MARQUETTE - One day Adam Schofield wants to install residential wind turbines and solar systems. That's why the 24-year-old is enrolled in Northern Michigan University's alternative energies minor. "I want to work with alternative energies in the future," he said. "It's just something that I was always interested in." Schofield, who is also majoring in writing and film studies, is currently taking a wind power and a bioenergy class, offered by NMU's engineering technology department. The program, initiated four years ago, according to department head Michael Rudisill, offers classes in wind power, solar power, bioenergy, geothermal heating and cooling, and a general introduction to alternative energies. Deanna Pozega, who teaches wind and solar power, said at first only students majoring in engineering technology enrolled in her classes. Now, her classes get environmental science majors, a lot of construction, business, and even physics majors, she said. "Back in the '70s there was a huge push for alternative energy," Pozega said. "(Now) you're seeing it again, although this time we have more of a sense of impending doom, if we don't do anything about our energy crisis." Although there has been much talk about alternative energy state- and nationwide, the minor has not taken off as expected, Rudisill said. "While there is some interest, it's not as popular as we hoped," he said. "It's surprised us." He said he thinks that students do not tend to take alternative energy classes unless they choose to minor in the field. So, while students may be supportive of alternative energy in general, they may not necessarily take classes in the subject. Schofield said he believes not only students affiliated with the university should enroll in the minor program. "This is an important program," he said. "It seems like there could be a lot more people from the community involved." Elizabeth Bloomfield, 21, who is minoring in alternative energies and majoring in environmental conservation, also thinks alternative energy is important. "Michigan has great potential for wind energy since the auto industry is failing," she said. "A lot of politicians think that alternative energy can boost the economy ... It's a great environmental step towards a sustainable future." Pozega is hopeful that the program will survive. That is in part because she believes there will be more demand for workforce in the alternative energies field. "I think it's bound to grow," she said. "There are a lot of new manufacturers, including in Michigan." She added that it is crucial that the government starts offering more incentives for individuals and companies to invest in alternative energies.
Northern Michigan University students practice putting together a wind turbine in their wind power class — a required course for the university’s alternative energies program. (Journal photo by Miriam Moeller)