City gets Downriver’s first blast of wind energy

By TOM TIGANI
Sunday Times Newspapers

 

TAYLOR — The Downriver area’s first commercial wind turbine was installed Tuesday at the Heritage Park Petting Farm.

 

City officials say the 45-foot turbine and a 4-kilowatt-generating set of 21 photovoltaic panels installed last month will reduce the farm’s energy costs and serve as teaching tools for farm visitors. Savings from the $89,000 hybrid energy program is projected at 40 percent.

 

Members of the media were invited to observe the installation of the turbine and learn about the petting farm program and other citywide “green” initiatives that officials say make Taylor one of the leading green communities in Michigan. Representatives of Cresit Energy of Wyandotte, which installed the turbine, also were on hand.

 

“We’re not trying to get the farm off the grid or anything,” said Bob Mach, superintendent of the city’s Department of Public Works, “but this is a chance for children to learn about green projects.” About 22,000 children visit the farm annually.

 

Mach said though the farm’s alternative energy projects are “mostly for demonstration,” they still represent “quite a program” for visitors to observe.

 

The farm’s heated barn is filled with a variety of live animals, and a welcome center is open year-round.
“Now people are going to be able to come and see althernative energy, too,” he said.

 

This spring, city officials expect to add biomass heating to the farm as the latest in a series of energy-saving measures undertaken by the city since the late 1990s. Those include 16 natural gas vehicles, which emit 80 percent less pollutants than their fossil-fuel counterparts.

 

They also include four hydrogen fuel cell vehicles which are owned by Ford and are part of a research and development program for three- to five-year project now in its fourth year, as well as electric-powered vehicles that give off zero emissions, Mach said.

 

He called the Ford joint venture a “win-win situation,” saying, “The vehicles don’t cost us anything, the fuel doesn’t cost us anything.”

 

Taylor also has hybrid gas-battery vehicles, Mach said, and its entire diesel fleet runs on biodiesel fuel.
It also participates in the federal Adopt-a-Watt Superfund program, doing things like seeking sponsors to pay for solar pathways at places like Heritage Park. Sponsoring an $8,000 light, for example, gets the city $1,500 in revenue that only can be used for other green initiatives.

 

Such efforts include the placement of two meteorological towers to collect wind data for possible placement of future turbines. One is at the city’s compost site on Racho Road, the other is off Monroe between Ecorse and Van Born roads.

 

Taylor was among the first local cities to begin exploring alternative energy initiatives, Mach said.
“We knew were going to have to lessen dependency on foreign oil,” he said. “When people weren’t really thinking about it we were out ahead of the curve.”

 

Natural gas vehicles made the most sense at the time, he said. but with energy costs so high, officials also have been trying to reduce the city’s carbon footprint with electricity savers like motion sensors and compact fluorescent bulbs.

 

Ten city buildings have been part of a state study on energy efficiency, Mach said, which has judged them to be 80 percent ahead of the rest of the state in that regard.

 

Two years ago, he said, the city began dialing down building thermostats 4 degrees in the winter and dialing them up 2 degrees the summer, saving $125,000 in the first year alone. Savings from the electricity-saving moves haven’t been analyzed yet, however.

 

“I’m sure it will be substantial,” Mach said. “Everythimg helps. Everything adds up.”