Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Wind power and commuter rail for A2

8. January 2006 • MarkDilley
Email this article

The Mayor’s getting some good press today, as the News discusses his quests to meet the city’s electricity needs with wind power from the Thumb:

Mayor John Hieftje, who has said he would like to see city government using 20 percent renewable energy by 2010, wants to add wind power to the city’s energy portfolio.

The city’s energy commission will discuss how realistic those goals are and how the city might meet them during a working session of the City Council on Feb. 13.
...
The Noble Environmental Power company is now building 32 windmills in Michigan’s Thumb, with plans to build 218 more. Energy from those first 32 will be purchased by Consumers’ Energy as part of its renewable energy program.

and (not so successfully yet) to build regional co-operation on a north-south commuter rail line and public service provision:

Regarding the north-south rail line, Hieftje said he went to Lansing to talk to Michigan Department of Transportation officials about developing a “Washtenaw County Railroad’’ that goes from Saline to Whitmore Lake. Hieftje said the rail system is already in place for such a route, which he envisions as a commuter rail.

Hieftje said some of the northern townships are supportive of expanding US-23, a road project that could cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Before the money is spent on that, Hieftje wants to look into the Saline-to-Whitmore Lake rail.

Whether the idea goes anywhere depends on support in the region, and not all of the regional ideas Hieftje has pushed have moved forward.

Hieftje played a large role in creating the Washtenaw Metro Alliance in 2002, which includes the cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, Washtenaw County and several townships – Ann Arbor, Pittsfield, Scio, Superior and Ypsilanti. He proposed regionalizing the fire departments within the alliance since the early spring, but has said he’s seen no desire from township officials to move forward. He said the fire chiefs have been more receptive.



  1. Working on this wind energy initiative is a very forward-thinking effort. If it was not in the News’ hard copy, the national wind map looks like this ie the Great Lakes are one of the best areas in the country for wind (and unfortunately Michigan currently has almost NO capacity).

    Also, a group in Toronto formed a cooperative that formed a joint venture with a local utility and they built a windmill a couple years ago.

    Hieftje also mentioned at the Leopold Bros. meetup that he has been trying to convince cities on the west side of the state to band together and exploit Lake Michigan wind potential, but as yet to no avail.
       —Dale    Jan. 8 '06 - 02:54PM    #
  2. Rail is the way to go, I think. It’s ridiculous that we don’t have rail (I’m talkin’ good railway connections, here) linking Ann Arbor to Detroit, Chicago, Lansing, Toledo, and Ft. Wayne, to name a few. And then from those cities on to Columbus and Cleveland, Indianapolis and Traverse City.
       —YoungOWSider    Jan. 8 '06 - 05:32PM    #
  3. Cool map, Dale. Thanks for the link. We should dot Lake Michigan with turbines. First we need a “shush!” machine to use on those richy-rich types on the west coast of Lake Michigan. They wouldn’t want to spoil their view. :/
       —Scott T.    Jan. 8 '06 - 06:37PM    #
  4. I think using wind to generate electric power is a really great idea! Congrats to the mayor for pushing it.
       —David Cahill    Jan. 8 '06 - 06:52PM    #
  5. Here is an excellent article about the challenges facing people who want to build wind farms in Michigan (basically lack of incentives and zoning). It links to an interesting study which compares property values near wind farms with other property values. The wind farm properties tended to appreciate more.
       —David F    Jan. 10 '06 - 12:16PM    #
  6. I think I read somewhere that Texas, in spite of being oil-rich, generates a fair amount of its energy from wind. I would love to see more windpower development here. It’s too bad we couldn’t retro-fit some sort of turbines to the ubiquitous cell-phone towers we have, as long as the power generation wouldn’t interfere with the reception/transmission.
       —Ed Dawson    Jan. 16 '06 - 12:38PM    #
  7. Wind power farm coming to the Thumb:

    http://www.thetimesherald.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060123/NEWS01/601230308/1002/NEWS01
       —John Q.    Jan. 24 '06 - 10:20AM    #