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Posted on Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 1:16 p.m.

Potential $1.4M wind energy project on Ann Arbor City Council agenda

By Ryan J. Stanton

Three weeks after adopting an ambitious plan to reduce the community's carbon footprint, Ann Arbor officials are pushing ahead with a new wind energy demonstration project.

The Ann Arbor City Council will be asked to accept and appropriate up to $951,500 in federal energy grant dollars for the project when it meets at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 7.

The grant funding is coming from the U.S. Department of Energy. The project scope includes design and construction of up to two wind turbines, along with public outreach and education related to the benefits of using wind as a renewable and alternative energy source.

The grant requires the city to provide $484,390 in matching funds, but city officials have found a way around making a cash contribution from the city's coffers.


Stoupa |

Brian Steglitz, a senior utilities engineer for the city, told council members in a memo it's the city's intent to partner with the Ann Arbor Public Schools and a third-party developer to provide the site and financing required to meet the grant's matching fund requirements, so the city's contribution will be $18,590 in staff time.

If the council approves accepting the grant, Steglitz said, the city's staff will return to council at a future meeting with additional resolutions to approve agreements with AAPS and the site developer to complete the contractual arrangements for constructing up to two wind turbines.

Steglitz said it's anticipated the wind turbines will be located on AAPS property, though his memo doesn't say exactly where, and the developer will construct them and provide the public schools with a 20-year power purchase agreement that will guarantee AAPS a minimal amount of power production by the turbines per year. That's expected to be at a rate less than the current market rate for electricity. Meanwhile, the city will obtain renewable energy credits from the installation.

The project would help bring the city one step closer toward achieving its goal of having 5 percent of the community's energy needs met by renewable sources by 2015.

The city's newly adopted Climate Action Plan includes a goal of reducing the entire community's greenhouse gas emissions by 8 percent by 2015, by 25 percent by 2025, and by 90 percent by 2050 — all relative to 2000 baseline levels.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.


Macabre Sunset

Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 6:34 a.m.

This is why our country is $16 trillion in debt, and will be $25 trillion in debt by the time Obama is out of office. $25 trillion is nearly $100,000 for every man, woman and child in this country. At some point, the money will run out. Most likely while we're tilting at windmills like this project.


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 7:37 p.m.

Luckily, we will make the planet uninhabitable with coal and oil smoke before then. THAT will make for a macabre sunset.

Kai Petainen

Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 4:43 a.m.

At the city hall meeting, we learned it would be a 60 foot diameter wind turbine and it would be on a pole that was between 100 and 100 feet high. Here is an exampe of a 63 foot diameter wind turbine that can go on a pole from 100 to 140 feet. There is a diagram on that webpage, that students can take from the website for free. That diagram can be used for education and the students can be taught with that. That'll save $1.4 million. According to wind maps, Ann Arbor wind is about 5.5 to 6.0 m/s, BUT... that's on a windmill that is at 80m or 262 feet. The windmills in question for Ann Arbor would be at 100 to 140 feet. A map at 80m To be more realistic, at the 30 meter mark or 98 feet Ann Arbor gets wind at 4.0 m/s or less. A map at 30m And if we go back to that wind turbine that I had as an example, then it would produce less than 59,100 kWh. And it would produce practically nothing back to the electric grid. How much does 59,100 kWh give? Well, according to this 'energy screw', that is enough for 12 homes. According to the EIA, an average house uses 11,496 kWh. So it is enough for 5 homes. Pathetic. And according to this page, the G3120 would cost $300K to $400K fully installed. So, if they are spending $1.4 million, someone is getting ripped off. What a waste of money. I'm not an engineer, but I just saved people a ton in consulting fees. You can pay me $5.41 instead of $1.4 million.


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 7:36 p.m.

Close enough. If you can talk them into a solar install instead, I'll spring for the latte.

Kai Petainen

Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 4:43 a.m.

"100 and 100 feet high" -- meant to say "100 and 150 feet high"

Kai Petainen

Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 2:59 a.m.

