2017-11-12 / Insight

Addressing the ‘why wind in Lapeer County now’ question

810-452-2609 • adietderich@mihomepaper.com

LAPEER COUNTY — Tucked in a corner of the internet is the Midwest Energy Center website, exactly where you will be directed if you ask the U.S. Dept. of Energy public relations people for information about why wind development makes sense for Michigan from a meteorological standpoint.

The site, supported by the DOE, is at www.midwestwindenergycenter.org/

Go even deeper on the Midwest Energy Center site —specifically, to “state fact sheets,” then click on “Michigan” and finally, “wind map” — and you can easily see why officials and residents in the northeast corner of Lapeer County suddenly find themselves dealing with the topic of wind turbines.

The map (dated 2015 and created by AWS Truepower L.L.C.) shows wind measurements taken at 80 meters and in simplest terms, there appears to be abundant wind energy that high in the northeast Lapeer County atmosphere.

Power generated by wind turbines must travel to end users via transmission lines. ITC Transmission’s Thumb Loop, partially shown here, was developed “to meet the identified maximum wind potential” of the area. 
Photos by Andrew Dietderich Power generated by wind turbines must travel to end users via transmission lines. ITC Transmission’s Thumb Loop, partially shown here, was developed “to meet the identified maximum wind potential” of the area. Photos by Andrew Dietderich That’s compared with a previous map created in 2004 that consisted of wind measurements taken at 50 meters, and much lower average annual wind speeds throughout the state.

But new technology in the form of wind turbines that reach higher into the sky provide more access to more wind, opening up more parts of the state as potential sites for so-called “wind farms.”

It’s one of the top reasons why not only Lapeer County, but other areas such as Isabella, Shiawassee, and Midland counties, along with the region immediately east of Bay City, have recently dealt with the prospect of wind turbines coming to town.

“As technology advanced, they started to do wind maps from higher and higher wind resources,” said Kevon Martis, a former planning commissioner in Lenawee County who now runs the Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition Inc., a nonprofit that is dedicated to raising public awareness of the potential impacts of wind turbines.

“There are actually 100-meter wind maps out there now,” Martis said, noting however that none are as detailed as the 2015 AWS Truepower map that touches northeast Lapeer County.

The County Press was the first to report on Oct. 8 that property owners in northeast Lapeer County recently have signed 20 agreements with DTE Energy Co. that are specific to “wind energy development.”

A company spokesman confirmed DTE is in “the very early stages of talking to area landowners about a possible project at some point five to 10 years from now.”

The 20 DTE “wind energy development” easement agreements recorded by the Lapeer County Register of Deeds were signed between June 26 and Sept. 26, and encompass a total of 60 parcels in Burlington, Burnside and North Branch townships.

The majority of the 40-year agreements (with an option for an additional 20 years) are for land generally between the villages of Clifford and North Branch, though some are east and southeast of the village of North Branch.

They would join a growing number of existing or proposed projects across the state.

According to a Michigan Public Service Commission report produced by the Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), as of February 2017 there were 29 wind turbine projects either operational or in development across Michigan. The vast majority of the sites, 21, are in the northern Thumb counties of Tuscola and Huron.

Spread out among the 29 projects are 1,151 turbines either in operation or under development.

The amount of power generated by wind turbines is measured in megawatts (MW) with 1 MW equal to one million watts. New wind developments usually are said to be capable of producing a certain level of electricity. DTE’s Pinnebog Wind Park in Huron County, for example, was commissioned in late 2016 and the company said the park’s 30 wind turbines have the ability to produce 50 MW “of clean, renewable energy — enough to power more than 22,000 homes.”

Midwest Wind Energy Center says Michigan has “installed wind capacity” of 1,531 MW with “potential wind capacity” of 59,042 MW.

According to DTE’s website, “Michigan ranks among the top 15 states nationwide for potential for wind energy generation. The area around the Great Lakes is particularly well-suited for wind energy development because of the availability of higher wind speeds across flat land.”

The company further states “The cost of wind generation has decreased significantly as the technology has advanced and the industry has expanded, making wind energy the most cost-effective renewable energy resource.” DTE isn’t alone in investing in Michigan’s wind industry.

Other companies backing current and/or proposed wind projects in Michigan include NextEra Energy Resources Inc., Sempra Renewables, Exelon Generation, Heritage Sustainable Energy, Apex Clean Energy, and Invenergy L.L.C.

Each project can represent hundreds of millions of dollars in investment on the part of the company.

Though the value of contracts for power produced at wind farms are typically not disclosed, a press release dated Aug. 25, 2011 — when such projects were relatively new — on DTE’s own website helps put the value of such deals in perspective.

In the release, DTE says that it has agreed to a “20-year, $485 million power purchase agreement (that) is part of DTE Energy’s efforts to expand the company’s renewable energy resources.” (The contract is with NextEra Energy Resources for power produced at its first wind farm in Tuscola County called “Tuscola Bay Wind.”)

Of course, there are other driving factors in wind development.

In a Nov. 6, 2017 letter to Burnside Township officials, Michael Sage, program manager, renewable energy development at DTE, notes that DTE’s investment in wind “has been driven in part by priorities set by the state of Michigan.”

“Michigan law now requires 15 percent of DTE’s electrical generation to come from renewable sources within the next five years, an increase of 50 percent of the previous renewable standard set by the Michigan legislature,” Sage wrote.

Since 2008, he wrote, DTE has been “both the state’s largest investor in, and producer of, wind energy, now producing enough energy from renewable sources to power nearly 450,000 homes.”

Sage also noted such investments are being “driven by common sense and a desire to generate energy in a safer, and more affordable way that not only benefits some — but all — residents of the state.”

Return to top

Copyright © 2009-2018 The County Press, All Rights Reserved

Click here for the E-Edition
2017-11-12 digital edition

Unrestricted access available to web site subscribers

Subscribers to the County Press newspaper can now purchase the complete online and E-Edition of the paper for as little as $5 for three months. If you want a six month subscription to the online edition it is $10 and a full year can be purchased for $20.

Non-subscribers can sign up for the online version for $15 for three months, $30 for six months and $60 for an annual subscription.