townships they need assistance in. You can lobby your state legislators to push for a better transmission connection to the UP and Canada.