Tonight at city council, this was presented as an opportunity to educate the students. It's an educational lesson, not an environmental decision -- that's how it was presented. Even the folks talking to council mentioned how Ann Arbor has poor wind. It was also noted that DTE is not involved and the power would run straight to the highschool. The contractor that builds it, has already been chosen as well, and the public has had little feedback on the situation. They want to build it in 18 months and rush the project forward. That will provide very little opportunity for public feedback to the highschools. I'll save everyone $1 million on this as I'll go and educate the students for $4.51 (the cost for a cup of grande chai soy latte) on GEOGRAPHY and WEATHER... and how wind mills should be built where there is wind. This is a very simple lesson in geography. But perhaps... this is a political play.... build it and make the admins look bad in the AAPS?


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 7:32 p.m.

Yes, a solar installation would make much more sense. Every day there is not enough wind to move the blades is another nail in the coffin of alternative energy in the minds of opponents.


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 2:42 a.m.

This is a worthwhile project, but reducing school rates for electric consumption will not sell the average citizen on the concept of renewable energy. The best location would be to place them in close proximity of an expressway, thus avoiding noise issues and raise awareness. As for the nay Sayers; starting wars and policing the world is much more costly than renewable energy will ever be.


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 2:17 a.m.

For clarification, a wind turbine produces electricity while a windmill does some other form of mechanical work (pump water, mill grains etc.). As pointed out by others, Ann Arbor isn't in a very good area for average wind speed. Council might be better off considering solar panels, as you'd probably get more energy from $1.4 mil invested in PV than you would for the same amount invested in wind in AA. (Not to mention that there are no issues with noise or bird kills with PV panels). Plus, at $1.4 mil for 2 turbines, these would be far from "huge".The "huge" turbines installed in places such as Ludington cost on the order of $3.5 mil each, and that's including the economy-of-scale discount you get when you install 30-60 turbines at once. Plus, you'd never be allowed to install the "huge" turbines in an urban setting such as AAPS land. For $1.4 mil for two, these would be medium-size at best, which means lower efficiency as well....and with the low wind speeds in AA you'd have more days when they won't move than when they will. For better payback (not to mention better public perception), go PV.

Robert Gordon

Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 1:18 a.m.

Great. I wonder if solar, which does not obstruct sight lines and poses less risk to wildlife, was considered. But any effort of making a cleaner environment in Ann Arbor is great with me.


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 1:11 a.m.

Oh yeah, and if there is enough wind to generate any electricity for AAPS, DTE will promptly raise the rates to compensate for the lost revenue.......that's what they have been doing for many years. Conservation raises rates for energy producers using coal fired plants.


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 1:08 a.m.

Maybe the wind turbine will be considered public we an abolish that art commission.


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 2:05 a.m.

In rural Ontario, I have dubbed groups of windmills, a windmill ballet. Ballet is art. I'm for almost anything to eliminate overpriced, public art, but I admit that windmills would still have to be suitable to be considered for Ann Arbor.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 11:59 p.m.

Rather funny how when something that sounds green comes along and is presented to this cities leaders, regardless of it's merits, there is always money available. Must be a case of needing the warm and fuzzy felling yet again.


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 7:29 p.m.

Kinda like the federal government and the War Machineā„¢, always more money available for that.

Kai Petainen

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 11:11 p.m.

There is a conspiracy between City Hall and the weather! (don't take me too seriously) Look at the weather today -- and if someone at city hall talks about today as an example, keep in mind that this is not the average wind speed for Ann Arbor. January is one of the windiest months for Ann Arbor. Today's weather: "A few passing clouds. Low near 25F. Winds SSW at 10 to 20 mph." According to this page: "Over the course of the year typical wind speeds vary from 0 mph to 16 mph (calm to moderate breeze), rarely exceeding 24 mph (fresh breeze). The highest average wind speed of 9 mph (gentle breeze) occurs around April 7, at which time the average daily maximum wind speed is 16 mph (moderate breeze). The lowest average wind speed of 6 mph (light breeze) occurs around August 23, at which time the average daily maximum wind speed is 11 mph (gentle breeze). "


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 10:56 p.m.

Oh, but it would be so "cool". Everuone could say they live in a green city and watch the energy not being generated because we just don't get much wind....or solar for that matter.

Kai Petainen

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 10:56 p.m.

I'm in favor of clean energy, but I doubt we get enough wind. Case in point -- on top of the VA Hospital on Fuller Court, there is a windmill. It never spins. Waste of money? Article on the windmill


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 7:27 p.m.,4611,7-122-25676_25774-254583--,00.html


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 10:40 p.m.

