Michigan State University Extension’s Michigan Natural Features Inventory (MNFI) will receive the Science and Technology Advancement Award for 2014 from NatureServe next week at the NatureServe annual meeting in New Orleans.
MNFI is receiving the award for work related to wind energy. The work influenced state and agency policy, and resulted in significant new findings concerning bird and bat activities related to wind energy development.
Dr. Brian Klatt, director of MNFI said, “This is recognition of a truly organization-wide effort … nearly every single scientist here at MNFI has been a PI (principal investigator) on one of the related projects.”
Based in Arlington, Virginia, NatureServe is a nonprofit organization that provides wildlife-conservation-related data, tools and services to private and government clients, partner organizations and the public. Read my previous Spotlight article about the connection between MNFI and NatureServe
Thanks to a grant from the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor & Economic Growth (DELEG), Michigan residents may have more wind energy options in the future. DELEG recently awarded $83,000 to Steve Harsh’s wind energy team to fund the installation of anemometers on five tall towers in Michigan. The anemometers will accurately measure wind speeds at three heights, allowing MSU to assess Michigan’s wind energy potential and encourage development of renewable wind energy.
“Wind energy is a valuable resource that we’re anxious to tap,” said Gov. Jennifer Granholm in a press release. “This project will support our efforts to build a vibrant wind energy industry in Michigan, further diversifying our economy and creating good-paying jobs for Michigan workers.”
Harsh, MSU Extension specialist and principal investigator on the project, says the project is important because most publicly-available wind speed data was gathered at relatively low heights. Most commercial wind turbines are 70 to 100 meters tall, therefore Michigan needs tall tower wind speed data to accurately measure and map the state’s wind energy potential.
Harsh will use the new information to create a validated 100-meter wind power map for Michigan, allowing the state to identify and promote those areas best suited for wind power development. Data collected in other Midwest states indicates current Michigan wind speed measurements may underestimate the state’s wind energy potential.
The grant may help energy producers determine the areas where more power-generating wind turbines can be built.
Data will be collected in Gratiot, Delta, Antrim, Mason and Hillsdale Counties. Harsh has been collecting data from a tower in Berrien County since April 2009. Data will be posted online to make it available to the public and interested parties.
This is a great illustration of what we mean by “Greening Michigan” as one of our statewide programs in our redesign of MSUE.
When the Michigan legislature passed the Clean, Renewable and Efficient Energy Act last fall, MSU Extension educators and our partners at the Land Policy Institute saw an immediate opportunity to help Michigan residents learn how to make the most of this influential legislation. The act requires that at least 10 percent of an electric provider’s energy must come from renewable sources by 2015. That lends itself to a great opportunity for farmers, residents, investors and others to build renewable-energy infrastructures that allow them to sell energy back to energy companies.
Beth Stuever photo.
Within eight weeks of the act becoming law, the MSUE Land Use Team and LPI launched a workshop focusing on the wind industry and how it works. Over the course of five months, they taught 1,100 people in nine locations throughout Michigan about wind-energy systems and local ordinances. The attendees, many of whom were elected or appointed officials, received sample zoning guidelines and land-use decision making tools, and learned how to address on-site and personal energy-generating systems. To top it all off, many received Master Citizen Planner credits.
This fast-turnaround, high-value workshop is an excellent example of our how our nimble network of Extension educators and partners can quickly respond to Michigan’s needs.
It takes many hands to put something like this together.
- Kurt Schindler, district land use educator, took the lead in creating development and siting guidelines.
- Mike Schira, Houghton CED; Bill Carpenter, Iosco CED; and Adam Kantrovich, Ottawa CED, developed materials for a sample county-wide ordinance.
- Wayne Beyea, LPI associate director of citizen empowerment; Glenn Pape, regional land use educator, Charles McKeown, LPI; Mary Ann Heidemann, regional land use educator; and Jasneet Sharma, land policy educator, taught the workshop.
- Soji Adelaja, director of the LPI, provided the vision to ensure MSUE is on the forefront of these activities.
Next up, the group will retrofit the information for a national audience and make it available through the North Central Region Center for Rural Development. Thanks to the team for their quick and effective response!