LIESL EICHLER CLARK was the featured speaker of this year’s Farm and City Dinner, which was hosted by Memorial Healthcare on Tuesday, April 11. In addition to being a co-founder and partner of 5 Lakes Energy, Clark also acts as the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council Vice President for Policy and Business Development, and she is the former deputy director for the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor & Economic Growth. (Independent Photo/Graham Sturgeon)
by Graham Sturgeon, co-editor
The 33rd annual Farm and City Dinner was held in the Mitchell Center at Memorial Healthcare on Tuesday, April 11, and the topic of conversation was clean energy, and more specifically, wind energy. The topic has been wildly controversial since the announcement last fall of Apex Clean Energy leasing land from a number of property owners in the northwest portion of the county, so featured speaker Liesl Eichler Clark spent her 15 minutes at the lectern explaining the benefits of wind energy and stressing the need for communication between wind energy companies and the community.
Clark, a co-founder and partner of 5 Lakes Energy, explained that wind energy can benefit the community as a whole, and individual property owners. She called wind energy a “drought resistant and flood proof cash crop” that can bring “steady, predictable income.” She also pointed out that only two to three acres are needed to accommodate towers and access roads, and that the towers do not greatly affect crop and livestock production. Additionally, she said that farm families invested more in their operations and purchased more property as a result of having turbines on their properties.
She also highlighted the increased property tax revenues of Sanilac, Tuscola, Gratiot, and Huron counties that followed the construction of wind turbines in those counties. Another positive benefit Clark outlined was the decreased dependence on coal and nuclear energy. She noted that the 144 coal plants and 38 operating nuclear plants across the state account for 76 percent of all water withdrawals from the Great Lakes region. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, every megawatt hour of wind energy avoids 8,420 gallons of water used to cool coal plants, and avoids 270 gallons of water lost.
Clark used Gratiot County as an example of how wind energy can benefit a community financially, noting that wind energy has added $271 million to Gratiot County’s tax base and $16.6 million in new tax base revenue since 2012.
Clark is an advocate of all forms of clean energy, but explained during her presentation that wind energy is the most efficient form of energy production, costing only $32 per megawatt hour. That compares to $46 per megawatt hour for solar energy, $48 per megawatt hour for natural gas, and $60 per megawatt hour for coal.
Henry Tempel, the president of the Kiwanis Club of Owosso, emceed the event, Shiawassee Regional Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Jeff Deason led the Pledge of Allegiance, Salvation Army Lieutenant Jonathan Tomayo gave the invocation, Shiawassee County Farm Bureau President Don Somers introduced the many notable guests, and Michigan State Extension 4-H Program Coordinator Nikki Hersch introduced the featured speaker.