By Rick Coates
Bill Queen has been on the forefront of the going green and renewable
energy movement in Northern Michigan for the past 15 years. The Cedar
resident is the program coordinator with Extended Educational Services at
Northwestern Michigan College, where he oversees offerings including
energy efficiency and renewable energy.
He also is the coordinator of the Michigan Energy Demonstration Center.
Celebrating its fifth year, the center offers information on
state-of-the-art energy efficiency equipment, materials, and methods on
saving money for energy bills.
Northwestern Michigan College is one of eight energy demonstration centers
in Michigan that provide the public with information about energy
efficiency, renewable energy, and green building solutions.
The Michigan Energy Demonstration Center is located at the M-TEC building
on the Aero Park Campus. Highlights include a grid-tied solar array,
geo-thermal installation, solar thermal system, portable solar lab, small
wind turbine, and a building sciences lab. They have a larger wind turbine
located at the University Center on Cass Road.
I grew up during the first energy crises, said Queen. I remember the
long lines at gas stations. I really didnt know what I wanted to do for a
living but I always had an appreciation for the environment, it is
something my parents passed on to me. So it is pretty cool that this is
where I have landed and I feel fortunate to be able to meet up with so
many like-minded people here in Northern Michigan.
Growing up in Detroit during the energy crisis, Queen became interested in
solar energy and water quality, but as he reflects, those were not in the
cards for career pursuits at the time.
I wanted to go to a small college up north. I wanted to be by water, I
was a competitive swimmer in high school, said Queen, NMC was the
perfect fit as I loved the outdoors. I took my basics and transferred to
Central Michigan majoring in business administration. Since I loved to
kayak, I ended up starting a small kayaking touring company.
He eventually met his wife Kate Fairman and moved to Ann Arbor where she
was going to school at U of M. Queen enrolled in U of Ms school of
Natural Resources and Environment.
As a result of my time on the lakes and rivers I really began to
appreciate them and wanted to do something to help keep those eco-systems
viable and livable, said Queen, So in Ann Arbor I went to work for the
Global Rivers Environmental Educational Network (GREEN). This was a K-12
program that engaged and empowered young people to not only learn about
their watersheds but to find solutions to protect them.
When his wife graduated they had an opportunity to move north.
In 1995 we brought GREEN to Traverse City, said Queen. In 2000 I was
hired by NMC and able to offer renewable energy classes through extended
educational services. I had four students in that first class but we have
seen the program grow with interest.
MAKING IT HAPPEN
What Queen likes is the number of business people in the community who
have participated and have put what they have learned to use in their
Tim Young of Food For Thought and Bobby Sutherland of Cherry Republic
have taken classes and both have incorporated renewable energy initiatives
into their businesses, said Queen. Certainly the concept of renewable
energy is overwhelming and challenging. This downturn in the economy is a
double-edge sword, with some who believe the costs are prohibitive to
others looking at being more self-sufficient.
Queen is considered a leader in the field, serving on numerous committees
I have been active with the energy committee of the Grand Vision group
for the region. I am on the Green Build Committee for the Home Builders
He also has worked closely with Traverse City Light & Power (TCL&P).
Certainly I have been in conversations with TCL&P on various initiatives
over the years and right now I am meeting with them on solar energy, said
Queen. The great thing about renewable locally generated energy is the
money stays local.
So does Queen have an opinion on the proposed biomass program being
advocated by Light & Power?
Sure, I have personal opinions on everything that involves renewable
energy, but as an educator I keep those opinions to myself, said Queen.
We have a lot of questions to ask and to answer as a community. Such as,
should we put a wind farm out in Lake Michigan or on the Leelanau
Peninsula? What about building a micro-nuclear plant or coal fired
power plants? How about more dams and hydro-electric plants? These are all
Queen hopes to help the community answer these and other questions on
energy through the various classes he teaches or facilitates.
This is an exciting time right now, especially in Northern Michigan,
there are so many people interested in these concepts. There are also
several financial incentives for businesses and homeowners to consider
energy alternatives, said Queen. The future of energy use is certainly a
conversation we all need to have around the dinner table.
For additional information about the renewable energy initiatives visit
www.nmc.edu/ees or call Bill Queen at 231-995-1701.
Here is a list of current offerings; Queen hopes to have the summer
schedule posted online in a couple of weeks:
Energy SaturdayHot and Cool Topics
The day is designed as a series of three expert-led workshops designed to
cool your summer energy billsevaporative cooling, ventilation, shading
and lighting techniques, and hot water heating. Sat., April 24, 9:30
Financing Solar: A Business Look
A look at the financial tools and incentives that are now available to
help finance the installation of a solar electric system. April 22 & 29,
Wind Power for Homeowners
This course will take you through the step-by-step process required to
install a wind generator at your home or small business. April 20 & 27
Solar Power for Homeowners
Learn about solar electric and solar thermal, and explore how much solar
energy is available in our region. May 13, 6-8:30 p.m.