Archived Story

Midwest against Nov. 6 energy initiative

Published 9:50pm Thursday, August 9, 2012

CASSOPOLIS — By the next election Nov. 6, Michigan voters will be inundated with information about “25 by 2025,” which refers to Renewable Electricity Standards (RES) for alternatives to coal and fossil fuels.

Midwest Energy Cooperative plans to mount strong opposition to a ballot initiative Vice President of Engineering and Power Supply Terry Rubenthaler of Niles predicts could triple or quadruple energy bills by 2015.

Rubenthaler, who spoke at the Tea Party’s fourth presentation designed to improve community awareness, said the Nov. 6 proposal is “bad for three reasons.”

“It’s in the constitution,” Rubenthaler told about 20 people at Cass District Library Thursday. “We think it can be dealt with better through state legislation and the Public Service Commission. Two, it limits us to four technologies — solar, wind, hydro and biomass. Third, it requires in-state renewables. California counts nuclear and allows renewables to come in from Nevada, Oregon and other states to meet standards. Same with Colorado.”

The ballot proposal increases the requirement for utilities to provide 25 percent of their electricity with renewable energy, such as wind and solar by 2025, but Rubenthaler argues Michigan is one of the worst states for either, as documented with its 2008 “backyard” Danny Young Memorial Renewable Energy Park with a four-kilowatt array of 10-by-12 solar panels 60 feet long for $30,378 (“at maximum capacity it will almost run a water heater”) and a 2.4 kilowatt wind turbine for $20,000 Feb. 5, 2010, after the first two broke.


Solar vs. wind

“The biggest surprise to me is that solar output exceeded wind because it seems like it’s always cloudy,” Rubenthaler said.

For whatever reason, perhaps panel degradation, solar output has steadily declined from 4,681 in 2008 to 4,169 in 2009, 3,948 in 2010 and 2,887 in 2111, though its seems on the upswing in 2012 once a failed panel was replaced.

Wind has fluctuated from 1,128 in 2009 to 656 in 2010 and 783 in 2011. Blades stop turning at more than 30 mph and need at least 8 mph — more than a breeze.

“For solar,” he said, “it’s $1.07 per kilowatt hour, $4.95 for wind,” he said.
One idea behind the ballot proposal is to create more than 40,000 jobs that cannot be outsourced while yielding $10 billion in new investments.

The current standard is 10 percent renewable energy by 2015.

Midwest is at 4.3 percent, headed to 7 next year and 10 the year after.

“We’d have to build 3,000 more big wind turbines,” Rubenthaler said. “We’re not necessarily opposed to 25 percent, but it’s going to be expensive and require us to do it fast” before coal plants responsible for 77 percent of power are idled unless converted to meet new Environmental Protection Agency standards.


Limited resources

“EPA has essentially eliminated coal as a source of U.S. electricity,” he said.

“We’d have to build a bunch (of turbines) in the lake,” which property owners oppose as “ugly.”.

“Our customers use 600 million kilowatt hours, so I’ve got to have something that generates 25 percent of that in Michigan, which might be technically impossible, but there’s no flexibility if it’s in the constitution. I predict in five years we’re going to have rolling blackouts like India. I don’t know if Rush Limbaugh’s right, but he claims that happened because they shut down coal plants without having enough generation and the grid crashed.”




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