If Congress is going to appropriate it, the money may as well come here. The Ann Arbor Schools can use the help. (I won't argue over whether it's a good use of federal funds - that's another discussion)

Basic Bob

Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 4:50 p.m.

It's only a good use of federal funds if we have enough wind. We don't.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 11:28 p.m.

EXACTLY. It's pre-allocated, specific funding, people. If we don't use it for a clean energy project, some other municipality WILL. This whole knee-jerk debate about fiscal responsibility from deluded "conservatives" is entirely misplaced.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 10:31 p.m.

Just like the Obama crowd. Waste tax payer money and you don't ever have to worry about being held accountable. Go figure!


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 9:50 p.m.

The whole thing is just a massive blast of hot air from the DOE right thru city hall...pie in the sky crap for all the sheeple..welcome to OZ...


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 11:33 p.m.

A small investment so see if *what* will work? We already know that wind turbines "work" and we already know how well they "work" in areas of marginal winds. Unless you think that they will "work" differently here. I know we "do it up different" and all ...

Nicholas Urfe

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 10:25 p.m.

@Joe: So a National Review article about angry texans is the entire basis for your assertion that all wind energy is "pie in the sky crap"? That's all you've got? And where is the OP's response?


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 10:19 p.m.

yeah, and the same things were said about sending men to the moon, and hundreds of other things including drug cures. Go live in your cave and enjoy the 1950's. THEY ARE OVER. It is a small investment to see if it can work and actually as time has gone on, wind has become more and more doable at lower levels of wind. For the record, I guess you prefer a MONOPOLY running our power needs?

Joe Hood

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 10:18 p.m. There is an example for you Nicholas.

Nicholas Urfe

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 10:06 p.m.

Do you have any links or factual data to support your claim that this will just be "pie in the sky crap"?

Nicholas Urfe

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 9:48 p.m.

Using the 1% for art, they could hire artists to paint the windmills with a paisley tie-dye motif. Maybe it would keep the wildlife away.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 9:27 p.m.

Here's a wind energy map that shows us firmly in the "marginal" region. Considering that, does it makes sense to invest the money here for that? Other than as an outward demonstration of our "greenness".

Soulful Adrenaline

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 9:24 p.m.

I would focus more on building the footings for solar. The efficiency of solar and the KW per unit area are only increasing as time goes by. There is a new substance called graphene that may be huge for solar. In 10 years time you should be able to get 1kw per panel. The wind isn't potent enough for wind turbines here.

Soulful Adrenaline

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 9:30 p.m.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 9:08 p.m.

Questions of bird fatalities brought up made me look up some information and here is a story from Scientific American from 2012. Yeah they cause bird deaths, but efforts are being made to limit that. I am thinking that if wildlife is threatened that could lead to a lot of opposition in AA town.


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 3:43 p.m.

From what I hear, local Ann Arborite Dillon Pierce completely supports any device that will cause harm to birds.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 8:46 p.m.

$1.4 million dollars for two wind turbines? The AAPS will get a guarantee for a "minimal amount of power production." Not a maximum amount? Median amount? This seems to me to be too much money for two turbines when some classes have up to 30 kids in them and the school is facing a huge deficit. Is the power generated by this worth this level of costs? Or is that not a consideration at all?

Hot Sam

Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 11:14 a.m.

"""Is the power generated by this worth this level of costs? Or is that not a consideration at all?""" No...


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 12:01 a.m.

While I support public education and don't want money removed from education and transportation of students or removal of district support staff, including bus drivers and food preparers, I disagree with your complaint about having up to 30 kids in a class. The advantage of 30 in a class instead of 40 in a class is greater than having 27 instead of 30. Also, you wrote regarding having "up to" 30 kids in a class. Maybe I'm a biased baby boomer who learned in elementary schools with over 40 kids in a class.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 8:34 p.m.

Dissolving the DDA would save enough money to pay for the project. Unfortunately, that would make the downtown corridor more attractive to the sun worshipers than the windtunnel blowhards. Well, I can live with solar power.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 8:29 p.m.

