You could say that GVSU biology professor Erik Nordman goes wherever the wind takes him, or you could just say that Dr. Nordman is really good at his job.
That’s because Nordman, who joined WMEAC’s board in 2008 and currently serves as board president, was the principal investigator for GVSU’s West Michigan Wind Assessment. He and his team analyzed the benefits and challenges to developing wind energy infrastructure in and around Lake Michigan. And now he’s headed to Kenyatta University in Nairobi, Kenya thanks to a Fulbright Award to conduct feasibility studies on, and lay the initial groundwork for, developing wind farms on tea plantations in the region.
Until the assessment project ended last month, Nordman and his team spent the last few years collecting data and submitting briefs to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on a variety of wind energy issues, from topics as diverse as how new wind farms might tap into the existing energy grid to the impact of wind turbines on human health. The goal of the program was to provide “credible information to communities so they can make decisions based on the best available science,” said Norman.
Renewable energy is a growing sector in Michigan. Last year $78.6 million were invested in renewable energy in the state, a large chunk of which went to wind energy projects. Some of those investments came as a result of state legislation passed in 2008 requiring energy providers in the state to generate 10 percent of their retail electricity sales from renewable energy resources by 2015. According to Nordman, over 90 percent of that 10 percent energy gap will come from wind.
“Our options for energy are pretty limited. The question is how are we going to move forward? Wind has a number of positive attributes: it’s locally produced, there are no emissions, and the overall environmental impacts are relatively modest. Although the visual impact of the turbines can be controversial, we need to look at the net effect,” said Nordman.
Nordman will take the research methods and lessons learned through the West Michigan Wind Assessment with him when he travels to Nairobi this August. He will remain on WMEAC’s board during his semester in Kenya, though his presence will be missed.
“Erik has been an awesome asset to WMEAC and our organization’s mission. He came to West Michigan via his work at GVSU and quickly dug into arguably one of the most controversial issues of our time – the role of wind and alternative energy in our energy future. His thoughtful, pragmatic leadership has brought much needed data and perspective to a heated debate that will be better informed as a result of his work,” WMEAC Executive Director Rachel Hood said in a statement.