Madeline Island looks to energy independence

Posted on October 17, 2008. Filed under: Wind |

From an article by Chad Dally in The Daily Press (Ashland, WI):

As the two presidential candidates posit who has the best plan to steer the United States away from foreign oil and toward alternative energy, Madeline Island residents aren’t waiting to find out.

What started as discussion about energy independence will take another step forward next month with the installation of a meteorological tower designed to determine the island’s capacity for producing wind power.

The roughly 160-foot tower, which is on track to be up and running Nov. 1 within Big Bay State Park, will remain standing for one year to give stakeholders enough data to pass along to potential developers interested in making the investment. Generating wind power on the island could conceivably offset increasing future costs of fossil fuel-based power, which is one reason to explore the island’s wind potential, said Alan Fischlowitz, vice-chairman of the island’s ad hoc Alternative Energy Committee.

But Fischlowitz said another part of the committee’s mission is to investigate and make available to residents, business owners or potential developers the technology on a smaller scale — technology that “could function for a homeowner to replace his dependence on Xcel Energy with his own wind machine,” he said.

The committee already completed the first phase of the project, examining four sites — two near the shoreline and two farther inland — through the use of computer modeling compiled by Focus on Energy and other agencies.

The problem, said committee chair Burke Henry, is that the computer modeling was largely based on extrapolations from two other modeling sites in Cornucopia and Hurley. Plus, those assessments were completed five or six years ago. Both factors contribute to possible errors, or at least amount to incomplete information about wind potential specifically on the island.

Erecting its own meteorological tower “is really necessary to show what the errors might be in that model,” Henry said.

Funding for the tower, which is the second phase of the project, came from sources like Focus on Energy, a $2,500 grant from the state Office of Energy Independence, anonymous donors, the Apostle Islands Area Community Fund, and others.

Fischlowitz also said they were able to partner with the Bad River Tribe to use a tower the Tribe is decommissioning after its own feasibility studies into wind power.


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