Question: What is the yearly/daily average wind speed in Ann Arbor? Question: How much wind does it take to turn the wind mill? Question: Can the Ann Arbor wind turn the huge blades of a wind turbine? I have lived in Ann Arbor for more than 60 years. Sure, we have had some stormy, windy days. However, most days are calm. I consider huge wind mills a waste of money. Question: Why is the city looking to spend money on another project that can't be justified? Please City Council don't throw more money down the drain. If you have excess money in your budget, why not put the excess funds in a savings account for a rainy day? (not a windy day!) Why accept $$$ from the Federal Government when the Federal Government is 16.5 Trillion in debt?


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 4:20 p.m.

Craig, again you completely miss the point. Not accepting DOE funding for a clean energy project has no effect whatsoever on our debt. Do you think that would register as a "protest" against this type of spending? Ridiculous. Some other municipality will simply spend it. Money allocated to projects like this GETS SPENT, there is no broad consensus of protest against this type of fiscal policy. You can call putting up two wind turbines symbolic, except that they will actually produce clean electricity!! That's like saying that in a 100-turbine wind farm, the last two turbines erected were just symbolic. NO, they actually produce electricity, just like these two would. The location or size of the project does not change this fact.

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 3:09 a.m.

Ross, your condescending response completely ignores the bottom line. Your argument that if we don't use it someone else will is tiring too. We can either be part of the problem or part of the solution. The question is do we want to be part of the global warming problem/ solution or the 16.5 billion dollar debt and climbing problem/solution. In either case what we do is little more than symbolic. Your implied stance that a symbolic gesture toward carbon reduction is good but a symbolic gesture toward reducing the deficit is "tired' is nothing short of hypocrisy.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 11:41 p.m.

With you on that one, Ross!


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 8:49 p.m.

Ugh. This same argument comes up time and time again, and it's so tiring to read and respond to, since the answer is so blatantly simple. If the funding is already designated for a specific purpose, it's not going to get spent on anything else. Someone will use this pre-allocated money for an energy project somewhere in the US, until all of it is gone. It is not coming our of any national "general fund" nor can it be returned as such to help lower our national debt. To elect not to apply for any such pre-allocated funding only puts Ann Arbor at a competitive disadvantage to other municipalities who will not have such financial reservations. if you want to stop this type of spending, tell your legislators not to approve it in the first place. And by the way, please re-read the article.

Tom Whitaker

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 8:18 p.m.

Michigan appears to be way behind the curve on wind power generation. Driving through states such as Pennsylvania, Iowa, Colorado, Texas, among others, bears this out, with wind farms stretching for miles. I'm sure there are areas in Michigan where wind turbines could be very effective in generating power, but when I looked into it for my own home, the wind maps I consulted showed Ann Arbor lacked the necessary winds, on average, to make it feasible. I wonder if this money wouldn't be better spent on more efficient alternative energy options, such as restoring power generation to Argo dam or installing solar panels on the roof of Pioneer High.


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 2:01 a.m.

I'll add that the windmills I've seen in Ontario are in rural and agricultural areas. I don't know if there are any windmills in urban areas in Ontario and windmills may not be appropriate for Ann Arbor. It is interesting to view the windmills in Ontario though.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 11:56 p.m.

The power generation "blades" are well elevated. Also, each "windmill" has a light on top. At night, the lights go on and off simultaneously.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 11:54 p.m.

Tom, you can see wind energy production in action closer than Ludington, etc. if you drive into Ontario and drive on the 401. As you drive by Tilbury and closer to Chatham you will see wind power being produced. These are among the Ontario agricultural areas (there are more closer to Niagara-on-the Lake) that also produce tomatoes and other produce (or areas that produce produce) year around in greenhouses. It's impressive. I've dubbed it a ballet of "windmills

Jeff Westbrooks

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 11:18 p.m.

I sure am looking for wind power blades of death stretching for miles. Just can't wait to see that in Ann Arbor. Whup Whup Whup Whup...of course they don't tell you that they use power when there's no wind. Can't have those bearings get out of round.

Tom Whitaker

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 10:06 p.m.

I'm glad to hear there are some turbine installations being done where the wind map justifies it in Michigan, but my primary point was that Ann Arbor, from what I've read, is not necessarily one of those locations. Instead of paying all this money to "demonstrate" how Ann Arbor may not be the best location for wind turbines, why not put that money to better use? If the grant specifies it must go to a wind project, maybe some sort of credit or offset could be given for investing the money into one of the more efficient, existing turbine locations in Michigan?


