By KRISTA CHAMBERS
Capital News Service
LANSING — Solar energy could be coming to a town near you, thanks to a bill approved in the Senate.
The bill, which would create an alternative energy zone in Michigan, was moved out of the Senate and to the House for the second time Thursday, after undergoing revisions.
The zone would be an area available for use by alternative-energy companies. Alternative energy is the use of renewable resources, such as wind or sun, for power.
The measure would also allow state tax credits for the alternative energy technology.
Sen. Beverly Hammerstrom, R- Temperance, sponsor of the bill, voted “no” on the new draft of the measure presented Thursday, because it omitted the use of land in her district in southeastern Michigan as the area to build an alternative energy zone.
The bill originally designated 700 acres of state property in York Township in Washtenaw County as the site for the Next Energy Zone, which would contain the Next Energy Center. The Michigan Economic Growth Authority will designate a new site. The current version of the measure doesn’t specify a location.
Hammerstrom said she is extremely disappointed that the zone won’t be located in her district.
“It would have been a great use of the property, not to mention the long-term benefits that would have come to the entire area,” she said.
Her suggested site was determined to have major infrastructure problems, such as getting water to the location.
“I do understand the insurmountable problems created by the lack of infrastructure to the site,” Hammerstrom said. “While disappointed, I still strongly support the concept of Next Energy and believe that wherever the Next Energy Zone is finally located it will benefit our entire state.”
Alternative energy use has been implemented in businesses and homes in many parts of the state, including St. Joseph County.
The owners of Crystal Valley Heating and Air Conditioning in Three Rivers have used alternative methods to heat businesses and homes in the area for 11 years.
“We do things with heat pumps that use electric power, not gas,” said sales and design manager Kent Hostetler. “For every dollar spent, you get two to three dollars worth of energy.”
Among the alternative heating and cooling methods used by the company is geothermal heating, which circulates heat taken from ground water. The water is then put back into the ground.
“It’s expensive,” Hostetler said. “Setup runs about 25 to 30 percent more than gas, but ends up saving 60 percent on utilities.”
Hostetler said there is certainly a high interest in the use of alternative energy from businesses and homes alike, not just from an environmental viewpoint, but economic as well.
“People are coming to us asking what they can do to lower their costs,” he said. “They’re starting to look more and more into alternative energy because their bills are so high.”
© 2002, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism
By KRISTA CHAMBERS