Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

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Renewable Riesling

State’s first solar ‘net-zero’ winery goes live

Patrick Sullivan - August 12th, 2013  

A motor whirs every couple minutes.

One of the panels ticks a few inches to the side on one axis. It moves a degree or two up or down on the other.

The giant, glistening solar panels have GPS systems and clocks so they know where the sun is at all times. The motors keep them pointed in its direction.

At sunrise and sunset, the panels stand almost upright. At night they rest, lying down to keep out of the wind.

The show is even better in the winter:

when they wake up, each panel is programmed to go through a series of movements to shake off snow.

Three of these striking solar panel arrays were installed at Brengman Brothers at Crain Hill Winery on S. Center Highway in Leelanau County in June.

The 430-square-foot tracking panels make Crain Hill the first “net-zero” winery in Michigan, meaning the operation produces as much electricity as it uses to make and sell its white and red wine blends, Reislings, Pinot Noirs, cherry wine and other batches from 22 acres of grapes.


In fact, the operation produces more electricity than it uses, and sells back the excess to the grid for energy credits that can be used in the winter.

Robert Brengman, one of the brothers and managing director, said solar energy makes sense from both an environmental and business standpoint.

The project is estimated to pay for itself in around seven years. After that, the winery will not have energy costs for years other than system maintenance.

“In this case, we’re both good neighbors to the planet and it’s a good business decision,” Brengman said.

Part of the satisfaction, though, is knowing your energy source is 100 feet away and clean, rather than from a coal-fired power plant 100 or so miles downstate, he said.

The Crain Hill setup cost around $72,000 to install. The winery gets some of that money back in tax credits and also received a USDA grant to pay for 25% of the project.

Without the grant money, the numbers wouldn’t add up so well, Brengman said.

“If you don’t have that incentive or the credits, then it becomes just purely a decision of not having any carbon footprint, which, that’s still a solid decision,” he said.

With the incentives that currently exist, Brengman expects to see other Northern Michigan wineries go “net zero” soon.


Tom Gallery, owner of Leelanau Solar LLC, which installed the project, said private projects like the one at Crain Hill have an advantage over something like Cherryland Electrical Cooperative’s Community Solar project (also called a solar garden), which got up and running this summer and offers co-op customers a chance to buy into solar energy.

Gallery said the trouble with Cherryland’s project is that it could take as many as 20 years for an investment to pay for itself. That’s around the life of a solar panel, he said.

The garden project, which motorists along US 31 may have noticed, was established earlier this summer in Grawn outside the Cherryland offices. It has the advantage of giving customers a chance to buy shares of solar power without concerns over maintenance or upkeep.

“If you want to have a 20-year payback, that’s how you do it: just have someone else do everything and you pay into it,” Gallery said.

Gallery said another reason the Crain Hill installation is more economically viable is because Consumers Energy pays 11.8 cents per kilowatt hour, or the retail rate, when it buys back excess electricity from Crain Hill. Cherryland buys back electricity from the solar garden at 7.8 cents per kWh, or the wholesale rate, which makes the investment take longer to even out.


Gallery notes that Cherryland opposed Proposal 3 last year, a measure that would have required 25% of energy produced in Michigan to be renewable by 2025. Before that, they opposed the current standard in the state, which is 10% by 2015.

However, Rachel Johnson, grass roots activist for Cherryland Electric, said the Community Solar project shows the cooperative’s commitment to renewable energy.

“We had members who were interested in renewable energy, but couldn’t potentially buy into it themselves,” Johnson said.

“Our central goal here was to create a project that gave our members something they said they were asking for.”

Johnson said another reason the Crain Hill project can pay for itself sooner than the Cherryland project is because they received grant money from the USDA.

If energy rates go up, the Cherryland project could pay for itself sooner, she said.

Cherryland offers a chance for ordinary customers to buy into solar for a few hundred dollars without having to worry about maintenance of a solar system, she said.

“We are going to handle all of the maintenance costs, all of the insurance costs, and if a panel breaks, we’re are going to go out and get someone to fix it,” she said.


Gallery came to renewable energy late in his career. He started out as an automotive engineer in Detroit, where he worked for over 30 years.

He’s owned a home in Northport for decades, but moved north around eight years ago when he started conducting wind assessment and analysis for wind turbines.

In the past eight years, solar technology prices have dropped “just like a rock” and solar has surpassed wind as the best green technology for producing electricity, he said.

While the cost of solar has come down in recent years, solar has another big advantage over wind: its peak production usually coincides with peak periods of electrical use.

On hot days when air conditioners are going, the sun is out and solar panels can make electricity.

At Crain Hill, the panels make two to three times what it takes to air condition the facility, including the large, cathedral-like tasting room.

The excess electricity made in the summer can be banked in Michigan’s electrical grid in the form of credits and used during the winter when there is less sunlight; for example, to run Crain Hill’s geothermal heating system, Gallery said.

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