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 9:12 p.m.

Not as far behind the curve as you might think. Michigan Wind Farm Map -

Kyle Mattson

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 9:06 p.m.

Hi Tom- In addition to those reference by Ross there was a large 'farm' of them constructed between Lansing and Midland. Take a drive up 127 at night at its quite a sight seeing all the red flashing lights dotting the sky as they blink in unison.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 8:59 p.m.

The issue is wind speed. I remember reading a couple of years ago that there was some consideration of a wind turbine project at the Chelsea Chrysler Proving grounds but it was cancelled due to testing that showed typical wind speeds did not meet the speed required to make such a project fruitful. I searched but found only this article on that project that speaks to the issue: I really think you have to look at the overall costs, here $1.4 million and the efficiency and effectiveness of the project. If your intention is simply to show that it does work regardless of the profitability, it is not an appropriate expense.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 8:46 p.m.

Tom, head over to the west coast of the LP between Hart and Ludington. Off highway 31 you can see dozens of turbines. I think they just installed some 56 turbines.

Ryan J. Stanton

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 8:13 p.m.

Brian Steglitz from the city just told me they have not yet identified a final location or determined the size and output of the turbine(s), in case anyone was wondering.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 9:48 p.m.

Best location would be council chambers ..unlimited hot air


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 9:03 p.m.

No doubt the reason they are waiting to announce the location is so there won't be time to derail it!


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 7:41 p.m.

Since it is a capital project, don't forget to tack on an extra 1% for "art". Maybe we can do something whimsical and have a statue of an old lady bending over and doing her gardening that is driven by wind power or something like that. It would be a hoot.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 7:25 p.m.

OK! It's a windmill, but will the city now chenge its laws so that the citizens can easily install small one at out homes? We, too, can contribute to the greening of AA.

Tom Whitaker

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 8:09 p.m.

Last year, I looked into a home wind turbine (manufactured in Muskegon) and concluded that it wasn't financially viable in Ann Arbor due to the lack of sufficiently strong and sustained winds. There are maps available for determining this. I wasn't able to find anything in Ann Arbor's zoning ordinance pertaining to wind turbines, but didn't bother to make any formal inquiries with the City after looking at the wind map.

Ryan J. Stanton

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 7:45 p.m.

What kind of problems have you run up against in trying to have a windmill installed on your property? I'd love to hear your story. Feel free to reply or email me at

Nicholas Urfe

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 7:22 p.m.

The big questions: Where? And how much noise? And how will it impact sightlines? And will there be dead birds?


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 7:23 p.m.

Dead birds? Please.. 1 to 9 million birds die PER YEAR flying into buildings in Toronto. JUST in Toronto. As far as sightlines go, I'd rather have windmills than a coal-fired power plant (and all its train and truck noise and traffic) or a nuke plant.


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 3:39 p.m.

The birds deserve it anyways.


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 1:07 a.m.

These turbines are very noisy. I was visiting a friend in Maine and there was one installed in a coastal city for part of that city's power supply. The noise was loud when it was running. I would not want to live near one of these. They certainly should not be anywhere near residential areas and yes, birds are killed by these turbines. That said, I do think there is a place for them, but far far outside of towns and cities in unpopulated areas.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 7:02 p.m.

Another waste of money by our city "government".


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 12:33 a.m.

johnny By your logic we will NEVER get spending under control. We are as deserving as any area. But this contrary to popular belief is NOT and endless source.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 10:14 p.m.

@ JCJ, That money is going somewhere It is already budgeted for. Is it your contention that the people of Ann Arbor and Michigan, should not get their fair share of those tax dollars? Michigan as a whole is a net giving state over the last 20 years.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 9:02 p.m.

No doubt this "grant" money just falls out of the sky! Must be the Martians donating it!


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 7:47 p.m.

Right. They're wasting other governmental units' money, so it doesn't count.

Nicholas Urfe

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 7:23 p.m.

Fordie, don't feed the troll.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 7:16 p.m.

Did you read the article? They're putting a little staff time into the project - that's all your city is paying for.

Dog Guy

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 6:31 p.m.

"It looks like a windmill to me," said Sancho Panza, "and it has long been said that you can't fight city hall."