Welcome to Detroit: WindSpire Moves Towards a Sustainable Future

The Net Impact Conference 2010 at Ann Arbor, Michigan, officially begins this afternoon.  But if you are flying into Detroit Metro Airport en-route to the conference, you may be in for a unofficial greeting of this years theme “a vision for a sustainable decade.”  You will see renewable energy in action.

As I was being shuttled from the Detroit Metro Airport to Ann Arbor, I was ecstatic to see three rotating wind turbines in plain (plane) sight.  We hear about these great renewable energy ideas, but its even more meaningful when you get to see it with your own eyes. These wind turbines are a bit different than traditional turbines, rotating parallel rather than perpendicular to the ground.  The vertical orientation of the wind turbines, or as it is called in this form, spires, is useful in tight spaces.  Also, the turbines only require about five miles per hour of wind to be functional.

The Detroit Metro Airport is using a total of six wind turbines as part of a pilot a program to generate its own electricity.  The turbines debuted earlier this year on Earth Day 2010.  If beta-testing goes well, further installations could occur at Detroit Metro Airport, as well as other sites with similar environments.  Or perhaps Michigan just wanted to make a good impression in preparation for the Net Impact attendees?

All jesting aside, the pilot program is “a vision for a sustainable future.”  A sustainable future has renewable energy such as wind and solar, trumping oil and coal.  Imagine a city or community that can generate its own electricity locally or, even on site, using these wind turbines.

As energy generation works today, energy is generated miles, if not hundreds of miles from the end user.  Furthermore, it could be sourced from any mix of oil, coal, wind, or solar energy.  There is no telling which!

Nathan Jordan, the shuttle driver, was reminiscing on how this is the second time that wind turbines are becoming prominent in the Detroit area.  Thirty years ago, people used to be able to have wind turbines on their property.  However, new rules and regulations rescinded the ability to generate ones own electricity, thus blowing away the use of personal wind turbines.  Perhaps we can make renewables a reality this time around?

If Detroit Metro Airport is a harbinger for things to come, we may have a tail wind towards a sustainable future.  What a way to start the Net Impact Conference, even before the conference begins!

ED NOTE: We covered Windspire’s story last year. It’s a great tale of new industry being build from the ashes of old.

Jonathan Mariano is an MBA candidate with the Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco, CA. His interests include the convergence between lean & green and pursuing free-market based sustainable solutions.

One response

  1. The place those Windspires are located really isn’t a very good place… too many large buildings and obstacles around to induce turbulence and rob energy out of the wind. They would also need to be higher off the ground for uninterrupted air flow.

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