Wind energy discussed at Herrick District Library forum

March 14, 2012 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

The fossil fuels that power the U.S. tend to come from turbulent parts of the world.

But wind? That already is here, right now.

“(Wind) is out there for us to take advantage of, and it’s free,” Arn Boezaart told a crowd at Herrick District Library on Tuesday night.

“And we don’t need to send Marines anywhere in the world to protect it.”

National security and energy independence are just a couple of the benefits Americans — including those in West Michigan — can take away from investing in wind energy, said Boezaart, director of the Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center at Grand Valley State University.

There also are jobs to be created. Boezaart was one of a handful of panelists touting the possibilities of wind energy during Tuesday’s community forum, hosted by a dozen agencies and businesses, including Energetx Composites, Mackinaw Power and the League of Women Voters.

A wind turbine is made of more than 8,000 parts, said Sue Browne, program manager for BlueGreen Alliance Michigan.

The alliance works to expand the number and quality of jobs in a “green” economy. Manufacturing wind turbines will bring both, Browne said.

The process employs a variety of professions, from iron workers to electricians, she said.

Countries such as China and Germany already are on their way to building a strong green-energy infrastructure — and the U.S. needs to keep up, Browne said.

“We risk being left behind in the biggest job growth opportunity of our time,” she said.

In West Michigan, companies like Energetx Composites are leading the way, manufacturing wind turbine blades since 2008.

Energetx currently employs about 50 people, and they’re looking to double that amount this year, said Kelly Slikkers, vice president of business development for the company.

President Barack Obama referred to Energetx in his State of the Union address in January. Obama praised one worker, Brian Ritterby, by name, for seeking training in a renewable energy field after being laid off from a furniture-making job.

Slikkers encouraged the crowd to take seriously the idea of a career in wind turbine technology.

“We’re looking for people with a strong, technical background,” he said.

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