Cobo event touts wind turbine benefits

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Rooftop and residential-scale wind turbines could play a big role in generating renewable energy for the U.S

That was the message from speakers Wednesday at the 2009 Small and Community Wind Conference, a three-day event that began Tuesday and runs through today at Cobo Center.

The event focuses on small wind power for homes, businesses and government buildings and nonutility scale turbines that generate 100 kilowatts of power or less.

“As the wind industry grows, we will need all project sizes and financing models,” said Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, a national advocacy group that organized the conference. “Small and community wind are a complement to utility-scale wind and allows us to get individuals invested in what we’re doing.”

Gov. Jennifer Granholm pitched Michigan as a key player in expanding the wind industry’s supply chain. She touted the Great Lakes State’s manufacturing expertise, engineering talent and proximity to shipping channels as a combination few other states possess.

Already, Michigan has amassed a sizable supply base for making wind turbine parts and has another 1,000 suppliers — many of them with ties to the automotive industry — capable of milling components, she said.

“We know how to make gear boxes and drive trains and brakes. We know how to make that stuff. It’s just in a smaller way,” Granholm said, adding that manufacturing is in the state’s “DNA.”

Although about 1,400 registered for the conference, the turnout was closer to 2,000, Bode said.

About 110 exhibitors showcased the latest in small wind technology, including turbines of all shapes, sizes and configurations.

Homeowners, small businesses and entrepreneurs may find they can make money by installing wind power and selling carbon credits back to utilities, said Trevor Lauer, vice president of retail marketing at DTE Energy in Detroit.

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