2017-11-12 / Insight

Blown away

State home to 1,151 turbines, more on the way
810-452-2601 • npugliese@mihomepaper.com

The landscape in Tuscola County’s Fairgrove Township, where part of the Tuscola Bay Wind II Energy Center is located and has been operating since November 2013. 
Photo by Andrew Dietderich The landscape in Tuscola County’s Fairgrove Township, where part of the Tuscola Bay Wind II Energy Center is located and has been operating since November 2013. Photo by Andrew Dietderich LAPEER COUNTY — Though the conversation of wind turbines being erected in Lapeer County is only getting started, neighboring counties have lived with the towering power generators for years. Wind power is nothing new in Michigan, with the first wind turbines built in Mackinaw City in 2001.

In the 16 years since, more than 1,100 turbines have popped up in the state, primarily in the northern

Thumb region, and power companies have plans to construct even more.

According to a Michigan Public

Service Commission report produced by the Licensing and Regulatory Affairs

LARA), as of Feb. of 2017 there were

29 wind turbine sites either operational or in development across Michigan.

The vast majority of the sites, 21, are in the northern Thumb counties of Tuscola and Huron. The remaining eight sites are spread out across Gratiot County in the center of the Lower Peninsula, Mason and Missaukee counties in the northwest, the original two turbines in northern Cheboygan County. One site is in operation in the Upper Peninsula county of Delta

Escanaba, Gladstone).

Among the 29 sites, Michigan boasts 1,151 turbines either in operation or under development. In Huron County 484 turbines dot the skyline, and the highest number of turbines at a single site is 133, producing electricity in Gratiot County for DTE Energy.

Compared to other sources of renewable power that exist in Michigan, like solar, biomass, hydroelectric or landfill gas, wind power produces the lion’s share of electricity. Of the 1,876 megawatts expected capacity of generated electrical power in 2018 created by renewable energy sources across the state, wind power will have the capacity to create nearly 1,800 megawatts. Of the total nameplate capacity for 2,500 MW of renewable energy generators operating in Michigan, wind power makes up 72 percent, with the newly constructed solar fields in Lapeer joining the other four solar sites in the state in contributing to the one percent share of solar power. Wind power last year provided 4.16 percent of all in-state electricity production — including non-renewable sources like coal.

According to an American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) report, Michigan ranks 14th in the nation for installed wind capacity and has attracted significant investment into the wind energy supply chain. There are at least 25 manufacturing facilities producing components for the wind industry, including Ventower Industries, a wind tower manufacturing facility sited on a former brownfield site in Monroe. State utilities have proactively invested in wind projects to help the state reach its RPS target, with DTE Energy ranking 7th in the nation for utility ownership of wind power capacity. According to the AWEA report, in 2016 wind power generation supported 2,000-3,000 jobs, generated a total capital investment of $3.1 billion and generated annual land lease payments of $1-5 million.

The Dept. of Energy “Wind Vision” Scenario, which documents the contributions of wind power to date and envisions a future in which wind “continues to provide key contributions to the nation’s energy portfolio,” projects that Michigan could produce enough wind energy by 2030 to power the equivalent of 710,000 average homes.

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